Compassionate Sanctuary

In 1 Kings chapter 2, the Hebrew Bible speaks of the bloody purge commanded by  King Solomon at the start of his reign.  One of the young King’s targets was Joab.

Joab had been David’s most capable commander: ruthless, zealous, and without an ounce of compassion.  He seemed to be intensely loyal to the Monarchy, but that did not necessarily mean he was blindly obedient to the King.  For instance, a few years earlier he had killed David’s rebellious son, Absalom against David’s wishes; and he killed a rival (and his own cousin) Amasa, whom David had appointed to replace Joab.  Finally, when David died, Joab made the mistake of supporting  a rival claimant to the throne, David’s son Adonijah, instead of David’s [apparent] choice, Solomon.  Not a nice guy, to say the least!

Once he became aware that a purge was taking place, Joab fled to the Tent of the Ark of the Tabernacle, claiming Sanctuary as others had done before him – including David himself.  Upon hearing this, Solomon ordered his new General to kill him anyway; and so Benaiah went into the Temple and slaughtered Joab there.

The modern “Sanctuary” movement embodies this same concept: we can (and should) offer sanctuary to those fleeing injustice.  On the other hand, we cannot (and should not) provide sure sanctuary to those fleeing justice.

In my little New England hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts, this very question is on the ballot in this coming weekend’s Town Meeting: shall we as a town adopt a resolution declaring we are a “Welcoming, Safe Town which resolves to make all residents, workers and visitors feel safe and secure regardless of immigration status.”

Continue reading “Compassionate Sanctuary”

The Tale of Injustice

Back in the mid 1990’s I worked for a well known conservative Christian organization.  All employees of that organization were periodically required to spend a day ministering to those in need, in various ways.  My role in one of those efforts was to be part of a crew that distributed food to those in need.

One of the people that I encountered that day, a very slightly built black woman, lived several blocks away from the place where we were handing out our boxes of food.  The box I gave her was very heavy, so I offered to help her carry it back to her home.  She gratefully accepted.  She said it was only a block or two, so I didn’t worry about telling anyone what I was doing, since I figured I’d be back in just a few minutes.

We chatted as we walked along, she was quite an interesting person – but as we went on, I steadily became more and more nervous,  Here I was, getting further and further away from my team, several blocks, in fact, in the middle of a one of the worst neighborhoods in the Tidewater region of Virginia.  I was the only white anywhere in sight, and a red head at that!  I knew that no one would be looking out for me when it was time to pack up and head back.  So, I was likely to be stranded if I didn’t get back soon.  I felt conspicuous, I felt alone, and I was afraid.

Continue reading “The Tale of Injustice”