• The previous post here ended by quoting from Charles Langston’s speech at his sentencing after the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. In that speech, Langston mentions that his father fought in the Revolutionary War alongside Lafayette. Langston’s daughter passed his surname on to her son, the great poet Langston Hughes, who lived until 1967. If you want to understand America and its history, take a look at those few generations of this one remarkable family.
• Here’s a story from the Netherlands that Charles Langston would have liked. Cornelius ten Boom would have liked it too: “A Dutch church has been conducting religious services for 27 days to protect a refugee family.”
Sasun and Anousche Tamrazyan and their three children fled Armenia after receiving politically motivated death threats. They applied for asylum in the Netherlands, and were granted it by a judge, but that ruling was later overturned on appeal and the government ordered that they should be deported.
The family is now staying in a small church in The Hague, which has granted them sanctuary. Dutch law forbids the police from entering a church during religious services, so Bethel Church is doing that — conducting a religious service that began almost three weeks ago and has continued, uninterrupted, ever since. Bethel’s pastor says more than 300 other clergy have volunteered to take a turn leading this never-ending service, and thousands have signed a petition urging the government to reconsider asylum status for the family.
Whenever I talk about that, some folks respond as though it’s just a nice-but-impractical idea — a bit of idealistic religious nonsense. And it is nice, idealistic, and (for some of us) religious. But it’s also utterly practical. Debts that cannot be repaid will not be repaid. Jubilee, in some form, is necessary — and that which is necessary is never impractical.
The sappily optimistic view that’s utterly not practical is the competing theory, the idea that fortunes built on profiting from ever-increasing debt are sustainable in the long run, or even in the short run of a human lifetime. To repeat an old joke using these new figures: If I owe you $500 that I can’t pay back, I’ve got a problem. If we owe you $13.5 trillion that we can’t pay back, you’ve got a problem.
I spent nearly two decades in that mostly white evangelical church, and during much of that time I defended them against charges of blanket racism, prayed with them, broke bread with them, spoke about the complexities of life with them.
And yet, when Donald Trump showed up in our area for well-attended rallies during the 2016 presidential primaries, they flocked to him and his open bigotry. Nothing I had said over those two decades meant a thing. Not even the killing of nine black people in a church a couple of counties over convinced them that rejecting the kind of bigotry Trump was espousing should be a priority for any right-thinking person—especially people who claimed they wanted equality for families like mine.
• “Miscarriage, or the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks, is so common that Americans often stay quiet about their pregnancies until after the first trimester, when the majority of miscarriages occur. Improvements in early pregnancy detection and the use of fertility treatments have increased the likelihood that couples learn they have miscarried, when they once might have escaped punishment for their murderous ways.”
Oh, wait. I accidentally translated that last bit into white evangelicalese. That last sentence from this NPR report actually ends “when they once might not have even known they were pregnant.”
Soon, however, in Alabama and Ohio and other states, women who lose a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks will have to know because the legal authorities will know, and those women may have to prove to the legal authorities that they are innocent of deliberately or negligently causing the loss of that pregnancy. And the people compounding their grief with accusation and suspicion will say that they are doing so because of morality.
• The title for this post comes from the Pistol Annies’ new(ish) song, “Interstate Gospel.” The rollicking album version is great fun, but I also like this toned-down, slowed-down acoustic rendition: