Monthly Archives: November 2016

Go ahead and wear a safety pin, but don’t *just* wear a safety pin

I have been seeing a lot of commentary on the safety pin movement. If somehow you haven’t heard, it is a movement encouraging allies to wear a safety pin in order to tell people in communities facing harassment, intimidation and violence that you are a safe person. This was,for many, a well-intentioned attempt to do *something* after the election of Donald Trump in the face of the grief it caused for many and the rapid increase in violence against marginalized groups of people across the United States. It is based on a movement in England after the Brexit vote, where Brits hoped to show solidarity with communities there that faced violence after the vote to leave the E.U.

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Make this more than a symbol.

Doing something like this makes us (and by us I mean white people) feel better in the face of chaos. It is soul soothing to take symbolic action when it seems (note I said seems) like there is nothing to be done. I have seen commentary by people in the communities that these safety pins are an attempt to make feel safe that the sight of someone wearing a safety pin does, in fact, make them feel a bit more safe. There is also plenty of commentary from people that this is a way for white people (especially those who voted for Trump) to make themselves feel better, that no one facing violence is going to look at the safety pin and automatically makes a person assume they are safe (this is my favorite commentary in this vein), and I have seen reports that some not-safe people are wearing them to appear safe while they wreak havoc. Some people probably are doing this simply a a way to feel better and don’t understand the real, physical costs of being an ally. Some people probably really do mean that they are a safe person and are willing to face the consequences of being that safe person (which can mean ending up in a physical altercation). There’s a lot of noise about whether a person should wear one or not. I don’t know how much weight my opinion holds: as a queer white Christian woman who generally presents as female in a straight relationship, I do not remotely face the level of risk as people of color, immigrants, other members of the LGBTQ community and Muslims  (to name a few). But here it is:

Fine, wear a safety pin. If you’re going to wear a safety pin, make sure you are ready to really defend someone who is being harassed. I have seen a lot of white people talk about, “I just want people to know I’m not hateful/racist/whatever,” or, “I won’t step in, but I will call the cops!” You know what makes a lot of people of color feel really unsafe? Cops. When you wear a safety pin, don’t assume anyone is going to think you are safe or that you are an ally. Those things require trust and trust requires proof of solidarity beyond an article of clothing. A safety pin is a symbolic gesture at best. It is literally the least you could do. We need way more than symbolism right now, so…

DON’T JUST WEAR A SAFETY PIN!! EDUCATE YOURSELF! ACT!

Join an anti-racism group, take trainings, get your church or other community group involved in anti-racism work. Showing Up for Racial Justice is an awesome group and they are asking people to organize and engage. Support the ACLU, the NAACP, look for organizations in your community that are working to fight racism. Learn about how you can help defend the rights of immigrants (also here and here) — if you belong to a faith community, learn about how your community can become a sanctuary community. Go to the local Mosque for prayer, see what you can do to combat Islamaphobia. Support your local LGBTQ organization. Learn about what it means to be a member of a marginalized community. Get educated. Read books like The New Jim Crow, God is Red, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and check out lists like this and this. Find podcasts that address issues of race. Some of my favorites are NPR’s Code Switch, The Race and Wealth Podcast, Tapestry, Kamau Right Now, & Politically Reactive. If you’re into social media, get on Twitter and follow people from marginalized communities to hear their voices and learn from them. It is not the job of oppressed people to teach us, it is our job to learn from the many resources that are already available to us.

As God’s people are told through the prophet Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke? 
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. 
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.


If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 
 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday. 
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail. 
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

This doesn’t say jack about solidarity through clothing. It’s about action.

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Biblical Values: Welcome the immigrant

As I listened to conversations around the election, I hear da lot of talk of Biblical values, usually invoked to keep LGBTQ people from having equal rights or using the bathrooms that assign to their gender, or when talking about abortion restrictions.

There are, of course, many other issues to consider when engaging in politics and being a public theologian: economics, immigration, gun rights/gun violence, the environment, racism, legalization of drugs, voting rights, and a whole bunch of other stuff. One of these conversations seems to consistently rise above the rest: immigration. And, more often than not, this conversation around immigration is coupled with fear. Fear of the possibility of violence brought by immigrants, fear of immigrants stealing jobs, fear that, as Donald Trump has said of Mexico “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

There also seems to be a large percentage of people who are afraid that a) we are allowing unvetted immigrants into the united states and b) these immigrants could be terrorists, preparing the next terrorist attack.

Or, as Donald Trump Jr. puts it:

trump-skittles

 

The solution that has been proposed to alleviate these fears is to end immigration from middle eastern countries, from Muslim countries, to some how label Muslims or people from the middle east, to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Oddly enough, Biblical values never seem to enter into this conversation. I imagine this is because Biblical values do not seem to fit into the narrative being created by those who would like our anxiety to be put upon immigrants. As Christians we are called to not be afraid. To love our neighbor AND our enemy. AND we are called again and again and again to welcome the stranger.

If we as Christians are willing to cling so strongly to the relatively few verses that support our views in other matters, why are we not willing to cling to those verses as they apply to those who are different from us, when scripture makes clear over and over again that our call is to care for the orphan, protect the widow and welcome the stranger? To love our neighbor as ourselves?

In Exodus, God says to Moses, “Do not mistreat a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” – twice in but a few verses God says that. Again in Leviticus, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land do not mistreat them,” “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born, Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt, I am the lord your God.” In Deuteronomy, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”

Job uses his care of the foreigner, his feeding and sheltering of them as a sign of his righteousness and love for God.

God speaks through Jeremiah and says, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong of violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, do not shed innocent blood in this place.” God sends a smiliar message through Ezekial, Isaiah and Malachai.

In his parable to describe what it means to love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus uses care for the stranger as one example of loving your neighbor, ending with that which you did not do to the least of these you did not do to me.”

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Jesus consistently shocks his listeners by using outsiders as emissaries of grace, such as the single man who comes back to thank Jesus for his healing in Luke 17 or the many times Samaritans – dirty, suspicious, unclean outsiders, are the people who do the Godly thing. Jesus repeatedly crosses all kind of barriers to welcome people to him, in demonstration of how we should live in order to welcome people to God.

For crying out loud, Mary and Joseph were strangers in a strange land when they had jesus and they were refugees when Herod killed all of the children in the land. What if there had been a no refugee policy in Egypt?!

Again and again and again, scripture calls us to welcome the stranger, the foreigner, the alien. And yet this Biblical value seems to be completely absent from the discussion on immigration – it is like the polar opposite of our discussion on same sex marriage and Transgender rights, where the Bible is all over the place in spite of the relatively few verses that can be used to support this topic and Jesus’ silence on the issue. Over and over and over again, the triune God asks us to welcome the stranger and to not be afraid, and yet we seem to be committed to living in fear and building walls so that the stranger we are called to welcome can be kept out. Not for nothing, many of these foreigners are also widows and orphans – two groups of people pretty much every book of the Bible says we are called to protect.

Why are we leaving these scriptures out? Because it does not serve the narrative. It does not advance the policies of those who want to keep us afraid because our fear feeds their policies and puts money in the pockets of politicians who benefit from our fear. Politicians who promise to keep us “safe.”

Which brings me to another thing – Christians are not called upon to be safe.

Safety is not a Christian virtue.

We are called upon to sacrifice ourselves for the good news of Jesus Christ — the news that God came down and became human to know us, to love us, to set the oppressed free, to break the yoke of slavery, and to proclaim good news to the poor as he proclaims when he reads from the scroll of Isaiah in his first moment of public ministry.

Christians are called to sacrifice. We are called to pick up our cross and follow God. We are called to give up what we have and follow – safety, security, shelter, clothing – we are called to give those things away. We are called to leave our families for God, to separate ourselves from all we know and all we have, to go out into the world and trust Jesus. We are told again and again that following Jesus is dangerous. And it is. For centuries, people have been killed because of their call to follow God. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for the sake of the gospel will save it.

Many will take this to mean that we should be willing to be killed for our faith, as in if someone is holding a gun to our head, we should be willing to say that we are a Christian and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s cheap grace, it’s pumpkin spice latte Christianity. It’s basic.

Losing our lives for Jesus and the sake of the gospel is losing our lives to live as Jesus lived and to follow Jesus’ call to give up what we have and follow him, to give up our cloak, to turn the other cheek, to be willing to give up what we have so that others may have as well. We are called to be willing to give up our lives for the sake of love, for the sake of the poor and the oppressed. To eat all of the damn skittles.

Those are Biblical Values.