We live in an era of transition between more stable ages. We face material choices now that will shape and serve our communities for long generations to come. Society is emerging in fits and starts from centuries of essentialism that defined people by race, gender, religion, and class into narrow identities with determined roles.
When asked about Pope Francis’s call to America for a welcoming immigration policy, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) perhaps unwittingly invoked a biblical trope used countless times in American Protestant churches. I call it the “American Nehemiad.” The book of Nehemiah is political.
The new year was rung in with the surprising news of a small militia occupying a federal building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, deep in rural Oregon. Armed protestors, calling themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, have called on the U.S. government to reverse policies dealing with public lands that they consider unconstitutional. The group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, a confessing Mormon, said they would remain there until they “restore the land and resources to the people so people across the country can begin thriving again.”
The recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have led to an increase in anti-Islamic rhetoric in the U.S. There have been calls to limit the immigration of Muslims. Some have focused as well on the threat from within, arguing for the registration of all Muslims—or even their internment, as with the camps where Japanese Americans were sent during World War II. From the inception of the United States, our government has put in place measures to determine who belongs to this great experiment and who does not.