OWAAT June 24: Welcome, Don’t Incarcerate, the Stranger in Your Midst

World Refugee Day was on June 20. The US has hit a moment in its moral life in which its residents must decide whether to love and live out that love of people who come to us seeking an opportunity for a better life than what they have left behind, or justify the ungodly power that is separating these children from their parents.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, several moments in the Bible provide clear instruction on welcoming the stranger in our midst. If we need a reminder, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has issued a letter of support for immigrant families, “Family Separations: A Word to the Church,” clearly condemning the US government’s latest treatment of refugees and undocumented immigrants. Supporters of the letter may sign it and will find further actions to take. From the letter:

We, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), have proclaimed ourselves to be a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church, which extends welcome to all people, recognizing that every person is created in the image of God. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to “love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). When we start with love, we will understand that when laws dehumanize and discriminate, we are faithful in opposing such laws, and we are faithful in using our voice and our vote to call for love.

We condemn, therefore, the policy and practice of separating children from families and criminally prosecuting all persons who enter the United States without previous authorization. We denounce actions that degrade our neighbors and treat as criminals those who seek freedom and safety.

The practice, especially as implemented by the current administration through “zero tolerance” policies, is cruel and does violence to the most vulnerable–families who have fled their homes seeking safety in an unfamiliar land, only to have their children taken away from them. This violence is unnecessarily punitive. The stated intent of using family separation as a deterrent effectively weaponizes children against their parents and causes lasting emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual harm.

I can’t put it any more clearly than that. Those of us who follow Jesus need to figure out ways to welcome the stranger in our midst, not condemn them and tear apart their family.

Daily Bible readings:

June 24 – Jeremiah 36
June 25 – Jeremiah 37
June 26 – Jeremiah 38
June 27 – Jeremiah 39
June 28 – Jeremiah 40
June 29 – Jeremiah 41
June 30 – Jeremiah 42

Think:

One of the foundational beliefs of Think! Pray! Act! is that information wants to be free – all information, but particularly high-quality, informed, scholarly theological information because when God’s people have access to that information, it can be transformative in what we believe about God, how we see the world, and how we live and act on our faith in the world. There’s a lot of transformative, life-giving theology out in the world that takes history and science seriously (and believes that faith in God is compatible with both!). But a lot of it is hidden away in theological libraries, and meanwhile, what counts as popular theology is often written by people who, yes, pray faithfully, but have spent more time praying to God for divine inspiration than they have studying the intricacies of theology and biblical history in accredited seminaries. At Think! Pray! Act! we find both important. Toward that end there is an important new resource, the Open Access Digital Theological Library, which is a quality source of FREE, scholarly theological information. You should totally go there now and check it out!

What faith, religion, or theology questions do you have that are hard to explore with the information you currently have? How might your exploration of those topics change if there were Open Access resources on them available to you?

Pray: 

This month’s spiritual practice is described as “Face to Face Connection” by the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. It includes having hard, deep, or otherwise meaningful conversations with people in person. Something that has been on my mind a whole lot lately is what changes when we sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with someone who is very different from us – who has different life experiences. This is where relationality and faith meet activism and science: Broockman and Kalla’s 2016 study on deep canvassing, in which

56 canvassers went door to door encouraging active perspective-taking with 501 voters at voters’ doorsteps. A randomized trial found that these conversations substantially reduced transphobia, with decreases greater than Americans’ average decrease in homophobia from 1998 to 2012. These effects persisted for 3 months, and both transgender and nontransgender canvassers were effective. The intervention also increased support for a nondiscrimination law, even after exposing voters to counterarguments.

This study’s results give me hope for humanity – it is amazing what is possible when we meet someone face-to-face and ask them to share their story. Have you sat down with someone lately to have a dangerous conversation? Can you think of one person with whom you’d like to have this type of conversation?

Act:

This month’s book, Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World, takes us in what, to some, might be a surprising direction: the role of children in faith-rooted organizing. Those who have studied the education and faith formation of children know the importance of experiential learning for children, and yet many FBCO opportunities, it pains me to say, treat children as an aside or inconvenience, even as we sometimes work, plan, and act on their behalf. Faith-Rooted Organizing gets it right here:

We cannot take seriously the long-range dimension of the struggle for true and full justice unless we ensure that our organizing is truly intergenerational and honors the contributions of youth and children. As we do that, we will find that our organizing is also healthier for the child inside each of us: we will take more breaks,be more imaginative, share more with each other and nurture one another. (p. 148)

How are the ways in which you are building and revealing God’s realm intergenerational – engaging all ages, including youth and children?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world!

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

Resources:

“Family Separations: A Word to the Church.” Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), n.d. https://disciples.org/resources/justice/immigration/family-separations/.
“Reclaiming Jesus.” 17 January 2017. http://reclaimingjesus.org/home.
Broockman, David, and Joshua Kalla. “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science 352.6282 (2016): 220–24. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6282/220.

Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

Digital Theological Library. “Open Access Digital Theological Library | a Virtual Library for Theology, Religious Studies, and Related Disciplines.” Open Access Digital Theological Library, n.d. http://oadtl.org/.

Fretheim, Terence E. “Old Testament: Jeremiah.” Enter the Bible, n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/oldtestament.aspx?rid=44.

Guest, Deryn. The Queer Bible Commentary. Edited by Robert E. Goss, Mona West, and Thomas Bohache. London: SCM Press, 2011.

Luther Seminary. “Enter the Bible,” n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/.

Luther Seminary. Jeremiah. Vol. 22 of Word & World. Saint Paul, MN: Luther Seminary, 2002. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/issues.aspx?issue_id=88.

Luther Seminary. Prophets and Politicians. Vol. 33 / 3 of Word and World. Saint Paul, MN: Luther Seminary, 2013. http://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/issues.aspx?issue_id=131.

Paretsky, Pamela B. “We Say We Want Free Speech and Civil Dialogue.” Psychology Today, 11 January 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-and-the-pursuit-leadership/201701/we-say-we-want-free-speech-and-civil-dialogue.

Salvatierra, Rev Alexia, and Peter Heltzel. Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Simundson, Daniel J. “Preaching from Jeremiah: Challenges and Opportunities.” Word & World 22.4 (2002): 423–32. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/content/pdfs/22-4_Jeremiah/22-4_Simundson.pdf.

Society of Biblical Literature. “Bible Odyssey,” n.d. http://www.bibleodyssey.com/.

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