I want to imagine not the threat of freedom, or its tentative panting fragility, but the concrete thrill of borderlessness – a kind of out of doors safety where "a sleepless woman could always rise from her bed, wrap a shawl around her shoulders and sit on the steps in the moonlight. And if she felt like it she could walk out the yard and on down the road. No lamp and no fear. A hiss-crackle from the side of the road would never scare her because what ever it was that made that sound, it wasn't something creeping up on her. Nothing for miles around thought she was prey. She could stroll as slowly as she liked, thinking of food preparations, of family things, or lift her eyes to stars and think of war or nothing at all. Lampless and without fear she could make her way . . . The woman could decide to go back to her bed then, refreshed and ready to sleep, or she might stay her direction and walk further down the road--on out, beyond, because nothing around or beyond considered her prey."
Yet, even while this is the case, millions of people in our country today do not feel safe. Instead, fears of deportation, no health care, and rampant hate crimes, keep them from even a modicum of security. Incredibly, and important to pay attention to, post election analysis makes clear millions of people would have felt immensely unsafe (for radically different reasons) had the election gone a different way.
Presently, in response to the wide spread fears for safety in many communities around the country, the students, faculty, and alumni of countless public and private colleges, universities, and seminaries call for their institutions to declare themselves as "sanctuaries" for persons experiencing persecution or threat of deportation. In her talk, Jones made clear Union Theological Seminary, too, would make every effort to ensure safety of its students.
Beyond schools, the concept of providing "sanctuary" for people who are not yet US citizens takes on a different dynamic when houses of worship become locations for refuge. Historically, if a person sought refuge in a house of worship, particularly a church or synagogue, federal employees did not challenge that protection without a warrant for arrest. At this point, a member of President-elect Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board says Mr. Trump has no intention of carrying out mass deportations, and, instead, is focused on removing persons who pose a threat to the country. A question, though, remains, how does the newly elected administration anticipate vetting what or who constitutes a threat?
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Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe is Executive Director of ICTG. With almost twenty years of experience practicing pastoral therapy and providing congregational care consulting, Kate sees congregations as catalysts for healing.