Police Brutality and the Murder of Adam Toledo

The United States has been traumatized by a long history of police violence and brutality against non-European descendants for decades. We need to remember that the country’s creation is linked to Slave Patrols that exerted control over enslaved Africans and Native Americans for centuries. In the colonial period, a poor white man often did not have the wealth to enslave others but joined into a white supremacist through service on Slave Patrols.  Despite abolishing slavery over 160 years ago, the legacy and impacts are still with us today and have only evolved into other forms of terror against non-white people. 

On March 29, Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, became one of the youngest people killed on the city’s West Side.  A Chicago Police officer killed Adam while he was running away. Adam was not only Latino; but he was a native American descendant who once again is a victim of police brutality. 

The officer repeatedly shouts at Toledo on the video from the body camera, “Police! Stop! Stop right now! Hands! Hands! Show me your hands!”. Adam Toledo – turns around and raises his hands. The white police officer fires his weapon and murders Adam – 20 seconds after exiting his squad car.

Officer Eric Stillman, 34 years old, fired the fatal shot officer, heard on the body camera asking for an ambulance. The video also shows the officer straightening Toledo’s legs, raising his shirt to start searching for a gun. But why looking for a gun, he claims later was in Adam’s hands?

Adam’s killing reflects Native American’s reality and visibilize the truth that in the “Latin community,” the browner skin and native descendants are excluded and are more likely than Euro-Americans to experience police-related shootings and violence. Just last year, Andres Guardado, 18, died after being shot five times in the back by law enforcement in California; Carlos Ingram Lopez, 27, died in police custody in Tucson.

Demonstrations across the US denounce police brutality and demand that the police budgets are diverted to community programs that aid the community. “We don’t need angry officers. We need social workers,” is the request from communities tired of state-sanctioned violence.  Police officers receive military training and equipment to respond to a war situation and not secure and protect the communities in which we live.

The United States has a problem of racism and white superiority complex. Many white church leaders and politicians claim, “This is not who we are;” whenever there is a police shooting or an act of white supremacy. Unfortunately, police brutality is an accurate reflection of who we are as a country.

These heinous murders are the outcome of a long history of policing, controlling, and destroying the bodies and lives of African and Native American descendants. Until we hold all individuals who murder others accountable, we will never be able to change the culture of hate in the country.

Mujeres Doing Theology

Mujeres Doing Theology is a year-long mentoring and training program designed to engage Latinas to reflect, write, and develop their critical voice. The program will be focused on developing experiences and skills-based in Leadership, Empowerment, and Advocacy (LEA)

Through providing open and challenging spaces for collective growth, solidarity, and support: fellows will begin the transformation of self and community. Through this cohort program, participants will start to develop community-engaged theological responses to the most critical issues facing society and the church. Through participation in Mujeres Doing, Theology women can find their voice to create, expand and reimagine public and sacred spaces in both English and Spanish.

The year-long training will include monthly gatherings that will have:

  • Plenary Speakers 
  • Group Discussions 
  • Exchange of experiences and collective learning
  • Space for self-care
  • Opportunity to publish articles, essays, poems, and other forms of creative expressions

The Mentoring program requests the commitment of every participant:

  1. Write one 500 – 700 words reflection paper on their selected theme
  2. At the end of the program, write 3000 words article for publication in a book entitled Mujeres doing Theology

Application open from: April 20, 2021, to May 20, 2021.

If you want to be part of Mujeres, please complete the following application.

Register Here

A learning resource for future female leaders powered by the Forum for Theological Exploration.

For more information ydelgado@publicatheology.org

Uncovering Indigenous Identities in the Latin American Community

As a result of a long European colonization process, indigenous people and their descendants in America have been forced to erase their heritage, language, and culture. Indigenous people have been denied self-identification and self-determination, first by Spanish colonizers and then under English/ United States rules. 

Throughout the American continent, the indigenous cultures shared a vibrant trade and development from the Andes through to the Rockies. However, the encounter in 1492 with European invaders forever changed their ways of living. The continent was inhabitant by over 100 million people living in different nations and communities. The Europeans forced indigenous populations to change their languages, customs, and religions – through forced assimilation into what was considered “Western Christian Culture.”  The colonizers saw an opportunity for wealth, growth, and possession in the “new world”; for the native population, the result was genocide, slavery, rape, and trans-generational oppression. In history akin to magical realism, the entire indigenous population transformed into “Latin Americans” rather than Native Americans. 

In the United States, which practiced its distinct form of white normative supremacy of “Manifest Destiny,” the government decided westward expansion was God-ordained.  The expansion west came after the war with Mexico and the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which led to most of the West’s addition, including Arizona, California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas. However, this acquired land was not empty, but the native population who lived under Spanish rules for over 300 years were incorporated.  

The United States forced another round of assimilation. Based on census records, government officials perpetuated one of the most insidious acts of disappearance through a “paper genocide,” native were labeled as black, mulatos, mustee, or colored to justify slavery and deny land claims. This classification created an administrative archive of false documents to support the disappearance of the native population and appropriation of the land, and the practice continues until this day.

According to the United States Census Bureau, one in five individuals is identified as “Latino,” almost 60 million. The question remains: How an amalgamation of different indigenous groups conquered by Europeans develops into one pan-ethnic group? In the United States, government, academics, and industry designed the various labels to create a commercial and political voting block for disparate groups to increase governmental and economic power.  The forced labeling as “Hispanic” or “Latino” fuels conversations about identity among people who trace their heritage to the region called “Latin America” or Spain – Europe. Breaking down these terms can help to understand all these labels.  

Hispanic: Descendant of Spanish or Spaniards’ people 

Latin: A person who speaks a language derived from Latin

Spanish: A language and person from Spain

In the last years, the different labels have become synonymous with economic issues and crime. “Latinos” work in construction and landscaping, clean houses, and likely crossed the border without “authorization aka illegal.” Similar to the colonial time when the Europeans saw indigenous- native Americans as uncivilized and wild people, their descendants are treated in the same way -through being detained, raped, or killed on the southern border. 

Today, more than ever, young generations are looking back to their family history to find out more about their native heritage and start a process of decolonization. For many “Latinos,” identifying as descendants of native Americans is more accurate. Labels such as Hispanics, Latin, and Latinx hide and attack those on the path towards their real identity and decolonizing oppressive labels.  

To start this process, we must considerer the first step toward decolonization:

  • Recognize that even after five centuries of colonization, Native Americans and their descendants have the right to self-identification and recognized where our ancestors lived and worshiped. 
  • We need to understand that the language we speak today and the names and last names we have are colonization results. Spanish or English is not our ethnicity but a reflection of assimilation.
  • Lastly, we need to be ready for the tough conversations that set the record right regarding land theft, slavery, physical and paper genocide.

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Yenny Delgado-Qullaw

Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between faith, ethnicity and politics. Twitter @Publicayenny

The Complicity of the Christian Church to Create White Supremacy Ideology

European colonization of America opened the door to the development of a societal structure built upon skin color and ancestry. Europeans placed themselves on top of a God-ordained pyramid of humanity.

The created hierarchy developed in orchestration between business ventures and theological support from the Christian church sustained oppression for centuries. The church worked hand in glove to promote, permit, and proselytize white supremacy through colonization. To many, this may be an inflammatory view based on personal encounters. However, if we further explore the historical record, the actions paint an alarming image that cannot be sanitized or “white-washed.” 

The doctrine of discovery, enacted by many Papal Bulls during the 15th century, provided a legal and ecclesiastical framework in which God had uniquely blessed white, Christian Europeans.  The doctrine gave Europeans the legitimate right to oppress all people into their religion and, at the same time, take the land and be the “new administrators.” In this way, European invaders, first Catholic and later Protestant, brought the sword and God’s Word to a new land given to them by God for their conquering.  This is a far cry from the story of brave discovers or refugees looking for freedom of worship is taught, and so begins the collaboration on all levels of power to instate racist systems.  

There is no biological basis for any human being’s superiority or inferiority based on the amount of melanin in their skin. The race is a social construction exploited by and for Europeans to enslave native Americans and committed genocide without remorse.

Centuries of execution and oppression brought the development of the ideology and theology of white supremacy.  This idea of superiority found a willing participant in the church, which used Genesis 9:18-21 to validate its actions. In the biblical story, Noah curses Ham, who became the father of Canaan and represented the earth’s darker people.  This biblical curse provided a useful framework to justify unspeakable cruelties. 

As slavery became institutionalized as a standard practice, the church aided in the Biblical narrative’s accommodation to support white people as a master and indigenous people and Africans as servants.

Comfort over Conscious 

The economic boom of enslaving other human beings led to a growth in wealth in Europe and throughout the colonies.  For many Christian leaders, enslaved African and indigenous people’s monetary value was worth more than any potential soul saved in following the gospel.   In their quest for riches, enslavers separated families – children from mothers, husbands from wives, and brother from sister, believing that human beings were chattel – of similar value as livestock or cattle. The church’s actions and its leaders were contradictory and hypocritical, for it was the same church that taught the family’s value to their white parishioners. 

Both the Protest and Catholic church essentially choose comfort over reflection and ignored whether or not the society was living out the message of Jesus Christ. The comfort in maintaining systems of oppression provided ease for creating a community based on white supremacy. 

The Civil War did not topple the pyramid structure based on fealty to white supremacist ideology and theological practices; legally defined oppression only morphed.  Indeed, 528 years of building a society based on a false hierarchy of race continued in the Jim Crow era and continues today. The church developed the theology needed to maintain a way of life.  

White people continued worshiping in their sanctuaries and preaching what they believe was the gift of God – whiteness. Their worship of God-given whiteness made their practice of superiority outside the church the other six days of the week much more comfortable.  As such, churches were part and parcel in developing laws that conserved the power structures mainly in silence with only a handful of objections.  Christians saw no contradiction between their faith and the racism they practiced in subtle yet ubiquitous ways.

The practice of racism in this country depends on political, social, and religious cooperation and unity alongside the church’s complicity– White Supremacy.  Christian faith has been so corrupted in the United States that it saw bondage by their own hands as morally right and, as a result, show the lack of moral grounding of these institutions and it’s practitioners.  

Still to this today, we continue to suffer and struggle with the impacts and practice of racist ideology created over five centuries ago. The large movements in the last decades for liberation and freedom still carry the heritage of centuries of brutal oppression and separation based on our skin color. 

How can a country’s built-in blood and pain produce something useful? This story is the same in countries throughout the continent. Reflections are the necessary steps to reconstruct a more just church and society. The church can choose to lead for justice as opposed to justifying oppression.  As an active member of the Christian church, our mission and God-given command denounce the church’s role in supporting white supremacist ideology to bring real healing.

The church worked against the message of Christ and worked in concert with a doctrine of white supremacist ideology. If we want to return to the message of Jesus of Nazareth, we must deconstruct and de-entangle Christianity from these evil roots.  

 

Yenny Delgado-Qullaw

Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between faith, ethnicity and politics.

 

Howard Thurman: Radical Transformation

By Kenia Vanessa Rodriguez

Howard Thurman’s impact on the ecclesiastical and political society is still as liberating today as when he first preached and wrote in the mid 20th century.  Thurman did not hold doctrine or dogmas over individual and communal religious experience. Instead, he focused on “a proper sense of self and the urge to establish community,” which is edifying for the Church and society today. The focus on a proper sense of self is prominent in that once a self-awareness as a child of God is harnessed, it derives a sense of community as God’s children. A “proper” sense of self will then drive self-actions, guide how one lives, and purpose.  Once one is committed to self and purpose, then everything else falls into place.  Thurman affirms that self cannot be fully actualized without community, showing how intertwined the one is with the many.  

What does all of this mean for today’s church and society? It means that instead of focusing on doctrines and dogmas which separate and divide people into those who believe, we need to first focus on our spiritual unity before God as equals, as children of God. Unity from God and with God in the community is the basis for our existence. Unfortunately, today many churches are transfixed on teaching people the doctrines and dogmas that define “their” church or denomination.  

It seems that churches only want fellowship with those who fit into their pre-determined boxes and rejects all dubbed “others.”  How can it be that one day one is part of a church, and then when one begins to question church doctrine or dogma, all of a sudden, they are no longer part of that church? Is fellowship in the church so vain that it can be given and taken in an instance? 

Genuine fellowship in which Thurman ascribes coming from a sense of self in community and unity with God, unity in community is what needs to be preached, taught, and lived out in churches today if we are to have any hope of the kingdom of God coming into full fruition.  Only when we understand ourselves in the community and the value of all those who make up our community can we have genuine fellowship with God and neighbor.  When we view a community member as lesser than or exclude our neighbor from the community, we shatter the possibility of unity to which we are all called to as one body of Christ. 

Thurman’s discussion of self and community in fellowship with God and community can be translated to living out the presumption and responsibility of the imago Dei (image of God).  If we are the imago Dei as Genesis states, then we must live that out in deed and action.  What does it mean to be the imago Dei? Does it not mean that as the imago Dei with dominion over all that God has given, it is my responsibility to care for such following the will of God in God’s manner? How does God care for us? Is it not with incomprehensible love and fellowship? Is it not with the ultimate sacrifice of God’s only begotten son so we may be reconciled? If so, then how can I, as the imago Dei do likewise?  At a minimum, I would argue that I can strive and struggle daily to form a genuine fellowship with the community to grow in a proper sense of self before God with the community and in the community. 

If churches today continue to do what they have always been doing, it would be insanity – which is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  In this climate of Black Lives Matter, Me Too movement, immigration debates about children in cages, and a global pandemic, the time is ripe for transformation within church and society to live out our purpose.  The question is – what do we want? What is it that we are going to pursue? What will we hold as our purpose above all else without regard to life or death or rich or poor or suffering? What will we pursue with the purpose that is all-consuming and contagious, like Pentecost? That is where Thurman leaves us and where we must stand up and continue.    

__________________________________________________________

Kenia Vanessa Rodriguez, is an Lawyer focussing on immigration law and a student of divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary. 

Understanding Diversity in the Latin American Community

The Latin American community is not a single monolithic group; instead, it reflects the diversity of the continent’s colonization and is part of our past and present. Today in the United States, the Latin community demonstrates racial diversity and distinctive heritages. The native population is still strong with their traditions and language, Afro-descendants are reclaiming their narrative and struggles, and Euro- descendants, take advantage of a white supremacist society to move ahead.

In understanding the Latin American Community, we need to be aware that we are talking about populations first under Spanish rule and later under the U.S.( English) control either through conquest or purchase. In this expansion driven by the ideas of Manifest Destiny, many indigenous populations were subsumed under new colonizers.

According to the historian Dr. Cristina Mora who wrote “Making Hispanics,” previously disparate groups, including Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans, were categorized under the racial group as “white” or “Black.” However, due to their segmentation, the groups lacked any political representation for individuals whose first language was Spanish. A group of influential leaders from the community realized that combining the groups could lead to significant economic and political power. They decided that the term “Hispanic,” a descendant of Spanish, could reflect the entire community’s name. The U.S. government first used the term Hispanic in the 1970s. Notably, this occurred under the administration of Republican President Richard Nixon.  

Creating the term “Hispanics” was an effort to consolidate a diverse community into a single label. Thus, several inroads were made to expand their base with the group of “Spanish Speakers” that were also diverse and fast-growing. After the 1990s, the term “Latin/Latino” became more heavily utilized in recognition that no all people are considered descendants of Spanish/Europeans. 

White, Black, and Brown?

“Brown people” or “la raza” has become a coded way to identify the Latin community. However, as should be abundantly clear, the Latin community does not reflect just a one-color group. Regardless, colorism is still at work in silence and benefits the group in power. The darker you are, the more invisible you will be. The Latin community is not immune to white supremacy; color matters. Let’s look at the primary news anchors, social media, or entertainment. This group of Latinos is in the majority of positions of power and prestige. This because in the rules of the white society, they are the ones who are welcome. 

But what about the indigenous and Afro-descendants who are also part of the Latin community? They are foundational to the community and are often the least visible when it comes to leadership positions. However, indigenous and Afro-descendants are the first mentioned when it comes to economic problems, migrations, and criminality. They suffer double discrimination for the white Anglos and the white Latinos. Indigenous people are forced into silence from their suffering through colonization, stolen land, and impoverishment. Afro-descendants are forced to be silent about their ancestors’ enslavement when Europeans robbed and enslaved them in Latin America.

English, Spanish, or Náhuatl?

The question arises about what language represents the Latin Community. The recognition that Spanish or English are European languages clarifies that speaking one or both does not mean we are Europeans’ descendants. Instead, the consequences of colonization are still present in our societies today. For many and new generations, the language is not a reference to ethnicity because indigenous languages and cultures were forcible removed and not taught by the school system; for example, indigenous people from the United States who speak English are not considered English descendants. Why is it that indigenous people who speak Spanish are considered Latin? The term is another mechanism to put everyone in a box without understand who we are. Individuals who migrated here also speak Nahuatl, K’iche, Qichwa, Aimara, or other native American languages and subsequently raised their children in bicultural homes.

Does this story surprise you regarding the Latin community? We all need to read more about Latin American history and colonization to unpack what some labels have aimed to hide.

Yenny Delgado (she/her/ella) Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between politics, race and faith. 

Stop Forced Sterilization in ICE Detention Centers

Dawn Wooten, a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, made the shocking claim that there was “jarring medical neglect” and questionably high numbers of hysterectomies, forced sterilization, in ICE detention centers.

Forced sterilization is not new. However, the behavior and treatment of immigrants by the Trump Administration ask pointed questions behind the rhetoric of being “Pro-Life.” What is disturbing is that the government ordered and financed sterilization on native Americans (all individuals who have indigenous ancestors) from countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras.

Over the last 100 years of US history, the country has a remarkably poor record of human rights when it comes to reproductive freedom:

  • Buck versus Bell – The US Supreme Court upheld compulsory sterilization of the “unfit,” including the intellectually disabled (1927).
  • The Indian Health Service in the 1960s and 1970s performed forced sterilizations with estimates of close to 25% of Native women. 
  • Sterilization of African Americans was also considerably higher than the rate of European Americans

For an Administration that proclaims to be Pro-Life and received the blessing of majority-white women and evangelicals voters, the actions do not seem to fit congruently with professed beliefs. This disconnect between proclamations and activities in this Administration is not new. The treatment of undocumented immigrants and individuals seeking asylum has been abysmal under the Trump administration, including:

  • A policy of family separation at the border.
  • Metering policy in cooperation with Mexico to prevent the legal request for asylum.
  • Shocking levels of child abuse of boys and girls in detention centers 
  • Deportation of parents and put children in foster families.

Recently we heard about the chilling complaint of forced sterilization, but what else could be happening in these detention centers? This Administration is adamant about its purest disdain of Native Americans and is pursuing policies straight out of the Eugenics and white supremacy handbook to suppress their population.  

In my home country of Peru, a policy of massive forced sterilization of indigenous women was undertaken under President Alberto Fujimori. Nearly 350,000 women and 25,000 men were sterilized under the guise of “population control,” most of the victims were from indigenous communities. The sterilizations had a chilling effect on future generations for the native populations and the culture – as the state-sanctioned murder of indigenous further dehumanizes our presence in society.  

An individual’s body should not be subject to government pleasure and decision. That someone eliminates a part of your body to prevent you from having a child is not only an abuse of power – it represents the purest form of evil. As long as we continue to think that the woman’s body is the government’s property, we will never be a truly free society with equality and equity.  

Sterilizing women without consent is an evil practice, and it is antithetical to the ideas of being “Pro-Life.”  

Where do you stand?

 

Yenny Delgado (she/her/ ella)  Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between politics and faith. 

Preachers Without a Pastor

My brothers and sisters let me say that I know this feeling. I know what it’s like to serve with others and not feel included. I know what it’s like to be overlooked in ministry, bypassed for opportunities, and sometimes left alone as a minister.

I know this feeling Preacher; you will feel abandoned in ministry. I will not attempt to play down YOUR experience or be over-spiritual about what you’ve gone through or are going through. Ministry is not an easy life to live.

You will have some friends for life and some seasonal friends for certain terrains to get you through. YOUR process is YOURS.

Never compare your growth or development to another preacher. All preachers are in Jesus’s hands. There is no way around it…

Yet, what you may need in a pastor is not going to be a delightful undertaking. Pastors are people too. They have their own struggles and tensions in life.

Pastors deal with a lot, and each pastor is given a measure of faith, and only God knows the amount. You know this, YOU are not accessible to a pastor. Accept that as well. You have things about you that you are wrestling with daily, within, and without. You have doubts and fears too. Yet you still need a pastor Life will send you persons who will walk with you up to a certain point in your life. Everybody is not equipped to cross your finish line with you, accept that, and digest that truth. Yet you need a pastor! Every preacher needs roots.

Roots that can be transplanted in different soils take making sure that the inside of you is rooted and grounded in liberating theological truth. You need to make sure that daily you spend time in your devotion to your own spiritual well-fare. You must take responsibility for your own liberating theological education and development.

You need to empower your theological underpinnings with a genuine black scholarship that challenges you to think and grow in diverse ways. You must divest or remove as much white theological pollution that has plagued your biblical understanding and interpretations. You must have a Pastor who reads deeper than superficial jargon.

You need a Pastor who can convey the incredible truths that will guide and guard your life. You need a Pastor who reads! You must find yourself, your gifts, and your gauges. You must be honest with yourself about you, your fears, your frustrations, and your own heartaches. You must get a grip on you, the real you. Yet you will need a Pastor that will love you, guide, invest in you, and help carry you when you don’t know you need to be carried and supported. You need a pastor who will take some heat and apply some heat too.

You must strive to be a widely read preacher that brings more to the discussion of liberating those who are pushed to the very slim margins of life. You must look at yourself and accept the unique gifts God has given you to do the work of the Lord. There is a significant tragedy in not having a Pastor.

Let me say it like this; you will be hurt, lost, disoriented, fumbling, broken, doubtful, misdirected, used, abused, discarded, cast aside, not included, open doorless, never trusted, tossed about, always looked at with suspicion, and the list goes on.

Find you a Pastor, get your roots watered and your unfruitful limbs pruned, so you can bear more and more fruit!

Paris Smith, Pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Washington D.C.

When a Broken Preacher, Finds Healing

By Paris Smith

Dear preachers, our lives are continually struggling to handle the brokenness of humanity. We are expected to be the primary dispensers of hope, courage, love, grace, healing, balms, and reconciliation. Yet many of us if not all of us have to deal with our own brokenness. A broken preacher hurts deep in silence. A broken preacher has anxiety issues that plague them every day. A broken preacher has crushed dreams, banished hopes, crashed ambitions, and disrupted passions. 

A broken preacher trust nobody!!! 

A broken preacher bleeds when they meet and reach. A broken preacher refuses to fellowship with other preachers, distance themselves from clergy events, and avoid gathering other preachers. A broken preacher lives in isolation in the public marketplace. A broken preacher is sapped of their passion for ministry. A broken preacher sees the church from a problematic lens. That troublesome lens is self-discovery. 

A broken preacher develops a critical eye for everything wrong with the institutional church because they know that they were more of the problem and not a negotiating agent for the human frailty the church is tasked with. A broken preacher develops a personal grudge against the church. They are mad as hell because their own liberation motif for ministry is often side-lined by egomaniacal desires. They feel as though somebody owes them an exalted rank and privilege. They seek to gain power, prestige, prominence, platforms, and peacock parading to celebrate them and their accomplishments. However, a broken preacher can be healed and delivered from their own self-destruction. A broken preacher begins the long process of healing once they reflect upon the call upon their lives. 

Moving from a broken preacher to healing preacher 

Often preachers forget that a surrendered life is one that is lost unto the Lordship of Christ. Preachers cannot avoid being broken. Our oil comes out best when we are broken-open to be poured out by God. We have fuel for the salvation of humanity. We are pitchers in the hands of a God who decides when and where we are to empty for the divine purposes to which we are called to do. Our walk is not designed to plagiarize another preacher’s work. 

We are to learn from each other, not steal from each other. Laziness produces a pathetic preacher. A broken preacher who is healing is a reading preacher who is feeding! 

The anointing cannot flow through a preacher if the preacher’s mind is empty from a lack of scholarship and devotional Bible reading. The preacher must read widely and not wildly or wickedly. Too much unethical binge-watching, idle foolishness, flirting with meandering thoughts, undisciplined proclivities, engaging in messiness, is not suitable for a preacher’s mind, soul, spirit, body, finances, etc. The healing preacher seeks wise counsel, good fellowships, avoids the political nets of religiosity, gets on a diet. 

A real diet is controlling everything they consume and associate with. The healing preacher no longer lives in isolation. The healing preacher chooses wisely what “preacher company” to keep and what preacher company to be gentle with. The healing preacher has a preacher mentor, a pastoral mentor, and life mentors from all genders. 

A healing preacher renews their academic exposure by attending and participating in new aspects of ministry renewal yearly. A healing preacher gets “rest!” a healing preacher takes time away from all their busyness. A healing preacher goes on sabbatical. A healing preacher gains security again back into the call of God on their lives. 

A healing preacher is freed to be transparent about their journey. A healing preacher is always in the state of healing. They never brag about their “arrival.” God will use a healing preacher without any apology. A healing preacher never walks alone! 

I love you, preacher!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Paris Smith

 Pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Washington D.C.

The US southern border: A symbol of unity or isolation?

By Yenny Delgado

In light of the recent Supreme Court Decision that prevented the Trump administration from revoking the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) policy due to failure to provide adequate justification, immigration is back on the top of everyone’s mind.  Questions of the border and, more particular, the US Southern Border have come into sharper focus.  Moreover, as we enter another intense, it is clear that President Trump will aim to use immigration and the Southern Border as another wedge issue to encourage voters to support his re-election.  This paper reflects on the United States’ southern border a ponders its symbology and proposes a re-examination of how Christians should view the border in light of the gospel.

The border has unique symbolism and conjures thoughts of protection, filtration, separation, or insulation from danger. Borders are a critical part of the functional integrity of a country and allow for governments to track commerce, register individuals, and provide a line in the sand for defense. These edges offer a first boundary upon which the country is established and to which individuals are considered residents and citizens and receive inherent benefits. Throughout the history of the United States, the border has been in flux – enlarged through purchases, wars, and invasion.

Unfortunately, much of the debate around the border and immigration has been overly simplified, for far too long. From the four boundaries, the country has chosen its southern border as the primary threat. The US focuses on the 1,954-mile southern border with Mexico and not much attention to the 5,525-mile border to the north with Canada and minimal attention in the press or public regarding the Pacific Cost border or Atlantic Cost border. 

With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016, there has been a renewed scrutiny of the Southern Border when he promised that he would “build a great wall on our southern border, and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.” In the intervening year, it is clear that Mexico is not paying for the construction of a wall on the southern border, and the building has been slow. 

Historical Context of the Border

The southern border has changed from the times of the colonies through expanding territory under the auspices of Manifest Destiny, with the contemporary edge established in 1853. Over the intervening years, the regulation to cross the border has changed. People living on the border in areas such as Texas often say, “we didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.” Families who were never planning to be in the United States became part of the country because of the border change in the 19th century.  However, migration to the US has also been, in large part, motivated by the need for labor in the growing US economy, especially in the agricultural and low-skill sectors. 

At the start of the Second World War, the US started the “Braceros” program that provided legal migration for farmworkers up until the 1960s. This program allowed farmers to migrate to the US during the planting and harvest and then return home to live with their families.

Today, similar applications exist, such as the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers visa; however, there is a desire for jobs from people south of the border and the need for labor in the US. Thus, one of the significant drivers for migrants is for improved economic opportunity compared to stagnant growth and opportunity in one’s home country. Individuals risk their lives to cross the border without proper documentation in isolated desert locations to work at jobs for half the pay, no health coverage, and toxic chemicals and pesticide exposure in positions that most US citizens do not want. The national narrative does not focus on industrious migrants looking for improved opportunities at life, but primarily on the cases of violence or criminal activity perpetrated by immigrants and has given rise to a desire of greater border security.

Historically walls were built for protection and to signify to the inhabitants that they were protected. However, the US government is building a wall in an era when they are primarily being destroyed and torn down. In fact, during the 1980s the US President Reagan chided the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall as antiquated and for impinging upon freedoms. The argument currently used for the construction of the wall is based on the need to respect the current laws of the land and preservation of the already prevailing cultural norms. 

Theological Response

President Trump realizes their religiosity is crucial to his sustained political power, and through tweets and staged photos caters to this part of the electorate. Concerning the building of border walls, there is not one strict interpretation of Christian scripture or from Christian ethicists and scholars of the past.  

Jesus taught his disciples in Mark 12:31, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The emphasis that Jesus places on the importance of the right relationship with the neighbor is clear. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus helps provide further context to the call of neighborly love by confirming that the right neighbor is the one they showed mercy. How can we say we love our neighbor if we are building a dividing wall between ourselves and them? 

Which country can have confidence in the relationship with a country that aims to build the longest wall on the continent to prevent or select their neighbors from entering? If the border is the limit or filter, we are showing that not every human being is equal or has intrinsic value; and it is contradictory to a Christian view of creation in which all humans were made in God’s image. 

However, with the construction of borders and harsh regulations, individuals from other countries are dehumanized and are treated only as disposable parts of the economy, for harvesting crops. Though this may be an economic argument for such border protections, it does not square with a Christian understanding of our relationship with our neighbor as described above. Ethicist, Luke Bretherton of Duke Divinity propose viewing the border with countries as equivalent to a face. In his philosophical construction: 

“Borders are a means of framing and structuring this relationship and orientating a nation to  the rest of the world in a way that presents an enquiring, confident, hospitable face rather than either a closed, insular, hostile face turning away from the relationship with the poor and vulnerable or a hopeless…” 

If we embrace the construct of the face, it leads to the question of what face do we show our neighbors to the south through building a high-tech wall and militarizing the southern border.  

Building oppressive militarized borders would not be comprehensible with an understanding of Loving God of all creation and the sanctity of all life. Borders are already delimited, but building a physical wall is a step towards not only aggression but of separation and is contradictory to the message of the Gospels. 

The United States is known to many neighbors in the south, not for liberal democratic values but as an oppressive empire that protects corporate interests and dictators. The US has intervened in Latin American countries over 35 times, and unfortunately construction of a militarized border wall goes further to cement the concept of a nasty neighbor. 

We need to re-conceptualize our idea of borders in the country. Using the framework of Bretherton’s idea of borders as a face, I think that the United States can better serve its citizens and neighbors as a positive force. The southern border should be a symbol of unity with our neighbors.

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Yenny Delgado (she/her/ Ella)  

Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between politics, faith, and resistance. Follow me on twitter @yennydc