Who to deport first? How about Sebastian Gorka?

Hi Joel,

You read this week that former Trump national security advisor Sebastian Gorka, who flaunts his connections to an anti-Semitic group, had a warrant out for his arrest in Hungary during the time he served in the presidential administration?

Gorka is a naturalized American citizen but lived for years in Hungary, during which time he tried to launch an extremist rightwing party there. The warrant is for unspecified firearms charges, which seems believable given that, just two years ago, he carried a gun into Reagan airport. Please remember that a man too stupid and disrespectful to remove a gun from his person was had significant responsibility for keeping us all safe.

Above, Gorka and his wife at Trump’s inauguration. He wears medals signaling his support for an order that allied with the Nazis during WWII. 

In other words, Trump is right: we have a problem vetting our immigrants and removing ones who break the law.


Who is surprised by Mennonites in service?

Hi Joel,

In August, Vanity Fair profiled City of Hope, an organization with Mennonite ties, in its Hall of Fame series, which focuses on good people doing good work around the world.

Regina Chacha, at the Mountain Mission School, in Grundy, Virginia, with visiting students from City of Hope.

Above, Regina Chacha sits surrounded by her City of Hope students. They are together in Mission Mountain, Virginia, where City of Hope is headquartered, on a visit. Founder John Chacha died in an auto accident a few years ago while in the field. Photo credit to Mark Schäfer for this image, which appeared in the August issue of Vanity Fair. 

City of Hope runs an orphanage, a primary school, and a medical center in Ntagacha, Tanzania, located in an area that faces chronic poverty and high crime. It has been honored by Tanzania’s president and recognized with the Mwenge (Freedom Torch). It is the effort of John Chacha, who left Ntagacha to earn his degree in the United States, then returned to serve the people of his hometown, and his Canadian wife, Regina Horst Chacha.

Vanity Fair‘s story begins like this:

What are the odds that, in 1982, a young Canadian-American woman named Regina Horst and a young man from Tanzania named John Chacha would cross paths at Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia? What are the odds that they would get married? What are the odds that they would establish a school and medical center in a poor, remote, sometimes violent corner of Africa? What are the odds that this effort, under the rubric of the couple’s Teamwork Ministries, would take root?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a love story. And I think missionary couples have a special place in God’s heart. BUT I imagine that many of our readers responded to Vanity Fair’s series of questions with, Like, 100%. 

Like, what are the chances that a Canadian woman and a Tanzanian man would meet at a Mennonite college? Since the global home of Anabaptism is in Africa and South and Latin America, the chances are pretty good. At tiny Hesston College, approximately 10% of students are international students. And, yes, many of them will marry American (and Canadian) Mennonites they meet there.

What are the odds that they’ll choose to serve in Africa? Pretty good, actually. Mennonite Missions Network is currently supporting people serving in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa. I bet you can list half a dozen people you know who have served in Africa.

What are the odds that the Chachas’ efforts would have been successful? A large portion of international relief and mission efforts fail (or worse, cause significant harm)–but certainly some succeed. Real difference can be made.

This seems to surprise Vanity Fair. But I bet it doesn’t surprise our readers.



Guns on campus: The threat of guns makes us less likely to fight back

CW: Sexual harassment

Hi Joel,

Last week, I shared a post about the AAUP’s argument that guns on campuses violate the First Amendment rights of professors. In response, several readers shared their own stories about how guns on campus have affected them with me. I share them here with identifying details removed.

  1. An adjunct instructor teaching a night class finds herself alone in the room with the student who is the last person in class to finish his final. She’s grading while he completes his exam. When she looks up, he’s masturbating. He’s well over 6 feet tall and between her and the door. She freezes while he smirks. He puts his penis back into his pants and drops the exam off on her desk, then leaves the room. Should she have confronted him in the moment? Should she walk to her car on her own or call campus police for an escort? If she requests an escort, will they demand to know why she did so? Should she report him, knowing that a Title IX investigation might not force him off campus, so she’ll have to see him again next semester–and he might be very angry about the fact that she reported him? Does he carry a gun?
  2. A chair is in her office when the department administrative assistant knocks. A man in his 30s has come to the department asking for help publishing the writing of his father, who was a member of the faculty years ago and is now deceased. The man is insistent that the department has access to his father’s files and demands that the department help him locate them and publish them. He’s agitated and upset–and also recognizable as a registered sex offender who, a few years ago, kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 14 year old boy over a period of days. He’s already violated the terms of his parole once. He stands in the doorway of the chair’s office, insisting the someone help him with his problem NOW.  He is intense and argumentative and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. He’s known to be unstable, but the terms of his conviction don’t require him to stay off campus, even though there is a daycare center in the basement of the building. Should the chair attempt to force him out the door? Call campus police (and, if so, how)? What if he’s carrying a gun?
  3. A faculty member known as a “tough grader” has angered some members of her class. They discuss how much they hate her using an app that allows students at the college to share messages anonymously. Soon, students are calling for her to be raped and murdered. The university cites students’ First Amendment rights in making such comments, arguing that, since the posters do not indicate a time, place, or plan to murder or rape her, they do not amount to a true threat. Campus security will escort her on campus but not to her home one block off university property. Since she does not know who is making the threats and the university will not press the anonymous app for the information, she is unable to know who she should be cautious of.
  4. A man on faculty sends dick pics messages to a number of women who are graduate students in his program, uninvited. He lets them know, too, that he has a conceal and carry permit and carries regularly on campus. In this state, revealing that you conceal and carry is a violation of the conceal and carry permit law, but the graduate students are fearful of reporting someone who knows that this is the law and violates it anyway.
  5. A couple co-chairs a department and uses their position of power to coerce graduate students into sexual relationships. A graduate student in the program goes out to dinner with them one night and wakes the next morning to find herself in their apartment, the victim of a sexual assault. When the student reports the assault to the university, the co-chairs argue that the relationship with consensual. The university launches an investigation, but the co-chairs get new jobs elsewhere before it concludes.

What do these cases have in common?

Sexual harassment or assault, obviously, but also the victim’s lingering and reasonable fear that the perpetrator will follow up the first case of harassment or assault with gun violence. In each case, the incident happened on a campus where guns are permitted–and in some cases, the perpetrator made sure to mention this to the victim.

Can people who aren’t legally carrying guns come to campus and commit such acts? Of course. After all, in each of these cases, the perpetrator was willing to break the law in the first place in order to engage in harassing or violent behavior. But adding legal guns to campus (to any setting, since the above situations could happen in a variety of workplaces) only increases the danger. And it makes it very hard to intervene in the first place. Should an adjunct insist that a student stop masturbating in front of her Should a chair kick an apparently unstable sex offender out of her office? Should a faculty member be able to tell her students to stop making threats about her on an anonymous board? Sure–but those acts are much harder to do when there is a greater chance that the person you have to stand up to is carrying a gun.


Image result for guns on campus

Everyone is at increased risk when people on campus can carry guns. 

Want to know what happened in each case?

  1. She quit the job and never came back to campus.
  2. She eased him out of the office with the instructions that he should contact another professor who would know more about this, then called campus police to alert them to his presence and shared the incident with the whole department, which is still figuring out how to basically appease him so he won’t come back.
  3. She asked for some reasonable accommodations, including a peep hole in her office door. She was denied them. She quit.
  4. The students found help in a faculty member who brought the case to the university. In the meantime, the offender found a new job elsewhere.
  5. They resigned before they were fired. At least one of them still teaches in higher education, according to their Linked In profile.

It’s not just victims who lose here. It’s students, who deserve teachers who are focused and unafraid and who shouldn’t ever have to worry about violent retribution for refusing the sexual advances of sexual harassers. It’s teacher, who shouldn’t have to be afraid of students. And it’s the entire project of knowledge-making, which is losing people–especially women–in these cases.



Dogs, Fleas, Trump, & Republicans

Hi Joel,

To your own plea with conservatives who continue to support Trump, I share some advice from Ben Franklin (also probably Seneca and definitely my grandma).

You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. 

And the prophet Amos:

“Can two walk together unless they be agreed?”

The Message phrases Amos 3:3 this way: “Do two people walk hand in hand if they aren’t going to the same place?”

You hang out with Trump, you’re going to end up in moral bankruptcy.


Image result for trump hitler

Is it fair to compare Trump to Hitler, as Philadelphia Daily News did in this cover and many, many other newspapers, magazines, and editorial cartoons have done? It might not feel “fair,” but people judge you based on you who hang out with. And many people worldwide have deemed Trump racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic. They will view you that way, too. Is this the person you want to squander your reputation on? 

“Blood and Faith”

Hi Joel,

I just finished reading Damon T. Berry’s Blood & Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism, (Syracuse University Press, 2017). Central to his argument is the idea that white nationalism isn’t framed internally (at least not always) as about hating non-whites but as about “protecting” whiteness. It’s why we see things like “It’s Okay to be White” posters on campuses and warnings about “white genocide.” While no one ever make the argument that it’s not okay to be white or really thinks that the world’s white population will be systematically exterminated, these are appeals to white resentment about losing power–and they are threats to nonwhite people on campuses. Berry eloquently argues that it is “loving attachment to the imagined racial community” that produces racial hatred (14).

Blood and Faith

Above, the cover of Blood and Faith shows a roof with a cross on it. 

As Berry points out, though, none of this is new. In writing about the early 20th century, he observes,

“To many Americans of that era, it seemed like the world was not working for them, the nation was imperiled by elites, a code for Jews, and that there was no future in hoping that any established institutions could set right what was wrong.”

Sound familiar?  This seems to be much of the explanation offered for the 2016 election. Economic reality was not keeping pace with the expectation of entitled whites. Anti-semitism was rising. Republican incompetence and overt efforts to undermine government as a force for the common good were paying off.

By the middle of the 20th century, white nationalists were not just “recovering and recoding old-time racism” as a political strategy for the Republican Party but attempting to

“fix what they regarded as conservatives’ failure to keep central the ideals of race that had previously guided immigrant policies, upheld segregation, and maintained white control of central private and public institutions” (77).

The italics there are mine. Berry is referencing our 1920s immigrant policies, in force through the mid-60s, that placed quotas on immigration based on nation of origin. The goal wasn’t to bring to America the immigrants who most needed to flee or the ones who had the skills to enhance America’s economic or cultural interests but the ones who were white. Mid-century whites were angry that political conservatives weren’t taking up the racist policies of the past. Many of the people Berry profiles wrote for outlets like National Review or were part of the John Birch Society but ultimately didn’t feel that these icons of conservatism were properly anti-Semitic or racist.

The logic of white supremacy is the logic Trump that uses now. There is nothing about a Norwegian (who Trump wants more of) that makes them useful to the US. Indeed, it is immigrants from the places Trump most despises who do so much of the hard work here: farm work, meat packing, sanitation work in hospitals, hotel cleaning, elder care and child care. By Norwegian, Trump just means white. He wants white immigrants.

Trump is not alone in his thinking. Coolidge signed the Johnson-Reed Act that gave us Asian exclusion and quotas for European immigrants. And it stood as law for 40 years over 6 presidents. Berry writes:

“The ideas that defined American white nationalism in the years after World War II were not born in the subterranean currents of the extreme right in the middle and late twentieth century but in the mainstream colonialist logic that began to take shape five hundred years earlier” (74).

In other words, this is a much longer history. But, at the same time, we cannot ignore that this is a strategy of today’s white nationalists.



“Slavery is freedom” for many conservatives.

CW: Racism

Hi Joel,

Trump’s comments calling predominately black nations “shitholes” aren’t just racist comments about those places. They are far more sinister.

This is the logic that underlies one defense of slavery: that enslaved Africans and African Americans were “better off” as slaves in the colonies and the US than they would have been in Africa.

The next part of this argument is that African Americans were better off during slavery than they are now. 

And they should be grateful for the white people who enslaved them.

And, finally, that America itself was better off during slavery.

The bigger argument is that racial oppression is good for the oppressed and the oppressor so we should do more of it.

And Trump isn’t alone in making it.

Roy Moore argued that families were stronger during slavery–showing that he only thinks about “strong families” in terms of white families, he ignores the ubiquitous sexual violence of white men against enslaved women and the enslaved children it produced, and.or he thinks that black families today are so “bad” that they were actually better off under slavery.

This is the logic of The Marriage Vow, a document created by conservative Christians and presented before the 2011 Republican primary candidates. The original draft of the document said:

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African American President.”

Minnesota Republican Representative Michele Bachmann signed it, as did Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. The document was later revised to remove the offending passage, and Bachmann’s spokesperson clarified that Bachmann “believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible.”

And by “economic enslavement,” Bachmann means that white people are “enslaved” in a tax system that transfers their wealth to lazy people of color through welfare programs and that black people are “slaves” to the welfare system themselves.

In 2010, Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks said that “far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery.” Yes, in this logic, Temporary Aid to Needy Families and food stamp benefits are worse than life-long, race-based, inheritable enslavement. 

And here’s Pat Buchanan, in 2008, in response to the candidacy of Barack Obama:

“It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”

This was due to the generosity of white Americans. Buchanan argues:

“[N]o people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.”

White people did this, he argues, even though their generosity came at great and unfair cost to white people:

“Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.”

But African Americans, Buchanan says, shaking his head, just can’t be pleased! “We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?”

Here is the sum of Buchanan’s argument: we white people generously brought 600,000 people here, where they flourished, and what do we get? High taxes, high crime, and ingratitude! Ungrateful, of course, is just another word for uppity. 

The implication here is that you can remove the person from the shithole, but you can’t remove the shithole from the person. This is why it didn’t take long for Politico to find some racist Trump fans to guffaw that the NFL, filled with black athletes, some of whom are calling attention to police brutality, stands for “N—- for Life.” It’s not just that the NFL has lots of African American players. This racist logic says that there is some quality of blackness that so deeply engrained that it cannot be socialized out of African Americans. You can give them nice jobs and a million dollar salary, or you can give them emancipation and desegregated schools, or you can give them food stamps and government housing, but it won’t matter: this inferiority can’t be overcome.

In this framework, slavery was a “civilizing” force. Here’s Cliven Bundy, the rancher who led a standoff against federal agents while occupying federal land, and a hero to many libertarians and right-wingers and who, just this week, was released from jail, his case dismissed:

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?… They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Emancipation resulted in less freedom because we replaced slavery with a welfare system that discourages work. That’s not just Bundy. It’s what white conservatives hear every time Michele Bachmann or another Republican suggests that “slavery” and “economic slavery”–paying taxes that support the social safety net–are the same thing.

Better than freedom and more than such shithole people deserve. That’s what many white conservatives think about slavery. 

That African Americans were cut out of the best paying jobs, the unionized ones with pensions, doesn’t matter.

That most people who use welfare benefits are white doesn’t matter.

That we spend more money on wealthfare–subsidized for the already wealthy–and that this money goes disproportionally to white people doesn’t matter.

What matters is that white people believe that their taxes go to support people who are and will always be shithole people.



The Mennonite Future is African, Haitian, and Salvadoran

All our Christian readers and especially our Mennonite readers should be up in arms (I’m not sure how Mennonites do that, but you get the point) about Donald Trump’s hateful comments about African nations, Haiti, and El Salvador.

The Mennonite church is now centered on Africa and Latin and South America. It’s not just that the future of the church is in these parts of the world: the present of it is too. There are just over 500,000 baptized members of Anabaptist churches in the US. Twenty-three African nations have Mennonite communities, including more than 200,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone.  And if you look at the obituaries in The Mennonite or other Mennonite publications, you see that we North American white Mennonites are not repopulating. Folks dying in their 80s and 90s now had a dozen siblings, half a dozen children, and half a dozen grandchildren. In contrast, the UN predicts that Africa will be responsible for half of the world’s population growth between now and 2050. Obviously, not everyone born into a Mennonite family chooses to become Mennonite, but the odds are that, just on birth rate alone, Africa and South and Latin America will continue to be the global home of Anabaptism.

Above, the Mennonite World Conference’s map of global Anabaptism, using data from 2015. 

Besides that, Africa and South and Latin America and other places where imperialist powers have historically extracted and continue to extract labor and resources–these are the places where Christianity is growing. The people of these places keep Christianity alive at all. If it was up to the wealthy nations, we would have no faith.