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#MeToo might make a difference but nothing will change unless our the way we manage our sexuality changes.

#MeToo might make a difference but nothing will change unless our the way we manage our sexuality changes.

Are things going to be different for my daughters?

It seems like something might actually be shifting in the relationship between men and women.

In a world where the moral compass has felt like it was spinning out of control, the hashtag #metoo has become a vehicle of protest that seems actually to be heard…

It is almost like each story of men using women as objects to gratify themselves hit a little bit harder and Harvey Weinstein was the tipping point where women around the world began to speak up.

I was fascinated to see CNN host Jake Tapper blurt out his shock at what he saw on social media.  With a stunned tone,  he told the latest victim of abuse he was interviewing that it felt like every woman he knew was sharing a #MeToo story.

Initially, commentators were saying it couldn’t last and nothing would change. Too often we have seen public outrage dissipate within a week no matter how outrageous the story seemed to be.This time, however, it seems that just as one story began to fade, another took its place. A single wave has seemingly turned into a tide… at least I hope it has.

I have two beautiful daughters who are getting ready to make their way in the world.  I hope and pray for their sakes that things actually are changing.

There is one major concern for me as I watch these stories unfold.  It seems that we are rewarding those who cover up and deny their historic actions and punish those who come clean.

Senator Al Franken and Louis CK both declared their own guilt and remorse in response to allegations. Both have been hammered by commentators and CK has already paid a stiff penalty in lost career opportunities.

An Alabama Senate Candidate and the current President responded quite differently. When presented with charges that seem significantly more serious than Franken and CK, both Roy Moore and Donald Trump have issued denials in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Louis C.K. had a movie cancelled. Donald Trump became President.

There is a real danger that men all around the world will be learning the wrong lesson. Rather than facing their own tendency to objectify women, men will be seeing that they can get away with horrible abuse as long as they are not honest.

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There are 6 choices you need to make if you don’t want to be sucked in by Trump (or anyone else).

There are 6 choices you need to make if you don’t want to be sucked in by Trump (or anyone else).

There is a seismic shift underway in how the world looks at the United States, how the United States looks at itself and how everybody understands truth.

I used to teach people about Public Relations. I would teach that we have “media” because they “mediate” truth. These days, while that might be the origin of the word, the reality of the function is not so simple.

Yesterday I watched one of my favourite journalists, Chuck Todd, reach a point where he declared that he no longer had the words, quoting a sports commentator who once declared “I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing.”

It seems as though the biggest question facing us over the next decade will be “what is real?”

I wonder if part of the problem is that over the last 40 years we have been lulled into a dependence on media. We have allowed them to mediate, and therefore shape our reality.

In my Public Relations classes, I would teach that “those who know how to use the media have disproportionate power.” I don’t think anyone would doubt that Donald Trump knows how to use the media.

I don’t think that Trump is the problem. I think the problem is that we have all become lazy. We have allowed ourselves to have our understanding shaped by others, rather than doing the hard work of seeking truth ourselves.

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Anderson Cooper is biased, he just hasn’t realized it yet. (So are you…)

Anderson Cooper is biased, he just hasn’t realized it yet. (So are you…)

I haven’t known how to make sense of what’s been happening in American Politics

It is hard for an Australian to really comprehend the forces that shape the thinking of Americans. While Australia certainly has it’s fair share of irresponsible media coverage, divisive issues and poor leadership, the country as a whole is actually fairly whole. Pauline Hanson is not Donald Trump (no matter what she believes), Centrelink is not Obama Care and Crikey is not Breitbart. To be honest our politics is much less interesting… in a good way.

America is divided in a way that Australia simply isn’t, so I have spent the last four and a half years in North America a bit bewildered by what I see on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

This morning I heard something that was extremely helpful at a number of levels.  Since becoming addicted to “the West Wing”, one of my favourite television shows has been Meet the Press. The host, Chuck Todd, has recently started a podcast called 1947 (after the year that MTP started), where he seems to have longer form, more informative dialogues than is possible on the one hour show.

Today Todd posted a conversation between himself and President George Bush’s former press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Chuck was attempting to argue that the media wasn’t systemically biased, and Fleischer systematically demonstrated why he was wrong. A key insight for me was when Fleischer said:

Chuck I submit to you it isn’t intentional, it’s natural, and that’s even worse.

It’s just reflective of a worldview that reporter’s have. Where I’ve been on sets, I’ve been talking to reporters and you just see them roll their eyes, “How can anybody be for Trump?”

It’s an institutional thought that is pervasive throughout journalism and it goes back decades frankly. I think it’s hit its peak with Donald Trump because reporters find him so personally offensive and ideologically offensive, and they let it rip.

Fleischer came across  as very grounded in reality and gave numerous examples that Todd simply had no comeback for. By the end of the conversation, both of them seemed to agree that the “main-stream” media had a “left-wing” bias. At the end of the interview, Presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s claim that the media was the real opposition seemed a little less crazy than it initially sounded.

What seems to be happening is that the American media is only just starting to become aware that they are not completely objective.

I almost laughed out loud as I watched CNN’s Anderson Cooper who looked shocked and hurt last night when he, and the media in general were accused of being biased. His defence was that Newsrooms were more “diverse” than ever.

For Cooper, “diverse” meant people from different ethnic backgrounds and people of different sexual orientations… however, as Fleischer pointed out to Todd, very few newsrooms have any socially conservative people at all, most of whom would not be excited by what Cooper calls diverse.

Anderson Cooper is biased, he just hasn’t realized it yet.

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For the foreseeable future, we cannot just assume that people who proclaim themselves to be authorities are telling the truth.

For the foreseeable future, we cannot just assume that people who proclaim themselves to be authorities are telling the truth.

fakenewsOn October 30, the CBS news in America announced that an invasion had begun.

From the moment the broadcast started the audience of about 32 million people was transfixed in horror as they began to understand that the future of the whole world was now being threatened.

People started to panic.

Once the director of the programming realized the impact of the broadcast, he made the choice to make a public announcement.

“This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that *The War of the Worlds* has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be: The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying “Boo!”

The year was 1938. Within three weeks newspapers had published at least 12,500 articles about the broadcast and its impact.

As a trainee journalist in Australia in 1990 I was told that broadcast in pre-WWII America was why Australian law was so strict in governing what was, and what was not, news.

I was given a government produced handbook that summarized broadcast law, and there was always a sense of significant responsibility in producing the local news.

I only just realized that the American laws didn’t change. Welles and CBS apologized for any misunderstanding, but there were no fines and no legal consequences at all.

So What?

In America, the media is called “The Fourth Estate”. It has played an essential role in holding the executive, government and judiciary to account. This was most clearly seen in the “Watergate” incident that ultimately resulted in the resignation of a president and every subsequent governmental scandal being labelled with the suffix “gate”. People trusted the media.

That has all changed.

In this election cycle two things happened: First, The label “Mainstream Media” became a thing, and was used by particularly the right wing as a term of disparagement. And Second, a whole industry developed in producing “Fake News” which seems to have had a huge impact on the election.

An Assistant professor of Media and Communications at Merrimack College, Melissa Zimdars, has produced a list of these sites, and it is a long list. Most, but not all, would have been strongly supporting Trump in the election. As the professor points out, not all the sites are producing completely “fake” news, but they all are sites that are at least questionable.

Apparently in the weeks leading up to the election, the top stories from fake news sources attracted more engagement on Facebook than the top stories from legitimate news organizations.

On Monday both Google and Facebook announced that they would be taking action to ban fake news networks from advertising with them.

An indication of the importance of these websites is that the executive chairman of one of the biggest of them, Breitbart, is now the senior advisor to President-Elect Trump.

Trump also appears to be close to another fake-news producer, Alex Jones, who claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre and 9/11 were both faked.

Unlike Orson Welles, Steve Bannon and Alex Jones are not going to come on the air and publicly announce that what they are saying is not true.. Their livelihood depends on sensationalism that people believe. It is a different, more dangerous, kind of entertainment.

One person who has made a living from fake news said:

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore – I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

So what does all this mean? Democracy in the United States is in trouble, because democracy relies on an informed public.

What appears to be happening through the advent of Social media and the Internet is that people surround themselves with messages from people who agree with them, rather than challenge them. It is too easy to live in a comfortable echo chamber than to be open to truth which is often uncomfortable.

In a world where “truth” has become loosed from reality, the simplest way to avoid conflict is to let everyone do whatever is right in their own eyes. The bible doesn’t let us get away from that.

We are not called to blind trust, we are called to strive for truth.

The book of John was the last gospel written, and it was written in a context where there were lots of competing stories about what was true. The word “truth” appears 43 times in the books 21 chapters. It seems that truth is not something we should take lightly.

Jesus tells us that truth has to be at the very center of our worship:

But the time is coming-indeed it’s here now-when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.  For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 NLT

It is interesting that at the crucial moment where Pilate hands Jesus over to death, he sounds like a modern politician, making it blatantly clear that political expediency rather than truth is what makes his decisions for him::

Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. John 18:37-38 NLT

It is also in John (chapter 20) that we see Thomas who wouldn’t believe till he saw evidence.

The bible isn’t scared of truth, and Christians also shouldn’t be scared of the quest for truth, in fact that is what the purpose of the Holy Spirit actually is:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. John 16:13 NLT

So learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is an essential part of discovering truth.

Jesus gives another clue about how to discern truth, particularly about people by pointing at what is produced by their lives:

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7:15-20 NLT

The Apostle Paul gets specific about what kind of fruit we are to look for, on both sides of the equation:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:19-23 NLT

We are called to discriminate between truth and lies, between character that produces life and character that produces death.

For the foreseeable future, we cannot just assume that people who proclaim themselves to be authorities are telling the truth.

We need to continually be ready to “test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God” like 1 John 4:1 tells us to.

As we do the work of stepping out of the echo chamber and into truth, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will help us, and that if we open our eyes, people’s character will be a strong clue to tell us who to trust.

We were reminded by a New York Billionaire that it is words and not ideas that change us.

We were reminded by a New York Billionaire that it is words and not ideas that change us.

A while ago I spoke at church about the importance of letting the bible shape your identity. It felt like an important message about how we need to find our identity in the biblical story.

We spent a lot of the week watching the unfolding election.

On Tuesday, from the comfort of the Lake Louise Chateau Hotel, I watched Donald Trump become  President-Elect of the United States because he had learned to tell a different kind of story.

Leeanne and I were in the mountains for the annual Prayer Retreat for the Western Canadian District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Donald Trump was elected President, thanks largely to winning the votes of 81% of White Evangelical Christians.

In the weeks leading up to the election many Christian leaders had spoken out in favour of Trump, and some even prophesied that God had chosen Trump.  I was a little bewildered by that. I understood all the arguments about the supreme court but that wasn’t enough to explain such strong Christian support for someone who the facts indicated was immoral and unprepared for national leadership.

I actually thought the facts were the issue. They weren’t.

As I reflect now, I see that part of the problem was that I had basic assumptions about how I interpret reality that were wrong.

On Sunday I taught that we needed to align our stories with the biblical story if we want to know truth.

On Tuesday I was reminded that discovering what it is true is much more than facts and information.

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The seeds of destruction were planted in the American declaration of Independence. You can thank the founders for Trump and Hillary.

The seeds of destruction were planted in the American declaration of Independence. You can thank the founders for Trump and Hillary.

24 hours after an acrimonious debate, the candidates were sitting down to dinner together

I, like many people, have been watching what has been unfolding in the American presidential debate over the last 12 months with an increasing sense of bewilderment.

In July I wrote that, sadly, we have seen christians on both the left and right-wing, being more influenced by their culture than by the gospel.

As I wrote in July, at the very foundation of the American dream, the seeds of this tension were sown. The American declaration of independence established core values that shape American consciousness more than the bible does, and it is the clash of these extra-biblical values that we see being worked out today.

The core American value is individualism and  captured in the “inalienable rights” of  “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Christians and non-Christian Americans seem to assume that these words have an authority that is unquestionable.

These sentiments, however, run directly counter to the gospel.

The idea that all men have a right to life is intuitively true. We are all created in the image of a creator, and murder is wrong, however the core image at the heart of our faith is that death leads to life. In fact, seeking first your own life is the biblical recipe for death. ( I wrote a little bit about this back in March).

Probably the biggest heresy at the heart of the American ethos is the second inalienable right of “liberty.” America and freedom are almost synonymous words. For Americans Freedom and Personal Autonomy are one and the same thing. For the Apostle Paul, freedom is not about you at all. He writes:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

If personal autonomy is your goal, then it will be impossible to love. In fact, unless you are prepared to sacrifice your personal freedom, you will not achieve much in life at all. (I wrote about this back in 2010).

The final “inalienable right” is the “pursuit of happiness.” This is possibly the most dangerous of the three American myths, because it leads to short term thinking on the basis of emotion. As Victor Frankl pointed out:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

Paradoxically, it is the pursuit of something bigger than happiness that actually produces happiness. An article in the Atlantic magazine points out:

By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” — we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.

It turns out Jesus might have been on to something when he declared we were to seek first the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)

Toss into the mix a statement in the declaration of independence that says that if the Government interferes with these inalienable rights, then “it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it”, an organisation that promotes gun ownership as part of the remedy, and you have the seeds of the current political climate.

People divide on issues where they perceive “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are being violated. For Democrats, we see this myth in  hot button issues like abortion (it is about a woman’s right to liberty) and marriage equality (people’s right to happiness). For Republicans it is gun control (liberty and lack of trust in the government), immigration (people taking away my opportunities) and taxes (government making my decisions for me). Neither party wants too look too closely at what the bible says.

It is true that it is almost impossible to justify abortion and gay marriage from the bible (although some have tried), and so some Christians have grabbed hold of these issues as the litmus test of who they will vote for.

Because of Trump’s promise to promote pro-life justices to the supreme court, people like James Dobson continue to support him despite his bewildering lack of a moral compass. In fact White evangelicals are one of his strongest power bases. Check out this graph:


What is happening?

On the other side of the coin though, it is also impossible to justify the love of guns (I wrote about that on July 22) and hate of the outsider from the bible. In these things Democrats generally are much more in line with the heart of the gospel.

An American Christian who wants to be true to the gospel and still vote is left with a real challenge. Because life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the dominant values as opposed to the bible, they are having to choose which biblical values to overlook.

People like Ben Carson, Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson or Tony Campolo are not telling the truth when they make comments that the choice of who to vote for is simple. It’s not. All of these issues are real, and they all matter. These leaders lose their moral authority when they ignore the moral reality.

Americans need to stop pretending that America is a Christian nation or was founded on Christian principles.

American Christians need to open their eyes to the difference between their founding values and the values of the bible… and if they can do that then perhaps the best of America might be free to emerge.

Sadly, we have seen Christians on both the left and right wing, being more influenced by their culture than by the gospel.

Sadly, we have seen Christians on both the left and right wing, being more influenced by their culture than by the gospel.

UnknownEver since I became addicted to the West Wing sixteen years ago, I have been fascinated by American politics.

There is a level of reverence and awe about American Presidents that simply doesn’t exist in Australia.

While almost everyone in the world knows that George Washington was the first President of the United States, probably only 10% of Australians would have a clue who our first Prime Minister was.

As I watched Barak Obama give quite a moving speech endorsing Hillary Clinton, it became clear to me that one of the primary benefits of being an American national leader is the clearly defined national “myth” or story. Theodore White wrote:

A myth is the way of putting together the raw and contradictory evidence of life. It lets people make patterns of meaning in their lives in the context of a larger pattern.

Obama repeatedly drew on the American myth, giving weight to the story he was telling about Clinton.

Myth is a reflection of the spiritual nature of human beings. There are phrases stories and songs that somehow are able to capture our hearts because of the place we were born, and the best communicators understand this.

The words in the American declaration of independence “All men are created equal” and “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” echo through history and have been re-enforced  at key moments in the nations history (think Gettysburg Address, I have a dream speech etc) in a way that has drawn new levels of committment and drawn the nation together. The most effective Presidents have been those who have been able to tap into these impulses.

Every national myth also has a dark side, and in America, there is a deep distrust of government that was established at the same time that the transcendent values were forged. The very same declaration of independence that talks about life and liberty also declares:

“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”

Throughout America’s history, political leaders have also tapped into this more negative side of the national psyche. A case could be put that this is exactly what Trump is doing.

It is actually this negative part of the American founding principles that best explains the nations love affair with guns. One of the things that I didn’t fully understand until I talked to a number of American friends, is that the deep commitment to guns stems from the belief that it is necessary to always have the capacity to overthrow the government if necessary. Although this seems crazy to an Australian, it is true.

So within the American psyche is a double edged sword: a veneration of their Presidents and a deep fear of government. It is this inbuilt tension, between the grand vision of “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” and deep mistrust of government, which has produced America.

Culture really matters. In every culture there are points of transcendence where we see the best of what it means to be created in the image of God. In every culture there are points of darkness where we see the worst of human brokenness.

The service that America does for other nations is that they have taken the time to write down value statements in a way that makes a national myth obvious. Every other country also has a myth, but if there are founding documents, they very rarely capture the true “mythical story” that shapes the nation.

This is particularly obvious in Australia, where the song that captures our heart is not our national anthem but a story about a swagman that commits Suicide (Waltzing Matilida), and the military hero we choose (Simpson) is a guy that never fired a shot in a battle we lost (Gallipoli). These things are not the myth but are clues to what the myth is.

Australian leaders don’t have the same helpful documents that map the positive and negative sides of the myth, they have to feel their way and be students of history. Unfortunately most don’t, so when a speech “works”, it is almost a surprise.

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The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

Reverend Rob Schenck
Reverend Rob Schenck

I find myself trying to process the very real battle that is unfolding every night on our television screens.

Battles used to happen “over there”, now they happen on streets that look very much like our own and involve people who look and sound a lot like us.

It was easier, a few decades ago. We heard of places like Rwanda and Bosnia, and felt momentary sadness as images entered our lounge rooms on the 6:30 news. Now, though, news is not limited to 6:30 and the images are not just captured by journalists in war zones. They are live streamed, instagrammed or facebooked by ordinary people. We get instant updates on our phones, and everyone has an opinion.

Sadly though, the world the Cable Networks show us, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. We are drawn to a drama like a moth to a flame. In the same way an accident on the local freeway causes chaos because we all slow down to look, an act of terror draws us all in. A moment of insanity sets a national and international agenda because it is amplified through the echo chamber of Cable News and Social media.

There is a huge pay-off for the  nutters. So they do it again. And again. And Again. Each incident is tragic, but what it more tragic is the fact that we choose to give them so much more power than they deserve.

The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

ISIS wants people in the West to feel scared and powerless, but the truth is they are not the only ones with this agenda.

Being scared and powerless is great for CNN. They have developed a standard “crisis mode” programming format, where they flash the term “Breaking News” as often as possible and get one of their panel of paid “experts” to sound knowledgeable while playing grainy, jerky video on endless loop. They know that this kind of television gets ratings.

The N.R.A. want you to be scared and powerless, because they have an answer for you: buy a gun.  It doesn’t matter that objective studies prove that “regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”

Donald Trump wants you to be scared and powerless, because he has an answer for you: make him President. It doesn’t matter that we are actually safer now than we have ever been.

What is strangest for me to observe is that Evangelical Christians seem to be at the forefront of creating a culture of fear, and believe that what is needed is a stronger capacity for violence than the terrorists have.

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Donald Trump spews cliches. The world is more complex than a cliche will ever capture.

Donald Trump spews cliches. The world is more complex than a cliche will ever capture.

We Christians created the platform on which Trump now stands.
We Christians created the platform on which Trump now walks.

It was an interesting experience being an Australian, living in Canada and watching the U.S. Presidential election race.

It’s kind of like watching a slow motion car crash, where everyone knows the outcome is going to be horrible, but they continue to watch.

I am reminded of the children’s story, “The Emperors new clothes“, where the whole world saw an emperor walking without clothes, but no-one said anything because they were worried about what other people might think. Eventually, a little child spoke up and it was like the spell was broken.

I kept waiting for the little child to speak up, but I’m not sure anyone is listening.

Apparently, the reason people like Donald Trump is that he is not “politically correct”, he is the anti-Obama, anti-complexity, anti-people-not-like-me candidate.

At one level it is understanding. The world is more and more complicated, and we are a generation who has received our main shaping stories through television and films in which there is always “baddies” and “goodies.”

As the world has become more complicated, our movies have become less so. We have developed an almost insatiable appetite for super-heroes who save the world by beating up the bad guys and for romantic comedies where love results in everything being wonderful.

Despite what some books might suggest, we actually don’t like shades of grey. We want a black or white world. We want to be able to talk about bad guys and good guys.

We have also reduced our Christianity to this level of simplicity. We have managed to reduce our faith to four simple statements that form the minimum entrance requirements for heaven, and then we wonder why people who purport to be Christian can have a worldview that is so different to ours.

We separated our faith from our lives and made it about what happens after we die, so there was no real guidance about what it meant for complex moral issues, economics or relationships.

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It is not the refugees who need us, it is we who need the refugees.

It is not the refugees who need us, it is we who need the refugees.

On one day, in Feburary 2016, I was confronted by the dramatic need facing refugees from the Syrian crisis.

It was meant to be my day off but two phone-calls I received yesterday changed things.

The first phonecall was from a friend who is working with me on supporting one family who are currently in Lebanon after fleeing Syria, to come to Canada. We were expecting that the timeline would be 2-3 months, however we found that they would now arrive the following week.

The second phonecall was from the landlord of a young refugee from Congo, Thierry, who we have been supporting as a result of a number of bureaucratic stuff-ups. The landlord informed me that because his rent was not paid he would be evicted at the end of the day. After chatting to me we were given 24 hours to sort things out.

At the same time as these two things are happening, Donald Trump is in the news again. The Donald wants to build a big wall to keep all the Mexicans out of the USA. This comes after his announcement that he would ban Muslims from travelling to the U.S.

As the Pope pointed out, keeping out the people who are poor and who are different is not something a Christian would do.

My experience of trying to help my friend Thierry, and preparing to care for a family as they make the massive shift from the Middle-East to Alberta, has had me listening more closely to people’s attitudes towards refugees and the victims of oppression.

It turns out that a lot of people lean more in the direction of Trump than the Pope.

I can understand it. Most of us live very full lives and we expect to be able to find answers to any problems we face. We can’t easily identify with someone who has no answers available to them.

The great American myth is that anyone who works hard will not be in need, and therefore being in need means there is something wrong.

The impulse towards hard work is not wrong, and many of us have seen how giving unwarranted handouts can create huge problems.

We tend to unconsciously blame the poor for their own situation.

We like the world to be divided between the good guys and the bad guys, and we like to think that that the good guys win (by which we mean having stuff) and the bad guys lose (by which we mean miss out on “the good life”).

The problem is that some people actually need help. They can’t solve their problems by working hard.

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