Dear Mr. Graham,
I attended one of your daddy’s crusades. As young as I was, my parents were able to make it clear that this was a rare honour. Their voices carried tones of reverence and awe. Decades later the only details that linger are the crowds and the verses of “Just As I Am.”
When I was a little bit older I joined the masses at one of your own crusades. To be honest, my first impressions were that your preaching was simple and unremarkable. Having said that, I couldn’t deny the power; unfelt and unseen, there was something there that made people get out of their seats and come to Jesus.
My first experience with Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child was years ago in a middle eastern country that is close to your heart. The shoeboxes were distributed by Muslim university students, who – with my help – went through the boxes ahead of time to remove any hint of Christmas or Christianity. We were trying to avoid outright animosity in a region where Islam had deep, fundamental roots. My prayer was that the gifts handed out that day would at the very least provide a bridge into the community for the “aid worker” who helped organize the event.
Years later I was in the right place and time to help with the logistics of distributing 9600 shoeboxes in a West African country recovering from ten years of civil war. For a young man, doing Christian work with the help of an armed escort was ridiculously exciting.
These aren’t the only times I’ve been able to partner in some way with the ministries you lead, but I mention them so that you know that I’m not just an outsider bent on maligning your good name. The knowledge I have regarding the work you do goes beyond the well-produced four minute video shown on the big screen on Sunday morning. Samaritan’s Purse demonstrates a real-life gritty love in the uncomfortable, unsafe regions of the world. My hat is off to you, in this regard.
I’m just an average Joe, wondering if you’ve listened to yourself lately. From all the research I’ve done, it seems that you’re truly in favour of totally shutting down immigration to the United States until a more hardy screening process is erected.
Here’s the thing: For years, we’ve mourned over the political and ideological barriers that made it unsafe for many people to mention the name of Jesus. We labelled these places the 10/40 Window and wrote books about them. We prayed for walls to fall and for the godless to see the light. How we longed to send more missionaries, given that for the most part we preferred to stay.
Day by day, year by year, our prayers were answered. The borders disappeared, some at the end of a pen and some by the end of a gun. But what a shock it has been to us that the roads that lead into these places have lanes that allow people out!
I have a friend who thinks that my issue with your stance on immigration stems from my Canadian niceness; that the big difference between you and I is cultural. He’s probably correct, to a degree. I don’t own any guns. Yet.
But then I think of how you and I both want to point people to Jesus. I think about the incarnation, and how this Jesus whom you and I both serve took some pretty serious risks all those years ago when he injected himself into this diseased world. I think about his sacrifice thirty-some years later, and how it must have hurt…literally. Could it be that following in his footsteps might require us to sacrifice some of our security, and a discomfort that Tylenol can’t touch?
“The kingdom of God is at hand…” He said; a kingdom with no screening process, save the one put in place with his own blood. The Jewish screening process was, in fact, torn in two from top to bottom. What if the time has come for us to choose between the citizenships we cling to so tightly? What if the time has passed where you could be an American Christian, and me a Canadian one?
The view from this side of the 49th parallel suggests that you and your fellow Americans are incapable of separating church and state. I think we’d better start practising, because when Jesus comes back it won’t be a democracy, and he’s going to invite way more people in than you or I are comfortable with.
In conclusion, let me mention one little question I can’t seem to get out of my head: Can we invite one individual to come to the altar singing “Just As I Am”, when we refuse to invite the masses to our collective table just as they are?
Thanks for listening.
God let the walls come down we’d pray
We’ll send our best hoping that they
May preach good news and escape the blade
For we, dear lord, prefer to stay.
God when the borders disappear
We vow to send more over there
For we want to see your kingdom come
To them while we remain right here.
“I think perhaps you’ve missed the point,
Said a broken God with misplaced joint,
pierced hands and feet, and torn, bruised skin,
“Your constitution is not my focal point.”
“These are all my children dear:
The ones you love and the ones you fear
And like me it may cost you all you have
To eat their sin and draw them near.”