_Martyrs Mirror: A Social History_ reviewed

Image result for martyrs mirror a social history

I recently got the opportunity to review David Weaver-Zercher’s Martyrs Mirror: A Social History, from Johns Hopkins University Press for the journal American Studies. I think the book will interest many of our readers. And if you’ve read it, please let me know what you think!

You can find my full review here: Martyrs Mirror_ review


Moral authority, money, world power: some of the things we are losing

What are the costs of separating children from families?

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars to build, maintain, and staff camp, all part of the BILLION dollars being devoted detaining Central American immigrants more broadly
  • The future lawsuit we will lose to these children and their families. Let the redress be a million dollars per day per victim. Let it bankrupt us financially the way we’ve shown ourselves to be morally bankrupt.
  • The creation of buildings that will one day be emptied... and the damage we do to democracy by expanding our definition of “crime”
  • The trauma to our ICE agents
  • The millions being donated to reunite families that could be being donated to cure Alzheimer’s or cancer
  • Our collective lost sleep. Surely I wasn’t the only person awake half the night feeling ill about this?
  • The tightness with which those who have our babies in our hands are holding them. There is an exhaustion that comes from it
  • The terrorism we are justifying
  • The political violence we are provoking
  • The children we are damaging
  • The way our grandchildren will look as us like we are Nazis–because we are Nazis.
  • The loss of our international reputation; the power we are giving away to other nations, who will step forward to lead the world
  • The re-traumatizing of victims of Indian boarding schools, Japanese internment camps, and Holocaust concentration camps–as well as the trauma we are inflicting on those soldiers and others who worked to free people from concentration camps

GTY 965624208 A POL USA NY

Above, a rally in New York against the genocidal act of taking children from families. Wouldn’t it be great if the folks protesting didn’t have to? Then they could go about solving problems that aren’t manufactured by Nazis to support white supremacists. 

What are the gains?

  • I am curious to see whether funds being directed to RAICES and other organizes will drive down donations to Democratic causes, including campaigns. If nothing else, many of us are tired and not expending energy elsewhere. This is a gain for fascists.
  • Defense contractors are expected to make some money, which means that the everyday stockholder will to. As usual, the already well-off profit at the pain of the poor and vulnerable.
  • The White House gets to gauge how much we will put up with. This isn’t just–or even primarily–about children. It’s testing how far Trump supporters will follow their Dark Lord and how much of a fuss the rest of us will make. Immigrant babies are the first people taken away, but the plan is to push farther. Already, naturalized citizens are more vulnerable than in the past. And black men who dare to question displays of patriotism have had their citizenship threatened, too. If you think this is bad, remember that a significant number of Trump primary voters think that freeing the slaves was a bad idea.


The Evangelical Concept of Salvation Should Say No to Punishing Children

Hi Joel,

A never-before-told story:

When I was a child, my family welcomed into our home all kinds of people, for short and long periods of time. Modeling radical hospitality is one of the most important gifts my parents gave me.

At one point, some siblings lived with us. (Many sets of siblings lived with us, so I’m not revealing much here, and, anyway, anyone who knows them knows their story.) Their parents were in federal prison (and still are) for crimes that included bank robbery and multiple murders.

The crime was horrendous. Whatever drove them to do it cannot be an excuse for doing it. They were a danger to others, including their children, whom they had neglected, abused, and endangered.

Other people in our community knew the story of these children. They had lived in the community before, and their parents’ crimes were national news.

No one was unkind to us about having them in our home. It is possible, of course (likely, probably) that people were unkind to these children because of their parents’ crimes, but there was no organized effort to drive them out of the community.


To say that America is “imperfect” kind of suggests that we were close. An “imperfect” apple might have a blemish on it, but it wouldn’t be rotten. America is more rotten than imperfect, especially these days.

But there is a germ of an idea, one that was radical (though not unknown): that “all men are created equal.” We know that the founders did, in fact, mean only men (not women) and didn’t really mean “all.” It’s kind of a Limited Atonement Declaration of Independence: it applies to those to whom it applies.

But the seed was there, and the story of America has generally been, with some major periods of reversal, the expansion of that equality.

Key to this founding ideal is that our bloodlines don’t matter. As Alice Dreger shares in her TED Talk “Is Anatomy Destiny?” the founders rejected the “anatomical concept”


and replaced it with another one that was radical and beautiful and held us for 200 years…. our Founding Fathers were rejecting was a concept of monarchy, and the monarchy was basically based on a very simplistic concept of anatomy. The monarchs of the old world didn’t have a concept of DNA, but they did have a concept of birthright. They had a concept of blue blood. They had the idea that the people who would be in political power should be in political power because of the blood being passed down from grandfather to father to son and so forth. The Founding Fathers rejected that idea, and they replaced it with a new anatomical concept, and that concept was “all men are created equal.” They leveled that playing field and decided the anatomy that mattered was the commonality of anatomy, not the difference in anatomy, and that was a really radical thing to do.


(Of course, Dreger means equality for some. For others–for MOST others for MOST of our history–our black and brown and female bodies were EXACTLY the thing that determined our worth.)


Of the many Bible verses that terrified me as a child, Exodus 34: 6-7 was near the top:

Then the Lord passed by in front of him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

The fear was  justified. I come from a long line of pretty heavy-duty sinners. I’d guess at least back three or four generations, but some of our sins, uh, make tracing family lineages a little difficult.

Having children in need live with us helped me see the passage differently. If I sometimes worried that God would punish me for the misdeeds of my ancestors, I never worried that God would punish them. They were victims of their parents’ sins, vulnerable people God would care for (and had asked me and my family to care for), not people he would punish.

One of the core messages of evangelical Christianity is that we stand before God alone. Evangelicals in today’s Religious Right detest the Social Gospel because of its politics, but they make a lot of noise saying that its heretical, too, because understands salvation as social, not individual. In the soteriology of today’s white evangelical churches, each one accepts or rejects Jesus’ free offer of salvation and thus determines their salvation or damnation. And acceptance is enough to get into heaven, which is the goal.

It’s a lazy theology, but it should protect from the injustice and cruelty we see happening along the US-Mexico border.


Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and hat

Above, a painting reinterprets the story of the Holy Family as migrants. A man with a knapsack and a woman carrying a child, all with brown skin, walk under moonlight. His arm is behind her protectively as they move forward together. 

Christians shouldn’t imprison immigrants or children for a thousand reasons, including the fact that Jesus was a child immigrant and that the story of the Hebrew Bible is of the immigrant finding welcome. But, perhaps even more basically, for evangelical Christians, is that we don’t punish children for the sins of their fathers.

Improper entry into the US is a misdemeanor that does not require jail time. Unlawful presence is a civil violation. No matter what punishment Christians may think that adults deserve for these violations, children never deserve them. Never.

If the children who lived with us, children of murderers, had been in the getaway car, they would not have been treated like criminals. If they had loaded the guns, they would not be treated like criminals. If they had hidden the money, they would not be treated like criminals, because those are the crimes of their parents.

And, to be clear, presenting oneself for asylum is not a crime. Immigration is not a crime. Fleeing violence is not a crime. Coming to a place where you think you can make a better life for yourself is not a crime. But even if it were, the very core of the evangelical message of salvation, as well as our best founding idea, says it children aren’t punished for it.



What Kind of Monsters?

The US-taxpayer-funded concentration camps we’re now building for children will estrange us even further from our peer nations and closer to places like North Korea, where those trying to leave or enter the country can be shot. Canadians are now calling for our dismissal from the Safe Third Country Agreement. It currently names us as the only nation to meet Canada’s standard for safety for asylum-seekers. We’re no longer seen that way by many people in one of our closest allies and a border nation.

Whose company are we keeping, then? Who else forcibly separates non-criminal parents from children? Who places babies and children behind bars for the “security” of the rest of the nation? Who kidnaps children and takes them from their parents with no plan to return them?

Above, a painting by William Henry Brooke,  of the “Sale of Estates, Pictures and Salves in the Rotunda, New Orleans” shows two black parents with their children on the auction block. The last known person to live in slavery in the US died in 1971. This means that there are still people alive in the US today who have first hand experiences of loving people who were sold away from their families. 

Above, Ric Gendron’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want (2002) captures a moment when a native child suffers an assault at the hands of a white priest, who is cutting off his braids as the child enters an Indian boarding school. The artists is a member of Colville and Umatilla tribes whose mother lived in two different boarding schools. 

Child Holocaust survivors

Above, children in Nazi concentration camps. 2.5 million children were killed in the Holocaust. Photo from Reuters. Images of children in US concentration campus are sparking difficult memories for Holocaust survivors. 

Children at the Manzanar internment camp in Independence, Calif. Seventy-five years have passed since Japanese Americans were shipped off to wartime c

Above, three of the more than approximately 120,000 people interred in concentration campus in the US during WWII. These three boys look through a barbed wire fence that surrounds Manzanar, a camp in California. About 2/3 of the people interred were US citizens. While families were housed together, the camp style of organizing them into units–including eating dinner in a cafeteria–undermined nuclear families and parental authority.

Image: Boko HaramBoko Haram released a video in 2014 on claiming to show missing Nigerian schoolgirls and alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed.

Above, The militant Islamic State-linked group is responsible for the kidnappings, rapes, and murders of more than 30,000 people, with women and girls targeted in particularly horrific ways. This image shows dozens of girls that the group claims are Nigerian kidnapping victims who converted to Islam. Photo from NBCU Newsgroup. 


Above, soldiers in the Jikany Nuer White Army include child soldiers. Kidnapping children for recruitment into the military is a war crime and a gross violation of human rights but has occurred in many nations, including South Sudan, Nigeria, Liberia,a nd elsewhere. Photo by Goran Tomasevic. Below, a child soldier in Liberia wears a teddy bear backpack while brandishing a weapon at a photographer in 2003. 

Image result for children's army liberia



Conservatives–Pick Up Your Phones, not the Tab for Day-Care for Asylum-Seekers

Social and fiscal conservatives–please contact your Senators and Representatives TODAY to tell them to end policies that put the state in charge of children of able-bodied, totally competent parents.

Currently, the US government is housing thousands of children, at significant cost to US taxpayers, in a variety of shelters along the US-Mexico border. Some of these STATE SPONSORED DAYCARES include recreational activities like ping-pong and furniture you can sit on while watching television. The lights are on 24 hours a day, adding thousands of dollars in electric costs to our national budget. They are basically “summer camps,” as Laura Ingraham noted, only you aren’t sure if you’ll ever see your parents again and you’re sexually abused by the guards camp counselors and you’re a prisoner, not a camper. Why are we paying to send immigrant kids to such places when daycare costs in the US is over $10,000 per year per child!

While we are saving some money by making older children change the diapers of the foreign-born babies we are housing FOR FREE, we simply cannot afford the cost of feeding, housing, and totally ignoring the psycho-social needs of children who aren’t even born in the US! White American voters have repeatedly voted against things like universal healthcare for pregnant women and children, maternity and paternity leave, free daycare for working families, wages that would allow a parent to remain at home to rear their children, and extended preschool. They have sent the message loud and clear that it is individual families who should always bear the cost of rearing children. Don’t let them down now!

In 1996, Hillary Clinton, who, as Republicans all know, is basically a socialist, argued that It Takes a Village to rear children. Conservatives this as a feel-good slogan that would take us down the path of “social parenting,” in which the STATE, not families, would take control of children. True conservatives like Rick Santorum and everyone in the Religious Right fought back by reminding Americans that It Takes a Family.

a close up of a wire fence: Tents to house migrant children are seen from a distance at the Tornillo-Marcelino Serna Port of Entry on June 18, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas.

Above, migrant children in tents at the Tomillo-Marcelino Sema Port of Entry in Tomillo, Texas, on June 18, 2018. Photo from Getty. 

Big government cannot and should not replace families! If that’s a core Republican value for you, give your members of Congress a call and tell them that you no more want to pay for immigrant kids to go to summer camp than you want to pay for them to go to public school or the emergency room! Trump voters want more Ben Carsons in the cabinet, CUTTING federal funds for housing, and fewer Kirstjen Nielsens, pouring money into “rooms made of fences” for people seeing political violence in their home nations.

Tell your Representative in the House that you support the Keep Families Together Bill and that you don’t want any more of your American tax dollars being used to pay ICE agents to be babysitters. If you wanted to build  houses for people in the Sunbelt, you’d built your own, dammit.


*It’s satire, friends. If I’m not good at it, that’s okay. You need to call anyway and tell the 0 Republicans who have signed on to the Keep Families Together Bill to do it now or be forgotten by Jesus when they get to the Pearly Gates.



_God Hates_ on sale now

Warning: Shameless self-promotion ahead!


If you’ve always wanted to read God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right, between now and midnight on June 30 is a GREAT time to buy it. University Press of Kansas, the publisher, is having a 30% of sale for all books when you check out with code HOTS30.

And if you don’t know if you want to read it, check out this radio interview with KCUR’s Steve Kraske about it and see if it piques your interest.  If you are a regular reader of Sixoh6, you’ll here in it concerns I share regularly here, about religion and hate and sex–all the fun, hard topics!


A Political Recipe for Unhappiness

I found this while recently reading David R. Dietrich’s Rebellious Conservatives: Social Movements in Defense of Privilege. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 5.19.00 PM

The central argument of Dietrich’s book is that conservative movements seek to restrict access to privileges. This is a defining characteristic of such movements.

Think of what that means–if your idea of success was defined by how effectively you limited other people’s access to good things. You’d have to always be on the lookout for people who were getting more than you think they deserve. You’d always have to be judging yourself against them. You’d have to be always thinking about the world as scarce rather than as rich. You’d have to be constantly judging other people, for “conservative movements seek to justify their reasons for excluding particularly groups by defining those with whom they do not want to share particular privileges as unworthy.” It’s a recipe for unhappiness.

This is why, as Helaine Olen wrote recently in the Washington Post, so many of our politicians look like stereotypical old men: “Instead of yelling at kids to get off their lawn or to turn down the music, they yell at women, immigrants, foreign leaders and anyone else who wants a place at the table.” To be fair, she cites examples from Republican and Democrats, but shrinking access to rights and privileges is an actual plank in the Republican platform. It wasn’t the Democrats, after all, who just won a Supreme Court case to rid voter rolls of registered voters.

If narrowing the doorway so that other people can’t walk through it is your goal, then you probably have a frustrating, angry, bad, sad life.

It might just kill you.