Welcoming the Stranger at Yale

This is what a Living Gospel looks like in today’s world:

Courtesy of Arnold Gold and Yale News

Three members of the Yale community — Reverend Robert Beloin, Reverend Karl Davis and history professor Jennifer Klein — were arrested on Monday for blocking the entrance to a courthouse in Hartford during a demonstration against the planned deportation of Franklin and Gioconda Ramos, undocumented immigrants facing imminent removal from the country.

Beloin, Davis and Klein were three of 36 people arrested for blocking the entrance to the courthouse. Beloin is Yale’s Roman Catholic chaplain and the chaplain of St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center, while Davis is an assistant chaplain at STM. The arrests were first reported by the New Haven Register. Davis and Beloin are scheduled for an arraignment on October 11 in Hartford Community Court.

“I just find it morally appalling that we’re deporting hardworking people making a contribution to our society,” he told the News. “Pope Francis talks about going to the margins and accompanying people, and I can’t think of a way to go further to the margin and accompany people than to go to a protest and be arrested.”

Undocumented people across the country, in every state, county and town, are living in fear of exactly this: being uprooted from their home, taken away from their children, and sent to a country they once lived in. All because of a line on a map and arbitrary papers.

There is no better witness for the Christian community than to take the words of Jesus seriously about welcoming the stranger by finding out how we can help with undocumented people in our communities. Let the example of Beloin, Davis, and Klein be an example for us all.

You can find resources for action, call scripts, and information for getting in touch with local points of activism by checking out the Indivisible page on DACA.


Patriotism is Overrated

Here is my unpopular opinion for the day: Patriotism is an overrated value. Especially for Christians.

colinBefore I tell you what I mean by this, let me tell you what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that the United States doesn’t have much that is great and wonderful to offer me. I don’t mean that I wish I had been born elsewhere. I don’t mean that I hate my country, or don’t appreciate the role it has played in my having the opportunities I have. I acknowledge all that.

Here is what I do mean: As a Christian, allegiance to country is a lot less important to me than allegiance to the Kingdom shown by Jesus, a kingdom focused on love for people, not flags or anthems. I take very seriously Paul’s universal message from Galatians, that there is no longer Jew or Greek, that we are all one. It’s the same reason I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance: because I don’t pledge the allegiance of my heart to an earthly empire. I don’t put love of country over my duty to God, which is to love other people. America first? No no, human beings first.

That is why I kneel in solidarity with black and brown America right now. Because the very same United States that has given me -a straight, white, middle class male- such wonderful opportunities, has not done so consistently for Americans of other races and nationalities throughout history. Instead, it had enslaved them, murdered them, forcibly removed them, segregated them, sought to ban them, lynched them, redlined them, arrested them, shot them, scorned them, hated them, forgotten them, made them second-class citizens, and killed them. Not as a by-product of some other goal, but as the primary goal of dealing with their existence. All the while, Old Glory was waved about and they were told it represented the very country that was oppressing them. So yeah, they probably don’t have good, positive associations about the flag.

This is why courageous powerful individuals like Colin Kaepernick kneel. For four hundred years, black, brown, and immigrant America has been trying to get the attention of white America, to get us to respect their humanity, admit our wrongs, and treat them as full human beings. They couldn’t get our attention by crying out, by marching, by sitting in, by writing, by singing, by showcasing their humanity to us. But they figured out how to get our attention, by interrupting our own gladiator games, by kneeling in front of the opium we use to ignore the injustice of the world. They got your attention. And yet you think this is about a flag, or a song. News flash: it’s not. But it was the only damn way to get your attention. Wake up America.

Patriotism is overrated because patriotism has done very little to improve the lives of the human beings who have for too long been under the heels of the powerful. And so when I say patriotism is overrated, what I mean is, I put myself on the side of my fellow human beings well before I put myself on the side of a flag. No matter what that flag has done for me. Because every advantage it brings me rings hollow as long as I know that somewhere, someone else is getting worn down by it, that my success comes at their expense and that flag tries to tell me that’s ok. Nope, it’s not. I’ll be a proud patriot when that flag admits the wrongs it has done and does real, tangible work to rectify and repair them.

That’s why I kneel in solidarity with those across the country who are sick of seeing black and brown bodies bleeding out in the street, who are sick of hearing the president defend white supremacists while calling athletes “sons of bitches.” Make me choose between the flag and other humans, and I’m gonna pick humans every time, and I don’t even feel the least bit bad about that. Jesus didn’t teach me that the greatest commandment was to love my country. It is to love my neighbor as myself.

Note: I wrote this on Facebook the other day, and get an overwhelmingly positive response. I’m happy to share it here for those I’m connected with on Facebook.

Coates: “Trump’s Ideology is White Supremacy”

For your must-read list this week: Ta Nehisi Coates’ new piece at The Atlantic, entitled “The First White President.” Here is a taste:

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

Really, if you aren’t reading everything Coates writes, you are missing out. He is the preeminent public voice in the United States.

Read the whole piece here.