What does Silent Sam have to do with Anti-Immigrant Sentiment? A few resources for this Sunday’s Discussion.

News & Observer Video on Silent Sam and UNC Support for the Statue

Student Response to UNC’s gift to the Sons of Confederate Veterans

WUNC Report on the Gift

https://www.wunc.org/post/unc-board-governors-give-confederate-group-25m-preserve-silent-sam

Sunday, December 8

This Sunday will be our last time together for this semester.

I had originally scheduled the class to be about Ephesians 2:17-20, and we will read that passage, but a lot has happened this week, and it would be wrong not to address those issues as well.

Our local university (the one in Chapel Hill) announced over the Thanksgiving break that it is giving $2,500,000 to the neo-confederate organization, The Sons of Confederate Veterans. While the university tried to portray the gift as an effort to avoid a costly legal action, even the recipients have acknowledge that the amount is astonishing. This unprecedented support by a major university for a white supremacist group speaks volumes for the racial climate that still exists in our area.

The New York Times broke the story on Tuesday. The Washington Post followed up with an article on faculty response on Friday.

Are current attitudes toward immigrants at the level of our federal government any surprise if such a respected institution as UINC can provide such support? Current mistreatment of the poor and minorities—including immigrants—is not a recent development, but somethings rooted in centuries of prejudice and abuse.

Student at UNC have been speaking out against actions by the university’s administration to protect Silent Sam—a monument paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy and major UNC donors—for a long time now. The monument was erected in 1913, at the hight of Jim Crow, and one of the speakers at it’s dedication bragged of having horse-wipped a black woman “until her skirts hung in shreds” for ‘disrespecting’ a white woman. The intent of placing a bronze confederate soldier with a rifle at the top of the monument was clear.

The scriptural passage we will read does not address the issue of Confederate monuments, but I hope our discussion of it will inform our understanding of christian responsibility in the face of such disturbing action by powerful people in our region.

The presentation for this class is already online. You can find it here.

Sunday, December 1: A Litany of Welcome

Line of Police Blocking Street

Tomorrow morning we will discuss last Sunday’s protest against Alamance County’s cooperation with ICE, talk about when Civil Disobedience is warranted for the Christian Community, and read together a litany of welcome drawn from scripture.

Part of our discussion of last week’s protest will involve watching this short video:

ICE Protest in Graham

Police in Riot Gear Intervene in Graham to Prevent March

Police participation in last week’s protest against the Sheriff’s department’s cooperation with ICE was clearly not meant to protect protesters. As the afternoon progressed, policed steady stepped up pressure to break up the protest. This two and a half minute video from The Times NEWS shows what was happening at 4:38 pm.

Today’s direct action in Alamance County.

The crowd gathers, 1:30 pm

The event began with short speeches, singing, and chanting. Never Again, a movement led by our Jewish brothers and sisters to fight against racism, and SIEMBRA NC, a Latinx organization working to build power within Latinx communities in our state provided leadership.

We left the property led by a procession of six black coffins representing those who have died in ICE custody. Our intention was to deliver them to at the door of the jail now serving as an immigrant detention center.

The procession begins, led by six black coffins

As soon as we left the property, we were met by police who had blocked the streets surrounding our location.

A show of force by Alamance police, some even in riot gear, blocked the streets in every direction.

The amazing show of force that stopped our procession was very disappointing. It seems that our peaceful action was perceived as a serious threat by someone in the local police department.

Speaking truth to power sometimes requires being willing to face such nonsensical use of force. While I was not able to stay till the end of the March, there were many among us who could and we’re willing to face arrest. As of this writing I have not heard news of how that played out.

Please be in prayer for them and wish us strength and courage as we continue to press for change.

Welcoming the Stranger – Welcoming Angels – Hebrews 13:1-3

In the video above, Dr. Eric D. Barreto (Assoc. Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary and Dr. Jacqueline Hidalgo (Assoc. Professor of Latina/o Studies and Religion at Williams College) look to the Bible to guide us through our response to Immigration, Migration and Refugees.

Our class tomorrow morning (November 24, 2019) will begin with this video and a reading from Hebrews (13:1-3). We will look at the tradition of viewing strangers as messengers from God rather than threats of violence. Can we shift the national dialogue around immigration to be more reflective of this biblical tradition?

Direct Action this Sunday

We will also talk about a direct action that we can take in Alamance County in the afternoon after our class.

Those of us who attend will be joining our Latinx neighbors in Alamance County to confront Sheriff Terry Johnson’s racist policies and to pressure for an end to Alamance County’s contract with ICE.

Never AgainDown Home NC, and Siembra NC are collaborating on this event.  Down Home and Siembra are both organizations doing immigrant justice work (among other work) locally. Never Again is a national mobilization of Jews, immigrants, and allies organizing to shut down ICE and stop deportations across the US.  

This is a non-violent event. There will likely be walking, chanting, and singing as well as speeches.  The event is well-organized and will be attended by many who have been part of a mass actions like this before as well as people who are taking action for the first time.

Logistical Information

The gathering will begin at 309 S Maple St, Graham, NC 27215 (“The Center for Spiritual Living in Graham”) at 1pm

PARKING: Feel free to park on the street. We also have verbal permission to park the Children’s Museum of Alamance (across the street and about a half-block down the street from the Center for Spiritual Living). 

Here are some suggestions of useful things to bring with you:

  • Water, and perhaps a light snack such as a granola bar
  • Warm clothing. Here is a local weather forecast.
  • A small cushion for sitting (If you think you will need one)
  • Signs (Some ideas: Get ICE out of Alamance, Welcome the Stranger, Dignity – Not Deportation)
  • Comfortable shoes

A Theological Appeal for Defending the Refugee

Christian Aid is the relief and development agency of 41 Protestant and Orthodox churches in the UK and Ireland.

This short video is an advertisement requesting support for Christian Aid and its mission. In that appeal, though, we can see a theological perspective on the church’s role in fighting for justice and offering compassion. These are values that align directly with the focus of our class.

How can we promote this theological perspective in our own congregation? We will discuss this issue as we look at the story of the the refugee journey of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus to Egypt and their failed return to Judea, leaving them finally in Galilee.

We would love to have you join us.

Gentle Joseph Heard a Warning, by Carl P. Daw Jr. (Hope Publishing Company, 1990)

Harvard University Choir sings Gentle Joseph Heard a Warning

Gentle Joseph heard a warning,
from an angel in the night;
valiant Mary, maiden mother,
roused from sleep, prepared for flight:
thus the Christ-child’s family lived out
what the prophet had foretold,
that he might be called from Egypt
as God’s people were of old.

Targets of a tyrant’s army,
seeking safety, fleeing strife,
leaving house and land and kindred,
spurred by dreams of peaceful life;
through the desert of unknowing
and the night of doubt they went,
guided by God’s promised presence,
by that trust made confident.

Give us, God, such faith and courage
when we move from place to place,
and to those who come among us,
make us channels of your grace.
Let us see in every stranger
refugees from Bethlehem,
help us offer each one welcome
and receive the Christ in them.

Hagar, abuse, and the naming of God

Tomorrow morning we will examine the complicated stories about Hagar in the book of Genesis. A slave brought to Canaan from Egypt by Sarai and Abram (later Sarah and Abraham), she is forced to bear a child with Abraham, then kicked out of the house after Sarah has a child of her own.

Yet God protects her. And she gives God a new name: El Roi, the God who sees.

What can these stories tell us about ancient views of foreigners and how communities of faith should view them?

The presentation for tomorrow’s class (November 10, 2019) is online. You can find it here.

Karen Gonzalez, The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong

This week I listened to an episode of The Deconstructionists podcast that consisted mostly of an interview with Karen Gonzalez, author of The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong. The book has been recommended highly by theologians, biblical scholars, and social activists. Here is what Rachel Held Evans, author of Inspired and Searching for Sunday, had to say about the book:

“With this stunning debut, Karen González makes her mark as one of the most talented storytellers of faith in a generation. The skill with which she weaves together personal narrative, biblical text, intimate detail, and sociopolitical analysis is as impressive as it is seamless. Every single page of this beautiful, timely book pulses with prophetic truth. It left me changed in all the best ways.”

I encourage you to listen to the interview. Just click on the image below!