I spent the five days before Thanksgiving at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. This meeting is probably the largest conference in the world devoted to the study of the Bible and the religions of the world. Roughly 10,000 professors and other teachers, students, clergy and other interested persons attend the meeting’s 1,000+ workshops and sessions. People like me can rub elbows here with the most famous scholars in the field of religion, including N.T. Wright, Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels.
This year’s meeting, like no other meeting I’ve ever seen, was dominated by current events—namely, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. Two separate sessions of roughly 2 hours each were devoted to this topic, and a third panel discussion moderated by Cornel West focused another hour on topics related to the election. For once, I’m not here to give you my take on this discussion. Instead, I’ll do my best to be a neutral reporter and pass on the things I heard. I’ll focus first on the analyses and concerns expressed by prominent people at the meeting. After this, I’ll report those things said by people who either did not identify themselves or else did so too quickly for me to take down their names. At the very end are a couple of suggested action steps for teachers of religion and ethics.
If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve already encountered my good friend Anthony Le Donne from the Jesus Blog. You also know about Anthony’s latest book, “Near Christianity,” because I reviewed it here, and Anthony reviewed my review here.
Mostly, Anthony and I exist together only in cyberspace. But if you happen to be in the San Antonio area this Thursday, November 17th, you can see the two of us live, together, on the same stage. We’re kind of the Three Tenors of interfaith dialogue, if there were only two of them and neither could sing.
The evening is titled, “Jewish-Christian Friendship: To What End?” It starts at 7 p.m. and will take place at the SoL Center. In the first hour, I’ll interview Anthony about his new book, and in the second hour Anthony will interview me about our upcoming book. We’ll entertain questions, and maybe even, all go out for a drink together. That is, if the election does not drive us to drink during the event, or before.
I hope I will see some of you there.
I write this before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is called, but at a point where it’s all but certain that Donald Trump is the President-elect.
I’m no longer sure who is reading me. I’ve been a strong Clinton supporter, and given the divided state of our politics, it’s possible that I drove away any of my Trump-supporting readers a long time ago. It’s possible that my readership are all liberals or progressives of some sort (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, curious non-believers, and none of the above). I hope that’s not the case, and I write this based on the possibly false assumption that people of all religious and political beliefs are reading. I write this, knowing that some of you will be frustrated that I’m not targeting the side you feel deserves my scorn. I apologize in advance for my failure to be partisan.
During the election, I felt the need to finger-point. I found it appalling that a substantial majority of white Christians (in particular, white Protestants) supported Trump, some with great enthusiasm. I also found it appalling that any Jew could support Trump, and I was disgusted beyond words when the Jewish establishment offered him a forum and a measure of respectability.
With Election Day approaching and Donald Trump being given a realistic chance to win the election for President of the United States, it’s time to revisit Trump’s signature policy: his proposal to deport the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States to their countries of origin. This proposal has many of us thinking of Nazi Germany, and the deportation of 11 million Holocaust victims to the Nazi death camps. But as just about any comparison to the Nazis is extreme, I’ve been considering other historical examples of mass deportation. And 1492 comes to mind.
Before considering 1492, let’s focus for a moment on the present day. As with many of Trump’s proposed policies, it’s not entirely clear exactly what kind of mass deportation Trump means to implement if he’s elected. At certain points during this election season, Trump appears to have pulled back from the idea of mass deportation. But in his most recent statements, Trump has reverted to a hard line:
Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came. And you can call it deported if you want. The press doesn’t like that term. You can call it whatever the hell you want. They’re gone.