This morning I awakened from yet another night of fitful unrest.
My sleep has been disrupted, again, because of the mistreatment of brown children.
How does it make sense to smile while separating children from their parents because they are neighbors and immigrants, but not white?
At the borders of this country, children and families are living a terror induced nightmare.
We call this holy sacred ground?
Those who read the Bible in its entirety know that it is complex but most of us cannot avoid the ethical demands that come with texts teaching us how to treat strangers and newcomers among us.
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
34 The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you,
and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 NSRV)
In this reading, the text only makes two demands for a moral life: do not mistreat the stranger and love the stranger as yourself.
I am afraid. We are morally impoverished as a people and a country.
We quake, we shiver, and shake our heads because we have been given a vision of the apocalypse.
Our prayers stare us down. Our rituals shrivel. Our sage refuses to burn.
We know desperate children and families are sobbing at the border of this land.
Love? We bow our heads to offer worn thin supplications.
We quickly say amen.
We do not love and we do not care, enough.
Around us their cries are muffled as old tropes of danger, criminal, rapist, poor, different
in four-part harmony to a beat of rapid fire policies
for a xenophobic ditty.
There is a humming pulsating throbbing boredom all round. We look for smiling faces, elsewhere.
At the borders of the United States
follow the news
and fall into an abyss of
Our hearts have hardened and grown cold with hate.
Wake up, beware. The twisted heart is a heat seeking missile in search of new targets.
Hatred is hungry.
Those of us on the sidelines, with wide eyes and muzzled mouths, should know
our reckoning awaits us, too.
Action is the antidote: https://www.aclu.org/issues/call-senators-stop-dhs-separating-children
Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University where she is also Chair of the Religion, Psychology, and Culture area. She is a womanist scholar and a psychoanalyst. Her research is centered on the intersection of interiority, society, and religious practice. She is the author of the groundbreaking Self, Culture and Others in Womanist Practical Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), and her current book project Tilling Sacred Ground: Interiority, Black Women, and Public Religion takes as its focus the intersection of black women’s interiority, the sociality of race and gender, and public expression of religion. She is also editing a volume on Womanist Pastoral and Public Theology: Placing Black Lives at the Center of Theology and Practice. She is a frequent speaker on cultural trauma, race, gender and sexuality. Dr. Sheppard is the recipient of a Louisville Institute Research Grant (2017-2018) for the project, “This is my Calling: An Ethnography of Black Women’s Vocational Formation.” She earned her Ph.D. in Theology, Ethics, and the Human Sciences from Chicago Theological Seminary, Theology, Ethics and the Human Sciences and the M.A. in Theology from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Theology.
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