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Blasphemy and Freedom

Image: Antoine Walker/ Flickr

The Charlie Hebdo incident: we cannot not sight it and refrain from all comment. It would be redundant to revisit here the obvious aspects of the incident.
Thus, obviously, the murderers at the office of the French satirical magazine were simply evil.

Obviously, the killers were motivated by their obsession with their version of Islam to do the evil act.

Obviously, haters of Islam could be counted on immediately to call for hateful counter-action. They did not disappoint.

Obviously, obsessive critics could be expected to trace all the evils to “their” holy book and to discount descriptions of and calls for holy wars in other people’s holy books. What was expected has occurred.

Obviously, anyone who spoke up for patience, tolerance, understanding, and positive responses to the evil had to be ready to be dismissed as vapid, naïve, and blind excusers of evil.

Five “obviouslys” should suffice. Some other voices revealed how difficult it is to go beyond the obvious, but they tried. The most interesting of these were those who addressed some rationales and motives of the killers and their spiritual kin. Thus Bill Donahue of the Catholic League issued a release captioned, “Muslims Are Right to Be Angry.”  To the point: “We,” he wrote, should not “tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked the violent reaction.” Donahue was predictable, but one can understand his emotional response.

“Charlie Hebdo” wanted to taunt and outrage believers in other faiths than Islam, notably Judaism and Catholicism, both of which have their own defense leagues. You don’t have to be a Catholic or to be offended by the paper’s cartoons picturing nuns masturbating or popes wearing condoms.

Rabbi David Lerner of Tikkun took a different tack: the incident should remind “us” in the West of other kinds of dehumanizing in our media. Alas, “we tolerate the kind of endless put-downs that the ‘humor’ magazines and even supposedly liberal comedians like Bill Maher perpetrate, not realizing how much damage all of this does to our souls.”

Becoming concerned with evils that do “damage to our souls” might be one positive response to come out of the crisis in which we measure “their” evils against ours. Anyone who reads “Comment-section” responses to internet coverage of this topic will encounter myriad vengeful, hateful, also-blasphemous verbal swings at reverent citizens minding their own business. Some who comment do express proper gratitude for the non-lethal or, at least, less lethal expressions, and credit Western democracy for providing us with forums which protect blasphemers.

The moment calls for new appreciation for those polities we enjoy which have encouraged inter-group civility, threatened though that may be in these days of hyper-polarization. But people in our citing and commenting vocations can also use the moment to recalibrate our measures of outrage.

In 1988 when we were chartered to begin a multi-volume, multi-year, multi-religious study of fundamentalisms, a historian of the domestic versions of such helpfully reminded us editors that, as we study militant and belligerent religious movements and forces, we should remember that “there are no guns or bombs stored in the basement of Moody Bible Institute.”

The MBI, a stronghold of latter-day American now-moderating fundamentalisms, is visible from my windows. I never feel threatened and do feel welcomed. “We” cannot solve all the problems at the core of the present tragedy, but those who ask us to begin at home to promote understanding do serve the cause. They may sound weak. They are strong.

Author, Martin E. Marty, is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His biography, publications, and contact information can be found at  www.memarty.com.

Resources:

Donohue, Bill. “Muslims Are Right To Be Angry.” Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, January 7, 2015, 2015 News Releases. http://www.catholicleague.org/muslims-right-angry/.

Ohlheiser, Abby. “#JeSuisCharlie: Cartoonists react to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.” Washington Post, January 7, 2015, Comic Riffs. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2015/01/07/cartoonists-react-to-charlie-hebdo-massacre-in-paris/?wpisrc=nl_pdmwk&wpmm=1.

Lerner, Michael. “Mourning the Parisian Journalists Yet Noticing the Hypocrisy.” Tikkun, January 9, 2015. http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2015/01/09/mourning-the-parisian-humorists-yet-challenging-the-hypocrisy-of-western-media/.

Cole, Teju. “Unmournable Bodies.” New Yorker, January 9, 2015, Culture. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/unmournable-bodies.

Saffa, Ozzie. “‘Dangerous Moment’ for Europe, as Fear and Resentment Grow.” Ozzie Saffa Blog, January 8, 2015. http://ozziesaffa.blogspot.com/2015/01/dangerous-moment-for-europe-as-fear-and.html.

Schuessler, Jennifer. “Charlie Hebdo Attack Chills Satirists and Prompts a Debate.” New York Times, January 9, 2015, Arts. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/10/arts/an-attack-chills-satirists-and-prompts-debate.html?_r=1.

Kristof, Nicholas. “Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?” New York Times, January 7, 2015, Opinion Pages. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/opinion/nicholas-kristof-lessons-from-the-charlie-hebdo-shooting-in-paris.html.

Krule, Miriam. “Charlie Hebdo’s Most Controversial Religious Covers, Explained.” Slate. Accessed January 11, 2015.

Calamur, Krishnadev. “‘Charlie Hebdo,’ A Magazine of Satire, Mocks Politics, Religion.” NPR, January 7, 2015, International. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/07/375599183/charlie-hebdo-a-magazine-of-satire-mocks-politics-religion.

“Paris attacks: Millions rally for unity in France.” BBC News, January 11, 2015, Europe. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30765824.

Alderman, Liz. “Huge Show of Solidarity Against Terrorism in Paris.” New York Times, January 11, 2015, Europe. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/12/world/europe/paris-march-against-terror-charlie-hebdo.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.

Martin, Marty E. and R. Scott Appleby, eds. The Fundamentalism Project. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994-2004. http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/series/FP.html.

Image: Antoine Walter / flickr creative commons.

To read previous issues of Sightings, visit http://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings-archive.

January 13th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Parliament Board Condemns Violence in France and Nigeria; Invites All Faith Communities to Issue Joint Statement

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions vehemently condemns revengeful attacks killing 12 journalists and four Jews in France, and an estimated 1500 women and children in Nigeria. Now this cycle of revenge has engulfed the French Muslims with more than 20 attacks on Islamic buildings. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and to all of France and Nigeria as they grieve.

The Parliament believes that use of religion or any other socio-political ideology to “justify” violence is simply not acceptable.

The Parliament urges the global community to remember that such acts violate the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and asks that faith communities stand together to break this cycle of revenge by speaking out and organizing programs which enhance positive human relationship of compassion and forgiveness.

The Parliament plans to organize special programing in the forthcoming 2015 Parliament in October 15-19th on the cycle of war, violence, and hate. We invite all faith communities to participate in a joint declaration with a clear resolve to do our utmost  to develop a movement against war, violence and hate.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

The French Interfaith Youth Movement Stands Up For All

Via The National Office of L’Association Coexister/The Coexist Association/Interfaith Tour: 

“After the attack to the Paris office of the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo, Coexist interfaith youth movement, wishes to express its shock, fear and sadness at such an act of barbarism. We are deeply affected by what has happened.

This odious act affects not only journalists, police officers, their families and friends to whom we offer our condolences. It affects our national community. It undermines social cohesion of our country, our citizenship, France. Freedom of the press and opinion are part of the foundations of our democracy. And this freedom is not negotiable.

We seek to promote respect for all, all faiths, all convictions. We also defend the right to criticism, caricature and derision. Freedom is a precious asset is our common heritage.

Extremism, wherever it comes from, must be fought and put out of harm’s way. Against all fundamentalism, against fanaticism that disfigure the image of the communities they claim to represent. It is urgent to work for national unity. The intolerance must be fought, ignorance defeated.

“They wanted to put France on her knees, instead let us send them a message. We are here in solidarity and united. The goal of terrorists is to divide a population that is the victim. Panic, division, or denouncing a culprit in our national community would prove them right. ” said Samuel Grzybowski, Chairman of Coexist

It is time for the Republic to emerge.

For freedom of expression, brotherhood among citizens. ”

 

 

Avenging the Prophet Who Banned Revenges

By Abdul Malik Mujahid

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions

“We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad,” the gunmen shouted after killing 12 at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, yesterday. The publication is known for lampooning the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.

Well. The Prophet banned revenge as he built his peace sanctuary in seventh-century Madinah, establishing instead the rule of law.

He never killed anyone. Only, after God’s command to defend his peace sanctuary, under attack by the non-Muslims of Makkah, did he picked up arms. These defensive battles lasted a total of six days in his life and the number of dead from both sides was less than 300.

Peace was his goal, which he achieved by developing alliances between Madinah’s non-Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Violent extremists who accuse others of disrespect, then consider this a license to kill have nothing to do with the Islam taught by the Prophet they claim to be avenging. They have nothing to do with the message of forgiveness and mercy which Allah revealed to the Prophet; nothing to do with the law and order the Prophet established and upheld, which led to him being considered one of the world’s greatest lawgivers by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Muslim love for Prophet Muhammad is unquestionable. God’s peace and blessings be upon him. It does hurt us when people are abusive towards the Prophet.

It is, however, the ignorant, who do not know the loving path of mercy and forgiveness taught by the Prophet; they are turning into violent extremists and committing crimes in his name.

This is not love. This is hate.

The Prophet would be horrified at what is being done in his name to avenge disrespect to his honor.

The non-Muslims of Makkah tortured the Prophet and his followers. He did not retaliate. He preferred to move away, first encouraging migration to Abyssinia, which was ruled by what he described as a “just king”, who was a Christian, Najashi or Negus.

When some tribes agreed, he established the peace sanctuary in Madinah via constitution and consensus. He built a society that promoted inclusiveness, freedom, rule of law, and peace.

Respect for other faiths was a key element of Madinah society. Muslims, are by Scripture and Prophetic practice, ordered to accept God’s revealed books, as well as His Prophets and Messengers. We are also ordered to never insult the cherished beliefs of others, for humor or in retaliatory anger. This is why even today, throughout the Muslim world, you will not find newspapers being disrespectful of other religions. The terrorists are not the norm. They are the exception.

Muslims in France, America, and around the world are sick of terrorists perpetuating violence that is a violation of their faith in their name. We are against war and hate. We are also tired of the abuse of freedom of speech to spew hatred, mistrust, fear, and misunderstanding.

War, terrorism, and Islamophobia are a nexus, connected to each other and condemnable. They feed off of each other, perpetuating violence and fear. We Muslims condemn terrorism, war as well as hate. We must strive against them all.

——-

Being just in the love of the Prophet

We need to understand this abuse of the Prophet for what it is: a form of psychological violence intended to hurt and harm. Our response when we encounter such attacks must be to seek God’s forgiveness and respond with what is better: prayers on the Prophet and Duas for him.

The Prophet and the people who opposed him

Our Prophet was a mercy to all human beings, regardless of their religious, racial, cultural or ethnic background. We, as his followers, must live and spread this message today at a time when hatefulness and ugliness towards each other has become the norm.

Please stop abusing the Prophet

It is abusive to partially quote the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, thus distorting what he said.

 

Prophet's Mosque in Madinah

Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

To Understand #BlackLivesMatter,Take the Racial Wealth Gap Into Account

 

Via Parliament Vice-Chair Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield in response to data released by Pew quantifying the racial wealth gap in the United States: 

“Black Lives Matter” can have more than one meaning. We know the meaning, because of recent events, as it relates to life and death. But an article in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday (12/14//14) reveals another meaning–or should. It’s about the “expanding racial wealth gap” since the Great Recession. Virtually everybody experienced an erosion of wealth at that time (nearly 40% for the “typical American” between 2007 and 2010). But during the recovery it is a different story. For whites wealth leveled off between 2010-2013, but for blacks and Hispanics there was continued decline. “Now whites have 13 dollars for every dollar held by African-Americans” and it’s 10-1 for Hispanics. “For blacks, the decline between 2010 and 2013 was precipitous–more than 33 percent” (median income dropped 9 percent for minorities during that period). Why? Higher rates of unemployment for minorities than for whites. Also, whites tend to be more invested in the stock market, which has soared during this period. And then there is the value of homes: it fell by 4.6 percent for whites, 18.4 percent for African American households. We have to ask ourselves as a country whether this kind of disparity reflects the value we attach to not just life but the quality of life as reflected in economic well-being. And if we find that this is true and unacceptable, then we have to ask how we can change not just the dollars but also the values.

Click here to read the Pew Research Center’s Study on the Racial Wealth Gap

About Rev. Dr.  Larry Greenfield, Vice-Chair of the Board, Parliament of the World’s Religions:

Larry Greenfield is the executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he received his B.A. degree from Sioux Falls College. He received his B.D., M.A., and Ph.D. (in theology) from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he subsequently taught and served as dean of students. Later he served as president of Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York, where he also brought the Roman Catholic St. Bernard’s Institute to the campus. He served as vice president for research at the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics in Chicago, where his own research, funded by foundation grants, focused on multi-faith understandings of sexuality, science, and civil discourse. He has served pastorates and campus ministries in Chicago and Ann Arbor. He is also the co-founder (and currently chairperson of the board of directors) of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. His continuing concentration on religion and justice receives expression in his bi-weekly essays (published locally and nationally) entitled “Thinking Theologically about the Common Good.” He is an ordained clergyperson in the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. He is the past president of the American Theological Society/Midwest. He serves on the boards of numerous ecumenical and interfaith organizations and chairs the board of trustees of the Baptist Theological Union at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Questions of Faith on Drone Warfare Will Command Upcoming Conference

Since June 18, 2004, the first day U.S. drones killed people in what has been called the U.S. “global war on terror,” people of faith have questioned whether the use of lethal drones is justifiable.

Since then, the CIA has conducted an estimated 400 or more drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Drone strikes are continuing in Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, including women and children.These “targeted” killings are conducted remotely in countries against which we have not declared war. Lethal drone strikes occur without warning, target for death specific individuals who are secretly selected, and are operated remotely by individuals thousands of miles away.

The U.S. religious community questions the morality of such drone warfare.

Many people of faith who are not pacifists adhere to the “Just War” tradition as enshrined in international law, which assumes that war is always an evil, but that sometimes there is a greater evil that requires military force.

The criteria for that “sometimes” include: that the war be waged by a legitimate authority; that it is clear who is a civilian and who is a combatant; that civilians should always be immune from direct attack; that there be a reasonable probability of success; that the use of force be proportional to the goals of the conflict; that military force be used only in the face of imminent danger; and that war should always be a last resort.

Applying these criteria to the use of drones raises a number of disturbing questions.

What kind of authority from Congress does the Administration have to use lethal drones? Does this authority extend to targeted killings outside active war zones? Is it clear what the geographical zone of this war is? Should lethal drones be implemented by the CIA, as they are now, given that the CIA is by its very nature secretive?

Are lethal drones sufficiently capable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants? Why is the rate of civilian casualties so alarmingly high? Do drones cause more civilian casualties than traditional military methods?

What are the current and long-term goals of the use of lethal drones? Are drones likely to accomplish these goals or does their use create more hostility and serve as a recruiting tool for terrorist extremists? As other nations acquire the capacity for drone warfare, does that change the likelihood of accomplishing these goals?

Is the damage caused by drones to human life and property really proportional to the goals sought? Is the possibility of an attack on U.S. personnel sufficiently imminent to justify the use of drones?

Is the use of drones a last resort — have other options such as financial restraints, cooperative law enforcement, encouraging people to not join extremist groups, economic incentives, and mobilizing public opinion been fully exhausted? War should always be a last resort, but drones make it easier to rush into war. For the time being, the use of drones has very few up-front risks for the nations that use them. They are controlled several thousand miles from the battlefield and do not require any use of ground troops.

The use of lethal drones, therefore, raises questions of conscience for the religious community. People of faith including myself have a responsibility to shine a bright light on this doubtful means of conducting war. We are among those who must raise the questions, and we are doing just that by organizing the first ever Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare, which will be held Jan. 23-25 at Princeton Theological Seminary. People from a wide range of religious backgrounds — including myself — will address these questions, and much more. All people of faith are invited to register for the conference.

The goal of beginning this conversation in the religious community is to study the use of lethal drones and then make policy recommendations to the U.S. government. We will call on religious communities to advocate that these policy recommendations become reality.

The Rev. George Hunsinger is Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Published with Permission.

December 15th, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Announcing the Inaugural Women’s Assembly for Global Advancement and Program Initiative at 2015 Parliament

The Parliament Proudly Announces the
INAUGURAL WOMEN’S ASSEMBLY FOR GLOBAL ADVANCEMENT

You asked, we listened.

The Women’s Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions invites YOU to the Inaugural Assembly for Women’s Global Advancement, Oct. 15 and Program Initiative at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Oct. 16-19, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Join with women of diverse faiths and spiritual traditions to:

  • MAKE HISTORY
  • SYNERGIZE THE PLATFORM
  • SHARE INSPIRATION, IDEAS AND PRACTICES
  • CONVENE IN THE SPIRIT OF SISTERHOOD

To participate in this historic gathering at incredible discounted rates, register today for the deepest 2015 Parliament discounts. When registering please write “Women’s Assembly & Program” in the interest section. More details will follow.

SUBMIT A PROGRAM – All women’s voices, wisdom and ways are welcome. Submit your proposal here! 

 

 

 

 

Register • Submit Proposals • Exhibit • Sponsor 

Parliament Ambassador Launches Spirituality and Medicine Interest Group at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

During my first few months in medical school, I noticed that religion was rarely discussed. As a Theology minor in college, I knew that religion was an important part of life for many Americans; indeed, nearly 9 in 10 Americans report a belief in some divine or spiritual power, and several studies have shown that organized faith communities can play important roles in promoting healthy behaviors. Topics related to spirituality and religious beliefs arose during the Healthcare Disparities course, but the discussions were only tangential. I had a feeling that students felt uncomfortable discussing such personal topics in the academic setting.

For this reason, I proposed a new student organization for the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago: the Spirituality and Medicine (SAM) Interest Group. This group aims to create a safe space for discussion of how spirituality/religion affect healthcare. I thought that this idea fit in perfectly with Pritzker’s commitment to all forms of diversity. Last month, SAM was approved for funding by the Dean’s Council, and I was awarded Germanacos Fellowship, a $5000 grant to develop a medical discussion series focused on the intersections between spirituality/religion and medicine. These seminars will be partially based on a well-known religious literacy curriculum for healthcare workers developed by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. The Germanacos Fellowship was awarded by the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based nonprofit that aims to make interfaith cooperation a social norm in the United States by promoting inter-religious dialogue and community service.

I am interested in the intersections between spirituality and healthcare because my own religious beliefs inform my choice of career. My passion for medicine stems from a declaration in Islam and various other traditions that saving one person’s life is equivalent to saving all of mankind. Through my work with the Interfaith Youth Core during my undergraduate years at Georgetown University and as an Ambassador for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I have come to realize that religious communities—like all social structures—can be divisive or, when harnessed correctly, can be powerful catalysts for social improvement. Fortunately, the medical field is especially conducive to interfaith engagement because the concepts of service and human dignity are always implicit. In addition, physicians are one of the most religiously-diverse populations in the United States, and providers are increasingly recognizing the importance of religious literacy in medical education.

Over the next several months, I hope to introduce other students to religious diversity in the healthcare world, and to provide opportunities for my classmates to reflect on their personal motivations and values (whether or not those they come from a religious background) for pursuing medicine. I also look forward to finding connections between existing student organizations and facilitating dialogues on important topics such as mental health, reproductive health, and organ donation.

While becoming a physician, I also want to be at the forefront of the interfaith movement’s expansion into the healthcare world. I would be interested in collaborating with similar proposals that bridge the areas of religion and medicine, and presenting our work at the upcoming Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015. I intend to demonstrate that religion and science can work together rather than in opposition. I am guided by one of my favorite verses from the Quran: “Had God willed, He would have made mankind as a single religion [or community], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so strive with each other for virtue (5:48).

Aamir Hussain is a first-year medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. . A recent graduate of Georgetown University, Aamir became an interfaith programs facilitator through leadership training introduced by the Interfaith Youth Core and now serves as an Ambassador of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. 

Connect with Aamir on Twitter at @AamirNHussain and stay up to date on his blog on the Huffington Post.

Sanctuary 101: How Churches and Synagogues are Stopping Deportations

This article was written by Esther Meroño and was originally published on groundswell-mvmt.org.

The Sanctuary Movement has been rebirthed this year, with over 100 congregations supporting moral action to help our undocumented brothers and sisters in need. Here’s what you need to know.

1. SANCTUARY IS OLD NEWS—LIKE, BACK WHEN SCROLLS WERE WHAT YOU READ, NOT WHAT YOU DO THROUGH YOUR TWITTER FEED.

Sanctuary is when faith communities offer safe havens – and they’ve been doing it from the beginning of the Old Testament, to the times of slavery and the Underground Railroad, to housing Jews during WWII, to the draft during the Vietnam War.

In fact, Sanctuary 2014 was inspired by a church in Arizona successfully keeping a family together this year (more on that below). That church – Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson – actually founded the official Sanctuary Movement 30 years ago during the 1980s, when churches took in refugees from Central America fleeing U.S.-funded civil wars.1

2. SANCTUARY ISN’T ABOUT POLITICS—IT’S ABOUT FAMILIES AND FAITH.

This isn’t about left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. People supporting Sanctuary are connected, not by political affiliations or specific faith tradition, but through a shared moral responsibility to compassion and justice. Families get torn apart is morally wrong, so we take action together to stop it.

That’s where faith comes in. Nobody questions God’s commandment against murder or stealing. But our faith also calls us to do something a little harder: Welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable.

Some people make excuses. They say things like, “Well, these people came to our country illegally.” The Sanctuary movement recognizes that no one is illegal – that we are all brothers and sisters made in the image of God. And, as MLK wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, “There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all… One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly.”

 

3. SANCTUARY IS EMERGENCY MORAL ACTION—BECAUSE OUR GOVERNMENT LEADERS HAVE FAILED TO ACT AND OUR LAWS ARE BROKEN.

We have a promise from President Obama that at some point “soon” he will reform our country’s deportation policies to end the suffering of families. But right now? Over 1,000 deportations happen each day, tearing apart families and communities.

There are immigrants in our country who have been waiting *decades* for legislative action to find a legal path to citizenship, but as Congress stalls and Obama pushes executive action further away, these families continue to suffer.

Let’s check out the Scripture on this. In Ezekiel 22, God is pissed. He says, “The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it.” When there is oppression, God calls for someone to stand in the gap and do the moral, just thing. Sanctuary is emergency moral action – standing in the gap to protect the wrongfully oppressed.

4. UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS ARE OUR NEIGHBORS.

We know scripture says “Welcome the stranger” – but actually, the immigrants facing deportations are not strangers at all. They are mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, community leaders and volunteers. We see them every day, but they’re disappearing from their homes and communities.

Those in Sanctuary are our brothers and sisters. Sanctuary lifts up their prophetic story and courage to show us the impact of our broken immigration laws.

It’s the personal stories of our neighbors like Rosa, Luis, Beatriz , and Francisco that show us how when any of us suffers from injustice, we all do.

5. IS SANCTUARY BREAKING THE LAW?

Law is a lot like scripture – it’s up to your interpretation. There is a law against bringing in and harboring persons not authorized to be in the U.S. (INA Sec.274) While we are clearly not bringing people in, whether we are harboring someone is up for interpretation.

Some courts have interpreted harboring to require concealment of a person. When we declare Sanctuary for an individual, we are bringing them into the light of the community, not concealing them in the dark of secrecy. (U.S. V Costello, 66 F.3d 1040 (7th Cir. 2012)) Other courts have interpreted harboring to be simple sheltering. (U.S. V Acosta de Evans, 531 F.2d 428 (9th Cir. 1976))

Quick reminder: Rescuing slaves via the Underground Railroad and protecting Jews from Nazis in WWII was illegal at the time. Our saving grace is that immigration officials know that if they went into a house of worship to arrest a pastor they would have a public relations nightmare on their hands.

Meanwhile, here are two immigration policies you should know about that relate to Sanctuary:

1) “Sensitive Areas” – There’s no official legislation that keeps law enforcement from entering a church to arrest someone outside of a 2011 ICE memo that advises officials to avoid detaining immigrants in “sensitive areas” like schools, hospitals and churches2. But can you imagine what would happen if immigration officials broke into a church to drag away a mom? Plus, God’s on our side, you guys.

2) “Prosecutorial Discretion” – Activists and faith leaders are using ICE’s own policies of “prosecutorial discretion” to argue that these immigration cases are low-priority. Deportation would only serve to break up a family and the community that supports them.

6. BUT THERE ARE SOME RISKS.

Though no one has been arrested in 2014, in the 1980s, a handful of clergy, nuns and laymen were convicted in “The Sanctuary Trials” for their efforts on behalf of immigrants3. Faith leaders today are

CONTINUE READING ON GROUNDSWELL MOVEMENT

October 23rd, 2014 at 9:49 am

Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations by Trustee Anne Benvenuti Nominated for Pulitzer (Excerpt)

Parliament Trustee Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti’s new book entitled Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction. The book applies both scientific and religious perspectives to the relationship between humans and other animals. 

Excerpt Published with permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.

“One summer morning it was a bat. I had set out early for a trail walk, hoping to get some exercise for me and for the dogs and some mental focus before the day heated up. I had planned to write about having learned from Molly to love the non-human world. As I started out on the trail, I calmed my mind, stilled my thoughts and asked all the beings there to help me to stay awake and not drift into the lulling and dulling chatter of thoughts. After a few minutes of watching the woodpeckers and the cottontails, the rocks and the ragged cianothus and sage, I noticed a dead blossom lying in the middle of the trail. As I bent to look at it, I saw its fine and fragile wing-like structure. I picked it up and turned it over, still not knowing what it was. Then face-up in my hand, I could see that it was a dead bat. I observed that his little mouth was open, tongue out and the tiny fragile fingers of both hands were clutching his throat. I thought he may have died of some poison, or gagged on contentious catch. I probably never would have picked up a dead bat intentionally, having heard terrible tales of bat-contamination. I carried the little corpse over and set it on a noteworthy rock, hoping that I would find it there for further study upon my return. As I turned to go, a wing fell open, or did he move it? I returned to investigate.

I understood then that he might have been one of the many flying creatures who have some kind of problem midflight that causes them to crash land, resulting in shock and dehydration, on top of any injury or illness. They frequently need water and safety more than any special care. I have learned that a lot of animals die just so of shock and dehydration, and I have also learned that they understand your intent in relation to them very quickly. I assured him in that soft hypnotic voice that creatures tend to love that my intent was to do no harm and to do what good I might. I lifted him gently and watched him unfold and open entirely; beautiful wings made of a fine frame of bone and joint covered with translucent fabric that wrapped his body, webbing the entire back of his torso in an enclosure. I didn’t have my glasses, and, at this point was interested to know if he had teeth. I peered at him closely and saw the soft petals of his pointed ears, but I never did ascertain the presence of teeth, in spite of his open mouth. His furry belly fluttered with uneven breath as his arm bent at the elbow and he reached for his mouth again. Then my mind’s ear heard clearly the words, “I thirst.” Ah, that. I do not know how to care for a bat and I know precious little about them, but I do know thirst. I decided I would carry him to the creek with me and see about arranging something between him and the moisture he so desperately craved.

I studied him as I walked, awed by the intricate beauty and the fragile toughness of him. He had tiny glass beads of eyes. Had I not heard that bats had no capacity to see? It was hard to tell exactly without my reading glasses. His body was about an inch and a half long with fine pointed little ears at the top and a webbed tail, which he used to completely pull up the blanket of his fabric and enclose himself. His wings were about six inches in span, huge by comparison to his soft little body, graceful as a geisha’s fan in their folding and unfolding. His arms were just like mine, bending at the elbow, with hands and fingers just like mine, except for the size, about an eighth of an inch. Again he brought his hand to his dry tongue. Do you doubt for a moment that he spoke to me about his thirst?

I set him down in the moist sand about two inches from the place where the water lapped the shore and I let my fingers dribble water down in front of him. He drank it; he gulped water down. Then he rested, then drank more, and more. Rested, more water. With no warning, he unfurled his wings, fanned out into the water as if he had a gentle breeze in his sails, and swam away from me. Have you ever seen a bat swim? Have you ever even seen a picture of a bat swimming? Oh glorious and graceful sight, oh human delight! He hauled himself with infinite grace onto the underside of a rock. I watched. He climbed, revived by mere water, climbed up under the rock and then over it and then up again. My work was done. On the definite underside of a rock, wedged well against other rocks, he hung upside down, asleep. So this is the dreaded bat.

Love one little thing and you love the entire universe that holds it, as well as the essence from which it pours forth, and the pulse that beats in it, and the breath that heaves it, and the awareness that connects it. Save one little thing and you save your soul entire.

That tiny desperate thirst is indeed your own, and you are quenched beyond measure, awakened in the water, merely for being there, responsive. This is what I learned from Molly Brown, the little dog with great spirit, slowly over the many years of her patient instruction, that words hinder the communications of the heart, acting often as stoppers to the ears of empathy, which would otherwise hear every pulsing breathing body.

“God speaks to us secretly and in silence,” said John of the Cross. Perhaps the language of God is silence because only in silence can I listendeepluy; and God is not shallow. The whole world is here, waiting to be heard, but I am too busy producing private words and thoughts to listen to it. I am so lulled by my word-making that I don’t even know I am doing it most of the time. In silence, words are reborn and they become something expressive, something worthy of care. In silence, we learn love. You do not need information about bats to know a dry tongue and a hand reaching for a parched throat, but you are unlikely to see that reaching hand unless you are still.

Surprise! The whole world is a message under the words. What I learned by way of Molly Brown—she who would be understood and not just condescended to—is that the whole world is there, waiting to be known, interested in me, as I am interested in it, that we, multitudinous and embodied, are also inseparable and in Love.”

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Anne Benvenuti is a professor of psychology and philosophy, an integrative scholar, a licensed clinical psychologist, a priest of the Episcopal Church, a spiritual director, and a published poet, writer, and photographer. Her research interests include developing models for scientific investigation of qualia; explication of religious epistemology, especially with reference to the potential for neuro-scientific models of integrative knowing, policy implications of religious epistemology, and the clinical integration of spirituality, health, and ecology.