Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Really Bad English Version of the Joint Declaration of German Protestant Churches on the Refugee Crisis

The following is a Google Translate version of a six-point declaration issued and signed September 14, 2015, by the German Protestant churches.

"How precious is your steadfast love, O God, that human children have trust in the shadow of your wings!" (Psalm 36.8)

1. God loves all his creatures and gives them food , livelihood, and housing on this earth. We note with concern that millions of people are denied these good gifts of God by hunger, persecution, oppression, and violence. Many of them are on the run, and stand at the gates of Europe and Germany. To welcome these and to grant them those things that God has allotted to all is a commandment of humanity and, for us, a commandment of Christian responsibility.

2. People are at the center of all efforts. Many people worldwide are on the run. The great challenge for each individual is to do what is just. In desperation and in mortal danger, people go on the run. It is humanitarian duty to do everything possible for people who are obviously in distress, whether at sea or on land. Police must act against inhuman traffickers and mafia-like structures within and outside Europe. Indeed, the largest barrier that stops asylum-seekers is legal access routes to Europe. We therefore call for legal means for Asylum seekers and for an open discussions on immigration law in order to establish new, open immigration routes for people looking for work and a better life.

3. Our society is facing a major challenge, but our forces are large . We are grateful for the diversity of help: from volunteers and professionals, help from the church, civil society, government, and politics. These demonstrate a welcoming culture and display an unprecedented commitment to ensure the rapid and decent reception and accommodation of refugees. We thank all wholeheartedly! With decisiveness we oppose all forms of xenophobia, hatred, or racism and are against everything a misanthropic attitude supports or makes acceptable. Worry and fear of exposure must be taken seriously, but we should not indulge misanthropic moods.

4. As a church, we help to create this society. Therefore, we advocate and practice a welcoming culture. And we make integration a central task of our communities and institutions.

5. With concern we see the background and causes of refugee movements: climate change, wars, persecution, the collapse of states, violence, extreme poverty. And our society does not escape, because we are global. We trade globally. We participate in arms sales. And, last but not least, we are deeply implicated by a lifestyle that uses the earth's resources. It is time to reverse this unjust situation.

6. Here in Germany, we are especially aware of our history. We know what a gift it is to find help and open doors in time of need. Without the aid, which comes from our hearts as well, we would not be in a position today to help others. As church leaders, we wish to commit ourselves with all Europe to act together to fulfill our humanitarian obligations.

In the knowledge that people have found refuge under God's wings, we bring the plight of all people in our prayers to God and ask Him for strength for the tasks that lie ahead.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Make Room for Beauty (Beauty Makes a Man)

Make room for beauty. It is not something we typically do. There are many reasons for this. We all lead busy lives from Tiger cubs on up to the oldest adult. We are distracted. And we are over-advertised. There are too many fireworks, too many explosions. And increasingly it is all simulated.

So I want to address all you men for a moment, whether you are one or are going to be one, and say this: Many voices tell us that manhood has no place for beauty. But is that true? Let's ask a few men:

Listen to Apollo 14 moonwalker Ed Mitchel describing what it is like to see the earth-rise from the moon:

"Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.

Or let's hear from President Teddy Roosevelt, a soldier and a bullfighter among other things, writing from a ranch in the American southwest:

"Nothing could be more lonely and nothing more beautiful than the view at nightfall across the prairies to these huge hill masses, when the lengthening shadows had at last merged into one and the faint after-glow of the red sunset filled the west."

And in another place he says, "Wild flowers should be enjoyed unplucked where they grow."

And finally, a word from the nineteenth-century Yosemite explorer and naturalist John Miur:

"All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God's eternal beauty and love."

These men, men who knew risk and hardship, living, working, acting men, are overcome by beauty, and especially the beauty of the natural world.

And with them, I urge you to make room for beauty in your lives. Why?

Because (1) Beauty opens the soul

When we are caught--arrested--by beauty "when lengthening shadows merge into one and a red sunset fills the west," we see things in new ways. Our soul is widened. We suddenly see ourselves, with all of our busy things, as small. We are hushed about ourselves. Humbled.

Simultaneously, we see the horizons of our lives and those of our friends in a new light. Where once was ugliness or hatred or ignorance, we begin to see flowers growing. We approach all in a new way, remembering that "wild flowers should be enjoyed unplucked where they grow."

Why else should we make room for beauty?

Because (2) beauty begets beauty.

You don't go away from beauty unchanged, but altered. Beauty doesn't step into the same man twice. It baptizes our hearts. It leaves our lesser man behind and makes us greater.

It is interesting to me that if you look at any skill or tool or invention that people have made, it grows more beautiful over time. Consider a simple hammer, manufactured and available for a few dollars from a store. We began with flint stones worked and chiseled, but stones nonetheless. Now we have hammers shaped and manufactured from hard-steel and fit for their purpose. It is the smallest example of what is everywhere around us. We take in beauty and we give it back in what we do and make.

Now a final reason we should make room for beauty.

We should make room for beauty because (3) beauty makes room for God.

Again to quote John Miur,

"No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening--still all is Beauty!"

Beauty is not God, but it has often been the doorkeeper to God's house. And if we are honest with ourselves about our hearts and our lives, we crave admittance. The Boy Scout Law and the Scout Oath mention reverence for God for a reason. Could it be because beauty is not unmanly, but, rather, because making room for Beauty--and for God--makes a man.

Could it be because beauty is not unmanly, but, because making room for Beauty--and for God--makes a man.

Address delivered September 12, 2015, for the Cub Scouts of Pack 125 at Cedars of Lebanon State Park.