Monday, February 21, 2011

Ruth -- Protest Literature

Monday, February 21, 2011 -- Week of 7 Epiphany, Year One
John Henry Newman, Priest and Theologian, 1890
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 948)
Psalms 10:1-18 (morning)       106:19-48 (evening)
Ruth 1:1-14
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Matthew 5:1-12

Today we begin reading a piece of protest literature.  The Book of Ruth was probably written during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, around the 5th century BCE.  The Israelites who had been exiled into Babylon were allowed to return home beginning in 539.  They returned to a poor and decimated homeland, where rival neighbors had encroached, and where some Israelites who had remained had intermarried with non-Jewish neighbors. 

Part of the strategy of reclaiming their nation was a process of ethnic cleansing which was enforced with varying severity during the restoration period.  There were instances when established married couples and their families were broken up because one of the partners was from another tribe.  Sometimes violence accompanied the enforcement of these "purifications."

Into this hyper-patriotic, cultural clash comes the book of Ruth, set in the past, written for the present.  It's hero and namesake is a foreigner, a Moabite.  Ruth displays admirable qualities of loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi as the two face great tragedy and vulnerability.  They too return from a foreign land to Naomi's family home.  There, Ruth's good character is rewarded.  She marries Naomi's cousin Boaz, and they bear a son Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of the great king David. 

As authorities are dissolving inter-tribal marriages and sending women like Ruth out of Israel and back to Moab, this story raises up a virtuous, heroic Moabite woman as the great-grand mother of the historic King David.  It is a story that would function to subvert the tribal policies of ethnic cleansing during the 5th century.

It seems like a good story for our time, when enforcement of our immigration laws is creating an unjust effect of ethnic cleansing. 

I had an email from a neighbor whose family is being broken up by our laws.  Her husband was brought to this country when he was eight years old.  He has been here for 24 years, educated from first grade.  Since adulthood, he has earned his living working as a mechanic.  When he was a child, someone filed papers incorrectly, so the petition for his legal residency was denied.  He didn't learn about this until years later.  He is married to a U.S. citizen, and he is the primary breadwinner for his wife and three children.  He is a hard working, law abiding man who experiences himself as an American because he has lived here continually since first grade.

He would like to petition for a residency visa.  He cannot do so while remaining here in the U.S., working and supporting his family.  For him to apply for a legal visa, he would have to move to Cuidad Juarez, Mexico -- a dangerous town, especially for outsiders as he would be -- and wait.  How long?  No one knows.  Because he has family in the U.S., it might be quick -- just two or three years.  Current requests for legal immigration from Mexico take around sixteen years to be processed unless there is some factor moving a person up in line.

All of his family and his wife's family live in Rogers.  They are close knit.  His children need him.  His work is his immediate family's primary source of income.  Having been brought here at age eight, he is about to be expelled at age 32 -- leave your family, your home, your job, your community; go wait in Juarez until we get around to processing your papers.  It shouldn't take more than a few years.

I need to find the stories, but a few years ago, as memory serves, the valedictorians of both the Harvard School of Medicine and of Law were undocumented immigrants.  Their stories were tied to another about a young undocumented student who had won a Rhodes scholarship.  If he accepted it and went to Oxford to study, he would not be allowed to reenter this country where he had grown up.

We live in a time of Ezra and Nehemiah, where officials administer injustice that breaks up families, promotes racism and prejudice, and wastes the gifts and talents of its people of character.  Ruth is our Bible's protest literature against such injustice.  As you read it this week, feel the connection across the centuries.

Today's gospel reading is the opening Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.  I recently preached on this gospel


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

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Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, another totally missed opportunity by the almighty president. He had the House and the Senate and accomplished nothing until the lame duck congress (with the exception of healthcare takeover). He could have done so much and he utterly failed.
We need a real change in washington.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I too am disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform could not be accomplished during the first two years of the Obama administration. But I think history will look back at that congressional term and will rank it just behind the 1964 congress for passage of significant and healing legislation.

The Health Care Reform Act is the most significant legislation of its kind since Medicaid and Medicare. Like Medicare, it will be improved and tweaked with time. But it is a landmark achievement and will have a comparable affect.

It wasn't publicized so much, but the Food Safety Bill was also a landmark success. (and bypartisan)

A whistleblowers bill gave important protection to truth-tellers.

Ratification of the START takes a big step away from nuclear disaster.

For my brother-in-law who is a Navy Admiral, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell was a huge improvement for military morale and recruitment.

We have nearly exited from Iraq and Afghanistan is closer to winding down.

Reversing the disasters of the Bush era doesn't happen overnight.

Obama inherited two wars, an economy in shambles and a government that had imploded into debt.

By the way -- there are three things that caused the massive debt -- 10 years of war without a penny of income raised to pay for it; the Bush era tax cuts (primarily benefiting people who didn't need tax cuts); and an economic recession (sparked by irresponsibility from deregulated financial speculators).

If we had kept the Clinton era tax rates, the deficit wouldn't be front page news. If we had maintained oversight of the financial industry, we wouldn't have had a world-wide recession. We will have to live a long time with the terrible consequences of eight years of poor decisions.

You are right, there were things that many of us hoped for that were not achieved in President Obama's first two years, and immigration reform is at the top of that list, but there was much to be thankful for.


At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try. But there is NO fruit to support any of those claims. All of his "successes" come from simply passing the bills, we still have not evidence the bills are actually good
But this much is true.
1. 5 Trillion MORE in debt that our kids get to inherit.
2. 10% unemployment and people living years on unemployment
3. the most divided our country has ever been, no racial healing from Obama
4. devalued money caused by quantitative easing
5. False claims regarding the shooting in Arizona in an attempt to silence people.
6. Moral slide regarding homosexuals (I would love to hear you defend against this)
7. Personal liberty less than ever

Yeah, your claims vs reality.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

1. I'm not sure where you are getting your $5 trillon number. The economy was wrecked when Obama was sworn in, and the most expensive part of the bailout had already been passed during the Bush administration. Much of the stimulus that Obama passed was loans that have been repaid and measures that stimulated enough to prevent major recession. If you are thinking the Health Care bill -- it reduces debt over 10 years -- that's from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

2. You are so right. 10% unemployment is absolutely unacceptable. That was put in motion in the Bush era by the unregulated financial markets meltdown.

3. You are right again. The country is profoundly divided. A major part of that is racism you know.

4. "devalued easing"? I don't know what that is.

5. False claims in Arizona? Again. I don't know what you mean. A few -- very few -- liberal commentators used that tragedy as an event to shine a light on gun control. Mr. Obama didn't. Did you hear his speech? Others of us have focused on the need for better mental health care.

6. I promote fidelity. If you are referring to Don't Ask Don't Tell -- you realize that Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mullen supported its reversal as did my own brother-in-law when he was a Pentagon admiral.

7. Your personal liberty is just fine. So is mine. Children who were brought to this nation by their parents without benefit of documentation -- not so fine.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Obama has already added over 3 trillion in debt plus his proposed 1.7 trillion this year(which doesn't even include the interest on the debt). And yes you can blame Bush and I even agree that some was his fault, however, the stimulus didn't do us what is said. Obama has to take credit for at least some of that new debt.
2. Blame Bush? really, i thought the libs wanted us to move on? Be honest, not all this is bushes fault, and even if it were, Obama has not done what he said which was to keep unemployment at 8%.
3. There is racism, but it is concentrated inthe liberals, you can't even argue that. there is surele some racist republicans, but dems make a living out of identifying race. I would argue that a true conservative can't be a racist, if the are racist they disqualify themselves immediately.
(like when Obama said republican have to go to the back of the bus, that is a racially charged comment if there ever was one)
4. Quantitative easing is when our government prints more money. Which truly devalues it and hurts our poor more than our rich. Food is starting to go up, gas is going up, Its not good out here Lowell.
5. Obama made a speech in Arizona that implied that vitriolic speech needed to be controlled even while saying it was not the cause. That is poor, poor leadership. And Ihave to ask if you even heard the speech as well as the whole political event that it was.
6. I am glad you promote fidelity, too bad that is not scriptural. The scriptural model is abstinance until marriage, then fidelity until death. And I am not impressed how many military leaders support your betrayal of God's moral law. Do you think you have a concensus?
7. My personal liberty is not fine thank you very much. I just got a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, I now have to buy government approved insurance, my tax dollars now support several morally wrong endeavors (abortion, stem-cell research, to name a few), My kids will be paying the debt of your and my generation so their liberty is grossly overstated. Lowell, you can't defend our debt, and it comes from both parties but Obama is making it worse. His new budget is a joke, WE HAVE NO MONEY. We are borrowing money from evil. China kills babies by force. Again, you can't defend that.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Well gracious. We live in such different worlds.

Just a couple of responses. My grandchildren will still pay for Ronald Reagan. He was the inventor of the massive deficits. It was an intentional strategy to bankrupt government, which he saw as evil.

Had we continued with reasonable taxation, progressive taxation that asks more from people like me who are relatively wealthy and comfortable, we would have no deficit, no great debt.

Clinton showed us -- letting tax cuts for the rich expire and not starting wars can get us to a balanced or surplus budget.

My tax dollars support a war I have grave moral objections to.

When the rest of us have to pay for your irresponsible behavior, your liberty needs to be limited. People who don't buy health insurance are just freeloaders on the rest of us. When they wreck without a seatbelt, go to the emergency room, and have to live braindamaged in a nursing home the rest of their lives -- the rest of us pay their bill for them -- through higher insurance, higher hospital costs, and government disability support.

Be a responsible grownup. Wear a seatbelt and buy insurance. If you can't be responsible, there will be a fine. A ticket for a seatbelt. A fine for not having health insurance. It's only reasonable and responsible. Stop enabling freeloaders.


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your world denies the Biblical prophesy the "the government will be on His shoulders". Christ will govern rightously and justly one day. Until then we acknowledge the truth that only Christ is capable of ruling righously and justly. Sure humans can do things right from time to time.

Reagan was right. Big centralized government is anathema to the Bible. Its posits the notion that man can be rightous and there is more evidence to support the opposite. Absolute power absolutely (except Christ) corrupts.

"Had we continued with reasonable taxation" Really, then who determines wht is reasonable? Again, we come to the same problem. You think it is reasonable to take over 50% from one? or if its higher what do you consider reasonable?

Clinton showed us? laughable, he was working with a republican congress so your thesis the Democrats are the savior is again foiled. You handily leave that out don't you.

Your tax dollars support war? Yeah, maybe, a war that liberated the defenseless and at least gave them a chance they never had. My tax dollars go to kill babies and deprive them of any chance. So who is worse?

I buy private insurance and i didn't have my seatbelt on because I had to take my dog to the vet and decided (you know as an adult) that I needed to leave it off this once. Here is what I don't need, the government telling me how to live, maybe you and all the other dependents do. Not sure.
Insurance is not going to get cheaper with government involvement, nothing ever has.

So yes, we certainly live indifferent worlds. Mine is called reality, your is a denial of reality, you deny the Bible and all the facts.

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what your stance on "responsible grown ups" who drink, smoke, You gonna ban those?
Or does your beloved government need the money too much?
How about those multitudes that have unprotected sex and end up with HIV, HPV, throat cancer, cervical cancer, and a myriad of other std's, you gonna fine them. $25 buck a pop?
How about those kids who skateboard and do risky bike tricks?

It's called a double standard Lowell.


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