My parents always told us that if we told the truth – even if we did something wrong – we would never get into trouble. Telling the truth would keep us safe.
When I was a young child, my three siblings and I “trimmed” Mrs. Green’s rose bushes/wrecked havoc on Mrs. Green’s garden and left evidence behind which convicted us: a hedge trimmer labeled “Edmiston” in red. With evidence in hand, Mrs. Green marched over to our yard and told our parents about The Great Rose Bush Destruction of 1964.
Our parents lined us up and asked each of us individually:
Dad: Jan, did you “trim” Mrs. Green’s roses?
Me: Yes sir.
And then Dad went down the line to my first brother, my second brother, and my little sister and after he asked each of them “Did you trim Mrs. Green’s roses?” they individually responded “No sir.”
Two other things happened that day:
- I got a spanking (and my siblings did not.)
- I learned that telling the truth would not keep me safe.
The nativity scene on the grounds of Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, California has attracted a great deal of attention including angry responses because they have tried to tell the truth this Advent. The truth is that:
- Jesus was born in a cave used to shelter animals.
- Jesus was a refugee in Egypt along with his parents.
- Jesus was a minority in the Roman empire.
- We who believe what the Bible says: that the way we treat “the least of these” is the way we are treating Jesus are aggrieved about the separation of families at the southern border.
The detainment camps. The Mylar blankets. The cages. The lack of vaccinations and health care those who have fled violence and poverty.
This looks nothing like the hospitality God requires.
So here’s the thing: Sometimes we get into trouble when we tell the truth. My parents got it wrong many decades ago (and we have laughed about the fact that my siblings got away with something.) But we have got to tell the truth about what our nation is doing in the world – even if it gets us in trouble.
I love our country. I love the good we have done, the peace we have promoted, the industry we have developed.
But what we are doing on the border is wrong. And that is the truth.
The story of Christmas is so much more than welcoming gentle Jesus, meek and mild. It’s the story of God showing us what perfect loves looks like. And that very truth got Jesus executed.
People might get angry when we tell the truth.
Image from The New York Times story on Claremont United Methodist Church. May God bless their pastoral staff and congregation.