I want to speak frankly of “shitholes”. I do not want to justify the President’s vulgarity or embrace my own. Instead, I wish to pose a thought experiment. If we are to embrace a worldview where some places are “shitholes” and other places are first world paradises, what does this mean for our Christian faith?
If we want to limit people from so-called “shitholes” from coming to America, we’ll have to stop Jesus. By the President’s standards, Nazareth is a “shithole” and so is Bethlehem. Christianity began, grew, continues, and is strongest today in the ill-defined presidential “shitholes”. The Christian church is growing the fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Christianity is all but extinct in Western Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries. If America accepts what the executive branch terms as “shitholes” it means we close the door on Jesus Christ. The culture war idolatry we now practice (and call Protestantism) is a pale resemblance of the “faith of shitholes” we were called to embody. If Jesus is no longer central to what we do then we are no longer Christians. The game is up. We might as well call ourselves civic groups who pray. We sure aren’t churches.
Like many of my colleagues, I am in ministry because of my desire to go to and live in actual “shitholes”. When I sang “Here I Am Lord”, I meant it. I wanted to witness the impact of diseases, preach in the jungle, and build new churches in the middle of nowhere. I still do my job. I see firsthand: God is in the shit. I’ve found that to be true time and time again. In the poverty, emotional, psychological, and physical crap we discard onto the most vulnerable people in our world God is working to heal broken souls. I am blessed to help carry the bandages.
Do you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? At the end of the story, Jesus asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” In Luke’s gospel, the Lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Do you know what that means? It means the one from the “shithole”. The one from the “shithole” showed the other man who was in a literal “shithole” (a ditch) mercy.
Take away the “shitholes” and you take away Jesus. Take away Jesus and you don’t have shit.
Richard Lowell Bryant