Syrian Refugees: Let Them In

I’ll be honest: It’s not often that I think the Bible gives crystal clear, uncontradictory, wholly consistent guidance. On just about any topic. As such, it is perfectly possible for people on both sides of most debates to defend their viewpoints using scripture and to make the case that they are acting out of genuine faith principles.

The current debate about Syrian Refugees, and whether the United States and other Western, Christian-majority nations should let them in, is not one of those debates. As I’m about to lay out, from start to finish, the Bible gives clear guidance, time and again, that we are to welcome and love refugees.

I must caution you that what follows is an often sarcastic, satirical look at the way Christians have ignored scripture’s clear guidance on refugees. That said, here’s a list of scriptural references that I’ve borrowed from a United Church of Christ resource page about refugees:

Genesis 12:10 – “Now there was a famine in the land.  So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land.” Abraham, considered the father of the Judeo-Christian tradition, was once a refugee.

Genesis 19 – Lot takes his family and flees Sodom.

Genesis 23 – Abraham is a stranger and an alien in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 46:1-7 – Jacob moves his family to Egypt to escape the famine and reunite with Joseph.

Genesis 47: 1-6 – Joseph brings his brothers to Pharaoh and they are welcomed and given jobs

Just in the book of Genesis, we have ample examples of how our spiritual ancestors welcomed refugees, and how many of spiritual ancestors were refugees themselves. At the end of Genesis, several of our refugee ancestors have been welcomed into Egypt.

However, it’s not long before xenophobia sets in:

Exodus 1:8-14 – Joseph’s generation is gone, and the Egyptians oppress the Israelites.  “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.”

It seems like we’re confused on this point. We have a lot more in common with the xenophobic Egypt seen in Exodus than the welcoming one seen in Genesis.

Exodus 12:37-39 – Here again, the Israelites become refugees, running away from persecution in Egypt. It seems that the forerunners of our own faith are Middle Eastern refugees. That’s… inconvenient for those of us who wish to denigrate Middle Eastern refugees today.

Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22 – “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.”

Wait, what? We’re not supposed to treat refugees like second-class humans? We’re supposed to treat refugees like they could be… members of our own family? Members of our own communities? How am I supposed to treat all refugees like one massive terrorist cell if I have to acknowledge that they’re image-bearers of God just like me?

Exodus 22:21 – “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that turning away tens of thousands of refugees and forcing them back into a brutal dictatorship, civil war, and terrorist insurgency would qualify as “wronging and oppressing” them.

Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22 – “You shall not strip your vineyards bare…leave them for the poor and the alien.”

For those of us that think we shouldn’t let in refugees because they’ll take our jobs, and government benefits, and houses from homeless veterans: sorry, this whole notion of “us” and “them” doesn’t really fly in the Kingdom of Heaven. In this, the wealthiest country in human history, we have more than enough to care for our homeless veterans AND show compassion to Syrian refugees.

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”

Man, God just loves to remind us about how we were refugees once, too. It’s almost like we should show gratitude for our relative peace and security not by jealously hoarding the blessings of freedom and prosperity for ourselves, but by widening that circle to more people who desperately need a little peace and security.

Leviticus 24:23 – “With me you are but aliens and tenants.”

It’s a good thing that God isn’t a xenophobe. We’re all refugees in his kingdom, and if he treated refugees like we treat refugees, we’d be in big trouble.

Numbers 9:14 and 15:15-16 – “…you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.”

Again with the treating refugees like equal human beings!? What do you think we are, God? Christians? Cut us some slack.

Deuteronomy 6: 12 – “Take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

When we forget refugees, we forget the Lord.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

But… but… but God, I don’t want to love the stranger! I’m scared of the stranger. Why did you give food and clothing to the scary strangers, God? How can we justify denying the stranger when you’re always going about loving everyone?

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13 – These verses describe how tithing exists, in part, to care for refugees. Something tells me a refugee tax wouldn’t go over well here in America. It’s probably just because God doesn’t understand economics, though. Yeah, let’s just go with that.

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 – “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice.”

Does sending tens of thousands of refugees back into imminent danger count as justice? I hope so, or we’re going to have to reevaluate our priorities.

Deuteronomy 24:19-22 – Leave sheaf, olives, grapes for the alien.

But there are 50,000 homeless veterans that need the sheaf, olives, and grapes! Nevermind that we didn’t really care too much about sticking up for homeless veterans until it was a convenient excuse to hate Syrian Refugees. Or that we’re not actually going to use the funding we would have used to resettle refugees to care for the homeless.

We’re just going off of the Bible: Rhetorics 14: 23 – “Thou shalt use homeless veterans as a political prop to cast a red herring that distracts you from your own xenophobia and callous hearts.” What can we do but follow the Bible? Our hands are tied.

Deuteronomy 27:19 – “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien…of justice.”

Ouch. Cursed? No need to be so judgemental, God. We’re just trying to keep our homeland safe.

Psalm 137:1-6 – “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept…How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

Yeah, but we were singing songs for Lord. Clearly, God only wants us to care about Christian refugees. Right?

Psalm 146:9 – “The Lord watches over the strangers…”

To make sure they’re not plotting anything fishy, amiright? We’re with you on this one, God. Increase surveillance on Muslims. That’s what this verse means, right? I can’t think of any other way that God might be watching over refugees. Surely not with eyes of concern and compassion.

Ecclesiastes 4:1 – “Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them.”

But who’s going to comfort us? That’s the real question! We’re really scared. We’re the victims, here. I didn’t read the bible to be challenged to comfort others, I only read the Bible to see how it can comfort me.

Isaiah 16:4 – “Be a refuge to the outcasts of Moab.”

Ok, but too be fair, Moab was in present day Jordan, which is like, hundreds of miles from Syria. Plus, it’s not like the Moabites and the Israelites often warred with one another, so welcoming the Moabites wouldn’t be a national security risk. Oh, wait, it was exactly like that?

Jeremiah 22:3-5 – “Do no wrong or violence to the alien.”

Right, but we’re not directly doing any violence to the Syrian refugees. We’re just casting them back to Syria, where  many of them will undoubtedly be subjected to violence. Loophole! We’re off the hook. That’s how you’re supposed to read the Bible, right? Ever vigilant of loopholes that absolve you of responsibility?

Ezekiel 47:21-22 – “The aliens shall be to you as citizens, and shall also be allotted an inheritance.”

Sigh. Ok, but can’t they at least be like second-class citizens? They are scary, after all.

Malachi 3:5 – “The messenger will bear witness against those who thrust aside the alien.”

Something to look forward to in the December issue of the Messanger, apparently.

Ok, ok, ok. I get it. God cares about refugees and show should we. Blah, blah, blah. But all that crap was from the Old Testament. Conveniently for us, we don’t have to worry about the Old Testament at all, right? Everyone knows that God portrayed in the Old Testament is just a big old softy. Thankfully, God gets a whole lot less forgiving and merciful and grace-giving in the new testament, right?

Matthew 2:13-15 – Jesus and parents flee to Egypt as Herod tries to murder their child.

Oh, right. I forgot about that whole Jesus fella. You’re telling me that Jesus was a refugee? That when we put little porcelain nativity scenes on our altars, we welcoming a Middle Eastern refugee family into our home? How well vetted are these nativity scenes?

Matthew 5:10-11 –“Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

Something tells me Jesus isn’t talking about Christians being persecuted by red Starbucks cups.

Matthew 25:35-40 – “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'”

I chose to quote this whole passage because I think these words from Christ, the refugee that we worship, are so vital to understanding what we Christians should be doing in regards to Syrian Refugees. Jesus isn’t just speaking figuratively. He really was a stranger. He really was a hungry baby lying in a manger. He and his family really were in need of love, and compassion, and mercy, and grace, and generosity. There really were people who showed that measure of care to him and his family. When we encounter “the least of these” in our lives: in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, in our political discussions, we would do well to remember that the same nativist, know-nothing rhetoric coming from some people in the United States today would have delivered the baby Jesus straight to the genocidal tyrant seeking his death.

Romans 12:13 – “Mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…”

Silly Paul, always using that no-true-Scotsman fallacy. You’re saying that if Christians don’t welcome refugees, they’re not really acting like Christians at all?

II Corinthians 8:13-15 – “It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need…”

Ok, but to be fair, who really has the abundance, and who really has the need? We’re the richest country in human history, true. But doesn’t anyone consider our needs? Like how we need to be coddled about our irrational fears?

Ephesians 2:11-22 – “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”

Hmm. Until we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we too are refugees. It’s such as shame that 31 of the Governors in God’s Kingdom decided that they don’t want to bring in refugees anymore.

Hebrews 13:1-2 – “…show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels…”

You mean, not every Syrian refugee is a terrorist? Some of them might be good people? Some of them might go on to do great things? No! Surely not.

James 2:14-17 – “What good is it…if you say you have faith but do not have works?”

If we say we’re Christians, but we don’t act like Christ, what good is that?

I John 4:7-21 – “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God…”  We love because God first loved us.”

And this is really the point. Our spiritual ancestry is full of refugees. Abraham was a refugee. The Israelites were refugees coming out of Egypt. Jesus was a refugee. Yet, through God’s mercy and blessing, we have found peace and security, prosperity and joy. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love Syrian Refugees because they haven’t been blessed like we have. To the contrary, God is desperately seeking to use us to bless the Syrian refugees that need our help. Just as God has shown us mercy, so must we be merciful.

And remember, we’re all refugees of a broken world seeking asylum in God’s Kingdom. What if there were nativists and racists and xenophobes there, who didn’t want to let us in? What if there were people there who were concerned about national security and the vetting process who didn’t want to let us in? What if there were people there jealous of their own prosperity and fearful that we might dilute the wealth and security that they had grown to love?

Luckily for us, it doesn’t seem like the Kingdom of Heaven would act that way. Why, then, should Christians here in the United States act any different? Let them in. It’s what we were made to do.


 

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter@DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

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Celebrating the Fourth of July in the Kingdom

This 4th of July, it’s important for Dunker Punks to remember what we mean when we call ourselves “Punks.”

The “Punks” in Dunker Punks refers to Jesus’ call to live lives that are radically transformed in his image. We are Punks because we are counter-cultural. Whenever we see an aspect of our culture that diverges from the message of Jesus, we always choose to follow Jesus instead.

The culture I’m talking about doesn’t have much to do with popular culture. It’s not about wearing different clothing or listening to different music. I think a problem with using the language of culture is that when we hear the word “culture,” our minds immediately jump to Beyonce and Modern Family. Thus, even when Christians accept that they must counter culture, they wage culture wars against Beyonce and Modern Family, and not the substantive aspects of culture in which Christians tend to diverge from the message of Jesus, often doing great harm to their communities in the process.

When I talk about the culture that we must counter, I’m talking about American Culture. I’m talking about the ways that American Christians have ignored or subverted the message of Jesus. And I’m talking about listening to Jesus earnestly and obediently, and choosing his way, rather than the American way.

Here are some aspects of American Culture that American Christians must learn to counter, but usually do not:

1. Nationalism

Christians proclaim that Jesus is Lord, but we don’t often acknowledge the implication of that statement. If Jesus is Lord, nobody else is Lord. When Jesus called himself Lord during Roman occupation, it was a radical political statement, because the Roman Emperor, or Caesar, was the only person whom Roman society labeled Lord. To say “Jesus is Lord” was to say, “Caesar is not.”

Today, Christians in the United States don’t express allegiance to the country in terms of Lordship, but they tacitly express this type of allegiance to the country on a regular basis. Which should Christians recite: The Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer? To whom do we give our sole allegiance? The Flag? The Country for Which it Stands? Or to Jesus?

When we pray the words “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we acknowledge, endorse, and should seek to create a world without borders. God’s vision for humanity is a brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women living on the Earth in harmony. A diverse Kingdom joyously united under one Lord. In the Kingdom that is God’s vision for the Earth, there is no room for the American flag. It’s past time that we stop worshiping it, and past time that we consider ourselves citizens of any nation other than God’s kingdom.

2. Militarism

Like every other American holiday, the 4th of July has become a time when special reverence is devoted the men and women who serve in the United States military. Nothing is more politically incorrect than speaking an ill word about the military. While I respect the bravery and devotion that it takes to join the military, and while I acknowledge that virtually all who enter the military do so with noble intentions, I am calling this Fourth of July for Christians to accept Christ’s message of nonviolence and mobilize to manifest his desire for peace.

And that means that we must reject an American culture that glorifies the military. We must transform our definition of Heroism to honor those who prevent wars, not those who start them. We must expect from our elected officials the boldness to stay out of global conflict, not engage in it. If we want to call ourselves Christians, we must vote for a budget that reflects Christ’s priorities, including an eventual end to military spending, with those billions of dollars instead going to heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, lift up the downtrodden, and promote mercy and justice for all. And of course, in the borderless world of God’s Kingdom, that means extending those measures of grace and dignity to all of God’s people, not just Americans.

No doubt, I will receive criticism for daring to say that Christians should have a radically different attitude towards the military. But when I say, “Jesus is Lord,” that means I’m prepared to say, “the military is not.”

3. Violence

Of course, American culture is far more infatuated with violence than just the violence of the military.

The police patrol the streets decked out in military garb.

In many places, it’s easier to buy a gun than to buy fresh, affordable produce. On top of that, “God and Guns” is somehow a thing.

Most Christians support the death penalty and usually defend it with the “eye for an eye” logic that Jesus rebuked over 2000 years ago.

LGBTQ+ people are the constant victims of hate crimes. Still others feel so oppressed that they resort to suicide.

Our entire justice system is one violent mess, where nonviolent criminals are hardened in jail, where they are subjected to abuse and neglect, and introduced to a life of recidivism.

Unarmed Black people are killed every week by police, then they are blamed for their own deaths by the news media.

A white supremacist walks into a historic Black church and kills nine people, and a dozen Black churches burn down in the following two weeks, and people respond by holding a pro-Confederate flag rally outside the state Capital building.

Somehow, Christians in the United States, among the main perpetrators of all this violence, have completely lost sight of the Jesus who they claim is Lord. The gentle Lord who taught us to turn the other cheek and who healed the ear of his attacker rather than benefit from the violence of the sword. This Fourth of July, instead of celebrating the bombs bursting in air, what if we resolved to turn away from the wide path of violence in America, and instead chose to walk the narrow path of peace, justice, and nonviolence, where we find Jesus’ footprints?

4. Consumerism

While we worship a Lord who taught the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, many middle-class Americans spend more each week than one of the world’s poor makes in a year. Jesus taught us not to horde possessions, but instead to live and love generously, taking stock not in what we own, but in the fruits of God’s spirit.

Countering America’s culture of consumerism is not just Biblical in its own right, but it is necessary to live up to the principles of Christian nonviolence.

When we satisfy our thirst for low-cost goods, we support big-box institutions that pay starvation wages to their own workers and seek to skirt as many worker protections as possible. Of course, the labor conditions of a Walmart employee in the United States are downright kingly compared to the labor conditions of the workers in Bangladesh and Taiwan and China and Vietnam and Guatemala etc. who make the products we consume.

In consumerist America, we benefit from the labor of a child worker working twelve hour days to make our clothing and electronics, or a sweatshop worker making a dollar a day with no breaks, or a plantation worker harvesting cocoa or coffee beans in what can only be called slavery unless we squint really hard. Nonviolence doesn’t just mean being not violent directly. It means using our political, economic, social, and spiritual power to transform the world to look more like the just, joyous, and peaceful Kingdom.

This is to say nothing about the way consumer culture fuels global climate change, which is the greatest moral crisis of the twenty-first century. Thousands of people die every year from climate change already, and by the end of the century, the number will be millions every year. As sea levels rise, low-lying countries like Bangladesh, one of the most populous in the world, and island nations will completely vanish, killing or displacing all of their residents. As temperatures rise, droughts and heat waves like the one that just killed thousands in India will become commonplace. So will catastrophic weather events like hurricanes and floods.

While we Christians in the United States are as much to blame for the continuing momentum of Climate Change as any other group of people, the harshest impacts of Climate Change will fall unrelentingly on the world’s poor who lack the political and economic power to prepare for its effects, adapt to its conditions, or rebuild in its wakes.

We’ve drifted far from the Lord who taught us to live compassion for the poor. The problem of Climate Change demands more than just recycling. We need to substantially alter the way we live our lives to consume less resources, and we need structural, societal changes to shift our eery supply from fossil fuel to renewables. We need to stop worshiping the idol of Industry, and begin to worship Jesus. Only by following God’s commands to live simply and love justice can we hope to mitigate and reverse global climate change.

This post isn’t intended to be written from a place of judgement, but from a place of meekness and confession. I am guilty of following American culture rather than Jesus. I visit Walmart to take advantage of their low-prices, without regard to the victims of my purchases. I’m typing this post on an overpriced Apple computer, built in part by sweat shop labor. How appropriate that it would be brandished with the forbidden fruit. While writing this post, I consumed gas by driving to not one but two Fourth of July celebrations. I don’t always remember to recycle, and I frequently catch myself being less generous than I should be. I constantly fall short of mobilizing for the radical transformation of the Earth that Jesus desires.

But this Fourth of July, it’s time for us to ask God to transform ourselves to better reflect his vision, rather than our own. It’s time we stop celebrating our nationality, and time we start celebrating the joyous Kingdom that we can have a hand in building. It’s time we refuse to grow complacent in our lives of power, stability, and privilege, and time we embrace the radical implications of declaring that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a junior Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter@DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

Thoughts inspired by a Jarrod McKenna Facebook Post

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Those of you who follow Jarrod McKenna probably know about his recent encounter with law enforcement in Australia as he protested for the rights of refugees mistreated by the Australian government. During one of their many protests, Jarrod and other church leaders were arrested and strip searched. While the officials claimed to strip search Jarrod and the others because they suspected the clearly nonviolent protestors of carrying drugs or weapons, it’s pretty obvious that their real intent was to humiliate and discourage them.

In Jarrod’s Facebook status above, Jarrod relays the final words of his testimony in a hearing about the incident. You can read it for yourself, but essentially, Jarrod was asked why he felt it necessary to pursue the incident in court. Instead of speaking to how he had been the personal victim of police abuse, Jarrod instead affirmed this as another step in his ministry to stand up for the voiceless and oppressed. If Jarrod and other church leaders, who are middle class and carry some degree of voice and influence, can be treated in this way, imagine the harms suffered by those in police custody who have no voice to speak out against it.

Jarrod references Matthew 25:40 – “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” These words from Jesus are just one of many instances throughout the Bible in which God aligns and identifies with the poor and oppressed. As we strive to follow Jesus, we cannot do so without also aligning ourselves with the poor and oppressed, speaking out for “the least of these” as we work to bring about justice.

When Jesus spoke these words, he was telling his disciples about what God’s Kingdom would look like, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Just imagine, a kingdom in which its citizens didn’t tread upon each other to secure their own blessings and comfort, but a kingdom in which all people gave voice to one another, in which the suffering of any one person was felt by all people, even the King. Jesus gave us a blueprint for how to help build a world that looks more like God’s kingdom: by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, empowering the oppressed, and standing with, and standing up for, the humiliated.

This is what Jarrod is trying to do in Australia as he fights for the rights of the many voiceless refugees detained by the Australian government in off-shore detention facilities. I hope we find ways in America to do the same, to speak up for the poor, oppressed, and voiceless in our communities, in our nation, and also by understanding the way that the United States impacts the world’s poor and oppressed and seeking to create better systems that affirm and support all human dignity.

One last point. Recent surveys have indicated that white protestant Christians in the US believe that they are more persecuted than any other group of people. More than black victims of police brutality and countless other racist structures built into our criminal justice system. More than Muslim victims of hate crimes and discrimination. More than LGBTQ victims of bullying, harassment, and astronomical suicide rates. More than the poor and disabled, who are subjected to condescending laws meant to humiliate and punish them for daring to need government assistance. And more than immigrants and their children, who are denied basic government services, who are detained in brutal detention centers, who live as fugitives in their own homes, in constant fear of arrest, attack, or deportation, who work for poverty wages just for a chance to make a better life for themselves and for their children.

When Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 25, he was a poor Jewish Rabbi speaking to his poor Jewish disciples, in the midst of brutal and oppressive Roman occupation. Even then, when many could say that he and his followers were among “the least of these,” he said that following him meant speaking out for people with even less of a voice, and standing up for those in ever more dire straits.

How much more of a challenge are Jesus’ words, then, to us, the middle class, white protestant Christians of the United States, who carry far more than our fair share of power and influence, both in our country and across the world? Instead of searching out the ways in which we might be considered the victims, what if instead we sought to identify the true victims and fought for them the way Jesus has taught us to?

I hope we take a lesson from Jarrod, who experienced police abuse himself, but has the perspective to remember how much worse the police abuse suffered by “the least of these” must be, and refuses to stop speaking out until things are made right, not for him, but for all the voiceless victims of injustice in Australia.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter@DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

ROYGBrethren Online Forum for LGBTQ Youth and Young Aduts

A group of COB LGBTQ activists has announced ROYGBrethren, an online forum that provides a safe space and community for LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults in the Church of the Brethren.

The purpose of the forum is to provide a confidential space for LGBTQ youth and young adults to share stories, offer one another support, and discuss collective nonviolent action that builds a more just and affirming community in the Church of the Brethren. ROYGBrethren is a safe space for LGBTQ youth, as well as youth who are still discovering their sexuality and gender identity. While denominational discussions determine whether to let us openly sit in pews, speak from pulpits, and co-create resources that serve our community, ROYGBrethren is a space where the humanity of LGBTQ youth and young adults is fully affirmed now.

ROYGBrethren is created by Brethren young adults who have experienced or witnessed the difficulty and isolation that many youth and young adults face in embracing their LGBTQ identity. They know first hand how alone and threatened an LGBTQ youth in the Church of the Brethren can feel when they can’t count on the love, affirmation, and support of their church community. Many LGBTQ youth grow up not knowing any LGBTQ members of the Church of the Brethren their age, and given the environment in which most Church of the Brethren congregations are located, they might not know any other LGBTQ youth in their community at all.

That’s why this resource is so important, so that LGBTQ youth and young adults can experience the love, acceptance, affirmation, and community that straight people in the Church of the Brethren take for granted. I’m thankful for the leadership of these activists who have discovered a hole in the Church of the Brethren and are determined to fill it, while so many in the COB still refuse to fully embrace the absolute and inherent humanity of all LGBTQ people.

This is an issue I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time, and like many who feel the same way as I do, I have made excuses to not talk about it. I’ve avoided talking about it because I don’t have the theological knowledge to back up what I believe to be true and just. I’ve avoided talking about it because I didn’t want to say anything too controversial. But I’m making a commitment here and know to talk about it. Instead of using my deficiencies to avoid standing up for justice, I’ll take the example of the creators of ROYGBrethren, and fill in the holes in myself so I can be a better ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, and a better advocate for justice.

I may lack the theological knowledge at this moment to pull together a well reasoned and scriptural argument to back up my beliefs, but here’s what I do know: I know that Jesus spoke a lot more about justice than about sexuality, so to deny someone justice based on their sexuality isn’t Christlike. I know that the Bible is written from the perspective of the oppressed, so to use the Bible to oppress is to not take the Bible seriously. I know that Jesus boiled down all of God’s commandments simply to love God, and love others. So if we are anything but loving to LGBTQ people, we are being sinful.

I’m very proud of my Brethren identity. You can ask my non-Brethren friends, I talk about it all the time. I’m so proud, because in so many instances throughout our history, the Brethren have been a peculiar people set aside in their Christ-centered work for peace and justice. On issues like slavery, poverty, civil rights, and war, the Church of the Brethren has showed tremendous leadership. We’ve read the bible and understood its radical call for love and justice.

On the issue of homosexuality, we have failed. By refusing to fully and lovingly acknowledge the humanity of LGBTQ people, we have betrayed our history. We have betrayed our own humanity, especially the most basic human part of ourselves that is agape love. And we have betrayed God, who loved LGBTQ people so much that he sent his only begotten son to die on the cross for them.

Click here to read the full text of the ROYGBrethren Press Release.

Please share the news about ROYGBrethren with LGBTQ or questioning youth and young adults in your circle who would benefit from being a part of this space. Please direct interested individuals to roygbrethren@gmail.com. 


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

Ebola Fighters Provide an Important Alternate Definition of Heroism

Like many in the Church of the Brethren, I was pulling for the kidnapped Nigerian girls to be named Time’s Person of the Year. If you don’t know, many of those girls are members of the EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. The EYN has been particularly devastated by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, which operates in Northern Nigeria. To learn more about what Dunker Punks are doing for those girls and the EYN, and how you can get involved, you can click here. Even though they didn’t win, just the fact that they were in the running means people are still hearing about them and learning about what’s going on in Nigeria, so I’m thankful that they were at least considered.

However, one of my next top choices was the Ebola Fighters, and I am beyond thrilled that they were named Time’s 2014 Person of the Year. My reason is simple: I think there are few people who are more heroic than the Ebola Fighters. My other top choice, by the way, was Malala Yousafzai, another example of true heroism.

Christians in the United States live in fear. We’re afraid of a lot things. We’re afraid of terrorism. We’re afraid of people who don’t look like us, speak like us, or practice the same religion as us. We’re afraid of the boogey man. We’re afraid of our shadow. We’re afraid of being struck by lightening, while being attacked by a clown, who is riding a great white shark, who is wishing us “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” We’re a timid bunch.

But more than anything, in 2014 we were afraid of Ebola. Ebola was everywhere. In our streets, in our schools, in our water, in our churches, in our homes. Hide your kids, hide your wives, hide your husbands, because everybody was getting Ebola in 2014.

If you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic. To be clear, I am glad that we took the threat of Ebola seriously in the United States. The worst thing that we could have done would have been to not take proper precautions against the spread of Ebola. And even though we only had four cases of Ebola in the United States and one death, even one death is a tragedy and should be viewed as such. However, there is a huge difference between taking something seriously and being absolutely terrified of something. To the point that living in fear takes Ebola less seriously than dealing with it calmly and courageously.

The problem with living in fear of Ebola in the United States is that Ebola is a gravely serious and deeply tragic issue in other parts of the world. It is a genuine threat, not a manicured threat like it was here. There are countries in Africa that have been crippled by Ebola, and continue to face grave projections for the coming months. These countries do not have the resources, technology, personnel, or medical infrastructure needed to effectively deal with Ebola like the United States did. In the three most affected countries, there have been nearly 12,000 deaths and over 18,000 cases of Ebola, and some projections have indicated that hundreds of thousands or even millions may eventually be affected.

Living in fear of Ebola in the United States draws crucial attention away from countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea that badly need the help of the international community, especially the United States. If we choose to worry irrationally, unnecessarily, and excessively about our own safety, we will be less willing to do what it takes to provide for their safety.

How do I know? Because a legitimately considered response to Ebola, supported by many influential people in the United States, was to restrict all travel between the affected countries and the United States. Many people who feared Ebola thought the proper response was to shut out those who so badly needed our help. Additionally, now that Ebola is no longer a threat to the United States, we hear less and less about it each day, though it continues to ravage parts of Africa.

When we make things about ourselves, people suffer. When we live in fear, we turn a blind eye to those who are in great need. And Christians in the United States are at least as guilty of this as the rest of the country, thought I suspect we are far more guilty.

That’s why the Ebola Fighters are heroes. They saw a terrible disease, and instead of fearing it, they chose to do something about it. Instead of making it about themselves, they made it about the people who actually needed help. They left their homes, families, and livelihoods to do what was right. They risked their lives to heal people. And I shouldn’t put this in the past tense. They continue to do these things.

Not all of the Ebola Fighters are Christians, I’m sure. But they all model Christ better than we Christians in the United States do. Jesus showed us how we are to lead. He was unafraid yet gentle. He didn’t compromise his values, yet he treated others with love, dignity, and respect. He didn’t consider his safety or social conventions when he brought others healing. He didn’t give people what they deserved, but what they needed. He had the courage to speak out against power and speak up for the powerless. He brought a message of hope, not fear. He was willing to die to bring life to everyone, but he was not willing to kill anyone.

Christians need to observe a new definition of heroism modeled after Christ, not empire. If it is “heroic” to pick up a gun and risk your life to fight for your country, how much more heroic is it to put down that gun and risk your life to heal others? If it is “courageous” to stand your ground as a police officer against an unarmed black teenager, how much more courageous is it to stand your ground as a young Pakistani girl against the Taliban for your right to an education? If it takes “leadership” to make the tough decision to use torture, how much more leadership does it take to make the right decision not to use torture?

Paul wrote to Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” In Christ, we have tremendous power. It is the power to heal, not to kill. It is the power to create, not to destroy. It is the power to love, not to hate. It is the power to build God’s kingdom, not Earth’s empires.

The Ebola Fighters fill me with tremendous hope for the world. It is the same hope found in Christ. When I see headlines that read “Ebola in America” I see a society that has lost the imagination it takes to live outside of fear. But when I see a group of doctors willing to risk everything to save the lives of people they’ve never met in a country they never thought they’d visit, I catch a glimpse of the Kingdom.

Everyday, as I learn more about the EYN and their tremendous courage and leadership in Nigeria, I have an example of who I must strive to be as a Christian. Sadly, Christians in the United States have lost sight of what the word Christian means. We worship a version of Jesus who would be unrecognizable to the twelve disciples.

I hope we take a lesson from the Ebola Fighters. I hope we stop living in fear. I hope we stop succumbing to fear by choosing hatred and violence, but choose instead to overcome fear with hope and compassion.

Dunker Punks, let’s be leaders. Let’s be courageous. Let’s fight diseases, and poverty, and hunger, and racism, not wars. Let’s learn from the Ebola Fighters. Let’s show the world what Jesus really looks like.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA DistrictEmmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook. Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

Dunker Punks During the Christmas Season: “Go Big” in a Different Way

As Black Friday kicks off the Christmas shopping season, remember that we Dunker Punks are a peculiar people. We’ve set ourselves apart to live lives committed to following Jesus. We are in the world, doing good works, creating justice, building peace, but we are not of the world. Here’s some thoughts to consider from Brethren economist Bill Wood:

One of the big-box retailers invites us to “Go Big!” this Christmas. That retailer wants us to buy big-screen TVs, which will bring in programming and ads to keep us going big and coming back to the store in the new year.

But after seeing the ad, I started thinking. What if we Dunker Punks (and stealth Dunker Punks) decided to “Go Big!” this Christmas in a different way? This would include things such as:

  • Going big in our food drives, sending off carloads of food to the food banks and food pantries
  • Going big in our Bible study, seeking out the Old Testament prophecies and New Testament gospel accounts to deepen our understanding of Christ’s first advent
  • Going big in our humility, not proclaiming our good works but taking quiet joy in the honor that it is to help and pray for our fellow men and women, inside the church family and out

Yes, at times it would mean visiting stores that tell us to Go Big! – but with a glad heart rather than an aggressive desire to beat somebody else to that great special on Black Friday. And it would mean special smiles and kind words for everyone we met along the way, from the Salvation Army volunteer by the red kettle to the harried checkout clerk facing a long line of customers.

How about it, Dunker Punks – are you up to Go Big! this Christmas?

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Part 6

By Jenna Walmer

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5: 38-48

As I have noted, the last few blog posts have been more difficult to discuss for varying reasons. However, we have finally reached loving your enemies and completed chapter 5!

This section is easier to fathom for the Brethren because we have grown with this teaching instilled in our mind. Although it may be hard to pray for those who hate you, we more naturally love everyone and reject the idea of “getting even” with someone. So when we are wronged we forgive others.

By telling us to not retaliate, we are kept from taking the law into our own hands. We overcome evil with good by praying and loving those who hate us. If you love the people who treat you unjustly, it truly shows that the Lord is the center of your life. Loving those who wrong us is capable through God’s unconditional love and his strength that is given to us. Also, he gives us humbleness and selflessness. He provides the courage and strength to show love to those who do not give it in return.

Think of the one person that came to mind during the Sermon of the Mount Part 4 post on anger. In this blog post, I addressed how anger means there is a broken relationship with God. It also applies when you do not love everyone, also addressed in that post. This time, think of the people who are directly vile to you, not just the ones who you don’t like just because they are unjust to others. All of the people you are called to love because THEY ARE PEOPLE, just like yourself. As we are told in multiple places in the Bible, love others as yourself and to everyone be kind. I also think they are song lyrics.

We are Dunker Punks. One of the main ideas is to radically love. If we start being just to others and enhance our loving capacity, how would that shape the world? Would the wars dwindle? Would the innocent civilians, men, women and children, dying around the world, decrease? Would more people start acting like us? Will we one day be able to stand hand in hand and sing Kumbaya? That last one is kind of a stretch, but that’s the gist of the idea, is it not?

We are called to love boldly: To step out in faith and show those who don’t believe, believe in and hope for peace and unconditional love. To advocate and work for those who are desperate for a safe place to live because of violence. Start a revolution in your area of loving everyone and maybe it will go worldwide.


Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.