“I hope he goes to jail” my husband announced as he got up from breakfast this morning.
“He” is Kenneth Miller, who was recently convicted of abetting in the parental kidnapping of a young girl, the daughter of a same-sex couple whose separation had led to an ugly custody battle. One parent renounced her former sexuality, had a powerful religious conversion and, with the couple’s daughter, fled to Nicaragua dressed in conservative Mennonite attire.
Pastor Miller helped make the arrangements. In the intervening 4 years, the now 7-year-old girl has bounced from barrio to barrio as she and her mother live on the run from Federal agents. She is shuffled from house to house, likely kept out of school and living in secret, This is necessary so that the end can be achieved: The girl will not be exposed to the sexuality of her other parent. Her other mother who according to the news reports is spending everything she has in an effort to see her daughter again.
This is seriously messed up, I thought as I started washing the dishes. Messed up in the way killing doctors performing abortions is messed up; Messed up in the way the mission used to offer second helpings to the hungry only after they made a confession of faith in Jesus; Messed up in the way that happens when the system becomes more important than the people. Messed up in the way we mess things up when we justify the means by the end.
Rev. Miller believes his faith calls him to do whatever is necessary to protect the young girl from her lesbian mom. I believe what he is doing is indefensibly destructive to everyone.
I thought about this scene from the current film,The Gatekeepers where a former Israeli Shin Bet leader noted, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
This was his insight after a several-decade career devoted to keeping Israel secure from the Palestinians: Be careful when you believe you have a monopoly on the truth.
But of course, like you, I quickly think “but some things are true, and some principles we must fight for” Yes. And how do I engage with others whose principles differ from mine?
How about following the way of Jesus? He engaged with everyone – often found talking with those whose views were fundamentally different. He was willing to be surprised by similarity as when he was astonished by the religious convictions found in an elite Roman guard (“Truly I’ve never encountered such faith in Israel!” Matt. 8:5-13) and was willing to be challenged – some would say corrected – by an untaught, distraught Canaanite woman seeking his help, (“Woman you have great faith!” Matt. 15:21-28)
And never, never, did Jesus allow the end to justify the means. The means was just as much an expression of the end as the end was of the means. He was going to redeem the world and conquer the power of evil and sin. That was the ends. But that conquest was not achieved then or now by violent means. Instead Jesus used the means of sharing food, talking with those from the “other side”, asking provocative questions to get people to think, and rooted himself in the love of God that had no tribal borders.
Rev. Miller had a desperate family in need – estranged relationships, two parents fighting over a girl they both loved, the buds of a new-found faith in God for one, and the other trying to make sense of a lost love and lost dreams of a family.
What an opportunity Rev. Miller had to walk the way of Christ. What an opportunity this family had to learn how to listen to one another, to learn how to sacrifice for the sake of a little girl both parents loved so much.
Rev. Miller lost. They all lost.