Women’s Room, Women’s Theater, the Right to Choose an Abortion

Posted September 21, 2008 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

The Women’s Room and Theater about Women
With The Right to Choose an Abortion Standing in Line, along with us.

Call me a drama queen or call me a woman. At least call me focused: I have one thing I want changed. It is the lines at the theaters in which women stand while men do not.

The larger stuff follows. The right to choose an abortion may be directly kin to the way we stand in line. Little things mean a lot. Why do women put up with this obvious injustice of insufficient toilets for us and too many for men, in the great majority of theaters? This minor problem leads to the major problems we face.

Why do women go to theaters to have our time abused at intermission? And even more pertinent, why do some women lift their butts above the seat and pee all over it? Who do they think they are? Do they really imagine no one is following them, after standing in the line? Do they really think that their rear end is more important than all the other rear ends in the line? Do they fantasize that the urine will dry up before the next person sits down? Just because they don’t want or need an abortion, does that mean that others do not also? We don’t even know how to care for ourselves at intermission at theaters – much less realize that there are other women right behind us with the same problem.

You will not immediately see the connection with these presumably minor inconveniences and larger, more inconvenient truths. Give me a few of your minutes. I can explain. I know you don’t have much time – but that only underscores my point. Why aren’t more women multi tasking in the theater bathroom lines? Why do we just stand there and b……..? And why do some of us protect themselves from presumed infections by making the rest of us sit in their urine? Have we forgotten each other and begun to imagine that we are the only person in the universe?

Women have a lot in common – and not just the right to manage our sexual and reproductive lives. A lot of people waste our time. This political season we have dueling pictures of women – the last thing any one of us needs, so surfeit with expectations are we already. I couldn’t possibly rival Saturday Night Live’s comic caption of both of the leading gals. Nor could I be as articulate as Eve Ensler or Gloria Steinem or any of their counterparts on the right. We have a divided country, divided in its heart about women and who we are. I am hysterical as an anti-choice woman is actually proposed for vice president, which is one heartbeat way too close to the Supreme Court – and other women, some of them maybe even standing in the same line as me, elated at the appointment. How can women be that different, standing in the same line of way too many expectations and obligations and way too little freedom?

None of us needs even one more person adding a few more obligations to our to do and to be list! Both liberal and conservative women are sponges when it comes to other people’s expectations. Maybe these rivaling expectations will finally form the word “no” in a few of our mouths – and that would be more women’s liberation than we have yet seen. No, I will not stand in line at theaters. No, I will not act like my reproductive health and freedom don’t matter. I will act like I do matter.

But even that is not my point today. I want us to learn to stick up for the trans partisan matters that could unite us. Sponging off the toilet seat if you think you are too good to sit on it would be a good start. Joining together to tell theaters that men need a third as many toilets as women do and victoriously enjoying the intermission rather than the line. would be a good middle. These would be uniting issues for women that only appear to be divided. What genuinely units us is that we are ignored, our needs are ignored, we still make 79 cents on the man’s dollar – and there are way too many projections popped onto our heads.

One columnist had it all figured out long ago. I am to work all day, nurture children and be multi-orgasmic till midnight. Now I get to also run for high office while nursing a child. None of these expectations bother me. I have actually done most of them; not high office, but certainly I have broken the stained glass ceiling, one time after another. I have nursed children before, during and after important meetings. Most women can and do manage multiple expectations with more grace than fatigue – although fatigue also happens and often goes unremarked because nurturers aren’t supposed to get tired.

Thank you, world, for always being so quick to tell me exactly what I am to do, who I am to be, and how I am to do it.

Things could be different. Pay us the same as you pay men and we’ll do twice the job. With Ginger Rogers, we will do everything Fred Astaire did, on high heels, and backwards. This larger issue will come when women unite around not putting up with stupid stuff any more, like long lines at the theater, that not only waste our time but also waste our talent. Or health care “rules” that allow medical people to not give us contraception or abortions. If men needed abortions, they would be a sacrament. Women apparently can’t be trusted with personal freedom. Our religious freedom joins our sexual and reproductive freedom in being unimportant. We are to think the way Roman Catholicism and punishmentalist Christianity think about us. They know better, right? The fact that many of us see God in our own way, in a liberating and kind way towards women, doesn’t need to be remarked upon. We’ll just stand in line and wait to be heard — or to use the toilet.

WHY DO WE PUT UP WITH IT? That is the question. Maybe if we just realized we are all in the same line, we’d stop acting like the individual with a rear end too precious to touch that of others.

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. She is the author of GRASS ROOTS GARDENING: RITUALS TO SUSTAIN ACTIVISTS.


Posted June 20, 2008 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

Everybody has a name

My congregation puts up the names of the Iraqi dead on our front sign and on our web site. We update the numbers weekly. They include the Iraqi dead and the American dead. Often there is a bit of controversy about our numbers. They are either too big or too small. We aren’t completely sure that our numbers or our fact checkers are right. We get the numbers from two sources: U.S. military dead and wounded are taken from the “U.S. Casualties in Iraq” page of the antiwar.com website and reflect the official U.S. military announcement of casualties; Iraqi civilian deaths are found at iraqbodycount.org – this is the more controversial listing, as estimates vary not by 10’s and 100’s, by 1000’s and 100,000’s. A man named Peter Gaitens does this work for us. He has a name.
As of June 3, 2008, our front sign holds the following numbers: U.S. soldiers killed – 4087; U.S. soldiers wounded – 30,333; Iraqi civilians dead – 91,889.
We can’t list all the names because there are too many, so we just list the numbers. Last week our web site (www.judson.org) added another number but not a name, that of Christian Cotner. He is the 40th military member with ties to Connecticut who has died in Iraq and Afghanistan since U.S. operations began in those countries in 2003 and 2002, respectively. Two civilians from the state have also died. He graduated from high school in Waterbury and was a member of the First Congregational Church there.
I knew Christian Cotner as a child. He attended the same UCC and Unitarian summer camp as my children did, year after year, a magical place called Star Island, seven miles out to sea from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Year after year, he batted in the kid’s softball game, slid down the slide that faced the ocean, fought to ring the bell for dinner, cross-dressed on Thursday nights when all the girls became guys and the guys became girls. I know it’s unusual for a Christian youth camp. But you should see the pictures: they are quite splendid.
Christian is now dead. He is not a number to me. And he is the first person with a name and a past that I know, by name, who has died. Week after week, those numbers on the front of the church have been lifeless in more ways than one. They didn’t have slides or baseball bats. They didn’t have stories you could tell about them. Maybe, their lifelessness implied, the war wasn’t really happening and if it was, it just a little thing. A non-thing. An impersonal thing. A thing without a name.
I know Christian well enough to know that he believed in this war. He was a marine. Christians by faith, like him and like me, can disagree about war. We have for centuries. I am too sad about his death to use it to argue against the war. I’ve already done that every which way I know how to – and am hoarse with hopelessness about anyone listening. The country seems to be with me on this matter. We know there is a war going on but we are pretty sure it’s not real.
My point is to say that I was listening to Christian Cotner’s life. I knew it as a heartbeat. And now I know it as a silence. One that I could never have imagined on those summer evenings when the children all made too much noise and told stories about who was teasing who and why and what we parents, lolling in our porch side rocking chairs, were supposed to do about it. Yes, our children quarreled. No, we were not able to “fix” things. Still in all, you just can’t look at a child growing up and year after year say, “My how you have grown” and imagine that the child could become a war casualty. No one has the heart for that. You don’t let a child into your life and that of your children and then not protect the heart. If war is real, children are not safe. You don’t mention things like this on a summer evening after the lobster fest and before the hymn sing. You have to act like war is unreal in order to tell a child, “My how you’ve grown since last year.”
I know how much Christian’s family loved him. I am just now letting in the fact of his silence; later I will find some useless words to pen to his family and his congregation. For now, his name has broken through on the numbers.

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City and former chaplain at Star Island.



Posted June 20, 2008 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

Vermont / New Hampshire Baptists Vote Against Gay Ordination

On June 14, 2008, the Vermont New Hampshire region of the American Baptist Churches USA voted to recognize only heterosexual or celibate persons seeking ordination. The vote was 178 to 36 to require a certain kind of sexual orientation as a prerequisite to American Baptist ordination.

Shame is the appropriate response. Ordination has been besmirched and belittled: it is about a call from God, not a sexual orientation. An ecumenical consideration needs to be named. In the 12th century, Roman Catholics argued for more than two years about a certain heresy. Their decision was that “the bread was good even if the giver was not,” meaning that priests are also sinners. Priests are not perfect. Even if one believes that gay people are sinners, which I do not, does not such a limited view of ordination – that priests need to be perfect – offend the vocation and the call from God in the first place? In other words, what kind of theology of ordination is implied in the vote for only heterosexual or celibate persons being ordained?

Historic Baptist Principles have been politically distorted: soul freedom and freedom of conscience have been tossed aside on behalf of sexual identity politics. If Baptists want to break with our fundamental freedoms before God, let’s do it on the Iraq War or global warming or pandemic poverty. If we have to tell other people how to think and how to behave, let’s do it on something more central to the gospel of Jesus. If we must make a minor principle superior to a major principle, if we must engage in this slippery slope towards idolatry, then let’s do it in the name of something large that actually hurts people like war or hunger. Why involve ourselves in such a basic consideration, such as ordination, in such a tangential way? Who is hurt by an ordained person being gay or straight or trans-gender? Where is the injury? Do straight people get hurt if gay people minister to them? I don’t think so. In fact, just the opposite is often true. Congregations who welcome gays in all positions and places grow both spiritually and numerically. In a 2003 United Church of Christ study, open and affirming congregations (“O and A”) were growing at three times the rate of those who chose not to wear the brand of open and affirming. The study showed that the congregations were not so much growing in gay members as in young families who “wanted to bring their children to a place where all people were welcome.” “We want welcome to be normal in their lives as an expression of who Jesus is.” People under 40, according to a Pew study, are twice as likely to accept gay people as friends as people over 40. The handwriting is on the wall: this issue, already old and stale, is rapidly becoming even more old and stale. Young people will not affiliate with a bigoted church.

Why did 178 good Baptists vote to create a qualification for ordination that is so small and inconsequential when it is so apparently an affront to the younger generation as well as to gay people and their friends? It was a vote not only against others, but against one’s own best self and self-interest.

I have no doubts about how Jesus would have voted. Hospitality not hostility is the gospel of Jesus.
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City, an American Baptist and United Church of Christ Congregation, which is open, welcoming and affirming.

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
55 Washington Square South
New York, New York 10012
212 477 0351 Phone
212 995 0844 Fax
413 687 1937 Cell

Gates Crash at Gramercy Park

Posted April 14, 2008 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

When is a Gate not a Gate?

Around 12:30 a.m. on April 4, a silver 2002 New Jersey plated Saturn crashed through the wrought-iron gate on the north side of Gramercy Park. The driver did $60.000. worth of damages, taking out one of seven new fiberglass planters and damaging the park gate. The Park is located at 21st and Lexington, where Lexington abruptly goes from concrete to green, surprising more than just the occasional New Jersey driver. In fact, the security guard at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which gentrifies even the gentrified surrounding neighborhood, said he saw the whole thing. “It happens all the time, “ he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The car didn’t stop, backed up and headed the wrong way down 21st Street, which is a one way street, before making a U-Turn and leaving.”

The President of the Gramercy Park, Association, Arlene Harrison, agrees: drivers make similar mistakes every few years. It is odd that the street ends so quickly. Or is it more odd that the park begins so quickly? This is one of those glass half full or glass half empty problems that bother many of us, much of the time.

Personally I hope for the surprise of liberation more frequently than that but will take what I can get. I take the middle ground on whether the pavement is ending or the park beginning, whether the glass is half full or half empty. I am with the security guard and the association President: I want both to be heard and to be protected, both to be liberated and to be gated. I am one of many who hope we can have it both ways. All of these matters were on my mind last Sunday as I made my fairly normal walk past the park.

As I strolled past Gramercy Park the Sunday morning of this particular gatecrashing, I realized that the gate was not only damaged but also open. I could go into the park. I would not have to view the perfectly planted red tulips through the bars but could get up close and personal. I would not have to manage both the green of the park and the green of my envy of those who had keys to it. The park is accessible to residents of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and to people who stay overnight in one of the surrounding boutique hotels. They get keys. The Hoi Polloi do not get keys. On three days of the years the park is open to the polloi and the public: Christmas, Yom Kippur and “Gramercy Park Day.” I guess Silver Saturn from Jersey couldn’t wait. Gramercy Park Day is scheduled for May 31 this year, from 9:30 – 1:30, although I read on the many sites regarding these matters that last year it did not open on the appointed day. Or that the appointed day was a matter of some confusion. It used to “always” be the first Sunday in May but has been changed. Likewise the last few years many complainants agreed that it likewise not open on Christmas or the Day of Atonement. You would think that the key holders would want a day of atonement annually – just for having the keys. But apparently someone forgot to crash the gate.

Anyway, last Sunday with a brain full of glasses and gates and disputes between the concrete and the green, and who would have sway and who would not, I happened upon the open gate. I began with laughter: It was the second Sunday after Easter. I all but jumped over the broken gate and got into the park, feeling guilty and like a cop was going to stop me any second. I had an unexpected chance to play the lead role in the Easter story. I could be Mary in a reversal of the script. “What are you doing here?” the cop would say. I would answer something snippy, like where have they taken the body, you know the body of the man who crashed the gate. The cop would not be kind: he would say that I was not allowed in here except on the three days afore mentioned. I would take the opportunity of dawn and quarrel with him. I would say that the last year the legitimate opening failed. Plus, what is a legitimate opening? The cop would remember that he too took Philosophy 101; he too enjoyed a good argument. We would give that half smile to each other that permits officials and unofficials to chat. We would have a game, the kind that becomes urban legend.

No cop ever came. I just walked around the park’s circled, graveled, well-combed walkway the first time with a well-defended trepidation. Then I walked a second time and a third, practically breaking into a dance. No one was there. No cop, no Savior, no gamed conversation, just me. The tulips were there. The expensive blue flowers whose name I don’t know were there. The raked gravel marked the paths in the way that speaks of money. I had a chance to think of more than the usual.

I wondered about the privaticization of parks. Gramercy is the gold standard. But Bryant Park is also a new “public/private cooperation.” Soon Washington Square Park will have the Tish Fountain at its center, although the movement grows to name it the “People’s Fountain.” Let the Tish’s pay for it if they must. But giving them the name and the privaticiation feels like more than even the fountain, which is nearly priceless, is worth.

I don’t know the guy who ran away from the scene of the crime. I know lots of people who go the wrong way on one-way streets. In fact, these people are my friends. These people are “the people” in whose name the fountains should all be named. I have no idea if the glass is happy or half full. I have no idea which is the lead in the play: the concrete or the green. I do know if you go the wrong way on a one-way street you see things better.

I also know the truth of the occasional liberation. May its tribe increase. Gates have no where near the power they think they do.

The Rev. Dr Donna Schaper is the Senior Minster of Judson Memorial Church and author of Grassroots Gardening: Rituals to Sustain Activism from Nation books.

Which Jesus is it at Christmas? Thoughts from Palestine

Posted December 26, 2007 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

Yesterday, Christmas Day, 2007, my son, Isaac, wearing a TShirt that says REAL MEN MARRY RABBIS, my daughter-in-law, Sara, who is studying to be a Rabbi, my husband, Warren, who is Jewish, and my daughter, Katie, who is a community organizer living in an intentional Jewish Community, Avodah in Brooklyn — yes 5 of us, including me, a Christian — went to Bethlehem in Palestine to Christmas Mass. We were hosted by “The Holy Land Trust” which seeks non violent solutions to the MidEast Crisis. We left our Avis Car in Jerusalem and took a cab, down the “settlement” road, through a check point, into Bethlehem. When we asked our Arab driver, how he got through the check points when things get ugly (they were not yesterday), he pulled out a Star of David Blue and White Air Freshener and hung it under his rear view mirror.

Lunching over great pita and even better hummus (pronouned here as HOOmus), we three versions of Abraham listened to Jingle Bells on the radio. Who were we? And who was the Jesus who brought us together for one day in Bethlehem? Let me offer my own small thoughts.

Which Jesus is born at Christmas?

Most people are misunderstood. You know one person and I know another. His mother knows a third, and his father a fourth. When it comes to Jesus, the stakes in distortion are even higher. Some think that Jesus is IT, that is to say the Messiah, the one true God, the big deal. Others think not. The argument has a long history. For centuries people have called the mistakes we make in interpreting Jesus “heresies.” Consider Chalcedon or Nicea. Heresies make a marvelous, if useless, study. Being right about Jesus is not a Jesus kind of question. There is not enough love in it.

Thus my little question about a big subject: Whose Jesus is born at Christmas? Is Jesus God? Is Jesus human? Is Jesus both and if so, how can that be? Is Jesus Messiah? Is Jesus second person of the Trinity? Does Jesus save us and if so, from what? Is it Jesus that passes us on the bar exam to heaven? Can we get to heaven without “believing” in him and if we do “believe” in him, whatever that means, are we assured heaven? What about the Chinese man who never heard of Jesus? Is he condemned to a version of Buddhist hell? Who knows? And more importantly, who cares and why? Jesus would.

I have long wanted to ask these questions of the Punishmentalists, who are most definite about their particular distortion of Jesus. Jesus is my personal lord and savior, they say, and should be the personal lord and savior of all humankind. Without Jesus, humans are condemned to hell. With Jesus, the otherworldly salvation of heaven is ours. Jesus is the bar exam.

I call these ideas the higher humbug. I don’t think Jesus is otherworldly so much as this worldly. I don’t like the words “savior” or “Messiah” at all, the reason being that they infantilize human beings. The idea that Jesus is the “one” “true” God strikes me as a sneaky way to hate other people. Nor can I imagine a God or Jesus so small that my belief would be a bother one way or the other. In fact, the Punishmentalist version of Jesus is so righteous as to be self-righteous. It sets the bar too high – so high that Jesus could not possibly have set it. Jesus spent most of his ministry asking people to ask the right questions: whether we eat corn on the Sabbath is less important than how to heal the sick and transform the poor. Jesus is a large warning sign against right answers on behalf of the right questions. He is the true human, so closely linked to God that he behaves differently.

Jesus is love, according to the scriptures. I first knew Jesus as a six year old when my father was beating up my mother. I called the Pastor of our small upstate Missouri Synod Lutheran Church (I was raised by the kind fundamentalists) and he came. I used a dial phone and on the other end of it was Jesus. He just came as Pastor Witte. The fighting stopped. Since that day, a kind of Jesus love has warmed my heart and stomach. It never goes away and keeps me safe and warm. I have dedicated my life to keeping young girls safe with Jesus’ love as my tool.

I have a miniaturist’s Jesus. He is a small glow of warmth — not a large fence, never a wall, separating the “believers” from the “unbelievers.” I can’t imagine judging all those children and adults for whom Jesus did not “show”, the way he did for me. My Jesus is very small, often powerless, rarely uses the word “should.” He is too loving for that. This Jesus is the Amish forgiving the man who killed their children – and going on to take care of the killer’s children for him. This Jesus tells me when I am hit by a drunk driver and nearly killed that I am to love him and not hate him. This Jesus tells me, a Democrat, to love Republicans. This Jesus has a sense of humor!

Do I want to duke it out with the punishmentalists about whose birthday it is? No. What I want is to show how high the stakes are between getting Jesus right and getting Jesus love. There is a big difference, and it matters to real people in real time what that difference is. If the third world war is to be avoided, the walls have to come down and lots and lots of people, terrorists, orthodox-ists, Christians are going to have to learn to be a little, not a lot, right about many things.

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City and author of LIVING WELL WHILE DOING GOOD, from Church, and GRASSROOTS GARDENING: RITUALS TO SUSTAIN ACTIVISTS from Nation books. She is also the principal in the “Bricks Without Straw Consultation” service, which helps small organizations do large things.

The New Sanctuary Movement: WHY?

Posted July 25, 2007 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

How to Become a Sanctuary Congregation

For the People Who were Not Saved by the Bill: the 12 million already here, under constant threat of harassment, early morning raids and potential detention and deportation.

1. Begin with the Why. Why do you care about people you don’t know? Why do you care about people others call strangers? Look up the word stranger in any sacred text: you will find a mandate to welcome the stranger. God is hiding there. Jesus’ words come from my tradition: “When you saw me naked, you clothed me. When you saw me hungry, you fed me…when I was kept out, you let me in…as you do these things to the least of these, you do them unto me.” In the first testament, we are reminded that we too once were strangers in a strange land. Why become a sanctuary congregation? Because it is the basic law of our faiths: we are to love one another. When we do not do what we say we do, we are phoneys.
2. Move to the How. Listen to the language being used against people. “Illegal immigrants.” How can we hear those words unless as dehumanizing? Is anyone illegal in the eyes of God? Listen deeply. Then ask yourself whether you really want protection from humanity? Or do you want something more? Like connecting. Are you not a member of a religious congregation precisely to connect with other humans in a Godly way?
3. Get to the what. You can’t do that much. Neither can I. But as congregations we can welcome one family, especially one about to be detained or deported, leaving behind children. They are everywhere, and they might even already be working for you. None of the current laws being proposed help any of these people already here! You may not have known that. Now you do. 1.8 million people have already been deported in the last ten years. Families are separated and in terrible grief for each other. There are 12 million people now in the country making a living, building a life, and having children. Could we possible send them all away? Don’t neglect to help one family because you can’t help them all. Don’t hide in that abstracted hiding place.
4. Understand the argument about the law. The law is broken. It can be fixed. Just as in the Underground Railroad, slaves had to disobey a broken law till a better one came. Just like in the Civil Rights movement, people had to sit in at lunch counters where legally they were not allowed. Similarly, women could not vote before 1918. Now we can. When Margaret Sanger distributed the first birth control, she wrote the Attorney General of New York, telling him what she was doing. The New Sanctuary Movement also operates in the sushine.

Laws often and always need reformation. Our immigration system’s laws are anti-human. See for yourself. Go to court. The immigration system is the most cruel civil procedure in the country right now. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God’s what is God’s. Why would we terrorize so many people instead of welcoming them? Very few chambermaids are terrorists. We are letting fear of terrorism destroy our nation’s heart.

5. Act in small ways. Gather a group and pray and think together about what you could do to help one family. Accompany them to court. Publicize their situation. Get to know them. Don’t patronize them: many have money and all have dignity. Their legal status is the issue, not their poverty. Our two families in New York City are employed as a busboy and a religious candle salesman. One has a green card and is married to an African American woman; they have four children. Get real about real people.
6. When you have formed your group, go to your congregation and ask them to vote to become a sanctuary congregation. Join the movement. Get active in it.
7. Manage the inevitable conflict with joy and gladness: hate always wins by making people afraid of conflict. Let them be more afraid of love than hate, hope than fear. In a world of hate, if you are not receiving hate mail for your acts of love, you probably aren’t much of a congregation.
8. Give thanks to God for entering your life and that of your nation. Be glad for a positive program with a positive word “Sanctuary” to put forth.
9. Huddle with the masses yearning to be free. Become newly patriotic.
10. Attend a lot of meetings and don’t tire from them. Even meetings are avenues for the action of God. Plus most meetings before Sanctuary weren’t that interesting, were they? Just kidding. And that is the final advice: stay light and hopeful and real, what you have prayed to be as a congregation since the beginning.

Op-Ed: We are all Strangers in a Strange Land

America’s immigration system is broken, and it’s time for Congress to fix it. People of faith of all kinds understand that the so-called stranger is often an emissary of the divine. Red, blue and purple Americans are all proud of the past welcomes we have given to newcomers to our land. A broken system hurts everybody: the newcomers and the faithful, patriotic American. Instead of becoming the people of our worst fears, we might yet become the people of our finest hopes.

Immigrants are presently risking their lives to cross the desert and sea, often under life-threatening conditions; they leave loved ones behind and write themselves into the great American drama of self-improvement. When they get here, many workers end up being exploited by unscrupulous employers who seek to gain an unfair advantage over competitors. Current American policy is ethically disgraceful: we have it both ways, getting cheap labor from people we then disrespect. People paint our nails, clean our houses, pick our fruit, build our roads – and then we call them criminals. Just the opposite is what we need: fair labor practices extended to people whose humanity we do respect. That policy is a WIN-WIN; what we have now is a LOSE-LOSE.

Interfaith representatives, including national Jewish, Christian, and Islamic leadership bodies, have issued an eloquent statement about immigration stressing how “our diverse faith traditions teach us to welcome our brothers and sisters with love and compassion.” Instead, we have a government and a system that criminalizes, persecutes, and shuts people out. Unjust detention and deportations join raids in homes and factories: this is NOT an America I can respect.

Self-aggrandizing diswelcome is ethically unfair and morally wrong: the vast majority of immigrants are honest, hard-working, tax-paying people. Communities of faith have a vital role to play in demanding that our representatives take action for extravagant welcome in more just laws, more equitable work conditions for whole and united families. These are not political issues: they are trans political issues, involving the root and ground of human beings and their God given rights. I join my interfaith colleagues when I speak from an ethical base to a political proposal. Family values must have feet or they are hypocritical; children are being damaged by stress and fear and poverty. Religious voices must raise political solutions or be dismayingly naive. (PS: Immigrants do boost the economy. While not part of my moral argument, this fact is proven. If morality does not interest you, choose pragmatism.)

Alarmingly, none of the current bills before Congress help the 12 million people already here. Only one, the CHILD CITIZEN PROTECTION ACT, might. At least it would give judges a chance to NOT deport people with American born (citizen) children. The Sorrano bill is one that at least starts to deal with the reality of people already here, many with Green Cards, many in terrible danger of having their family values and integrity violated.

Without a comprehensive solution to the problem, children lose protection, local community tensions simmer, public frustration mounts. Without a real solution, the horrific raids we saw recently in New Bedford, Massachusetts and right here in New York State, where 42 immigrants in Albany were arrested in one week, will only become more common.

As a nation, we are at our best when we overcome “us vs. them” fears and forge unity out of our diversity. We need to make sure we hold up our ideals of fairness and opportunity for those who seek to become new Americans and who are ready to work hard to achieve their American dreams. It is time to fix our broken immigration system with a tough, fair, and practical immigration reform bill that makes us all stronger, safer, prouder and richer.

Worship in the Age of Catastrophe

Posted April 18, 2007 by Donna Schaper
Categories: Dolly Mama

When a gunman gets loose on a Virginia campus, or in a high school in Colorado, or planes hit large buildings or bombs fell same in Oklahoma City, people gather in horror and disbelief to make liturgy and love. I’ll never forget the mountains of moist stuffed animals that lined the river after 9 – 11. These little shrines were like those in Oklahoma City, piled high by people who had to “Do something.”

When we gather to worship in the midst of catastrophe, a few rules apply. Gather quickly: don’t wait. The immediate moment requires the great attention of worship and gathering. Forget about the parochial: the name Jesus matters less than the name God. This is no time to alienate people with small pictures of the divine. Invite people who may have had a brush with violence or tragedy before: they are going to be doubly afflicted. You know who they are. Give people (absurdly) practical tasks. Handing out bulletins, cleaning the chapel, involving action in publicity and follow up: the way through the big stuff is the small stuff.

There is nothing small about liturgy: it is the one thing (besides sex) these days that demand our full attention. When tragedy happens, liturgy helps.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.