Sunday, July 13, 2014


I’ve been listening this week to the troubling story of unaccompanied minors detained at our southern border.

52,193 arrived between October 1, 2013, and June 15, 2014. More are stopped at the checkpoints every day.

As that story unfolds, with accompanying political posturing and pronouncements, I’ve been reading another text as well: the opening chapters of Proverbs, the daily readings from Scripture Union’s Encounter with God. 

Those chapters talk about wisdom: wisdom calling, building a house, offering protection, instruction, safe passage through the tangles of daily life.
from Jim Bridenstine, Oklahoma,

Those children desperately need that wisdom.

So do we all.

Last week I posted about the ancient agora of Greek democracy: the place where citizens gathered to discuss dilemmas and determine a course of action.

Our current political discussions take place in Facebook rants, accusatory sound bites, passionate harangues that fail to enlighten and leave us hostile and divided.

Impeach the President?

Bus the children home?

I find myself thirsty for wisdom.

Hungry for voices that address the complexities of our current situation, that blend compassion, justice, righteousness, understanding.

As I read through Proverbs, I see two ways of thinking set in opposition: 
  • Wisdom and its close counterpart, understanding, yield order, calm, humility, respect, integrity, patience, justice.
  • Folly, with its mocking refusal to listen, yields dissension, strife, pride, deception, laziness, oppression.
That second list sounds depressingly familiar. The first is in short supply.

In a situation calling for great compassion, careful conversation, and deep discernment, we have politicians pointing fingers, positing ridiculous causes, offering politically-motivated non-solutions.

It’s not my purpose here to discuss the specifics of our immigration policies, or the impact of trade agreements and drug enforcement on our nearest neighbors, but to grieve the bombast, belligerence, and lack of understanding occasioned by the sad saga of small, unattended children crowded on our doorstep.

They aren’t here because of some nuanced change in our immigration law.

from Jason Chaffetz, Utah,,
Or because someone’s been fudging the numbers on our current deportation rates.

No parent sends a child, small or not so small, on a harrowing journey across mountains, rivers, deserts unless the reasons are compelling.

No child sets out on such a dangerous journey unless there's no safe haven more accessible.

The American Immigration Council offers a carefully worded evaluation of the situation in a June 10 report: “Children in Danger: A Guideto the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border.” 
Researchers consistently cite increased Northern Triangle violence as the primary recent motivation for migration, while identifying multiple causes including poverty and family reunification. A report by the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), citing 2012 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data, highlighted that Honduras had a homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 people. El Salvador and Guatemala had homicide rates of 41.2 and 39.9, respectively. In comparison, the war-torn country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from which nearly half a million refugees have fled, has a homicide rate of 28.3 per 100,000 people. 
Read that paragraph again and grieve.

To put it in perspective: Philadelphia's rate was 15.96 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2013; San Pedro Sula’s, in Honduras, was 187.14

The report assesses the outcry over changes in immigration law and angry calls for more border patrols and tougher enforcement: 
  • Recent U.S. immigration enforcement policy does not appear to be a primary cause of the migration. . .
  • There is little evidence to support the proposition that the border must be further fortified to deter an influx of children and families. . .  
  • Treating the current situation as simply another wave of illegal immigration misses the broader policy and humanitarian concerns that are driving it. In fact, many children are turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents upon arrival and are not seeking to evade apprehension. 
Short term alternatives are challenging, long-term options are complex and incomplete, and the report doesn’t pretend to address the deeper, decades-old forces that have destabilized the agricultural economies of Central American, narrowing economic opportunity, uprooting whole communities, and plunging large sectors of affected countries into violence and despair.

Are solutions possible without wisdom?

Is democracy possible without wisdom?

Not just on the part of leaders, but on the part of citizens as well?

What happens when economic self-interest, rather than wisdom, defines our vote, our voice, our trade, our foreign policy?

Last week, I suggested the start of a new series: 
I want to dig more deeply into the possibility of being salt, light, or a voice of hope or wisdom in places mired in anger or confusion.
I want to suggest ways to engage, not just by signing a survey, or making a phone call, but by serving our communities in love while helping to renew a web of compassionate engagement. 
How do we sow seeds of wisdom in places mired in anger or confusion?

Four thoughts:

1. Learn before speaking.

We can’t all be experts on every issue that confronts us, but we can take time to learn before we voice opinions. If we haven’t taken time to look a little deeper, hear both sides of the story, understand the pros and cons,  maybe we should ask questions and listen rather than repeat accusations that stir our anger but not our understanding.

2. Evaluate ideas rather than judge people.

Too often we listen just long enough to label those around us: with us or against us. Socialist, Commie, Fascist, Feminazi. Narrow-minded Christian. Tree hugger. Bigot. Those labels deepen our divisions, keep us from exploring real solutions, and demonstrate our lack of wisdom.

3. Recognize folly and avoid it.

There are TV shows I choose not to watch because they promote a mocking spirit. There are radio broadcasts I don’t listen to because they deliberately stir division. I work hard to find sources that are balanced, thoughtful, more interested in finding solutions than fixing blame. If more of us chose our sources more wisely, maybe those sources would be easier to find.

4. Pray for wisdom, for yourself, our leaders, churches, communities, citizens.

Growing up, I saw more than my share of division, pride, anger, deception. I wanted something different. When I first read James 3, I caught of glimpse of what I hungered for. I’ve been praying for that, for myself and our world, for four decades now. Please pray with me!
 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.  (James 3:17-18)   
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. Just click on   __comments below to see the comment option.