Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees

On Friday, January 27, Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, suspending America’s refugee program entirely for 120 days, and barring all people from certain ‘terror prone’ countries for 90 days. The list of ‘terror prone’ countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia – are all Muslim-majority countries where Trump does not have business ties.

He signed the order on Holocaust Memorial Day, a time when we should remember that millions of people were murdered in Europe because they were Jewish. And because no one – including the United States – would give them refuge.

As a Christian, I believe that the only requirement for receiving help is the presence of need. I cannot and will not discriminate on the basis of religion, ethnicity, national origin, or any other criterion. And I believe that it is immoral and unjust for the United States to do so.

As the writers of the Soviet Jewish Refugee Solidarity Sign-On Letter say, we “must not turn our backs on the human beings who are fleeing violence and persecution… nor abandon our highest national values and the demands of basic decency.”


Note: Between writing and publishing this post, a federal judge issued a stay on Mr. Trump’s executive order. While I’m thankful for this, it does not mean that the fight is over.

Fundraising and the Chart of Accounts

Every fundraiser knows that data is important. Knowing our supporters is vital, and what we need to know more than anything is how to ask them, when to ask them, and how much to ask them for. The best way to do that is by observing their past behavior. People, as a friend of mine likes to say, are reliably themselves; all things being equal, people will tend to do what they’ve always done. And if we know what someone has always done, we can subtly make other things not equal and try to change that behavior.

This is why your database is so important. It’s an ongoing record of what your donors, volunteers, and others do. A clean database is a truly amazing tool.

Of course, databases are rarely clean. I’d even say that they’re often dirty.

There are perfectly normal reasons that databases get dirty. Data entry errors mess up titles and spelling. Normal moves mess up address, phone number, and email accuracy. Deaths mess up… well, everything.

And there a lot of services that will help you clean those things up. But something that’s not often discussed is the chart of accounts. The chart of accounts is a list of all of the accounts in the general ledger of the organization: all of the cash, securities, accounts receivable, liabilities, payable wages, revenue, and so on. It’s usually kept and maintained by the financial people… and what makes sense to them doesn’t always make sense to the development folks.

Let me explain.

In development, we care about few basic things about every gift. On the one hand, we want to know about the gift itself: how much it was, when it came in, and so on. On the other hand, we want to know how the gift is related to three things:

The constituentThis is the person or organization who made the gift.

The appeal. This is what we did to get the gift.

The fund. This is the purpose for which the constituent intended the gift.

Ideally, we want every gift to have these three relationships. And we don’t want these three things to have any overlap. So, for example, if our unrestricted gifts go into the unrestricted fund, we don’t want any events to have a fund. What would we do if an event raised unrestricted money? We want our events to be appeals.

How does this get messed up? One organization I know had more than 150 funds in its development database. Some of them were real funds. A lot of them were appeals or constituents or both. One ‘fund’ was only for unrestricted dollars from one particular funder, another was for one grant from one funder, another was from unrestricted dollars from a single event, and so on. Meanwhile, all restricted gifts from individuals went into a single ‘restricted’ fund (the actual restrictions were put in a note). When the leadership of the organization wanted to know how much was raised for a particular program, it had to know all of the ‘funds’ – which grants, which events, and so on – that were related to that program and search through the notes! When development staff wanted to find donors to particular programs, they had to do through the same process! A lot of time could have been saved – and more accurate analysis provided – by cleaning up the chart of accounts.

The fact is that the finance office had been making all of the decisions about how to enter gift data in the fundraising database. And while I love the finance people I’ve worked with over the years, their skill set and priorities are very different from the skill set and priorities that development people have. The system that had been put it place didn’t work.

And cleaning it up wasn’t easy.

Clean data is important. It’s the only way for a fundraiser to keep track of an organization’s relationships with thousands of donors. And keeping your list of funds clean is critical to understanding donor behavior and interest.

So, since it’s still early in the new year, here’s a resolution. Sit down with your director of development and ask them, “If you could remake the list of funds that you deal with, what would you do?”

It will make a world of difference.

People I Read: Lawyers, Guns, and Money

In the early-ish days of blogging, it was normal to have a blogroll: a list of links to other (often more popular) blogs that the author was interested in. The blogroll would sit calmly in the sidebar and let readers browse their way to other blogs and other authors, discovering fresh ideas and insights. Now, nobody maintains a blogroll. The best hope you have of finding someone else is to follow a link in the body of a post or in a comment or in a link dump. Around here, they also show up in link posts that I share fairly frequently.

But the fact is that I kind of miss the blogroll, and I think that it’s worthwhile to share some of the blogs I read and a note one why I read them. I’ll try to put up one example every couple of weeks.

This post’s person I read is everyone at Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

I try to stay non-partisan on this site, but the fact is that I’m pretty far to the left on most policy issues. I mean, I’m in favor of a universal basic income. Odds are I didn’t vote for Donald Trump.

I read a handful of political sites. One of my absolute favorites is Lawyers, Guns, and Money. As far as I can tell, this is one of the original blogs of the political left. And I’ve been reading it long enough that I can’t remember when I started. A brilliant group of authors – including artists, historians, political scientists, and lawyers – writes about politics, culture, law school, and dozens of other topics.

If you’re on the political left or interested in short, quippy political analysis (and longer analyses of other topics), go and read.

From the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

Richard Beck posted this quote shortly after I published a post titled No Country but the Kingdom and a sermon titled Jesus the Refugee. It seemed appropriate to share it here.

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country… They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Martin Luther King Jr (From ‘Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution’)

As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I posses a billion dollars. As long as millions of people are inflicted with debilitating diseases and cannot expect to live more than thirty-five years, I can never be totally healthy even if I receive a perfect bill of health from Mayo Clinic. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. John Donne placed this truth in graphic terms when he affirmed, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the maine.” Then he goes on to say, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

CNBC: Finland Experiments with Universal Basic Income Scheme

“A universal basic income would provide a much more secure income base in an age of deepening economic and social insecurity and unpredictable work patterns,” economists Howard Reed and Stewart Lansley said in a report on basic income published in May last year.

“It would offer much greater financial independence and freedom of choice for individuals between work and leisure, education and caring while recognizing the huge value of unpaid and voluntary work.”

CNBC: Finland Experiments with Universal Basic Income Scheme

No Country but the Kingdom

I belong to a church that began as a church of and for German immigrants. It’s a congregation that’s proud of its German heritage. The nativity story is still told in German on Christmas Eve. Hymns occasionally include a verse in German. Events have German roots.

It’s also a congregation that’s proud to be in America. On one side of the chancel, right next to the pulpit, is an American flag. On the other side, next to the lectern that holds the Bible, is a POW/MIA flag. In the little chapel that’s hardly used for anything are plaques listing congregation members who have fought in wars.

It’s an interesting tension. No one in the congregation – that I’m aware of – is originally from Germany. But they hold onto that heritage and that pride. There are no plaques for recent wars like Iraq or Afghanistan. But there is a great deal of patriotism. It is a congregation that is proudly German and proudly American.

(And, though they may not realize it, proudly several other nationalities as well).

It’s not the only congregation that’s like this. A current of patriotism runs under while American Christianity.

And that has always made me uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong. I am often proud of my country. I am grateful that I have the freedoms that I have. I am grateful to the people who worked hard and took great risks so that I could enjoy the life I lead here in America.

I am also often ashamed of my country. I know that much of what we have here was built on the backs of others. I know that much of what we have here is not evenly or fairly distributed to the people. I know that we have – collectively, as a nation – done terrible things to far too many people.

But the bigger and more important point is this: the church is not American. The church is not German or Russian or Indian or Malawian. The church has no country but the kingdom. And, as a Christian, my first loyalty is to that kingdom.

As long as my country is prioritizes good news for the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed, I will be proud and supportive. As long as my country feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, welcomes the stranger, clothes the naked, cares for the sick, and walks with the imprisoned, I will be proud and supportive. As long as my country cares for the least of these, I will be proud and supportive.

And as long as my country does not do those things, I will work in love to convince it to do those things.

The church, of course, should always do those things, and worship should prepare us for that work. I understand the impulse to patriotism. I understand the desire to have flags in the sanctuary. I understand remembering the people who were called to war. But the church needs call us to the work that transcends country: delivering – and being – the gospel of Jesus Christ.

People I Read: Morgan Guyton

In the early-ish days of blogging, it was normal to have a blogroll: a list of links to other (often more popular) blogs that the author was interested in. The blogroll would sit calmly in the sidebar and let readers browse their way to other blogs and other authors, discovering fresh ideas and insights. Now, nobody maintains a blogroll. The best hope you have of finding someone else is to follow a link in the body of a post or in a comment or in a link dump. Around here, they also show up in link posts that I share fairly frequently.

But the fact is that I kind of miss the blogroll, and I think that it’s worthwhile to share some of the blogs I read and a note one why I read them. I’ll try to put up one example every couple of weeks.

This post’s person I read is Morgan Guyton at Mercy Not Sacrifice.

Morgan is the co-director of the NOLA Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist campus ministry at Tulane and Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. At Mercy Not Sacrifice, he brings progressive evangelicalism, campus ministry, politics, and cultural criticism together in a way that’s both engaging and thoughtful. Primarily focused on critiques of toxic Christianity and the evangelical right, Morgan charts a path of inclusive orthodoxy, arguing for a more spiritually generous United Methodist Church.

Morgan is the author of How Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity.

Jesus the Refugee

This sermon was delivered at Union Congregational United Church of Christ in Moline, Illinois on January 1, 2017. The scriptures for this sermon are Matthew 2:13-23 and Hebrews 2:10-18.

I’m a geek.

I’m enough of a geek that, when I was traveling for work a couple of weeks ago and that latest Star Wars movie came out, I went to see what I’m pretty sure was the first showing at a theater in D’Iberville, Mississippi.

Now, I’m not going to spoil the movie for you. I’m going to tell you what anyone who follows Star Wars — and what a lot of people who don’t — already knows.

At the beginning of the original Star Wars movie, there’s a famous opening crawl: that famous yellow text floats out into space before the camera pans down to reveal a rebel spaceship running away from a much larger, much more menacing, Imperial Star Destroyer. The opening crawl sets the scene: a galactic civil war, a first victory for the rebellion, an armored space station called the Death Star, stolen plans, and so on.

It’s almost entirely unnecessary. All of the important information in the crawl is also contained in the actual movie.

But someone thought, “Let’s make a movie about the things in the opening crawl. Let’s make a movie about how the rebellion won that victory and stole those plans. Let’s have the last scene of the new movie flow seamlessly into the first scene of the original movie.”

I’m willing to bet that they also thought, “We could make a lot of money doing that.”

And it’s a good movie; it tells that story. And by telling that story, it changes the original movie. It adds depth. It adds perspective.

And I’m telling you this because Matthew is giving us an opening crawl.

You see, the nativity stories in Luke and Matthew have a problem: the prophets had declared that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but everyone knew that Jesus was from Nazareth.

Luke solves this problem through a story that you’ve heard. It is the basis for every public reading of the nativity:

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered…. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.”

Joseph takes Mary from his home in Nazareth to his ancestral home in Bethlehem to be registered, Jesus is born, they go home. Easy.

Matthew does something different. Jesus is just born in Bethlehem. There’s no comment. There’s no census. There’s no journey from Nazareth. Joseph and Mary are just there.

And to get Jospeh and Mary and Jesus to Nazareth, Matthew gives us an opening crawl.

Wise men come from the East seeking the Messiah. They’ve seen a star and they know that there is a new king of the Jews. King Herod had been given the title King of Judea by Rome and he feels threatened. He begins to plot against this child.

The wise men are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt. Herod orders his men to kill all of the children in and around Bethlehem; everyone two years old and younger. But, of course, they miss Jesus, because Jesus is in Egypt.

And, when Herod dies, Joseph and Mary and Jesus return from Egypt. But Herod’s son is ruling over Judea. So they settle in Galilee, in Nazareth.

And then Matthew skips a few years, brings in John the Baptist, and starts Jesus’ ministry.

It’s a bit of an opening crawl. You can imagine it in yellow letters floating into space before the camera pans down… probably not to a scrappy rebel spaceship. A conflict between two kings! A massacre! A family on the run! Excitement! Adventure! Wonder!

And now we’re ready for the main story.

Now, Matthew never wrote a prequel to flesh out his opening crawl. We have to imagine.

Imagine having just had your first child. You’re a new mother or a new father. You have hopes and dreams for your son. Maybe it’s been a few months or a year. You’re starting to build a nice little life as a family.

But, in the middle of the night, you get  a message. One word: run!

You start grabbing things. You can’t take everything you own, there isn’t time. You can’t take everything you can carry, you need to be fast and light. You can only take the necessities.

You run. You settle in a foreign land. You work, you pray, you start to build a life. Some of the people here are kind and they help you. Some of the people here are cruel and they tell you to go back where you came from. And you wish you could. This isn’t home.

You hear news. The ruler of your homeland is massacring children. Every child under the age of two has been killed. And while you hear people in the cafés talking about the statistic, you start seeing faces and hearing voices and recalling names. You know those parents. You know those children. You know those families.

You go to your home that isn’t home and look at your family — your family that you brought to this strange land — and you weep.

You hear news. The ruler of your homeland has died. Your home, your real home, is safer. You get up, you take what you have, and you go back to your home country. But your real home is still too dangerous, so you settle nearby. You go home… ish.

And time passes. And your son grows up. And you wonder if he remembers being a refugee. You wonder if he remembers his real home, or the foreign land, or fearing for his life.

That’s Joseph. That’s Mary. That’s Jesus.

In Matthew, Jesus wasn’t born peacefully in a manger. Shepherds didn’t come down from the hills to greet him. Angels didn’t sing him to sleep. Cows didn’t low. In Matthew, Jesus is a child of war, threatened by a king, taken for his own protection to a foreign land.

In Matthew, Jesus is a refugee.

And that matters. I don’t know if Matthew intended to, but it does. Once we flesh out that opening crawl — once we see Jesus as a refugee — it changes things. Everything that happens from here on out — all of the sayings, all of the parables, all of the healings, all of the miracles — are the acts of a refugee. Everything that happens from here on out — the last supper, the betrayal, the crucifixion, the resurrection — are the acts of someone who had to leave his home when he was a child… and never return.

“Blessed are the merciful.” The words of a refugee.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The words of a refugee.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” The words of a refugee.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words of a refugee.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know anything about being a refugee. I’ve never had to run from my home. I’ve never had to flee my country.

But I know this. Refugees span every walk of life.

Politicians? Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger.

Scientists? Max Born, Albert Einstein.

Writers? Joseph Conrad, Rigoberta Manchú.

There are refugees who are musicians and actors and athletes and artists and a thousand other things. They are white and black and brown and every other color. They are men and women. They are adults and children. They are just like us. But, to paraphrase Maria von Trapp — a refugee who you know from The Sound of Music — they have no home… they feel like a parcel that has been mailed and moved from place to place.

And I know this. There are a lot of refugees.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are more than 21 million people who have had to flee their countries. In addition to that, there 38 million people who are still in their countries, but who have been forced from their homes. And in addition to that, there are millions of people who are stateless, with no country, no nation, no home.

More than half of those refugees come from just three countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria. And more than two-thirds of them live in the Middle East and Africa. There are more than two-and-a-half million refugees in Turkey alone.

And there are about half a million here in America.

Jesus is a refugee. And he has tens of millions of brothers and sisters.

And, as the author of Hebrews says, he, “is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

The author of Hebrews — it’s a letter that’s often attributed to Paul, but he didn’t write it — is writing to Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem. The original audience for this letter knows persecution. They know what it’s like to be home but not home. They are not refugees from their country. But they are refugees from the Kingdom.

And they know that Jesus is not ashamed of them. They know that Christ had to become just like them. They know that Jesus has suffered like them. They know that Christ is among them.

Later, Matthew will write that we find Christ among the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. We know that Christ became like them, that Jesus has suffered like them, that Christ is among them.

Christ is the stranger. Jesus is a refugee.

And we have faith that we, too, are refugees; that we are strangers in a strange land; that we are home and not home; that we are in the world, but not of it; that we are refugees from the Kingdom.

We have faith that we can look to our brother Jesus who became like us and suffered like us and fled his home when he was a child, and he is not ashamed of us.

We have faith that we can look at our brothers and sisters from Somalia and Afghanistan and Syria and every corner of the earth — the refugees, the displaced, the stateless — and know that they are not ashamed of us. And we are not ashamed of them.

We have faith. And because of that faith we can welcome the stranger and the refugee with open arms. For we know that they are Christ.

Because Jesus was a refugee.

Hallelujah. Amen.

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