On Disciples of Christ Resolution No. 0319 (Sense-of-th e-Assembly), “ON ASSURING CIVIL LIBERTIES AND EQUAL JUSTICE TO IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES IN THE UNITED STATES”

Martha stood all of
4’11”.
This was twelve years back,
but
she already trembled slightly with age.
 
I was in my 20s
and prone to histrionics
which looked like righteous indignation
to the casual observer.
 
Well, I was in my 20s
and more prone to histrionics
which may have been righteous indignation
in the wake of 9/11.
 
And so I (and the API Disciples)
Asked my church
“to take an active stand
towards assuring equal rights and justice
for individuals being affected by national security
initiatives.”
 
And so Martha stood behind me, all of
4’11”.
She trembled
as
someone adjusted the mic down—
way down—
from my 5’10” frame.
 
My other fond memory from that October day
in 2003
in downtown Charlotte, NC
was this:
a before/
and/
after.
 
Before I spoke at the “yes” mic:
I’m introduced
to a lefty pastor from Texas.
“Wanna move out our way,
Shawnda?”
 
“My name is spelled
S-A-N-D-H-Y-A,”
is all I respond.
He laughs in acknowledgment
of my predicament
and his state’s
zenophobia.
 
After I spoke at the mic:
“Come to Texas.
We’ll learn
how to pronounce it.”
 
And I let myself
enjoy the compliment
and ignore for one moment
his state’s zenophobia.
 
But the real moment
the moment to retain
was Martha, old and small and trembling,
at the mic,
hating the attention,
and standing there anyhow.
 
Martha following my
histrionic-righteously-indignant plea
for common decency
and Christianity
in the face
of my people
disappearing into the criminal “justice” system
and sometimes not
reemerging.
 
Martha following also
the “Nay” mic.
The “nay” mic
where Christians spoke
in favor of security,
and against letting the terrorists win.
 
If Martha were snarky,
she could have pointed out
that in our panicked
racist
response,
the terrorists hadn’t really
lost.
 
She could have asked
what scripture
supported fear
and contradicted
“You shall not wrong or oppress
a resident alien,
for you were aliens
in the land of Egypt.”
(Ex. 22:21 NRSV)
 
Instead,
Martha trembled
and maybe listened
to the voices for
Christ-committed
protection
of the homeland.
 
And then she spoke.
 
“I was locked up
by the United States government
for being Japanese American.
I spent part of my childhood
in an internment camp.
That should not happen
to anyone else
because they were born
a certain race.”
 
This was before I joined her church
before I knew her story
before I knew that she donated her restitution check
to her faith community.
This was before I knew she returned
from her internment camp
to discover her denomination
had eliminated her Japanese Christian Church
and chose to join a multicultural congregation.
This was before I knew that acceptance
and forgiveness
could meet in the aspect of one human
who still radiated strength.
 
I remember most
a woman who did not want to stand before thousands
but knew what it meant to be locked up
for being the wrong race,
and therefore stood up anyhow.

Comments (2)

  1. Laura Jean

    Thank you. Powerful, Spirit-filled, convicting. (The fact that your writing is predictably all of these things doesn’t mean it should not be noted.)

  2. Sandhya (Post author)

    Laura Jean, THANK you!

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