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Jeff Sessions and Generational Trauma

Reading the other author’s posts in this series I’ve appreciated how much we have in common in our sense of the role that faith institutions play in the political realm. I especially appreciated the post in reference to Jeff Sessions’ application of Romans 13 because it demonstrated the idea that faith institutions aren’t merely inserting themselves into politics from the outside but elected officials themselves are often people of faith, acting on instincts handed down from prior generations. The Romans 13 citation from Sessions also highlighted that there is an expectation that scripture and faith traditions have something to contribute to policy decisions and that they can play a role in shaping debates.

Pastor Will wasn’t the only person to take notice of Sessions’ Romans 13 comment. The Franciscan Action Network along with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition also joined together to organize a statement with dozens of faith institutions signing on. Their statement, below, picks up on some of the same sentiments as Pastor Will:

“Let us be clear; the Administration’s border enforcement tactics are, immoral, inhumane and unnecessary. It is an affront to religious faith that Administration officials are using the Bible to rationalize and validate these immoral actions. As it was in the eras of slavery and legal segregation, this perverse misuse of sacred scripture once again appears to be designed specifically to single out people of color.

Children should not be forcibly taken away from their parents; they and their parents should not be subject to inhumane conditions… ...We are called to ‘welcome the stranger’ and to ‘love our neighbors,’ and as a nation of immigrants we should be ashamed. The Bible is unambiguous in the call to love God and love our neighbor as St. Paul's Letter to the Romans tells us: ‘Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.’ (Romans 13:10 New International Version)”

I also appreciated Nathan’s thoughts on the inescableness of politics wherever we are, including in worship, combined with the idea that worship is a place where people are looking for healing and assurance and not a place to, as he said, feel bad about themselves. The challenge with this expectation, as Will and Nathan both mentioned in their own ways, is that if we are talking about healing and assurance at a surface level my ‘feeling good’ might be in conflict with yours. Faith and politics intersect on the level of speaking for justice in a given moment, like in the case of the family separations, but they also intersect in the sense that the church’s response will influence deeper value systems that will shape politics into the future--obviously sensing these shifts can be a source of discomfort.

In the summer of 2017 the CRC received a report to Synod on the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery is a series of papal bulls or declarations from the pope in the 15th Century. These papal statements gave European rulers official church sanction to claim a right of discovery over lands not held by Europeans and Christians. Some of the recommendations in the report that were not adopted because they brought up pain in the CRC, not just in recognizing the heritage of our Christian ancestors, condoning the claiming of another’s land in the 15th century, but in revisiting our own CRC missions to Native American people in the Southwest in the early and mid 1900’s and the damage done through those missions.

The learning that I’m taking away from this conversation is that our choices on how the church interacts in the political realm are extremely important because they have long consequences--both on people’s freedom from injustice now and on who the church will be as a people of God in the future. The choices of the church in the 15th century impacted the CRC’s choices in the early 1900’s and those choices are source of pain in our church to this day. Choosing to keep the politics of separated kids out of the church will probably contribute to ongoing trauma for those kids and it will traumatize the value systems of the next generation of the church.


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