1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN
Secular Bible Study, Circle of Ijtihad and First Minneapolis Circle of Reason have caught the attention of the St. Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) -- and we're talking!
For our Joint Meetup #47 -- this month only on the SECOND Monday in December 2016 -- our topic will be:
"IMMIGRATION: WELCOMING THE STRANGER?"
Time & Place: Monday, December 12, 2016, 7:00-9:00 PM (doors open at 6:30PM), at Interfaith Action for Greater St. Paul (formerly known as St. Paul Area Council of Churches) Headquarters Building, 1671 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105.
St. Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) is again inviting the theists, atheists, liberals, and conservatives of Secular Bible Study (SBS), Circle of Ijtihad (COI) and First Minneapolis Circle of Reason (FMCOR) to jointly meetup with SPIN's newly renamed "Inter-Belief Conversation Cafe" (ICC), co-hosted by none other than our own long-time SBS member, Steve Miller.
In our last joint meetup, we reasoningly dialogued about the controversial topic of the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential Election. This month our November reasoning dialogue will be on the related controversial topic about U.S. Immigration -- "Immigration: Welcoming the Stranger?"
What ICC host Steve Miller and SBS/COI/FMCOR organizer Frank Burton are saying about "Immigration: Welcoming the Stranger?" :
America’s Indigenous People crossed no borders. The rest of us are immigrants and their descendants. Since English religious and economic refugees first landed, without papers and starving, on the shores of the Wampanoag and Powhatan Confederacies, earlier waves of immigrants have seen later ones as a problem. But why? The Bible’s Leviticus 19:34 says, “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The very founders of Judaism and Christianity were all alien refugees or ex-slaves resettled in Africa and the Middle East. So why should we build a Wall? If America is the world’s melting pot, perhaps we can only melt so much at any one time? Or maybe people who don’t look like us, who believe differently, and who come from foreign lands just scare us? How do our religious, ethical, and historical beliefs about others, and about the land in which we live, guide us to treat a stranger in a strange land, when that land is also our home?
Fear of and distaste for immigrants seems a deep part of America’s cultural and religious history. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited citizenship to “free white individuals of good character.” (Restrictions on non-white immigrants, other than those Americans enslaved, were only lifted in 1940). Store signs once said, “No Irish need apply.” The Know Nothing Party in the 19th Century opposed newcomers, especially Catholic ones. The first mass use of photo IDs in 1892 was to force the “Godless Mongols” --Chinese-Americans, including not only immigrants but U.S.-born citizens -- to carry them or risk arrest and deportation. Fears of Jewish and Catholic immigrants from eastern and southern Europe led to a quota system in the 20th Century, and America turned away ships carrying Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.
This begs the question, why did we accept the Statue of Liberty from France -- and allow Emma Lazarus’ poem to be inscribed on it -- in the first place? Has America ever really wanted to open its golden door, like Lady Liberty, to the tired and the poor, the “huddled masses” yearning to breathe free, the “wretched refuse” from teeming shores, and the “homeless tempest-tost”? Or has our lamp been lifted for only the young and pretty; the rich, elite, or expert; and for those who will slave away for less than minimum wage? (Or so desperate, threatened or beaten that they’ll slave for no wages at all)?
Today U.S. politicians speak of securing the borders and re-registering immigrants from Muslim countries. Some of the President-Elect’s supporters urge registering, or even expelling, all Muslims from the U.S., or call Islam “a political movement only couched as a religion.” Yet some U.S. religious congregations and politicians establish sanctuary churches and sanctuary cities; and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who took a tough stance against illegal immigrants, was overwhelmingly defeated for re-election. Which belief speaks for America? The belief in strict controls, or the belief in welcoming the stranger?
Caucasian immigrants, who posed a real existential threat to the New World’s indigenous peoples, ironically perceived later peaceful immigrant classes as threats. The threat was once Catholics, once Jews, once Asians, once Atheists; now Latinos and Muslims. But are there really 3 million criminal Latino illegal immigrants? Or do undocumented immigrants from south of the border do essential jobs that we won’t, all while knowing the Social Security tax they pay under their forged identity will never benefit them? Is the real face of Islam in America our nine Somali-American youths now sentenced in a Minnesota court for being internet-recruited to fight with ISIL in Syria? Or is it our other 30,000 Somali-Minnesotan neighbors who are hard-working taxpayers, entrepreneurs, cops, city council members, and legislators? Are Islamophobic attacks on Muslims and their places of worship the real danger to civil society? How do self-proclaimed Christians and atheists who have shot and murdered Muslim (and turban-wearing Sikh) neighbors, or burned and bombed mosques, justify their acts? Why are atheist refugees still excluded for U.S. asylum as victims of theist persecution? Is America indeed “One Nation” if all of us must accept being “under God” -- and if God must also be called “Jehovah” instead of “Allah?”
Ultimately, what is our concern for our American Soul? That it’s becoming less Wonder-bread and more tortilla and pita bread? Are ethnic restaurants really all we desire from new Americans? Is there a basic national character we must preserve? Is it to be Judeo-Christian? Or to live by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of any religion or no religion at all? Who among us is more “American?”
On December 12 (SECOND not THIRD Monday this month) from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue (corner of Summit & Pierce), St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will rejoin SBS, COI, and FMCOR Meetups to consider immigration and all its ramifications. There will be no Wall -- entry requirements are only our reasoning dialogue agreements of acceptance, open-mindedness, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality. Treats for everyone; no passport required! :-)
Don't miss "Immigration: Welcoming the Stranger?" -- RSVP "Yes," today!
Q: What is the joint ICC-SBS Meetup all about?
A: Interbelief Conversation Cafe (ICC), formerly "Interfaith Conversation Cafe,"is an open, facilitated interbelief dialogue where those with different religious, ethics, and cultural beliefs share those beliefs and listen to and reasoningly question others' beliefs with curiosity, discovery and sincerity. In response to holding joint meetups with the atheists+theists of SBS and to a request by its cosponsoring plurationalist members of The Circle of Reason, ICC in 2014 voted to become the U.S.'s first "interfaith" dialogue group to expand into an "interbelief" group, codifying its welcome to both those with religious beliefs, and atheists & humanists with no religious faith but with ethics or philosophy beliefs.
Q: Why should SBS jointly meetup with ICC?
A: One of SBS's original purposes according to our co-founders Chester Barber & Grant Steves, and our co-sponsors, the Methodist church, Minnesota Atheists, and The Circle of Reason, is to encourage local "interfaith groups" to become more inclusive in inviting atheists and secular humanists into reasoning dialogue -- this joint ICC-SBS Meetup is how we did it, and how we seek to further expand religious-secular dialogues!
Q: How does SBS's joint Meetup with ICC work?
A: This joint ICC-SBS Meetup will be a little different than SBS's earlier format: Rather than have an expert lecture followed by Q&A+dialogue, these joint SBS-ICCs meetup are all dialogue, around a topic pre-chosen by attendees at the end of the prior Meetup. In the first round of the joint meetup we pass a "talking object" and timer, and sit in a circle, to facilitate "Respectful Conversations"-format sharing of personal views. Then in the second round we hold a more SBS-like, back-and-forth (but reasoning) dialogue. With folks like long-time SBS and ICC member Steve Miller facilitating, we've had no dearth of informed, thoughtful dialogues about our topics of majority interest.
Q: Uh, is there FOOD?
A: There will be snacks (cookies, Skittles, M&Ms) available, as well as coffee, tea, & ice water. An expenses-defraying donation jar will be out, but Frank Burton & The Circle of Reason will put in cash on behalf of the Meetup attendees, as part of TCOR's policy of insuring all people feel welcome to attend -- even those of us with no cash! :)
Q: Where do we meetup?
A: This joint ICC-SBS Meetup is held at the St. Paul Area Council of Churches (SPACC)'s St. Paul meeting room facility on Summit Ave, 2 blocks west of Snelling (or 10 blocks east of the Mississippi River), on the north side of Summit Ave., opposite Macalester College (see map link). Conversation begins promptly at 7:00 pm; doors are open at 6:30 pm.
Q: Why should I attend?
A: To change the world, of course! "Interfaith" groups for too long have been a club to which atheists or humanists weren't welcome. No more! Come on over to Summit Ave. to see what ICC+SBS's new "interbelief" outreach is all about! Join us for SPIN's and SBS's first "mutual outreach" between the religious & secular communities, to dialogue on issues of religious or ethical beliefs and society!