I wrote this blog post, Who Would I Have Been?, 10 years ago while contemplating Martin Luther King, Jr. In it I wrestled with who I would have liked to have been and hoped I would be during the great fight for civil rights in the south during the 60s and 70s. Being 10 years older, maybe a little wiser, and with more life experience under my belt, I would change quite a bit about what I wrote then. I was totally unaware of the concept of privilege at the time I wrote the original post and I thought being color-blind was a good thing. Thankfully, I have grown and learned. However, never in all of my imagination could I have dreamed that I would get a real chance to answer the question that I posed in that blog post 10 years ago.
I have cried reading accounts of babies being detained in Chicago today and translators being detained in New York. I have wept reading about a Christian (not that it matters AT ALL) Syrian family of six who was to resettled in Cleveland on Tuesday, find out that they will remain in a refugee camp instead. I have read of college students, professors, scientists, husbands, and wives wondering how long they will be separated from each other, their extended families, their jobs, their homes, their education, their present, and their future. So, now the rubber meets the road. For Christians, REAL Christians who follow a radical, shocking, poor, gracious, merciful, compassionate Middle Eastern Jew and haven’t acquiesced their faith to a false conservative lowercase “g” god who looks and acts like us, this is our time. We have to stand up for our brothers and sisters the world over. Our fellow Christians don’t get higher priority either. We are to love all regardless of where they came from or who or what they believe in. God’s grace and mercy are scandalous and we are called to the same.
I have realized that I am pretty sure, although terrified, I would be willing to be arrested for protesting. I know that we would gladly open our home to refugees and immigrants. We took in three complete strangers from New Orleans for a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Native country, skin color, religion, or mother tongue makes no difference.
But, ah, here’s the rub!
We live in a relatively small town in mostly rural and very white Central Wisconsin. Our largest minority group is the Hmong people, who are here because they were refugees. We do have some students and faculty here on green cards and student visas, but other than that, we aren’t a hub for refugees and immigrants. I’d love to go to an airport tonight to protest or greet international travelers, but Minneapolis and Chicago are each about a four hour drive. I would love to sponsor or take in a family or be a friend to someone from one of the banned countries who is facing sleepless nights and uncertainty, but I don’t personally no anyone. I have emailed and signed petitions. I have planned to call senators and representatives, but almost everyone I know who has done so said that voice mailboxes are full and you can’t even leave a message. I will keep trying. I have donated to Preemptive Love Coalition, whose resources go to help Syrian regugees in particular. I have been and will continue to pray. But I want to do more.
I feel helpless to know what to do. I feel like the US, as we know it, is spinning wildly out of control and we are becoming a country that most of us don’t want to be. However, there is no guidebook for this moment. I don’t know what to do. Yes, I do have the bible and it speaks plenty about loving the marginalized, the foreigner, and the refugee. And fear. Well, perfect love casts out fear! In the story of Daniel, it gives examples of how to stand against corrupt leaders. I know that the greatest commandment is to love others–not others who are Christian, not others who are American, not others who I feel safe with, not others who speak my language. Simply…others. Period. I feel like I am capable of doing that, but I don’t know how to practically and personally do that. I’ve wondered what I would do in this moment. Now it is here. I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it. For starters, I’m getting this framed and hanging it in my office. It’s a weird size so I’ve put off getting in framed because it will be pricey, but I think its mere presence conveys an important message. A few years ago I had a student from Saudi Arabia and ended up serving on her master’s committee in special education and she gave me this as a thank you. It says “Dr. Terrell” in Arabic calligraphy.
I respect the office of the president of the US, but I in NO WAY respect our current president and I want that written here for all of posterity. I so strongly disagree with almost everything he has done as president and definitely am opposed to the manner in which he has done it. I think he is a petulant, tempermental, narcissist who is only concerned about himself and obtaining power and money. He is not concerned for the greater good. I am disheartened by those who are lawmakers and could confront or stop him and do not do so. I am angered and disappointed by those who call themselves Christians and are still in support of him after this first week. I can still pray for him, and I do, but that doesn’t mean that I have to respect him. I will not “wait and see.” I have seen enough. I am working on my attitude to acknowledge that he too was created in the image of God and know that God loves him in a way that I can’t fathom…and that is definitely an ongoing work. (Reminiscent of Mark 9:24 ” Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.”)
As for the people groups he is banning and further marginalizing (so far, women, those with disabilities, those of another racial/ethnic/religious background, scientists, the poor) I want to love, welcome, embrace, and share in a way that confounds people, just like Jesus did. Now to figure out what that looks like for me in real life…