Friday, February 19, 2016

Trump vs. Pope, 2016

A few days ago, in the midst of a contentious Presidential election year, candidate Donald Trump decided to voice opinion about comments that were made by Pope Francis. The Pope commented on Trump's campaign promise to build a wall to slow the movement of illegal/undocumented persons into the United States through the Mexico/U.S. border. In the course of those comments, the Pope stated that anyone who builds walls instead of bridges is not a Christian.

Trump fired back at the Pope. Trump called the comments disgraceful. Specifically, Trump felt that as a religious leader, the Pope had no grounds for claiming that Trump is not a Christian.

Since that time, Trump has backed away from the heat of an argument. He responded to Anderson Cooper about the remarks by saying that the comments may have been softer than the news media had reported. He even made the claims that he liked the Pope and complimented the Pope's work.

Here is where I need to step in.

As I read it, Donald Trump feels that as long as a religious leader is doing good work and being charismatic and very full of energy, then a religious leader can remain on his good side. But when a religious leader is calling a person to account for their behavior or intervening into a private issue, such as religious faith, then it is disgraceful.

I think Donald Trump may be the ideal American religious person.

He does not feel that any person has a right to judge another in areas that are privately held. And he is not alone. There is a huge sentiment within our culture that says, "I have a right to believe whatever I want and you don't have the right to judge me or hold me accountable." The privatization of faith is well entrenched even in our churches.

Who has the right to hold Christians accountable for their actions or deeds or behavior?
Who has the right to determine what defines a "good Christian"?
Who has the right to establish the boundaries for what it means to be a person of faith or a person outside of faith?

All of these questions have become personalized over the course of the last 400 years. One consequence of the European Reformation was that faith became a personal issue. Stepping out of the authority of the Pope began to localize authority. The Orthodox Church functioned that way from the beginning. But within the rest of European Christian experience until the Reformation, Christians were bound to the authority of the Pope and Church. After the Reformation, authority began to be localized in protestant groups. Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, and so on, grew up around an authority based within the group.

But after the Enlightenment, when "all" persons were established to have rights and freedoms, then the localized authority became privatized. This was not an immediate reaction. It has taken time to become fully enmeshed in Christian culture. But it is clearly visible within the life of Christians.

Or are they Christians?

There are plenty of surveys and polls taken on how religious Americans are. And the numbers have been consistently higher than the middle. The most recent trends put the number of "christians" in the 60-70% range. And there is a lot of hand wringing over how those numbers are dropping. But when you compare those numbers to markers of how Christians live out their faith, you begin to see the discrepancies. Church attendance and participation, prayer, reading the Bible, participating in service or mission outside of church all show significantly lower percentage numbers.

Maybe I can be accused of using statistics and numbers to justify. But I also look at how often "christians" take to social media and betray a lack of love and justice and kindness and mercy within their souls. I can hear people talk about how they will not forgive someone or they deserve to be treated better or another person is less valued  and I know that is not coming from a heart like Christ.

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. And at times I wonder how "christian" I am. But in the midst of that falling short, and being honest about it, I can become better. I can improve. I can become more like Christ. And everyone can, too.

But I cannot do anything in another person's life if they do not believe or accept that I have the authority to do so.

God has placed a call on my life to be an apostle - sent under the Holy Spirit's power and guidance to be a voice of authority regarding life, revelation, and Scripture - to guide others in becoming mature in their faith and following of Christ. The United Methodist Church has seen (graciously) fit to ordain me under the authority of a leader (the Bishop) to be a religious leader among a community of believers. If I am to be faithful to my calling, then the authority granted to me is to evaluate another believers life (check the membership vows of the United Methodist Church) and hold them accountable to the life they claim.

We all are called as followers of the Christ to live by a different set of boundaries. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a different kind of life. And God has joined us together in community to lead and guide each other in following those boundaries and leading that life. Religious leaders have the authority to call another person's belief into question if it does not fall within the boundaries or if their life has taken a different path.

Executive Order 9066

It sounds like a sinister plot device from an action movie. But it was a very real declaration within United States history. But it was not a sinister plot device. It did, however, represent a decidedly unjust reaction by the Federal Government toward an entire race of people. And it justified widespread racism, fear, and hatred toward people who were natural-born and legal citizens of this nation.

On December 7, 1941, the day that President Franklin Roosevelt called a "day that would live in infamy", the Empire of Japan launched an attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Station and the various air fields across the island of Oahu. The response to that attack was to declare war on the Empire of Japan. It brought the United States into World War II. Two months later, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The declared purpose of that order was to provide for the security of certain regions along the west coast of the United States.

Following the events at Pearl Harbor, the level of fear for imminent attack on the mainland increased. The most obvious target was the west coast region. California, Oregon, and Washington state were the most accessible regions if the Empire of Japan decided to make a thrust at the United States (Hawaii and Alaska were not states at that time). According to Executive Order 8972, signed by President Roosevelt on Dec. 12, and EO9066, there was an active effort to investigate and protect against espionage and sabotage within the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was tasked with identifying potential spies or saboteurs. According to a letter from J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the F.B.I., to the President, the Bureau identified over 1,200 potential Japanese spies. Within 48 hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, all of those identified were taken into custody.

The west coast was a significant region vital to the growing war effort. The west coast was also home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants or direct descendants of immigrants from Japan. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they became the targets of a growing hysteria against the Japanese. Businesses began to exclude customers who even looked Asian. There was increased pressure on government officials to do something to "protect" the people who lived there.

It was the decision of the President to issue an order to create "exclusion" zones. Within these areas, military officials had the authority to determine to exclude "any or all persons" and to restrict the rights of those persons to "enter, remain in, or leave". Furthermore, military forces were authorized to enforce compliance with these restrictions. EO9066 gave the military the right to declare any area deemed appropriate as a military area. They could then decide who could enter, remain, or leave that area. This order, while not specifically designating people of Japanese heritage, effectively was used to order any person of Japanese heritage to vacate that area, be transported to a holding location, and then relocated to another part of the country.

What happened from the experience of those impacted by the order was much more personal. They were given hours, or days, to liquidate their properties or secure their holdings. Land and homes that they owned, they were now forced to sell, lease, or entrust to another. They were allowed to pack two suitcases. They were loaded, under guard, onto trains. They were sent to a holding camp for days or weeks. Then they were sent by trains to camps that were established, under military control, for their internment. These camps stretched from the inland regions of the west coast all the way to Arkansas. There were approximately 122,000 people removed their homes and sent to these new camps.

The painful number in this is 70,000. It is estimated that about 70,000 of the people who were forced to surrender their homes and their lives were United States citizens. These people had all of the same rights and liberties and freedoms that every other person within the United States possesses. They shared the same right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". And with the swipe of a pen, those rights and freedoms and liberty were disregarded. The "and justice for all" pledge that we all declare was completely ignored. There was no due process. There were no trials. There was no crime.

The Japanese Americans were selected because of hysteria and fear. They were living a normal, American life. They had jobs and went to school. They were business owners and professionals. They were laborers and farmers. They were young and teen age. They were married couples with children. They were singles looking for a bright future. And their lives were interrupted because it was decided that they were a threat just for living in the wrong place.

For more information (and a listing of my sources for this post):

George Takei: Why I love a country that once betrayed me - YouTube
Colorado Experience: Amache (full length) - YouTube
Amache internment camp survivors remember tough times - The Denver Post
Amache (Granada) | Densho Encyclopedia
Encyclopedia of the Great Plains | AMACHE INTERNMENT CAMP
Amache - Japanese-American Relocation Center
Amache | Archives
Granada War Relocation Center - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Amache.org | Remembering the wrongful imprisonment of Japanese Americans
Amache Japanese-American Relocation Center - Google Maps
Photos: 3 Very Different Views Of Japanese Internment : Code Switch : NPR
Our Documents - Executive Order 9066: Resulting in the Relocation of Japanese (1942)
Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 - Feb 19, 1942 - HISTORY.com
History - Suffering Under a Great Injustice: Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar - Collection Connections | Teacher Resources - Library of Congress
Executive Order 9066 | United States history | Britannica.com