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So here’s a little update for those of my Social Media followers that might be annoyed by the amount of political/environmental/human rights posts that I spew forth. (And I know you’re out there, ‘coz I’m getting some IRL signals).
As I read about the world around me, there are various signs that are deeply troubling to me. Some of these revolve around human rights violations, or how we are treating the “weakest of these”, such as refugees. Some of these are about what is happening to the planet - of which we have only one, needless to say. Some are about how we are treating each other, nearer to home.
(Warning: this is a bit of a long post, but I hope worth the read.)
A couple of days ago, World Vision USA announced a slight change in their hiring policy: from now on christians that were in a same-gender marriage would be allowed to work for the organisation. The Evangelical right in America went on a rampage.
As an Evangelical, and as someone with a bit of a public platform, it is slightly unusual for me to be vocal in my support for same-gender marriage, but I felt that World Vision had made the right call in allowing gay and lesbian christians in.
Yesterday and the day before, I’d spent some time online talking with people about this. I was astounded by the amount of people that got in touch with me through private messages, e-mail, and through public conversation.
Some to have a respectful conversation about where we might disagree, honestly asking questions, and constructively searching for understanding. Some expressing surprise that this was even an issue in the Netherlands. Some thanking me for taking this stand, being gay and/or lesbian Evangelicals in the Netherlands, and finding it very hard indeed. Some telling me how far off the Gospel I’m starting to get. And others struggling with the topic, either they or people very close were gay, and they just didn’t know how to deal with this, or who to talk to. Some just to ask if they could have a coffee and have a ‘safe’ chat. I have never experienced such an overwhelming response in all my years of blogging, facebook, twitter, public rants, and speaking engagements.
Clearly, this whole topic is hitting a sensitive spot.
This morning when I woke up I saw that sometime last night, World Vision pulled back the change in hiring policy. I was at a loss for words, and have spent the past few hours wrestling with my response.
And though I could write an angry, or defensive, or offensive post, I won’t. I’m mostly sad. Because I think in this retraction, everybody lost. World Vision lost. The children in Africa lost. The Church lost. The world lost. The Evangelical Right lost. We all lost.
World Vision lost
I was in marketing for ten years, and from that perspective, World Vision did a horribly bad job of it the last week. Anybody in their team would have known that this change in policy would create a hurricane of reactions. Why weren’t they better prepared? Their retraction brought to mind a joke I heard last week: “These are our principles. If you don’t like ‘em, we’ve got another batch of them you might like over here.” If you’re going to make a principled stand, then you better have the resolve to stick by it. This is not to say I don’t understand their reaction. The majority of their supporters are the Evangelical Right, and they were hemmorhaging support. But, they could and should have seen this coming.
The children in Africa lost
As a result of many people withdrawing their support from World Vision, many kids that were being helped by them now are stuck without their supporters. This is not only deeply tragic, it is offensive. A position on gay marriage by a group of executives in America should never influence whether or not the poorest of the poor in developing countries - who have absolutely nothing to do with this decision - receive aid.
The church lost
But it’s not just the children and World Vision that lost. We, as a broader church, lost too. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And I’m pretty sure that the avalanche of knee-jerk reactions we’ve seen in the last days has very little to do with loving one another. The church should be a place where the weak and vulnerable are always welcome. Once again, as a church, we have shown that we are nothing of the kind. As a friend of mine said today, I am “Looking forward to the day we (myself included) find our focus on feeding the hungry and chilling with the poor.”
The world lost
But it’s not just the church, or the kids in Africa, or World Vision that lost. It’s also the broader world that lost. Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, a city on a hill. Shining for all the world to see. We have a beautiful role to play on this world. Seasoning it. Making it bright. Making it better. When we respond in the way we have over the last days, we’re not just betraying the Gospel (a term used often in response to World Vision’s original statement), we’re betraying the world that Gospel was meant to serve. We’re denying the world the Good News for which a Man died on a cross.
The Evangelical Right lost
Over the last years, I have made it a point to engage in, and be in relationship with many on the Evangelical Right. Though we might disagree fundamentally on a whole range of topics, we read the same Book. And I believe it’s a paucity to not be informed by the whole range of opinions out there. As a result, I purposefully follow and engage with several Evangelical right-wingers. I greatly respect the dialogue I can have with them, and to their credit, I have not seen very much gloating or below-the-belt responses from them.
Still, I would argue that even the ‘winners’ lost. The Evangelical Right on the long term has done itself a disservice in various ways. Jesus came to the excluded, the marginalised and the outcast. He challenged a Pharisaical religious elite that was concerned with doctrinal purity and excluding ‘the other’. He called on us to challenge our assumptions. To ‘question everything and hold on to what is good’. To not be complacent in our cultural and social norms, but to love extravagantly, unconditionally, dangerously.
The Apostle Paul said that “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Somewhere, I can’t help but feel that this would be directly applicable to the conversation we’ve been having over the past days. Wouldn’t it be great, if just for a while, we would all attempt to err on the side of loving extravagantly, rather than on the side of doctrinal purity?
We all lost.
Or: thoughts on the Evangelical backlash to World Vision’s new hiring policy.
For the past seven weeks, my back has been killing me. Work has not been a realistic option, but the last days it’s getting better. Today was my first day back in the office. Ready to get things done.
Until the news happened. Not just one piece of news, like the assassination of Kennedy, or 9/11, but just the whole smorgasbord of desperation that seems to be filling the world today.
Last Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking at the Goot500 event. An amazing conference set up to profile the need of justice in the Dutch churches. I was asked to share a few words on my experiences lobbying for change in the cocoa industry. Below is the pre-prepared text of my speech.
End of the year, which means time for a list of best albums of the year. Well, there’s a couple of weeks left, but with the release of Reflektor, I guess we’re at the end of the album cycle for the year. I might have to re-evaluate by December, but we’ll see by then.
Here’s my list of best albums of the year, in alphabetical order.
Een aantal zaken die mis zijn met het huidige asiel- en deportatiebeleid. In bullets.
1. De IND bepaalt zelf de aanvraag. Judge, jury, en executioner in één. Scheiding van machten geldt dus niet voor vluchtelingen.
2. In beroep gaan tegen een afwijzing mag alleen op procedurele gronden. Bij de IND, alweer. Inhoudelijk bezwaar wordt niet aangenomen.
3. Ook bij bezwaren komt er geen rechter aan te pas. De IND mag dus gewoon een ‘wij van WC eend’ beleid uitvoeren. Zonder enige schroom.*
4. Asielzoekers hebben recht op in totaal zeven (7!) uur bijstand van een advocaat. Dus moet je écht mazzel hebben dat je een goeie hebt.
5. IND kijkt in 1e plaats naar redenen om vluchtverhaal te wantrouwen. Guilty until proven innocent, dus. Oh, en geen recht op inhoudelijk beroep, he.
6. Indien uitgeprocedeerd, maar de overheid je niet uit kan zetten, word je geacht het land in 48 uur te verlaten. Dat heet dan “administratief vertrek”.
7. Maar ja, je kan alleen maar naar buurlanden. Die allen het Dublin protocol hebben getekend. En je dus terug sturen naar Nederland.
En toch blijven er beleidsmakers die zeggen dat het systeem humaan, sluitend, én eerlijk is. In plaats van de échte problemen op te lossen, gaat men doodleuk voorstellen illegaliteit strafbaar te stellen. Want hé, je moet toch wat.
Edit: Ik ben door een asieljurist erop gewezen dat punt 3 niet geheel waar is. Het klopt dat er door een rechter geen inhoudelijke toetsing wordt gedaan op bezwaren, maar dat er wel een rechter een ‘marginale’ toetsing kan uitvoeren. De rechter kijkt in dat geval niet naar of het verhaal wel of niet geloofwaardig is, maar of “de IND het relaas redelijkerwijs ongeloofwaardig heeft mogen achten”. Met andere woorden: de rechter toetst in dat geval alleen of de juiste procedures bij de IND zijn gevoerd. Niet of iemand eigenlijk wel een punt heeft om asiel aan te vragen.
Daar komt bij dat als je niet kunt bewijzen wie je bent (geen ID hebt), geldt dat je een nog zwaardere bewijslast hebt. Wellicht om een open deur in te trappen: heel, heel veel vluchtelingen komen zonder ID naar Nederland. Want ze hebben nog nooit een ID gehad.
Seven years ago my wife came to our home with one the first bars of Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate. On the wrapper it said that it was ‘100% slave-free chocolate’. And although I considered myself more than averagely interested in justice issues around the globe, I had been blissfully unaware of the travesty of human trafficking and slavery in our supply chains. However, as the good book says; once I had heard, how could I remain silent? Just a few weeks later, I was in London discussing the possibilities of starting up STOP THE TRAFFIK in the Netherlands. What followed was an exhilarating adventure, with many highs and lows.
Three years ago, the Dutch football team came second in the World Cup. We had an epic team of great players, that could easily match themselves to the world’s best. I will never forget our win against Brazil in the quarter finals, where we came back from being behind 1-0 at half time, to winning 2-1 at the end of the game.
But eventually Spain bested us in the finals. They had a great team, and - dare I say it - they deserved to win that final. They were simply better than us during the two hours that game lasted. Also, we played a mean game of football that day. And with mean, I actually am trying to say that our team was a dirty bunch of scumbags, making some horrendous fouls that should have seen at least one player sent off with a red card.
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