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"Who Are You and How Did You Get Here?" - Monday Moment - January 29, 2023

Content Warning: Discussion of refugees, refugee status, and anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, particularly Ohio HB68.

 

Happy Monday, friends! Today marks the fourth and final installment of reflections drawn from one of my MTSO courses. In fact, this week begins our new semester at MTSO which seems like a fitting time to end this series. Consistent with our previous reflections on place is a consideration of how we each ended up in our respective places. Some of us lived or may even continue to live in the places where we were born while others experienced moves quite frequently. After living in the same town for 18 of the first 19 years of my life, I left for college and would manage to live in six different states in six years between 2010 and 2016. When you move that often, place and home become less defined by the place and more by the people and experiences.

 

The landscape of rural Northwest Ohio is dominated by large churches, farms, and small towns. New Riegel, OH, with its population of less than 300 people, a famous restaurant, and a towering red brick church, is no exception. My father grew up and lived in New Riegel just as a significant portion of his maternal family had practically since they arrived in Ohio from Germany. The “who” they were, the “where” they lived, and the “how” they got there were all bound up in being German Catholic farmers. While my mother’s parents were from families rooted in Springfield, OH, and St. Paris, OH, her own family moved often due to my grandfather’s job. Prior to leaving for college she lived in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, and Kansas. When they lived in Maryland, not far from Fort Meade, their neighbors included many military families who just assumed that my mom’s family must be military or military-related because they had the same stories of moving often and unexpectedly.

 

Regardless of whether we’ve lived in the same place for a long period of time or if we have moved many times, most Americans, particularly those of us born after 1980, have never experienced being internally or externally displaced people or refugees. We have not had to flee our homes because of violence, state-sponsored policies against our respective identities, or any other force. We have never been herded into refugee camps just across national borders, waiting for either family abroad to sponsor our immigration or other countries to allow our migration.[1] Unfortunately, increasingly more LGBTQIA+ people are finding themselves in the position to leave—sometimes flee—their home states because of draconian laws targeting their lives. This is even more true for members of the Transgender community. Here in Ohio, HB68 has not only created a culture a fear, it has put Transgender people in real danger from state-sponsored abuse and state-allowed violence—let’s be clear that denying health care to people is an act of violence. And now because of Governor DeWine’s “administrative rules” regard the health care of Transgender adults, Transgender people throughout Ohio and the parents and family of Transgender youth are making plans to move to states where gender-affirming care is still available.

 

The struggle between the place which is home and protecting oneself and ones family from state-sponsored attacks is not limited to Ohio. Families in Texas, Tennessee, and Florida, among others, have had to make these difficult and maddening decisions. Around the United States, Queer people have begun to either make or actualize plans to move not just to other states, but other countries. Those options, though involve money and the ability to take ones job or professional skills into another country and find gainful employment to say nothing of immigration policies in other countries.

 

Yet, our faith is in Jesus who was himself a refugee. The Gospel according to Matthew tells us: Now after [the magi] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod” (13-15, NRSVUE). And let’s be clear, this is not the perfect white Jesus who needs no help or assistance. This is the real Jesus who was a real human with real human needs who had to be protected by his parents fleeing with him to another country.

 

How have you come to be in your place? How do contemporary migrations impact you and your community?

 

Let us pray: Jesus, shortly after your birth you and your parents fled the persecution of King Herod. Give us strength as our country and our world force some of us to consider moving our lives and our family’s life so that we might find safety. Be with those who are or will become refugees and stay close to those whose only option is to stay. Guide us, dear Jesus, when your story and our stories become one. Amen.

 

Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

 

Faithfully,

 

Ben


[1] I’m acutely aware that several of our readers may have lived experience as refugees or may resonate more closely with these narratives having served as humanitarian aid workers. Please know that we see you and honor your experiences.


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