It may be the most common phrase in my work. I am sorry about the death; I am sorry about the diagnosis; I am sorry you didn’t like the music, the sermon, the temperature.
It seems that I spend a lot of time apologizing. It is just a part of what ministers do.
But more and more I find myself having to apologize for the actions, the words of other ministers. More and more I find myself in conversations with individuals who are trying to live in the aftermath of a theological tsunami that, in the words of Anne Lamott, would “make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
It happened again today and it sent me into a rage. According to a report in the Washington Post, Governor Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee made this statement about the thousands of Syrian refugees seeking somewhere to live.
“Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we’ve got cable TV?”
I am sure that is it! I am sure fathers are putting their families in little rubber rafts to cross the Mediterranean in the middle of the night; paying thousands of dollars to human smugglers who don’t even provide life jackets in order to get to another country in time for the new season of The Walking Dead! And don’t forget that Showtime will soon have another season of Homeland, and they probably know Carrie from her days with the Taliban!
not hoping that maybe they might have a future anywhere else but here!
This callous remark came from a man who dares claim the name minister! Even more, he is a Baptist minister! Which means that I will have to apologize to my friend at Ali Baba’s whose family in Jordan lives a mere 45 miles from Syria and has seen their communities overrun with refugees. I will have to try to explain that the word of one politically-crazed Baptist doesn’t mean that every Baptist feels that way. I will have to apologize to people who pass by our church with the “B” word on the sign!
I am tired of apologizing! As much as I know I should just listen to the Frozen soundtrack and just Let It Go!, there comes a time when letting it go is consent! No more! Mike Huckabee, if you want to claim to be a Baptist, a minister, even a Christian, please take some time to read the Bible! Not even the whole thing, I know you have a campaign to run. But at least read the text we used Sunday at Providence (way out of season, but how was I supposed to know it would be so fitting!) Just read the first part of Matthew 2, where you find the story of Joseph taking his family to Egypt for basic cable. No! Like the tens of thousands from that part of the world, they are running for their lives!
But maybe Mike, maybe you are too busy to even read the Bible. Well then, try this poignant poem that we read in worship Sunday.
From the Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
That’s why they are leaving Mr. Huckabee. They are leaving because home is now the mouth of a shark—not to catch the next episode of Sharknado!
I spend so much time apologizing for things in life that are beyond fair, beyond control. And I will willingly do that. But I refuse to apologize for the rabid rantings of a man who does not know the Jesus I serve, the Jesus who was himself a refugee, who said “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”
No, Mike Huckabee! For you and your ilk—I will say “I’m sorry” no more!
As the old gospel song goes, “I will stand alone on the word of God,” and say that you don’t know what you are talking about. Even more, you don’t know the one you claim to talk for!