BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First Taken, Last Released

The following is a guest post by journalist Howard Fields on his new book First Taken, Last Released: Overlooked WWII Internment:

Donald Trump's calls for interning Muslims and the upcoming 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that prompted the time when America did intern an entire class of people make First Taken, Last Released: Overlooked WWII Internment a timely book.

The book follows one of the first 160 men taken from churches, temples or homes in Honolulu before the smoke cleared over Pearl Harbor. He and about 1,700 others were taken in Hawaii during the next several weeks, long before the more than 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans were taken on the West Coast beginning in February, 1942.

Much has been written of those 120,000, mostly families, but there is little about the first men taken and held in men-only camps behind barbed-wire for the duration of the war. Some, as with the subject of First Taken, were not released until three months after formal surrender by Japan in September, 1945.

These men were moved from camp to camp, in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Louisiana, Montana and then New Mexico with little, if any, contact with families or friends. The man we follow, a Buddhist minister, had sent his family to Japan before the war to be educated there and return. Before they could return, they were trapped there when the war broke out. One son survived the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, another endured two years in a slave labor camp in Siberia, kept on the edge of starvation.

twthumb-tommy and sally
Tommy, and wife Sally
First Taken also is important for its new perspective on the lead-up to the Japan attack on Pearl Harbor. It relies on its own translations of recently released transcripts of the meetings of Japan's leadership, including Emperor Hirohito, in which they discussed whether to attack. It shows the amazing and extreme dysfunction of Japan's leadership at the time. To a man, they knew they could not survive a war with the United States, and none wanted to launch the Pearl Harbor attack, but not one was willing to be the first to say, "No," so it happened.

Beyond that, the internment that began immediately after the bombing, was the result of a xenophobia and racism that still dominates American culture as well as in Europe. That and other parallels with today's political leadership should send chills up the spines of Americans and the rest of the world as a president elect calls for a return to those days of internment and belligerence.

It could happen all over again, not only in the United States, but Europe as well. Philosopher George Santayana wrote 100 years ago, "Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it." Let First Taken and books like it serve as reminders of a past we wish not to repeat.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dia de Las Velitas

The following is a post by Diego Alzate Correa, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University. He is originally from Medellin, Colombia and I have had the pleasure of celebrating Las Velitas day with him for many years now, such that I asked if he would share a bit about the tradition for us here:

Declared in 2015 as the happiest country in the world by WIN/Gallup International, Colombia is recognized by the numerous festivals, carnivals and holidays held all year long. Given that Colombia was a Spanish colony for several centuries a lot of customs were passed and imposed to its inhabitants, among them of course was religion. Catholicism is Colombia's predominant religion where it is practiced with outstanding fervor. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that 14 out the 20 official holidays correspond to Catholic Holy Days of Obligation.

Medellin, Colombia
One of the most traditional holidays in Colombia is the little candle day--Dia de Las Velitas. This holiday was established on December 8 of 1854 when Pope Pius XI declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Back then to honor Virgin Mary, candles were lit, starting a tradition of lighting candles each year on the eve before December 8.

Nowadays in Colombia, Las Velitas day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Once it gets dark dozens of candles and paper lanterns decorate the facades of every house. Even though the celebration began for religious reasons, the tradition has been maintained through the years thanks to the most important part of the celebration: family gathering. 

In Latin America, and especially in Colombia, it is a tradition to celebrate religious events with your closest family members including, parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins. On December 7th the entire family begins helping with the preparations for this holiday, they cook special treats like natilla (corn pudding), buñuelos (deep-fry cheese balls) and hojuelas (a deep-fry pastry with sugar). When the time comes, candlesticks are organized in the front of each house either with long rows covering the entire house or making different patterns like flowers or hearts. Some candles are stood on the floor and others are placed in a little cardboard box (Farolitos) decor in the outside, or trimmed on religious shapes. The Farolitos are usually hung on a rope. 

This holiday is special for kids, on this day, they are allowed to play with fire; a lighter is passed to the oldest kid to start lighting the candles. Teenager and sometimes adults, have a traditional game called Candelada del Diablo (Devil’s fire). The game consists of a artisanal device made out of wire, candle wax and soda caps. The wire from a used sparkle is looped to hold a metallic soda cap. A candle is placed under the soda cap, and on it candle wax is melted. Once the wax starts to boil people spit on the wax causing a big fire (see video). A lot of people have a great memory of losing their eyebrows or eyelashes temporarily because of the Candelada del Diablo! Other people less fortunate have bad injuries on the face and even eyes and hands. Sadly Colombia is one of the countries most affected by burned children around December and most of the injuries occur on Las Velitas day.
A Cold Columbus Velitas Day, 2015!

If you look at the news about Colombia it is hard to believe that a country facing so many problems like poverty, corruption, and inequality could be named the happiest country in the world. But if you go a little deeper you may see that having a supporting family has a huge impact on how Colombians bear their problems. 

Living outside of Colombia has made me realize how unique our traditions are in Colombia. I have been in the United States during four consecutive Velitas days, and I’ve been lucky enough to find friends willing to light the candles with me and my wife. It does not matter where I am, my memories about Las Velitas will be always related with my family back in Colombia and now with my friends here.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Friday Fruit (12/02/16)

Jackie Salyers
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I am racist.

Rev. Diane Kenaston
The following comes from a Rev. Diane Kenaston (originally posted here), the pastor of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, which has a vision of growing as a multicultural, intergenerational congregation where people of all ages, nations, and races can "Be You, Be Loved, and Belong." 

I am racist.

I participate in racist systems and structures.

When I take an implicit bias test, my result is a “strong automatic preference for White people over Black people.” This has been true for at least ten years. (Take the test yourself at ).

This sickens me and I cannot ignore it or deny it. It is part of who I am.

If you think that other people have been unfairly blaming or labeling you ("how dare you call me racist!"), it's time to look inward.

Racism, sexism, ableism, and all the other -isms are the powers and principalities of our age. We are part of patriarchal, white supremacist structures whether we choose to or not. As my favorite academic dean is fond of saying, "The whole damn system is guilty as hell!"

Image resultIt's not just about overtly racist acts and language. If being redeemed from racism meant just avoiding certain words or not committing hate crimes, then I could earn my own salvation.

But just as sin is way more than "the bad things we do," the sin of racism is way more than bigoted acts.

Even our best efforts at "doing good" are going to in some way fail because we are trapped in this body of death, in this creation that groans and aches for redemption. Yes, Jesus has already won and the kingdom of God has begun — but the full working out of Christ’s reign and the ultimate reconciliation of the world to himself are still ongoing.

And as part of that ongoing reconciliation, I confess my own sin. I'm led to repentance. And that’s what we need. We need a whole nation of white Christians willing to look honestly at ourselves in the mirror and say, “Yes, that’s me."

Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Refugee Thanksgiving

The follow first ran this time last year, but it seems all the more relevant right now: 

Norman Rockwell's painting 'Refugee Thanksgiving' of a refugee blessing a meager mealThere is a fear. A fear that they will arrive poor, needing to be taken care of. That they'll be ignorant of our customs and culture. That they will take our jobs, or be dependent on our charity. That they'll bring disease and violence, that they intend to do us harm. That our own hard working residents will have to support them with welfare, and what is ours will be stolen. That once they cross the water, they'll never go back.

And yet, this week we give thanks for a time when hundreds of undocumented immigrants flooded to this land. They failed to assimilate. They scorned the dominant culture. They spoke their own language and refused to adopt the language of the land they had entered.

They brought disease. They brought violence. They brought terror. They were dependent on the social welfare handouts of those who had worked hard to get what they had. What wasn't freely given, they stole. They refused to go back to their own country. But we celebrate them each year on Thanksgiving day.

So which is it? Do we honor immigrants or revile them? Do we value helping those in need, or is it a sign of our weakness? Do we share what we have, or do we hoard it in barns? Do we welcome the stranger or do we send them packing?

A family escapes slavery on a horse
I suppose our answer simply depends on which side of the border we find ourselves.

A month from now, there'll be another holiday.  One that also celebrates a refugee. A Middle Eastern child whose undocumented parents smuggled him across a border to keep him safe from the slaughter that was happening in their homeland. This Holy Family fled to Egypt, where also there had once been a baby that was hidden in a makeshift boat to escape violence and oppression.

We are a Church whose history is filled with refugees who have been the pillars of our faith. Indeed, we pray to a God that does not heartlessly tell us to "go away," but says instead tells us "welcome home." We are foreigners that have been welcomed into God's Sovereign State. Will we not offer others the same?
Image result for "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." -Nelson Mandela
You cannot honor the Thanksgiving story and slam the doors of the country at the same time. Are we a 'nation under God with liberty and justice for all?' Or do we imprison and abuse? Do we say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” or do shout in the face of Christ  "Not this Man, but Barabbas."

There is a fear. A fear that if we open our arms, it will destroy who we are. But we should be more afraid of what happens if we won't.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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