Wendell Berry, Immigration and Not Being Mean

On Monday night, I went to hear Wendell Berry speak. The great majority of our time was spent listening to him read one of his stories. After he finished, he answered a few questions and the last was regarding immigration law and the controversy which is very tender here in Alabama. He said some things about the matter and made sure no one walked away justifiably smug. Though I’m sure some did.

But the last thing he said is what got the applause and has stuck with me. He said with all the deliberateness of a man his age, with so many years of life saved up, something like – “Let’s stop being mean to people.”

Now granted, Berry could say, “look at that cat” and everyone would clap and cheer. But it’s good advice. So I wanted to say a few things about not being mean when we talk about this issue.

1. The more conservative among can be kind by assuming the best of those who have problems with the law. One way to not be mean is to assume they are feeling and thinking and acting from a desire to be merciful. Even if you cannot agree with them, this is fair. We should be moved by the desire for mercy among us, even when we would not agree with the means or opinions. By not doing this, we may betray our own lack of mercy.

2. The more liberal among us should not caricature the argument as a mere immigration issue. The issue is not just flat immigration but for the great majority of people, illegal immigration. When we leave off the word “illegal” we move the ball and make people out to have convictions they have not espoused. By doing this we may betray our own lack concern for any kind of law we simply don’t like. Added to this is the assumption of lack of mercy for immigrants of any kind for those who want laws on the books. Mercy does not always have to look the same

3. Also, we should not make what is a complex issue, simple. Conservatives want to make the issue simple by only pointing to the law and saying they are breaking the law. Liberals wants to point to the law and say the laws are unjust and leave it at that. One thing I appreciated about Berry’s words were his insistence that this a complex issue which has to do with everything from economics to language to the land we live on and off of.

Listen, I fail at this so often, I can feel it in my gut. But as those who have been given so much grace, we need to be eager to leave off being mean about the issue. Maybe we should focus our passions in the direction of not being mean regardless of where we land on the issue. maybe that’s where our unity should be as those found in Christ.

Tuesday’s 10: 10 popular versions of Tuesday’s 10

1.  Answers to Questions About the Book I’m Writing

2. Hopes for the next 40

3. Favorite Foods

4. Advice I Wish I Could Send Back to a 19 Year Old Me

5.  Things I Say to My Wife That Make Our Marriage Great

6. Reasons to Read Flannery O’Connor

7. Sandwiches I Wish I was Eating

8. Reflections After A Week of Banking

9.  Reasons to Read Jane Austen’s Novels

10.  Books I read Over and Over

Seeing The Chieftains

One day I was in the living room and going through the sideboard drawers where my mom stored dishes only brought out when company came over. I’m not sure why I was looking through there. Probably looking for rubber bands or whatever would induce a boy around the age of ten to go looking through such furniture. In there I found a – not sure what to call it – a banner…small quilt, whatever, with these symbols lined across it in rows. There were dozens of them all over and they were all – for the most part – white and laid upon the red of the banner, they looked royal. Each one had some name upon it. One of them immediately caught my eye and caused me no small excitement because of the name on it.
Come to find out, these were family crests. “Wait, we have a family crest?! And we are Irish?”
“Where is Ireland?” was most likely my first question.
Since that day, I’ve been fascinated by all things Irish. Books and music have fed my imagination for years. And we once even considered doing missions in Ireland. It was short-lived but serious, nevertheless.

On Saturday night, my wife and I saw The Chieftains in concert thanks to the generosity of a friend. After the show as we were driving home, I hesitated to, but went ahead and told my wife how I felt. From about 3 minutes into their playing, I got strangely emotional. Wet eyes emotional. We were only a few feet from the stage and you could not only see these traditional Irish musicians who have been doing this for 50 years, and hear them, but you could also feel them. Anyway, it affected in a way I did not expect. We’ve been listening to their music for about 12 years now but I was surprised at how much I was being moved by the music, singing, and dancing. 

So I told my wife, she said she felt the same and then proceeded to tell me a story. When her parents went to Scotland for the first time, her mom said that even though she had never been there before it felt familiar, it felt like home. And that was my first thought when during the concert I became overcome with a painfully beautiful longing I could not explain except to say it felt like home – a home, that Emerald Isle – I’ve never been to but would know by feel if not by sight.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Looking forward to a two day weekend.

2. I would like to thank all of you who contributed to global warming for the high of 75 today. No really, thanks!

3. Saw a picture of Pujols in a Halos uni. Still hurts.

4. Why do we call them “train whistles” and not” train horns”?

5. I can’t remember the last time I had breakfast meat.

6. All of you trying to reduce global warming, thanks for nothing. Meh.

7. When I was a kid, my favorite part of the day was lunch. Nothing’s changed.

8. Reading Moneyball right now and found myself pulling for a University of Alabama catcher. Felt weird.

9. If Pujols had stayed in STL for the rest of his career, it would have been one of the greatest baseball stories of all time.

10. I feel so well-ordered, random thoughts are hard to come by.

Tuesday’s 10: Reasons not to do a Tuesday’s 10

I don’t feel like blogging at all this week. It’s gonna be a chore. All I wanna do is read and complain about work and get ready for the Chieftains concert on Saturday night.

But the crowds will demand a Tuesday’s 10. So here we go – ten reasons to not do Tuesday’s 10.

1. I have to count all day at work. It’s hard, counting. Why would I want to do it on my blog?

2. Today is Fat Tuesday and I have a lot of indulgent reveling to do.

3. Pitchers and Catchers have reported to camp. I have no idea why this would mean no blogging, I’m just glad they have done so.

4. To spite all of you read only my funny and controversial stuff and never the essays of literary greatness destined to be enshrined in the halls of obscure blogdom.

5. I am under church discipline at Mars Hill and have yet to sign the contract.

6. If I blog, it will take away from time telling you on facebook and twitter how difficult Lent will be for me.

7. Blogging is narcissistic. (I, of course, don’t believe this.)

8. I have 4,763 articles on Jeremy Lin in my blog reader.

9. If I blog today and it’s awesome, you will miss out on all the other great blogs out there. You know, the ones talking about the noetic, redemptive, eschatological effect of the new film directed by Sean Penn’s son’s dentist’s dog’s former owner’s best friend. Hermeneutically speaking, of course.

10.  There is a new indie band with a ridiculously weird name and quirky lyrics dealing with “faith” I need to listen to. This never happens, so I must leave off blogging.


1. Megadeath’s frontman likes Santorum.

2. C.S. Lewis’ 10 favorite books.

3. Solving the mystery of the blue-faced Appalachian family

4. John Stott, David Brooks and Paul Simon (Great story even if you are like me, not a fan of David Brooks.)

5. New app looks at 60 years of Rock history.

6. Why I quit following celebrity pastors on Twitter

7. N.C. Preschooler is not allowed to eat lunch because it was not nutritious enough.

8. An iMonk classic: Our Problem with Grace

9. Education Official says teachers know what’s best for children, not parents. And then the video is yanked.

10. One of my childhood heros died on Thursday. 

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. I never can remember the rules for placing my children on eBay.

2. Can we stop pretending Christian rap is sensible?

3. I may lose man points when I watch Downton Abbey. But I will be comforted knowing I can listen to Adele when the sadness sets in.

4. Prediction: At some point in the near future there will be a government program to provide mp3 players and free music to those who cannot afford them.

5. The present peddlers of religious goods and services employ the bait and switch of grace to draw you in and law to keep you there.

6. Got really upset at Lord Grantham while watching the latest Downton Abbey episode. But then I realized, he’s just a character in a show. So now I’m mad at Hugh Bonneville.

7. Baseball season is so close I can almost taste the overpriced nachos.

8. Did you know that if you ignore discouraging emails, they don’t disappear?

9. Eugene Peterson is wood, steel, and stone in a plastic religious culture.

10. “Come to me, all who are weary and I will ask you to sign a contract.”

Tuesday’s 55

Today my parents celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. Or 56th. They couldn’t remember.

Regardless, I’m thankful for their marriage – theirs lives intertwined. Their example of selfless love for one another. My mother’s admiration and respect for my father is fixed forever upon me. And my father’s deep joy in the presence of my mother is a portrait hung upon the walls of my soul.

For what was annoying as a child – their constant physical and vocal affection for each other – is now a boon for my own marriage. I always assumed my parents wanted to be with each other more than anyone else. Even us kids. I’m thankful for that too.

55 years is a long time to love someone so close to you. But apparently not long enough for my parents.

I hope and have no doubt they will have a Happy Anniversary.

Some thoughts on the Grammys

Since this blog is about everything, and The Grammys sit firmly under that banner. Here are some thoughts:

1. Seeing Brian Wilson sit in with The Beach Boys was amazing. Most of my younger readers won’t get it. The Beach Boys? A lot of the great music we have today is a direct result of Wilson’s genius and the Boys talents.

2. Every time they showed Lady Gaga, she seemed to look confused, “Why am I not getting all the attention?” Aaaaand she looked like a Mackerel stuck in a net.

3. I wasn’t crazy about Macca’s first performance but the finale was crazy good.

4. Something bothered me about Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) acceptance speech. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of his music. But, let’s face it, the hipster predisposition to despise what is popular and recognized as good can lead to a too cool for school attitude. Making music for the sake of making music doesn’t mean it can’t be meaningful to win an award for the music you made.

5.That Nicki Manaj thing was stupid. And talentless. And bizarre. And silly. And sad.

6. The Civil Wars got 60 seconds. And were amazing. And that’s why the music industry is crumbling. They got one minute.

7. Taylor Swift needs to stop acting surprised when everyone cheers for her. And I say that as a fan.

8. You know what would be brave? If an artist used Islamic symbols and rituals to shock, that would be brave. The Catholics won’t threaten to kill you.

9. What was that foolishness in the Micky Mouse head? He…it deserves to be laughed at often.

10. After I downloaded Adele’s 21 back about a year ago, I listened to it straight through. And then I tweeted it would be the album of the year. It’s well-deserved and gives me hope that great music will win out. We’ll be listening to that album for a hundred years.

Tuesday’s 10: Celebrating Charles Dickens at 200

Another blog post for the literary among you…I mean, of my 10 readers (Hi, Mom!) certainly a couple of you enjoy reading about old books by long dead authors and such as that. And besides today is too important.

It’s Charles Dicken’s 200th birthday.
My first introduction to Dickens was through A Christmas Carol, either through a cathode ray or a cheap volume of Christmas ghost stories I read straight through in High School, one holiday break. I’ve not the exposure most have – outside of some short stories, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend, I’ve read nothing else. My wife and I have watched many versions of BBC, etc. adaptations of his works over and over, giving us a bird’s eye view of his genius with character and humor.
It’s impossible for me decide to if I like Great Expectations, Pip seems to be always with me though. Could be the case of a difficult story told really well. But the stories seem to stay with me and the characters as well, like friends from a former life weaving back in again from time to time, continually tying me to them.
So, today I’m posting 10 links to stories from around the world about the celebration of this monumental day. Tonight, I start another of his novels.