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Jesus Went to Georgia

March 10, 2009

My version of a traditional story. 

When Jesus was a baby, if  his  familyhad  fled to the “Bible Belt” of the United States rather than to Egypt, the story would have had a different outcome.

It is necessary to begin with the “Christmas Story”.  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, I will give a quick rundown.

Joseph, a middle aged poor working class Jew, became widowed and needed a new wife, so he chose Mary. Mary was a girl of about fourteen years of age. (marriage at her age was then and  is still legal in many middle eastern countries)

While engaged to Joseph, and living in a different town, she became pregnant, and not by Joseph.  When Joseph heard the gossip and confronted her, she told him, “God did it.”

 Joseph’s reply was “Okay. It’s bad enough you had to do it, but you’ve got to lie about it too?”

And Joseph proceeded to end the engagement.

Well, Joseph had a dream that night. In the dream an angel told him, “Don’t dump her, because God did it.”

So he married her.

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During the time of her pregnancy, there was a huge star in the sky. The people said “Looks like someone very important is going to be born, on account of the star.”

 But that’s for later in the story.

 There was to be a census of the people. The males were to report to the cities of their ancestors birth to be counted, and they were to bring their wives and children with them. When Joseph and Mary arrived in the appointed city, she decided to go into labor, and gave birth to Jesus. After they were counted, they went home.

 

 

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Later, some leaders wanted to come visit the baby Jesus.  After they left,  an angel came to Joseph (again) and said, “Don’t go back to your town, but escape to Egypt, and hide there until the present King dies.  The King has also seen the star and heard the rumors, and has asked Counselors for advice. They figured out the new King was supposed to come out of your hometown, and he is going to kill all of the boys under two years old so the baby can’t grow up and compete with the King for control of the region.

                                                                        

escape to Egypt

Escape to Egypt

 

This is where my story starts. The family will not be escaping to Egypt, but rather, to present day Georgia in the United States…

 

 Joseph said to the angel, “The United States?? We don’t have money for airfare, we don’t have time to apply for passports and Visa’s, and what excuse will I use? I don’t have any skills that the U.S. needs, so they are not going to let us in.”

The angel said, “Don’t worry, I know how to get you in, and you can get a construction job in one of the towns outside the Atlanta area.”

So they flew in to Atlanta Hartsfield airport. They immediately tried for refugee status, but could not get it, because no violence  had actually happened in their town.

They moved into a crappy old trailer park in a small town outside of Atlanta.  Not much, but the rent was cheap.

 

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Mary really wanted to go to church, but there were no Synagogues in the neighborhood, and the State of Georgia had just changed the rules regarding driver’s licensing. They didn’t want those  “illegals” to have a comfortable life, so they increased the documentation needed in order to get a driver’s license.  Joseph would not be able to drive.

 They tried a local Baptist Church, but the preacher kept trying to get them “saved.” Mary was Jewish and didn’t want to be “saved.”

When Joseph tried to explain, the church leadership became suspicious and said that Mary and Joseph were  middle Easterners and therefore probably Muslim terrorists.  And really, if they were going to be in America, they should speak better English.

So they tried a Catholic Church, but they couldn’t take Communion with the others, because they weren’t Roman Catholic.

 They felt very lonely.

 

 Joseph had heard that if he would go down to the 7-11 store early in the morning and wait with the other illegals, he could probably get hired at a construction site.  He managed to get hired. Every day, the work van would pick him up at the store, and he would go to work building new homes, laboring  as a “rough-in” carpenter.

Life was getting better.

 

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They found a Synagogue. It was only forty five minutes by bus. A few of the members could even speak Arabic.

 

Time went on. 

 One night they were watching CNN and a story about an atrocity in the Middle East came on. Seems this guy King Herod  had a bunch of baby boys put to death  in some small town nobody had ever heard of.

Mary trembled and held Jesus close..

A week later, while Joseph was at work, the police came and arrested him for being married to a minor child.

 

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 Mary heard about the arrest, and figured she had better scatter before ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)came to detain and deport her and the kids. So she grabbed their savings and moved to a trailer park in another town.

When the newspaper came out, the headline read, Illegal Immigrant  Arrested. Married to a 15 Year Old.

 “But that’s the way we do things in my country”, Joseph had replied in an exclusive interview.

Joseph was found guilty, sent to prison, and labeled a sex offender. He was to be deported upon completion of his prison term. 

Turns out one of the neighbors in the trailer park figured out Mary wasn’t his daughter, but his wife. So she had reported them.

 

 

 Mary didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t collect welfare, as they were not citizens. She did the only thing she could do. She got a job cleaning a rich woman’s house. Another family moved in with them at the new trailer park. They shared the rent.

 

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Jesus’ mother took Jesus and Joseph’s other kids to the Synogogue every week.  Jesus went to public school, learned English, and loved his religious studies at the new Synagogue his mother had found.

Time passed. Jesus was  twelve now. One day he was sitting outside the Synogogue with the elders, and the men were praising him because of his profound understanding of the Scriptures. Quite frankly, they were amazed at his understanding.

 

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After graduation from high school, Jesus took a job  in construction. He couldn’t go on to college because he was an “illegal alien”; therefore, he didn’t qualify  for in state tuition assistance. Jesus worked hard on the job, and was well liked. In his spare time, Jesus continued with his religious studies.

When Jesus turned thirty, he told his Mom he was going to go on tour, in order to better explain to the Jewish communities regarding their misunderstandings of faith.  His mom was worried that he would be caught and deported.  As he had not grown up in the Middle East, he wouldn’t know how to survive there. His stepbrothers and sisters took him for a whack job, and “Wanted some of what he had been smoking.”

The people of the Jewish Communities started realizing this Jesus had something to say. Many of the more open minded started to believe him. The Rabbi’s were becoming concerned. Jesus was teaching things that were destabilizing their powerbase.

 Jesus broke a couple of the Jewish laws and got himself in trouble with the Rabbi’s.  It was the Sabbath, and he had healed someone. (On the Sabbath, or day of rest, you may not work nor compel anyone to work. Unless, of course, it is to go out to a restaurant for lunch with your family). On another occasion, he ate without washing his hands. The Jewish leaders considered these serious violations of the rules. Jesus told them “God made the commandments for the benefit of Mankind, not to enslave them. And furthermore, many of these rules were made by you, not God, and you made them in order to make your lives easier and the people’s lives harder. You don’t even live by these rules yourself. Just like Congress. God doesn’t like that.”

Worse yet, some of the Jewish people were starting to follow Jesus, and the weekly offerings were down. If this trend were to continue, the people might call for an investigation as  to why some of rules had actually been written in the first place. From there, it could magnify, and the Baptists could start asking why they can’t dance or drink, the Assembly of God could ask why they must speak in tongues at every service, and the whole power base could start to crumble.

No, this would never do.

 So, they did a background check on Jesus and found out he was an illegal. They called the CIA. ” We have a terrorist on our hands”, the story went.

 They told the CIA  Jesus was gathering a group of people and was training them to overthrow the government  of the United States. He would then usher in his own Kingdom.

 The CIA came to investigate. They spied on Jesus but could find no evidence that he intended to overthrow the government. But the church leaders insisted.

So the CIA did the only thing they could do when they suspect a terrorist but have no charges. They detained him and sent him to Guantanamo, a tiny area on the island of Cuba, the only place on Earth where International Human Rights laws do not apply.

 He is still being held there today, despite protests.

What happened to Jesus’ follower’s?

Well, the Ku Klux Klan tracked some of them down, the Skinheads got the others. Most patriotic Americans were more or less okay with this.  It was kind of sad, but, as you know, the KKK and Skinheads are not really terrorists because they target people groups. Real terrorists target government buildings.

Moral to the story? I don’t know. How about please stop and think about how you treat the Sojourners in your land.

My next story, Catholic Charities Caught Kidnapping (another documented story) will be out Friday March 13, 2009

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Face of a Shadow

March 5, 2009

We met Pedro in the early part of 2006.

A call came in through the network that a man had hurt his back and had been lying at home in agony for three days. He was afraid to seek medical attention because he did not want to risk being deported. Deportation would mean he could not provide for his wife and children back in Mexico.

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We got him to a hospital where he was treated, and arraignments were made to pay the medical bill. Several days later, he went back to work, at a new job. Another worker had already filled his old job position.

Pedro lives here in Virginia, sharing an apartment with some other guys. He doesn’t  really like the living arraingements, as some of the other men are single and a bit wild for his tastes, but he has learned to be tolerant. Pedro believes it is more important to cut expenses than to be comfortable.

 

 
 

Time went on, and we became friends. On occaision, he would come to our home to visit.  On one of these visits, I asked him why he had come to the United States. 

It was the usual answer. Life had become very difficult in his home town for lack of work; and as there is no unemployment compensation, or food stamp program, or any of the other protections that we as Americans enjoy when one of us falls upon difficult times, he had to go to where the work is, in order to feed his family. So he kissed his wife and four children goodbye, and came to the United States.  He quickly got an ITIN number, so he could land a decent job. 

One particular Christmas, Pedro had come to spend the holiday with our family, and we  enjoyed an opportunity to speak with his family in Mexico. He was so proud. We listened afterwards while he told us stories of his children. We tried to comfort him when he spoke of his son who had drowned. And then we listened some more while he played the guitar and and sang songs of his Homeland for us. 

 Pedro told us of his dream to be able to send enough money home  for his family to not only eat and live, but also for his son to go to school to become an auto mechanic.  His son will then be able to move to a Mexican city and get a “good job” and have a better life. 

 
  Pedro had hoped to be able to return to Mexico for a brief visit before his children grew up, but nowadays, any hope of returning to Mexico for a visit is gone.  A vigilante group known as the “Minuteman”  is currently monitoring our Southern border, making the chances of being caught and detained during a border crossing much more real.  Additionally, in response to political pressure, the federal government has joined in and begun work to seal the border. Due to these factors, the cost of paying a ‘coyote” to guide Pedro across the desert has become prohibitive. Pedro, like so many others, is stuck here in the United States, unable to cross the border.

So Pedro is here. He works hard, pays his taxes, and sends money home. Of course his wife and children miss him, but they won’t miss him forever. Extended absence does not  really make the heart grow fonder. No. It makes the heart grow weary and forgetful. His children will never really know him.

 
In the United States, it is estimated that some 10-14 million people live in our country without proper documentation. Many of these people spend their days working long hours in unskilled jobs, for what most of us would consider low wages. 

 They are called the “Shadow People” because they spend every day, year after year, trying to keep “out of sight, out of mind”.  Typically, ICE  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) does not seek these people out, as it is the job of Congress to decide what will ultimitely happen to these people. But still they live in fear, every day, knowing that a citizen could turn them in at any time.  If someone does, the federal authorities must investigate. 

Foreign Nationals caught lacking proper documentation are  typically held in  jail for many months, unable to earn wages for their families, until they are finally deported. Once deported, if the individual returns to the United States within five years, the individual risks criminal prosecution. (Under our current system of law, it is not a crime to cross the U.S. border without proper documentation. If caught, you could however, become subject to being detained and deported. If you are deported, you must not return to the United States for a perod of five years.)

NAFTA  (North American Free Trade Alliance)was supposed to be a great treaty, under which jobs would be created  for the multitudes in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. In many cases, NAFTA has worked very well. In the case of the poor farmers and small townspeople of Central America, NAFTA has made, for many, an already difficult life unbearable, as the giant Agrifarmers take the work that belonged to the people.

 Is it right for someone from another country to come here and compete for our jobs? Probably not. But people will do what they must in order to survive. Perhaps someday, we as a people will once again understand that.

 I only hope that if  it ever happened to me and my family, I would have the courage to do the same thing.

 

 © All rights reserved                                            Daniel Curran

next post   Jesus Went to Georgia will be up Monday, March 9, 2009

Incident at Manassas, VA Where are the People?

February 26, 2009

February 23, 2009         NPR Radio All Things Considered  reports that a one out of every ten homes in Manassas, Virginia have been foreclosed upon, making Manassas the center of the foreclosure crises.  The city is now experiencing a severe budget crises due to decreased tax revenues because of home values that have dropped so sharply it is hard to comprehend.

 

Photo by isisDC
Photo by isisDC

             What happened?           

             Not so long ago, Manassas was a quiet little town on the end of the Washington D.C. metro line. Then came the D.C. area building boom, and along with it came the workers, all of them needing a place to settle, and they chose Manassas. Good schools, affordable housing, safe community. Why not?

 

 

So they came. They began to rent apartments and purchase homes.  They opened businesses to serve the workers. They paid their taxes.

 An explosion of new home developments came to Manassas and Prince William County as workers began to purchase homes with their new found wealth. This created more jobs, more businesses, and more tax revenues for the city and county.

As has so often been done in the past, the people proudly brought their own cultures with them to share and incorporate into “The Melting Pot”.  Families were close and spent their “off time” together. They shopped in the local stores and sent money back home to help their less fortunate relatives.

   In a rapid growth region, many of the new arrivals are single men, looking for Day Labor. They hang out in particular locations in the morning, drinking their coffee, while waiting for work to be offerred. The kind leadership of Manassas took note when it happened in their city, and thought it would be good to build these men a shelter so they could be protected from the elements. And so they did.

          What happened in response was the beginning of a National Episode of Shame. 

A group of agitators known as “Help Save Virginia” came to town. They were well trained in how to use verses from the Christian Bible in order to make the workers and their families appear dangerous. They pointed out that the single men brought problems with them.

 Yes, there were problems with overcrowding. Yes, there were problems with the types of people who follow large groups of single men. But there are solutions to these problems, as any major American city knows. All the town leaders would have had to do was ask for advice.

But the men from “Help Save Virginia” worked hard and fast. The townspeople were not accustomed to these new folks and the issues involved in living in a fast growing region. So “Help Save Virginia” played on the fears of the local people  . They told the people the “new folks” would rape their daughters, and have sex in the middle of the street. They told them the new people have no right to be in our country.  They said the new people do not love God. And they worked successfully to get their own men elected. There was nothing the new people could do, as many of them did not yet have the right to vote in an election. Sure, they ran some people for office, but it all happened so fast, and there was no time.

After the election, the new Board of Supervisors began to try to find ways to harrass the new people. They came up with a new set of rules for the county, rules that would make the immigrant’s life difficult. Preperations were made  for the Board of Supervisors to vote on the new rules. 

Many area churches rose to the call and declared all people to be equal. They joined forces with the Immigrant Rights groups who had banded together to defend the people.

Manassas, Virginia and Prince William County became the spotlight of national and international attention.In a nearly all night session in which a few of the townspeople came to speak for the new rules, and thousands upon thousands of people came to speak against the new rules, the Board of Supervisors passed the new rules.

 The reign of terror began. Children were denied access to schools and health care. Men were pulled over at every opportunity. There  were more protests from the new people. The Chief of Police protested. He was ordered to perform his job. Lawyers came to try to help the new people. Outside groups came to try to help. 

The city of Alexandria and other neighboring communities began to make preparations to receive the refugees.

The people began to flee. They left behind  their homes and businesses, seeking refuge from the harassment, until today, such a large number of homes have been walked away from, the county is now in crises. And still they are fleeing, fighting back when possible, but still being harassed. 

 Will the leadership be able to stop the crises? It’s doubtful.

 Real estate investors are now buying the foreclosed homes at less than one third of their original value and turning the homes into low cost rentals. As landlords do not typically do the same quality of maintenance as a homeowner would, the county will see a further decline in home values.   As the low cost rentals eventually begin to occupy, the county will once again see an increase in the need for schools and services, but this time, because of lower property values, the money will not be there. As the renters increase, the ability of a first time homebuyer to purchase one of these homes will diminish, as banks do not make loans in neighborhoods where there are too many renters.

Can things be turned around?  There’s always the next election.
© All rights reserved                                                 Daniel Curran

My newest post, Face of a Shadow, will be up Wednesday, March 4,2009
 

 

 

Why the Christian Right is to Blame for U.S. Abortions

February 24, 2009

Chances are you know a woman who has had an abortion.  You probably don’t know who she is, though. 

 For many women, abortion is a secret that cannot be spoken of because, after being convinced by the Christian Right that she has murdered a child, rather than receiving comfort in her grief, the same group condemns her. 

Or worse yet, she may be exploited by the “pro-life” movement as a tool for their cause. 

 But abortion, like so many other issues, hasn’t always been viewed so rigidly by those who presume themselves to be the most virtuous.

 ABORTION IN AMERICA – HOW DID WE GET TO HERE?

 During the 1840’s, the American Medical Association decided abortion should be a crime. A short time later, a group of lawyers joined in the battle to make abortion illegal. As a result, we began to see a patchwork of anti abortion and pro abortion laws in different localities and states. As time went on, and as our nation approached the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973, many of the anti abortion states and localities were already relaxing their abortion laws. 

 Prior to the Civil War, laws regarding rights and liberties were primarily passed at the local and state level. After the Civil War, and as we became a nation more concerned with individual rights and liberties, we began passing laws at the national level, to avoid being at the mercy of local leaders. However, the abortion issue has never been addressed by Congress.

 RELIGION AND ABORTION

                When the Supreme Court justices wrote their decision in Roe vs. Wade, along with legal issues they had addressed, their moral question was “At what point does the Spirit of Life enter the baby?” One of the many historical sources they looked to for guidance was the Catholic Church. This must have turned out to be a profound embarrassment for the Church, as lately they have been so “pro-life”.  

 Actually, the Catholic Church has changed their viewpoint on the abortion issue many times, but from the 13th century until the not so distant past, the Church held to the view of St. Thomas Aquinas, who mocked those who believed the Spirit enters the “embryo” at conception.  In other changes of belief, Pope John Paul II stated that any citizen of the U.S. who voted for a pro-choice political candidate was guilty of having an abortion. In yet another change, the newest Pope, Benedict, has backed off this position, stating that “all of the issues should be carefully weighed before voting, and many good people are in disagreement on the subject of abortion”

 Regarding several other major religions, the Jewish faith holds primarily to the belief that life begins at live birth, while the Muslim’s believe the Spirit enters the child in the fifth month. Until recently, the Protestant faith held that the decision was up to the woman and her family. 

                We have all seen the pictures of what a fetus looks like in the mother’s womb at different times during the pregnancy cycle. However, under United States law, this is not the question to be answered. The appropriate question is, “Does the child have a Spirit, and therefore, the same rights as those who can live outside the mother’s womb?”

Obviously, the question is unanswerable.

Yet, the “pro-lifers” keep trying to use photos of fetuses as a battle cry to try to divert attention away from the actual issue of how to reduce abortions. 

Members of the Christian Right would do well to understand that one person can look at these photos and see a baby, while another person can look at the same photos and see an embryo or fetus, and neither person has the ability to prove the other wrong. 

The picture flashing method has also proven to be quite ineffective in reducing the overall rate of abortions.

 

WHY WOMEN GET ABORTIONS

 In the United States, those women at greatest risk of having an abortion are of college age. Many times, the women are under pressure to not disgrace their families or to not “ruin their future”. In many other countries, the primary factor is poverty.  Among other major reasons for abortion are the health of the mother or the child, and those women who choose to terminate pregnancy because the pregnancy was caused due to rape or incest. 

ABORTION ALTERNATIVES: ADOPTION

                In the United States, we are witnessing a rapid increase of the infertility rate among couples desiring children. This increase is due to two primary causes. 

 First and foremost, many women are waiting until later in life to have children, and for many of these women, their childbearing years have passed. 

 PID… In the United States, there is a dramatic increase in PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)  among our nation’s woman. PID, caused primarily by sexually transmitted diseases, leads to infertility and ectopic pregnancies. (Ectopic pregnancies are a major reason for health issue abortions). 

 With the rise of American couples desiring children and unable to produce their own, the demand to adopt is rapidly increasing. To meet this increased demand for children, child kidnappings in poorer countries are on the rise to alarming levels. To date, several countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Guatemala have been cut off from adoption relations with the United States in response to these kidnappings. Numerous other countries are also having problems with adoptions to the United States. At its peak before being cut off, fifty percent of the children arriving in the U.S. for adoption from Guatemala  had been stolen from their natural mothers by unscrupulous adoption agencies in order to provide a child for a wealthier family here.

 In cases of adoption vs. abortion, you will hear so many women state, “If only I had been counseled on how much suffering I would have undergone as a result of giving a child up for adoption, I would not have done so. I would have kept my baby.” However, we just don’t seem to hear from these women when viewing the websites of adoption agencies. Perhaps it is because the agencies have such a great need to fill the adoptive slots. 

 

 

 

 

JUST MAKE ABORTION ILLEGAL

                When abortion is made illegal, no matter how severe the punishment for having an abortion, the rate of abortions do not decrease, not in any country, anywhere, at any time.  Rather, the unintended consequence of making abortion illegal is that  medical complications from poorly performed abortions rise, thereby increasing the costs and burdens to area hospitals, as they attempt, very often unsuccessfully, to save the woman’s life.   

 

SOLUTIONS

                As we know that making abortion illegal will not reduce the rate of abortions, the key question becomes how do we reduce abortions?

 If we truly want to see the amount of abortions reduced in the United States, we must first of all understand that either trying to force individuals to remain celibate until marriage or taking away the child of a woman who had an unplanned pregnancy will not work.

As long as in the United States we continue to treat sexual matters as “taboo”, we will continue to experience the current rate of abortion in our nation.

As long as the Christian Right continues to not try to understand the very real issues involved, but simply to declare anyone who asks questions as “evil”, the only thing the Christian Right will accomplish is further division between those who believe life begins at conception and those who do not.

 Perhaps the Christian Right could heed the lessons that Jesus taught regarding effectiveness by using love, compassion and knowledge of humanity, rather than using division and name-calling.

 The Europeans have had success in reducing the number of abortions in their countries. They have achieved their goal by following a determined commitment to educate their citizens in sexual matters and by making contraceptives readily available for all. 

                We must therefore, learn from the successful example and do a better job of educating our citizens regarding the use of contraceptives and we must make these contraceptives readily available to all. We must work to help our youth better understand the real dangers and consequences of sexually transmitted diseases, and how to reduce the risk of catching these diseases. Only then will we begin to make progress.

 President Obama recently tried to introduce funding to provide education to our nation’s youth in sexual matters and to increase accessibility and availability to contraceptives. Once again, the Christian Right through the Republican Party blocked the initiative…

Why?    

Only by working together, and trying to work with the facts as they are, can the tragedy of abortion be reduced in our nation. It’s time for the Christian Right to get on board.