“Morning” by Phillis Isabella Sheppard


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
are sung
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
shameless indifference.

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 antidotehttps://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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Categories: In the News

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11 replies

  1. … At the borders of the United States
    follow the news
    and fall into an abyss of
    shameless indifference.

    Our hearts have hardened and grown cold with hate…

    Like

  2. Thank you for this post! And thank you for the quotation from Isaiah. Sessions recently invoked Paul’s Epistles to the Romans to the effect of those in authority are placed there by God and must be obeyed. I want to get on a rooftop and scream, Paul is not God. He was writing letters to particular communities about particular issues. Also, he and other early Christians were regularly on the wrong side of the law, doing jail time and often ending up being executed. People who quote Paul (usually out of context) seem to have forgotten to inquire of their hearts What Would Jesus Do?

    We cannot stand by silently. Nothing seems enough, but there are things we can do right now. There is a huge word-of-mouth campaign, spreading in part of Facebook, that in days has raised millions for RAICES refugee and immigrant center for education and legal services. (I would put in the link, but have found that when I post links the comment is pulled for moderation.) Please look up the organization and donate if you can. RAICES is actively representing separated families and working to reunite parents and children.

    Friends of mine have launched a campaign called #meltICE. They are calling for people to send teddy bears to detained children, not just as a no doubt inadequate gesture of comfort but as a statement to officials. These are CHILDREN! They also hope to raise public awareness. Here is the address:
    An Immigrant Child Now Detained
    c/o ICE 1777 NE Loop 410 Floor 15
    San Antonio, Texas 78217
    United States

    You can also called your Congressional representatives and demand that they publicly condemn and call for immediate reversal of what is in fact an ICE policy NOT a law. Anti-immigration bills are coming to the floor of the house next week, so call NOW

    You can also work with your local city officials to make your city a sanctuary city. You can support churches that are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants threatened with deportation. You can offer your own home as a safe house.

    Also you can refute the lies regularly repeated by the Trump administration. Separation of immigrant families is not a law, it’s a policy. It was not put in place by Obama or any other Democrat. Midterm elections are coming up. Anyone who supports such inhumane policies, such violation of human rights and decency must fail!

    Like

    • PS: My friend who is launching the Teddy Bear campaign just learned that Health and Human Services (?!?) has official custody of the detained children. The Texas address should work for the Teddy Bears. Someone else commented that sending such items through the US post may be illegal. Best not to use a return address. More info as I have it.

      Like

  3. “At the borders of this country, children and families are living a terror induced nightmare.

    We call this holy sacred ground?”

    I call this ground surreal and appalling – I am struggling with disbelief that I am living in such a killer country.

    I have a Mexican friend who is trying to get his family into New Mexico and the authorities insist that the 13 month old baby be left behind… how can these atrocities continue?

    What do we have to do to STOP this insanity?

    Like

  4. I have add that I have signed endless petitions, attended rallies etc and have reached the point where I can no longer believe these efforts of ours are making a difference… it’s getting worse.

    Like

  5. I can’t even count how many petitions I’ve signed. But my guess is that the present inhabitants of our governmental buildings in Washington, D.C., have zero interest in what we who are not “the base” think. I, too, am not sleeping well.

    Like

  6. PS: My friend who is launching the Teddy Bear campaign just learned that Health and Human Services (?!?) has official custody of the detained children. The Texas address should work for the Teddy Bears. Someone else commented that sending such items by US post may be illegal. Best not to use a return address. More info as I have it.

    It does seem as though things are getting worse despite all petitions and protests. Let’s use our voices while we have them, even though we may not be heard.

    Like

  7. Like many, I am outraged by so many things the current administration sanctions and promotes. Separating children from their parents seems especially cruel. Not addressing the problem of guns and their proliferation in our society, not condemning racism, and cozying up to ruthless dictators (N. Korea), are just a few of the atrocities we’ve witnessed since November 2016. Thing is, I think there are enough people in our country that are delighted that FINALLY they have someone wielding enough power in the public sphere to bring about legislation and policies that keep racism, xenophobia, and sexism alive and thriving. I do not intentionally “hang out” with people who think that way, nonetheless, I could name several people, either in my family or circle of acquaintances, that are delighted we at last have an administration that “gets it right.” What’s to be done? Arguing and debate seem particularly ineffective. And it seems to ultimately not matter how many petitions, phone calls, etc., our representatives get. Those with power will push their agendas on us. I’m not suggesting we do nothing. Other than organized revolt that will bring about bloodshed, I’m just not sure what’s effective to bring a halt to the gross inhumanity we are seeing displayed daily..

    Like

  8. This is so horrible. Empathy is hardwired into us according to primatologist Franz de Waal. We don’t need any bible or scripture to tell us taking children from their parents is wrong. What is wrong is that so many people have learned to override their innate empathy in favor of greed and aggression. Siggghhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Like

  9. With a return address of “Compassion and Mercy, Planet Earth,” Eliz mailed a Teddy Bear to:
    An Immigrant Child Now Detained
    c/o ICE 1777 NE Loop 410 Floor 15
    San Antonio, Texas 78217
    United States
    The USPO official did not bat an eye.

    FAR readers, we can’t predict what words or actions will be effective or futile. We are accountable, if only to ourselves, for speaking and acting when we witness cruelty and injustice. Let’s encourage each other to do whatever we can, no matter what the outcome.

    Like

  10. Continue to speak, it is silence that kills justice. I wish the media focused more on people who are taking positive, corrective action to encourage the “silent majority”. Still, it looks today, the 21st of June, that Trump is backing off. And Canadians are calling for the cancellation of the US as a “safe first refuge” which would open more doors to the north. And people like you are taking action that is not wasted, even if the results are not immediate.

    Liked by 1 person

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