where else to find me
in a world of confusion
injustice unintelligibility deception
SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO: email@example.com
Your email address:
Welcome to my website!
Hope you find something that makes you think.
We can make the world a better place by loving one another—meaningfully. I believe that with all my heart, head, and soul.
I am a published historian (PhD) in US history, a liberation theologian (MTS), documentary film maker, minister, author, and speaker. I am known for my advocacy for undocumented immigrants and for having been the first Baptist minister to officiate at a legal same-sex wedding.
The Second Cooler
2013, for Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC
Narrated by Martin Sheen
Written, Directed, and Edited by Ellin Jimmerson
BUY FILM DOWNLOAD
DVD/CD SOLD OUT!
There are 11 million migrants in the US illegally.
Why? Who benefits?REVIEWS
The Second Cooler Home Page
The Second Cooler
The Second Cooler—Reviews
"Profound!" "After I watched The Second Cooler, I could barely move. Profound." —Dr. Alice Hunt, President, Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois, USA
"Highest recommendation!" "I find The Second Cooler, the documentary on Latin American immigration to the United States produced and directed by the Rev. Dr. Ellin Jimmerson, to be excellent in every respect. It provides an expansive, critical account of the causes, trajectories, and consequences of this migration against the background of United States-Latin American relations over time. From beginning to end, it is keenly well-informed, well-presented, and well-argued. It is a must for any serious understanding of this growing crisis and a marvelous tool for learning and discussion in any academic context. It receives, I am delighted to say, my highest recommendation.” —Prof. Dr. Fernando F. Segovia, Oberlin Graduate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, The Divinity School, The Graduate Department of Religion, The Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University "Connects the dots!" "My wife and I watched The Second Cooler last night. We were blown away! We were horrified, deeply disturbed and broken hearted to see the systemic problems that have been purposely perpetrated upon Central America by the United States. I am embarrassed to say there was a good bit in the film I did not know. There were also many, many puzzle pieces that fell into place as [Ellin Jimmerson] connected the dots throughout the film.
This is a very important film. As a woman of at least average intelligence, being unaware of so much in the film, I cannot help but think others who care deeply are unaware also. I see this film as a plumb line of sorts for individuals to see, recognize, and accept our part and responsibility in not only this atrocity, but in its solution. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” —Darla O, Baton Rouge, LA
"A great work!" “The Second Cooler is a great work: rich in detail and history, strong in giving voice to those who might otherwise be voiceless. Ellin is giving us an important view into an America that says more about us than the one we see portrayed in the media everyday.” —David Person, Host, WEUPTalk, WEUP_AM Member, Board of Contributors, USA Today, Freelance arts reporter, National Public Radio Huntsville, Alabama, USA
"Prophetic!" “We all need to shout about this film! It is prophetic and can change lives and systems.” —Rev. Howard Williams RIP, Minister of Spiritual Formation, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, USA
"An important contribution!" “I’ve now had a chance to view The Second Cooler which I think represents an important contribution to the debate about immigrant labour in the United States, Mexico and Central America. In most countries this debate is coloured by anti-immigrant bias, but this film tackles the issue head-on by proposing cross-border union organizing as an answer.” —Eric Lee, LabourStart.org, London, England
"I had to have breaks." “I really did not know how bad the problem of immigration was and how it originated. I knew the ex-president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas, was a horrible president, but I did not know exactly why until now. It was really painful to see the number of people who have died since 1997. I did not like to know that even 12 year old girls had died trying to go to the US to find their parents. I had to have breaks while I was proof-reading the documentary because the facts and numbers were really hurtful. I see now that these people going to the US only want to take care of their families and our government [i.e., of Mexico] has not only failed them but has ruined their lives. My favorite part of the documentary was when a woman said that she would love to see our president [Felipe Calderon] trying to cross the border. I, too, think that would be a good idea.” —Olivia M. Gutiérrez, Mérida, Cancún, México
"Goes where few others go!" “Simply put, The Second Cooler is a perfectly woven tapestry of heartbreak, epiphanies, and realities that not many are willing to speak of but that people desperately need to bring to light. As an undocumented immigrant, I have heard many other immigrants tell me how they ‘forgot’ the crossing or that ‘it’s been too long’ for them to remember. I was 6 years old when I crossed the border, and I have not forgotten a single second of that point in my life, nor will I ever let myself forget. To forget such a time in my life would be treason to the sacrifices that were made on my family’s part to bring me to this country. With that said, The Second Cooler captures the stories of other immigrants who were and are in the same situation I was, as well as raise a question not many ask—why do we come? While this question is rare, the following is even rarer: what caused us to leave and who brought us into that situation? What happens to those who fail in their attempt to come to the US? This film tries and succeeds in dissecting these questions. Most importantly, The Second Cooler goes where few other films go by presenting the reality exactly as is, no filters presented, required, or encouraged.” —Victor Palafox, Undocumented, Alabama, USA "Incredible!" “The Second Cooler is INCREDIBLE. I can’t stop thinking about it. Such a powerful message and so well-constructed. The image of the morgue in the opening of the film is so compelling. And the parallel Ellin Jimmerson makes between civil rights for African Americans and immigrants rights. Wow. I thought I knew something about this topic already but this film opened my eyes.” —Lisa A. Dordal, poet “Commemorations”, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Brilliant protest art! "Although I am old in the struggle for human and civil rights with 30 years of engagement, it seems it would take me to come to Birmingham, Alabama to engage the immigrant justice issue.
Growing up in Chicago in the 70s, I was aware of the Chicano Power movement and the liberation struggles of other immigrants. The fight was a collective effort that tied into the Black Power movement in Chicago. Growing up next to families from Mexico as well as Puerto Rico was not an issue for me; we lived, learned and played with families from these countries.
Now as the exploitation of migrant workers through the horrid H-2 program pierces my heart, I am thinking of my friends with whom I have shared drink and bread. I am growing in disgust and rage as my sistren and brethren suffer labor and human rights violations. As a student of African History versed in the trans-Atlantic slave trade as well as having family that had been sharecroppers, this H-2 program is not dissimilar from either system.
I have now seen this brilliant documentary by my friend, Ellin Jimmerson, narrated by the great Martin Sheen. I am completely taken, it was not just well filmed, I was moved…more to rage and wish for action than tears.
What hit my heart the hardest was indeed Mary Bauer's work on “fixing” the H-2 program and the issues at Etowah Detention Center here in Alabama which I have engaged as protest with friends of mine.
The Second Cooler stands as Protest Art, the long history of humans using an art form to protest oppression, repression of evil regimes. It is also for me a powerful presentation for those who wish to organize around migrant justice, the ill and demented treatment by representatives of the United States Government of citizens of the Earth.
Our organization, Dynamite Hill-Smithfield Community Land Trust, supports the Human Right To Home. This is the right for ALL people to live, move and thrive wherever they please on the planet. Thank you Ellin and friends for putting this incredible work together. The Second Cooler is an in depth and well organized documentary, one of the most important docs at this time.”—Rev. Majadi Baruti, Udja Temple, Birmingham, Alabama, USA "Brilliant!" "It’s always a sign that a documentary is great on many levels when I weep at the end, as I did at Ellin Jimmerson’s The Second Cooler. Also, my deepest condolences about her daughter—that made the ending hit even more profound. I couldn’t help to think throughout The Second Cooler that many of the stories that she depicted are very similar to the stories being presented now as if they just started happening. Vivid harrowing stories, the types of stories that need to be told.
I also appreciated that she went deeply into NAFTA. It is clear that it is much more than a “free trade agreement” and more the imposition of an economic model that has caused utter devastation in Mexico as its brother CAFTA is doing in Central America. So few reports on the border make those connections to the root causes, and by learning the impacts of U.S. foreign policy (in this case in the economic realm) we can begin to understand other critical dimensions of the border. And that is the beauty of The Second Cooler—the border extends from Oaxaca to Alabama and beyond. I felt that very core understanding throughout.
In that sense, too, I loved how she expertly tackled the “migrants will only do work that Americans won’t do” cliche via the on-the-ground and union perspective from Alabama—that ultimately called for a united, rather than divided, front.
The Second Cooler is a brilliant documentary with on the ground interviews with people who bared their soul, eliciting not only strong waves of compassion and empathy, but also a diverse and multi-faceted analysis that didn’t shy away from big theories and ideas such as global apartheid. Thank you.” —Todd Miller, Author, Storming The Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Frontlines of Homeland Security, and Empire of Borders: How the US is Exporting Its Borders Around the World. "Nothing short of magnificent!" "The Second Cooler is nothing short of magnificent. The blend of art (both musical and visual) and hard empirical reality is jarring and powerful. I never really understood the character and scope of NAFTA’s impact upon the Mexican peasantry until I watched. A lot will stir controversy, not the least 'Arizona, the new Alabama.' Ellin Jimmerson’s postscript about her daughter is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.” —Dr. J. David Gillespie, Dana Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, Presbyterian College, Professor of Political Science, The Citadel and The College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Author, Politics at the Periphery: Third Parties in Two-Party America (1993); Challengers to Duopoly: Why Third Parties Matter in American Two-Party Politics(2011)
"Should be seen by all! "The Second Cooler reminds us that simplistic solutions to complex problems like immigration can often have terrible human consequences. The film should be seen by all who wish to understand the human dimensions of undocumented migration.” —Douglas S. Massey, Office of Population Research, Department of Sociology, Princeton University, Director, The Latin American Migration Project and the Center for Migration and Development, President, American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2006-present, Antonio García Cubas Prize, Best Book on Mexican Art, National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico City, 2001, for Milagros en la Frontera / Miracles on the Border, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
"Will mess up your mind!" “The Second Cooler will mess up your mind, open your eyes, and break your heart. Every person of faith will find this documentary hard to dismiss or forget.” —J. Wayne Flynt, Historian, Professor Emeritus, Auburn University. Author and co-author of 11 books. His Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites (1990) and Alabama: A History of a Deep South State, were nominated for Pulitzer Prizes. Editor-in-Chief, online Encyclopedia of Alabama. Co-founder, Alabama Poverty Project and Sowing Seeds of Hope (Perry County)
"Blew me away!" “I’ve been trying to think of what to tell you about your movie, but I feel that just telling what I enjoyed about it would be best. I liked how it informed us basically what NAFTA was and the effects it had on Mexican farmers. The parts that described the difficulty of the journey to the border was very eye opening. The mother that lost her 1 year old child was just heartbreaking. The fact that your film also showed the viewpoints of groups and individuals who are anti-immigrants was well done. The part that just blew me away was the list of the girls who died while attempting to cross. Their ages and names just made me remember how close I was to ending up on a list like that. So I really want to just thank you for everything that you’ve done, the work and dedication that you’re showing, and simply for still continuing what you’re doing. I’m glad to have met you and glad to have been able to see this film.” —Jose Cuicahua-Perez, Dreamer, Pelham, AL, USA
"Powerful" “What a powerful film! I have never felt such sorrow and compassion for a group of people that have been so totally screwed by greed and politics. Sickening!” —Jennifer Sherman, Huntsville, Alabama, USA
"Thank you, Ellin!" “I want to thank Ellin for making such a moving and beautiful movie and for living true to her beliefs. On behalf of my family, thank you for all your hard work and congratulations!!!” —Aylene Sepulveda, Huntsville, Alabama, USA
A call for accountability! "We are all held accountable for how we show up in life, how we move according to our calling, and whether or not we rise to the occasions of our birth. We cannot be silent as our brothers and sisters suffer. We cannot blindly eat the food and go to the amusement parks while our sisters and brothers are exploited. The HB 56 [anti-immigrant] horror was initiated by a thought germ out of Gardendale, Alabama, and it took the Supreme Court to dismantle it as unconstitutional. This poisonous thought that deems which humans are valuable, desirable, and which are expendable, is growing in our own back yards.
Films like The Second Cooler force viewers to be aware of these interconnections and remind us of our own accountability.
We also have to remember Spirit, and that the lands into which the undocumented immigrants and guestworkers are coming from were the lands of their indigenous American ancestors, and this is a kind of return, centuries later, with intermingled blood. Nonetheless, not to see it as a return, a re-population of original lands is a blindness."—Susan Diane Mitchell, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
"Highly recommended! "Ellin Jimmerson’s The Second Cooler is one of the most important social and political films of our times. This compelling documentary exposes the tragic consequences of US immigration policy and US economic policy for the residents of Mexico and Central America seeking a better life with the odds stacked against them. A moving documentary, it is both informative and, at times, infuriating. Anyone who wishes to understand the issue of illegal immigration needs to view The Second Cooler. Highly recommended.” —Keith Brekhus, sociologist, activist, political writer, and co-host, the Liberal Fix radio show.
"Powerful & moving!" "The Second Cooler is a powerful and moving analysis of the connections between recent global economic trends and immigration. Through the lives and deaths of poor Latin Americans, Ellin Jimmerson weaves a persuasive argument about 'free trade', migration, and contemporary politics in the U.S. It is a must see.” —Marshall C. Eakin, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
"A tour de force!" “This documentary is truly a visual and political tour de force. It brought me to tears, reminding me that our U.S.A. government has both caused and vilified the migration of our Mexican and Central American neighbors from the South. I now know that ‘the wall’ is built where it is easiest to cross, directly causing thousands of deaths, just because people seek to feed their families as their traditional way of life has been robbed from them by NAFTA. The producer, Ellin Jimmerson, has created a masterpiece of elucidation as she weaves history, interviews with ordinary and official people, with music, art and, sculpture.” —Rev. Dr. Glen Thamert, Member, The Sanctuary Movement
"Unlike any other immigration documentary!" “The Second Cooler is amazing. Ellin Jimmerson’s work is particularly poignant today as ‘another Alabama’ continues to gain momentum here in Arizona. The hatred behind the violent acts [the shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others on January 8] is every bit about what happened in Alabama. The KKK and the Tea Party are not far apart. Giffords is a conservative Democrat but even so, was enough to bring on the heat of white supremacy and incite violence.
This film is more than a documentary. It is important to note the irony between world reaction and compassion regarding the violent deaths of six (white) people in an urban shopping center versus the lack of public outcry and compassion for the hundreds of (brown) migrants killed due to unjust border policies. Why aren’t we paying attention to how these violent acts are connected, and how they share deep roots with white supremacist violence and economic oppression throughout US history? It is a compelling and tragic human drama played out across the world, the tragic loss of life and liberty due to unjust immigration policies and practices.
As an educator and faith leader, I am always looking for ways in to the difficult conversation of just immigration policy. The Second Cooler draws us into the drama, weaving the history of civil rights together with the US/Mexico border reality, art, music, and personal story that moves and transforms those who watch it. The Second Cooler is like no other immigration documentary that I have seen. It shows the issues from both sides of the border and portrays how we all lose because of our broken immigration policies and practices. It is an elegant and poignant and enormously important film. —Rev. Delle McCormick, Former Executive Director, BorderLinks, USA Samaritan volunteer, Tucson, Arizona, USA
"Compelling!" “I thought the Alliance of Baptists was a leading voice in speaking out for justice for illegal immigrants until I met Ellin Jimmerson and was informed by her compelling work and message. Thank you, Ellin and all who have contributed, for giving voice to the voiceless and magnifying the unjust policies giving rise to the loss of lives along the Mexico border. May we, as people of faith, no longer turn a deaf ear to the cries of our neighbors as they struggle for hope.” —Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
"Powerful & disturbing!" “The theatre yesterday became sacred space for me. The movie is so powerful, so disturbing, and so well done. It was also very moving. Now we just need to rise up! Ellin Jimmerson has done a wonderful thing by educating many of us to the history of this whole sorry mess.” —Pat H., Fayetteville, Tennessee, USA
"Profoundly honest!" “So grateful today for the work of Ellin Jimmerson and her new movie The Second Cooler. Ellin, herself a child of the Civil Rights movement in Albany, Georgia, tells a compelling story about the impact of NAFTA on poor, blue collar workers in Alabama and on undocumented migration by poor latinos. Her documentary shows how “free trade” across North America has contributed to joblessness and suffering, and how the militarization of the US/Mexico border has not been able to solve a problem that economics have created. Writing from the perspective of a prophetic, Baptist, ordained minister, Ellin’s movie is profoundly honest and human, and calls forth a very human—compassionate—response. It is a movie I will not soon forget.” —Stephanie Barger, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
"Riveting!" “It's a journey that's taken the Rev. Dr. Ellin Jimmerson four years, but she has completed The Second Cooler/La Segunda Nevera. The immigrants’ identities are protected in the film with a mask of darkness, their eyes lit by a rectangle of light. The effect is riveting. As men, women and children recalled their treacherous crossings, the group of about 150 people in Huntsville went absolutely silent. The film is matter-of-fact about the human horrors of the crossings and also about working conditions in the U.S. for immigrants, both illegal and those buttoned into the powerlessness of the guest worker visas. But the film is not, as one woman who saw the film said, as difficult to watch as she’d feared.In simple chapters punctuated by shots of the outside of the refrigerated morgue in Tucson, the attention-getting voice of movie star Martin Sheen, who donated his work, narrates the big issues the film diagrams. Those conditions begin with the historic relationship of the U.S. to Mexico and Central America and continue to the economic realities produced by the North American Free Trade Agreement that have driven indigenous farmers off land that had traditionally been communally held in Mexico and Guatemala. The abuses inherent in the guest worker visa program, which ties workers to one employer no matter how that employer treats them, are also explored through testimonies of men in Mexico who worked under that system. And the facts of the U.S. immigration policies, which make it impossible for people to immigrate legally who don’t own property are explained. —Kay Campbell, the Huntsville Times The Second Cooler
The Second Cooler—The Story
SYNOPSIS The Second Cooleris a migrant justice documentary for English and Spanish speaking audiences which unravels why twelve million Latin American migrants are in the U. S. illegally and brings major implications into focus.
EXPANDED SYNOPSIS The Second Cooler will change any viewer's perspective. It is a documentary about illegal immigration shot primarily in Alabama, Arizona, and Mexico. The premise is that Arizona is the new Alabama, the epicenter of an intense struggle for migrant justice. The documentary’s purpose is to bring basic immigration issues into focus. Those issues include the impact of free trade agreements on migration, the lack of a legal way for poor Latin Americans to come to the United States, the inherent abuses of the guest worker program, the fact that many migrants are indigenous people, anti-immigrant politics, the reality of thousands of migrant deaths at the border, and an escalating ideology of the border.
The Second Cooler differs from every other documentary to date on the subject. It raises a well-focused question: “Who benefits?” from illegal migration. It has interviews with 25 undocumented migrants, including three children under the age of 12. It follows several of them throughout the film. In addition, it includes interviews with 55 professionals including historians, lawyers, clergy, labor union organizers, politicians, a Border Patrol agent, human rights advocates, and others who untangle the threads of a complicated issue. When a viewer reaches the end of The Second Cooler, he or she will understand why 12 million migrants are in the United States illegally and will be able to offer an informed answer to the question, “Who benefits?”
The documentary has an original score, original songs, and uses murals and other visual art extensively. It is fully sub-titled in English and Spanish throughout.
Photo by Adam Valencia for the Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC
The Second Cooler
The Second Cooler—The Team
Ellin Jimmerson has a Masters in Southern History from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, a Ph. D. in 20th Century United States History from the University of Houston, Texas, and a Masters in Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School with a concentration in Latin American liberation theology. An ordained Baptist minister, she was Minister to the Community at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, USA from 2008-2015. Because her parents were Civil Rights Movement activists during the 1950s and 1960s in Albany, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama, she cut her teeth on social justice issues.
Martin Sheen, Narrator
Martin Sheen is a stage, film, and television actor and a political activist. Born to an Irish immigrant mother and a Spanish immigrant father in Dayton, Ohio, his birth name is Ramon Gerard Antonio Estevez. He re-named himself Martin Sheen after Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen when he became an actor.
In 1965 Sheen received a Tony Award nomination for his role in The Subject Was Roses. He appeared in such television shows as Route 66,The Outer Limits, and My Three Sons before making his film debut in The Incident in 1967. In the 1970s Sheen had roles in Catch-22, adapted from Joseph Heller’s novel, Badlands (1973) co-starring Sissy Spacek and inspired by the story of serial killer Charles Starkweather, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). He gave memorable performances in Gandhi (1982), Wall Street (1987), The American President (1995), and Catch Me if You Can (2002).
Martin Sheen’s television credits include The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) for which he received an Emmy Award nomination, The West Wing (1999-2006) in which he played President Josiah Bartlett and for which he won a Best Actor Golden Globe Award (2001), and an appearance on his son Charlie Sheen’s comedy Two and a Half Men. A recent film is The Way, directed by his son, Emilio Estevez.
Sheen is a pro-life, anti-nuclear weapons, pro-workers’ rights activist. He is particularly committed to closing the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, otherwise known as the School of the Americas, located on the Ft. Benning, Georgia military base. He believes that the Institute is closely associated with Latin American military dictatorships and political torture. He has been arrested numerous times for non-violent civil disobedience.
Martin Sheen has an honorary doctor of letters degree from Marquette University (2003). In 2007 he realized his lifelong dream of studying at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Notre Dame University awarded him the Laetare Medal, given to prominent Roman Catholics, in 2008.
Sheen generously donated his time, his talent, and his name to The Second Cooler..
People often ask how I got Martin Sheen to do the voice-over. Or as Consulting Producer ,Hank Rogerson, put it: "How did you get the Voice of God?" Here is the story: Handy Avery, Minister of Music at my church, asked how thing were going with the doc. I said that it was about time to find an actor to do the narration. He suggested Martin Sheen might be about right. I died laughing. Two weeks later, Handy called and asked if I was sitting down. Said Sheen had called the church himself, asked for Handy, they talked, and 30 minutes later, Sheen said, "Tell Ellin to come to Santa Monica in 3 weeks and we'll do it." (Bear in mind I had not yet written the script.) Turns out Handy had sent Sheen an email (don't ask me how he got his address). Sheen had been out of the country and when he got back and checked his email, there were about 40 people asking for his help. Nothing appealed until he got to Handy's. When he got through reading it, Sheen said tears were streaming down his face. I have asked Handy what on earth he said in that email. All he says is, "I did my best work in that email."
Elinor Sterne, Executive Producer
Elinor Sterne was a social worker. During the 1950s and 1960s, she was a Civil Rights activist in Albany, Georgia, a town so infamous for the level of its racism and devotion to segregation that it became one of the first places targeted for civil rights resistance efforts by Freedom Riders. Under the notorious Sheriff Laurie Pritchett, it was the first town to jail Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elinor Sterne and her lawyer husband, Edwin L. Sterne, were vocal opponents of segregation and racism.
In the mid-1960s, Elinor Sterne brought Head Start, a Federal summer school program aimed at providing a catch-up learning experience to low-income children. Many of the children in Sterne's program were African-American. In those hate-filled days prior to the Black is Beautiful movement, she resisted her culture by teaching the children in her care that they were both smart and beautiful. In doing so, she incurred the opprobrium of many of her friends, family members, and colleagues.
She and her husband housed Freedom Riders in their home, taught their daughters to say "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Sir" to their black elders, and kept on keeping on even when the lives of their children were threatened by anonymous phone callers.
Reminiscing from her nursing home bed about those days and reflecting on her decision to give the producers of The Second Cooler their front money, she remarked, "Once you've demonstrated for freedom, it never gets out of your system."
Elinor Sterne (1927-2018) was Ellin Jimmerson's mother.
Bill Jackson, Sound Mixer
Bill Jackson has been mixing documentaries, shorts, episodic television and records most of his life, and has earned an Emmy Award for outstanding Sound Mixing for HBO's Entourage. His other recent credits include House of Lies, How to Live with Your Parents, The Finder, Breaking In, and Awake. Jackson was a musician in his youth and spent much of his early career as a recording engineer in the record industry. He has engineered a number of gold and platinum records for such artists as Los Lobos and Sheila E, and was introduced to film work through composer Danny Elfman with whom he had worked on several album projects for the band Oingo Boingo.
Jackson is an Izotope Software Artist.
Documentaries that Jackson has mixed include The Long Bike Back,Behind the Blue Veil,The Paw Project, Fate of a Salesman, Granny's Got Game,Fight Like a Girl, Curtain Up, Surviving Disaster,Last Ride of the Chatham Bookmobile, Keeping the Kibbutz—PBS version, Rick Carter—A Day in the Life,Facing Forward,USIP,My Marilyn, C-C-Cut, Beyond the Mesas,Gullah,Beautiful Resistance, Whoosh, Bonus DVD for Lady and the Tramp 50th Anniversary Edition and Cinderella Special EditionDVDs.
Other Films for which he has either recorded and mixed music, or mixed the final dub of the film include Goldilocks (shot with an iPhone 4), Affliction,Albino Alligator,Army of Darkness,Article 99, Back To The Beach, Batman,Batman Returns, Beetle Juice,Bereft,The Big Squeeze,Cabin Boy,China Moon,Cold Blooded,Cold Feet, >em>Dark Man, Dead Presidents, Desperado, Dwegons, Edward Scissorhands, Face Like a Frog, Freeway, Ghostbusters II, Good Will Hunting, Hair Show, Heat, Hot to Trot, La Bamba, Little Big League, Meet the Deedles, Meet Wally Sparks, Midnight Run, Mission Impossible, Mississippi Burning, My Chauffeur, National Lampoon's Senior Trip, Night Canvas, NightBreed, Nightmare Before Christmas, No Small Affair, Onami, Orgazmo, Pass The Ammo, Pee Wee's Big Top, Phenomenon, Point Break, Purple Rain, Radioactive Dreams, Romy & Michele's High School Reunion, Scrooged, The Secret Garden, Shout, Shrunken Heads, Summer School, The Tigger Movie, Things to Do In Denver W/Y Dead, To Die For, Under Siege, Winter Sea, and Wisdom.
You may contact Bill Jackson at: 818.284.6412, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Schweikert, Cinematographer
Schweikert is a freelance cinematographer based in Huntsville, Alabama, USA. He has 25 years filmmaking experience. His many credits include 20 Years After which was shown at the Cannes International Film Festival under the name Like Moles, Like Rats. He has shot numerous feature films, documentaries, and commercials in Alabama, Mississippi, New York, Arizona, Texas, Mexico, England, and elsewhere.
Adam Valencia, Cinematographer
Adam Valencia is a filmmaker from Nogales, Arizona living in Los Angeles.
2015, his short film LOST WEEKEND was featured on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network, and as a part of NALIP’s Latino Lens showcase. Remezcla was also kind enough to list him as one of the top 10 Latino filmmakers you should know.
His career began after graduating from the University of Arizona in 2010 with a BFA in film production. I then moved to Los Angeles where I’ve worked in music videos, documentaries, and branded content for the last 9 years, primarily as a cinematographer and editor. Over his career, he's been fortunate to work with brands such as Canon, Walgreens, Sprint, Nestle, Neutrogena, GStar Raw, Paramount Pictures, and AT&T. His latest short film CRYBABY is available to watch now.
He is also a drummer, comic book reader, and an all around nice guy.
“It didn’t take much to convince me to come onboard The Second Cooler] I can only hope that the journey we took in getting these interviews will likewise inspire others to ask questions, get involved, and more importantly, create change. Mask it what they will, this is an issue about human beings that are dying because of a system that seemingly gives them little or no option. I hope this film will make people stop and think the next time they walk into the grocery section of their local Super Wal-Mart.”
You may contact Adam Valencia at: 520.313.9248, and at email@example.com Hank Rogerson, Consulting Producer
Hank Rogerson is a producer, director, writer, actor and teacher who works both in documentary and fiction film. He directed SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS, which won 11 awards. Hank most recently completed STILL DREAMING, an award-winning documentary about a group of retired Broadway entertainers who come out of retirement. He also co-produced, directed and edited HOMELAND, an award-winning documentary on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, as well as CIRCLE OF STORIES, a multi-media project that brings to life the vibrant art of Native American storytelling. Hank’s documentary work has won more than 20 awards, and has been broadcast on National PBS, Sundance Channel, Starz/Encore, Discovery Health Channel, BBC, Aljazeera, Canal+ and many more worldwide. He teaches filmmaking at University of New Mexico, and has also taught film production at University of Southern California.
Miles Merritt, Consulting Editor
Miles Merritt was writer/producer with New Century Images, a video production studio based in Los Angeles that specialized in the development of videos for private industry and various city departments. He later moved to NY to work with the cable news network in White Plains. In 1998, he moved to New Mexico to work on an arts and education program at Taos Pueblo. His directorial debut—the short film El Cochero [The Carriage Driver] (2004)—was produced in Mexico and was an official selection in 15 film festivals internationally. It was chosen as one of the opening night films at the prestigious Expresion En Corto Film Festival in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and won four awards. His subsequent short film, Una Causa Noble [A Noble Cause] (2007) was an official selection at 24 film festivals internationally and earned three awards. Miles was also Consulting Editor for the documentary The Second Cooler (2012), a film about immigration issues in the U.S. and Central America that was narrated by Martin Sheen. The film won five awards. Merritt's latest project is a feature documentary, Just A Mortal Man: The Jerry Lawson Story which PBS screened in 2022. He is a member of Artists 4 Peace, a global collective presenting works focused on peace and sustainable living.
You may contact Miles Merritt at:
M/K Productions, 7 Buen Pastor
Santa Fe, NM 87508
Gail Kempler, Consulting Editor
Gail Kempler co-produced and edited the two award-winning short films El Cochero [The Carriage Driver] (www.elcochero.com) and Una Causa Noble [A Noble Cause] (www.unacausanoble.com), both of which were filmed in Mexico. From her work related to Una Causa Noble, she became involved in outreach in the area of immigration. She has also edited a number of corporate and special occasion videos.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and law degree from Fordham University and works as a patent attorney for a start-up biotech company developing stem cell based therapeutics.
You may contact Gail Kempler at:
M/K Productions, 7 Buen Pastor
Santa Fe, NM 87508
Matthew Wilson, Editing Assistant
Matthew Wilson is a cinematographer, director, producer and editor who works in the commercial and documentary markets. His documentary filmmaking has sent him to eleven countries that span four continents. He shot the Rick Bragg Out of Dirt documentary that was released in the Fall, 2011.
Wilson was Ellin Jimmerson's editing assistant since the beginning of The Second Cooler project.
During his time as a Creative for Apple Inc., Wilson won numerous awards for his creativity. He also won a contest in which his cinematography was chosen for a worldwide Apple marketing campaign. He has recently developed skills for digital animation and is looking to bring that to the commercial and documentary markets. Wilson is currently accepting new projects. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his son, Elliot, and his wife, Megan. He is a sports fanatic and loves playing as much as he can. He also enjoys going to dinner and the movies.
You may contact Matthew Wilson at:
(256) 542-1207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosa María Toussaint-Ortíz, Producer
Rosa M. Toussaint-Ortiz was born in the Dominican Republic. Her mother died when she was seven years old and she was sent to Puerto Rico to live with relatives. A few months later, her visa expired and she became an undocumented migrant. When she was fifteen, the staff of the orphanage where she was living discovered she was undocumented and returned her to the Dominican Republic. She believes it was by the grace of God that she was able to return to Puerto Rico as a legal resident, re-enter the orphanage, and complete high school.
Toussaint-Ortiz joined the United States Army when she was eighteen years old. She was sent to Ft. McClellan near Anniston Alabama. She felt that, although she was ready to die for people in the U. S., she was unwelcome and unsafe in Anniston. Nonetheless, Toussaint-Ortiz, who achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, became a U. S. citizen while she was in the Army. When she realized that Spanish-speaking soldiers with drug and alcohol problems received improper treatment because of the language barrier, Toussaint-Ortiz decided to become a counselor. After being discharged from the Army as an Enlisted, she earned a B. A. in Mental Health from the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico. Most of her work has been as a social worker and case manager. Her desire to work with Spanish-speaking people in need was re-awakened in the late 1990s when undocumented migrants began to appear in large numbers in Alabama.
In 2007, she founded the Huntsville International Help Center ministry, which is associated with the Madison Baptist Association and the Interfaith Mission Service, Inc. The center provides information and referral for victims of domestic violence, parents and children involved with the Department of Human Resources, guest workers and others. In May 2010, Toussaint-Ortiz obtained a degree in paralegal studies. In September 2010, she started a home based business, Ortiz Consulting and Educational Services, doing business in English and Spanish.
You may contact Rosa Toussaint-Ortíz at:
http://www.saica.cc/chaplain.htm (Community Services Chaplain, SAICA, AL)
Marina Velez-Prucha, Documentary Translator
Marina Vélez Prucha was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She came to the United States in the 1960s. In 1971, she graduated from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA with a degree in Spanish / French and in Education. She received her Master's Degree in Spanish Literature from Syracuse University in 1975.
Prucha has taught Spanish for thirty years, most recently at Randolph School in Huntsville, AL. She also works as a translator, including translating English to Spanish for The Second Cooler. In addition, she does volunteer and mission work. Prucha is married to Stephen J. Prucha and has two grown daughters. She has been a resident of Huntsville, Alabama since 1990.
You may contact Marina Vélez Prucha at: email@example.com
Leslie Maxwell Kaiura, PhD, Documentary End Credits Translator
Leslie Maxwell Kaiura is originally from Cairo, Georgia. She graduated with an M.A. in Spanish from Auburn University in 2003 and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in October of 2007. Her dissertation, which is entitled Battered Angels: Domestic Violence in Spanish Literature, 1850-1925, explores the subject of domestic violence using sources such as Spanish law, journalism, and literary works by five women authors. Her primary research interests are 19th and early 20th-century Spanish literature, with an emphasis on how gender issues are represented in literature and other media, such as the press and visual arts. Her articles have been published in the online journal Stichomythia: Revista de Teatro Contemporáneo and in the Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies. She has presented her research at various conferences, including the 2007 Modern Language Association Convention, and she is currently revising her dissertation into a book manuscript for publication.
Dr. Kaiura has over ten years of teaching experience, and currently teaches all levels of Spanish courses at the University of Alabama Huntsville. In addition to her interest in teaching culture and literature, she also has a particular interest in teaching medical Spanish and Spanish for other professional applications. She has also studied and travelled in Mexico and Spain.
Additional Production Assistance
Sherry Broyles, Natasha Diez, and Melanie Faithful, Post-Production Assistance
Sherry Broyles has an undergraduate degree in Fine Art and a J. D. from Vanderbilt Law School. In addition to working as an attorney and mediator, she has experience as an artist, actor, and grant administrator. Broyles was in charge of the North Alabama distribution of John Sayles’ film, “Honeydripper.” She was a producer for “Like Moles, Like Rats,” an independent film made in Huntsville, Alabama starring Joshua Leonard and Reg E. Cathey.
Natasha Diez is headquartered in Mexico City. She has a degree in international affairs from Universidad Autonoma de Mexico and a Master’s degree in international business. Her work experience includes jobs with Fundacion Juan de la Cosa and the European Parliament. She has experience in television and academic publishing. she worked for a Mexican cable station, Unicable, on a talk show for teenagers.
Melanie Faithful has over 20 years of experience in marketing and publishing, with experience in both the trade and academic arenas. She has devoted the past 10 years to academic publishing initiatives in Latin America. Politically active since 1979, she has a sustained interest in human rights, peace and justice, and the environment.
Jordan Bullard was with Prospect Hill Community Health Center in Caswell County, North Carolina, offering health care services to guest workers. He also provided original songs for The Second Cooler including Samuel in Chains which was inspired by time among agricultural guest workers.
Angelica Arango, Assistant Producer, USA
Angelica Arango works in Spanish media as a producer for radio and television in New York and elsewhere. She also has experience in copy-writing and public relations. Arango has volunteered for non-profit organizations helping immigrants. As an assistant producer for The Second Cooler, she combined her production skills and her passion for working for social justice.
Melissa Bailey, Jordan Bullard, Jeannie Economos, Miguel Angel Montalvo, Esq., Caitlin Ryland, Joanna Wellborn, Brenda Bullock, Sr. Obdulia Olivar, Sr. Elsi Rosa Reyes, Sr. Rose Marie Martell, and Paul Rodríguez, Migrant and Guest Worker Interviews
Melissa Bailey, Toxic Free North Carolin Bailey is originally from a small coal mining community in southern West Virginia. She has worked for Lenoir County Migrant Education for the past seven years as a recruiter. She is a co-founder of the Migrant Education Outreach Cooperative in eastern North Carolina. Her personal goal is to eradicate the social, economic, academic, and labor injustices faced by child laborers in agriculture. Toxic Free North Carolina is a group of emerging and experienced leaders from across North Carolina who work together to reduce pesticide pollution. They are an energetic and diversely talented community of leaders who find common ground and inspiration in each other's efforts for farmworker health and justice, clean and healthy food for rural communities, toxic-free spaces for children, and much more. To find out more about Toxic Free North Carolina, please visit http://www.toxicfreenc.org.
You may contact Melissa Bailey at (919) 833-5333.
Jordan Bullard was with Prospect Hill Community Health Center in Caswell County, North Carolina, offering health care services to guest workers. He also provided songs for The Second Cooler including Samuel in Chains which was inspired by time among agricultural guest workers.
Jeannie Economos is with Farmworker Association of Florida. Its long-standing mission is to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities to respond to and gain control over the social, political, workplace, economic, health, and environmental justice issues that impact their lives. FWAF's guiding vision is a social environment where farmworkers' contribution, dignity, and worth is acknowledged, appreciated, and respected through economic, social, and environmental justice. This vision includes farmworkers being treated as equals, and not exploited and discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, immigrant status, or socioeconomic status. Economos has worked for over 20 years on issues of the environment, environmental justice, indigenous and immigrants’ rights, labor, peace, and social justice. Since 2007, she has been the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida, coordinating pesticide trainings for farmworkers in Florida, identifying workplace violations of Worker Protection Standards, and conducting health care provider trainings on pesticide exposure of farmworkers. She is also engaged in local, state, national, and international coalitions and collaborations related to farmworker rights and health and safety, pesticide reduction, sustainable agriculture, and food sovereignty. She is currently co-coordinator of the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Memorial Quilt Project whose purpose is to raise awareness about the impacts of pesticides on the former farmworkers on Lake Apopka.
To find out more about Farmworker Association of Florida, please visit www.floridafarmworkers.org.
You may contact Jeannie Economos at (407) 886-5151.
Miguel Angel Montalvo was a lawyer specializing in migrant farm worker rights. A member of the Florida Bar Association, his law degree is from the Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Nebraska. He was fluent in English and Spanish. A native of Guanajuato, Mexico, Montalvo went to the United States as an agricultural worker harvesting tomatoes and fruit in Immokalee, Florida. He went on to teach English as a second language to prisoners at Hendry County Correctional Institution. After an internship with the Florida Rural Legal Services in Belle Glade, Florida, he joined its migrant farmworker workgroup as an attorney where he worked from 1994-1998. Afterwards, he founded his own practice in Immokalee, Florida where he specialized in criminal defense, family, worker's compensation, immigration, and personal injury cases. In 2010, Montalvo returned to Guanajuato, Mexico. He offers on-call legal assistance conducting outreach and worker education throughout Mexico for legal proceedings in the United States. He was the owner of El Tapanco in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, a business which produces grass fed, antibiotic, and steroid free organic cattle and fine grains.
Caitlin Ryland is an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina, Farm Worker Unit in Raleigh. The Farmworker Unit is committed to providing high quality civil legal services to address the special legal needs of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in North Carolina. To find out more about Legal Aid of North Carolina, please visit http://www.farmworkerlanc.org.
You may contact Caitlyn Ryland at (919) 856-2187.
Joanna Wellborn is with Student Action with Farmworker. She was born and raised in the foothills of Western North Carolina. While studying Sociology and Spanish at Appalachian State University, she participated in the Into the Fields Internship in 1996. She has studied documentary photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine and at Duke's Center for Documentary Studies. Student Action with Farmworkers is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to bring students and farmworkers together to learn about each other’s lives, share resources and skills, improve conditions for farmworkers, and build diverse coalitions working for social change.
SAF works with farmworkers, students, and advocates in the Southeast and nationwide to create a more just agricultural system. Since 1992, SAF has engaged thousands of students, farmworker youth, and community members in the farmworker movement.
For more information on Student Action With Farmworkers, please visit saf-unite.org.
You may contact Joanna Wellborn at (919) 660-3693.
Sr. Obdulia Olivar is a member of the Roman Catholic Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, a priestly Guadalupan Mission. She works with illegal migrants, guest workers, and other Latinos in the area around Montgomery, Alabama.
Sr. Elsi Rosa Reyes is a member of the Roman Catholic Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, a priestly Guadalupan Mission. She works with illegal migrants, guest workers, and other Latinos.
Sr. Rose Marie Martell is an immigration specialist with Catholic Social Services in Montgomery, Alabama. She is a member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, a congregation of Roman Catholic sisters which serves in economically depressed areas.
Paul Rodríguez is a landscaper in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Second Cooler
The Second Cooler—The Cast
Hipólita Acuña Valenzuela
Hipólita Acuña Valenzuela is a former Mexican migrant. She and her husband crossed the border illegally three times with their young children. Later she became an employee of Borderlinks, Mexico and was able to obtain a visa. She was one of Ellin Jimmerson’s principle guides in Sonora, Mexico.
Pete Barber is the owner of Bay Breeze Enterprises and Executive Director of the Alabama Seafood Commission. Located in Bayou La Batre, Alabama on the Gulf Coast, Barber has experience with the U. S. Department of Labor’s guest worker program.
Mary Bauer is an attorney who directed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Immigrant Justice Project from 2004 to 2009. In 2009, she was named the SPLC’s legal director. Bauer has directed groundbreaking lawsuits aimed at enforcing the rights of immigrants, foreign guest workers, and migrant farm workers.
Before joining the SPLC, Bauer was the legal director of the Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers, the legal director of the Virginia ACLU, and an attorney for a legal services program. She is the author of two SPLC reports that have gained national attention—Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States and Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South.
Bauer has testified before the U. S. Congress on issues involving the exploitation of migrant workers.
Scott Beason (R) served two consecutive terms in the Alabama House of Representatives before being elected a Senator from the 17th District. The 17th District includes Jefferson County where Birmingham is located. Beason is a member of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee and the Alabama Republican Executive Committee.
Beason, who is from Gardendale, Alabama, is one of the most conservative members of the Alabama Legislature. He is a leading opponent of illegal immigration and of the outsourcing of U. S. jobs.
Beason was Vice-Chairman of the Alabama Legislature’s Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission which was established to “conduct a fact finding study on immigration issues and to issue a commission report outlining suggestions and proposals to address the issues of illegal and legal immigration in Alabama.”
Jimmy Baker owns Baker Hosiery in Fort Payne, Alabama, USA. He is an opponent of free trade agreements, in particular the Central American Free Trade Agreement which adversely affected the textile industry in Fort Payne.
Stewart Burkhalter is President of the Alabama American Federation of Labor-Congress on Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO) in Montgomery, Alabama.
Boyd F. Campbell
Boyd F. Campbell is an attorney in Montgomery, Alabama whose practice primarily is devoted to private international law and foreign investment, international labor and employment law, immigration and nationality law, commercial transactions and formation of business organizations, federal administrative procedures, and civil law notarial functions.
Campbell is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He served as chair of the International Law Section of the Alabama State Bar from 2000 to 2002 and is a founding member of that section. He has served as co-chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Immigration Law Committee’s Section on Labor and Employment Law. He was a member of the ABA’s Coordinating Committee on Immigration Law from 1994 to 1998.
Campbell provides legal services and personal and corporate legal representation to US citizens, foreign nationals, and multinational corporations in the US and abroad. He established the Alabama Center for Foreign Investment, LLC, Alabama’s federally designated, statewide Regional Center, and was appointed its General Counsel in 2006.
In 2008, Campbell was a member of the Alabama Legislature’s Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission.
Omar Candelaria is Public Relations Officer with the United States Border Patrol, Nogales, Arizona sector. According to Candelaria, the primary mission of the US Border Patrol is anti-terrorism.
Manuel Celaya Burruel
Manuel Celaya Burruel is Director of Human Rights at the Center for Attention to Migrants and Their Needs in Altar, Sonora, Mexico.
Brett Dungan is the manager of Master Marine, a shipbuilding business in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, USA. He testified before the Alabama Legislature about his desire for more guest worker visas.
“Suave Eros” migrated from northern Mexico, crossing through Arizona’s Sonora Desert.
John Fife is Pastor Emeritus of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona. He served there for 35 years.
According to Fife, in the early 1980s, the United States government, under President Ronald Reagan, offered political, economic, and military support to government-sponsored death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala. Entire villages were massacred. Refugees poured out. The international community pressured the United States to recognize the victims as refugees and offer them temporary asylum until conditions changed in their countries and they could return.
The United States government refused to recognize them as refugees. Instead, when U. S. agents picked a refugee up on the border or in communities around the country, they put the refugees in detention centers then returned them to the death squads in handcuffs.
According to Fife, the “deportation to death had to be resisted.” In 1981, Southside Presbyterian was the first church in the country to offer sanctuary to Central American refugees. It launched what became known as the Sanctuary Movement which eventually provided safe haven to thousands of refugees in over 500 churches and synagogues around the country. This “new underground railroad” moved people at highest risk to Canada which respected refugee rights.
In response, the US government infiltrated the churches and synagogues, according to Fife, with agents pretending to be volunteers.
In 1986, the government brought alien-smuggling charges against Fife and others including two Catholic priests, five men and women religious, and the Director of the Tucson Ecumenical Council. During the trial, the judge prohibited the defendants from speaking about five subjects: international refugee law, United States refugee law, conditions in El Salvador, conditions in Guatemala, and religious faith.
Fife was convicted and served five years probation.
According to Fife, the US government is continuing its violation of human rights on the border. It has instituted a border enforcement policy involving militarization and death as a deterrent to illegal crossing. Fife calls the strategy of deterrence a “gross violation of human rights.”
To resist this strategy of deterrence, Fife co-founded No More Deaths whose volunteers try to save the lives of migrants in Arizona’s Sonora Desert. In 2002, he co-founded Samaritan Patrol whose volunteers take food, water, and first aid supplies to migrants in the desert.
Fife continues to call attention to US policy and high-level officials who, he believes, continue to illegally and unconstitutionally violate human rights and international law with its border and other policies.
Based on an interview with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, April 23, 2007.
In Birmingham, Alabama, Jerry Foster represents the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union. The RWDSU is a semi-autonomous division of the United Food and Commercial Workers labor union and is associated with the Change to Win Federation. Foster encourages migrant workers to join the union.
Garry Frost is President of the AFL-CIO’s [American Federation of Labor-Congress on Industrial Organization] Northeast Alabama Labor Council in Gadsden, Alabama, USA. He also is President of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, Local 498.
Raquel Rubio Goldsmith
Raquel Rubio Goldsmith, Ph. D., is Co-ordinator of the Binational Migration Institute of Mexican American studies as well as a lecturer in the Department of Mexican American and Raza Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, USA.
A Chicana native of Douglas, Arizona, Rubio-Goldsmith completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in Law and Philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has taught at Pima Community College since 1969 and, since 1983, at the University of Arizona where her focus has been the history of Mexicanas and Chicanas.
Rubio-Goldsmith has taught courses on Mexican and Latin American history and has developed curricula on Afro-American, Yaqui, and Tohono O’odham histories. Her research interests include Mexican women on the U. S. / Mexico border and women who fled the Mexican Revolution to southeastern Arizona. She is an activist committed to immigration rights, women’s rights, and civil rights in general. She is active with Pueblo Por La Paz in Tucson and with the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.
“Julio Gómez” is a migrant from Mexico City. He crossed illegally six or seven times between 1992 and 2006.
“María Gómez Rodríguez”
“María Gómez Rodríguez” is the daughter of peasant farmers in southern Mexico. She migrated alone when she was 23 through Arizona’s Sonora Desert. She met her husband, “Juan Rodriguez,” at a church in Alabama.
“Miguel Ángel González”
“Miguel Ángel González” is a Mexican architect who crossed illegally through Arizona in 1998.
H2 Guest Workers
Marie Gray is Alabama State Director of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps.
Robert Calvin “Bob” Harrison
Bob Harrison is a member of the Madison County [Alabama] Commission. Harrison opposed Canadian-owned manufacturer CINRAM’s policy of using guest workers at its Huntsville, Alabama, USA plant.
“Pedro Hernández” is an indigenous migrant from Oaxaca, Mexico. His first language is Chinanteco, a Native American language.
José Juan Martínez
José Juan Martínez is an official with Mexico’s Federally-run Grupos Beta in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Grupos Beta’s workers function as federal police, medics, and social workers. They try to deter migrants planning to cross and rescue those who have attempted to cross and have become injured or lost. They also arrest the “coyotes” (human smugglers) who guide them into the United States in violation of the laws of both countries.
“Alejandra León” is a migrant from Guatemala. She crossed with her two young children , “Sam” and “Elizabeth,” through Arizona’s Sonora Desert.
“Elizabeth León” is a Guatemalan migrant who crossed illegally through Arizona’s Sonora Desert. She crossed when she was four years old with her brother, “Sam León” and her mother, “Alejandra León.”
“Sam León” is a Guatemalan migrant who crossed illegally through Arizona’s Sonora Desert. He crossed when he five years old with his sister, “Elizabeth León” and his mother, “Alejandra León.”
Heath Locklear owned Locklear Hosiery in Fort Payne, Alabama, USA. After the implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, he was forced to sell his factory.
Sister Rose Marie Martell
Sister Rose Marie Martell is an immigration specialist for Catholic Social Services in Montgomery, Alabama, USA. She is a member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, a congregation of Roman Catholic sisters founded in Holy Trinity, Alabama in 1918. The congregation usually serves in economically depressed areas.
“Guadalupe Martínez” is Guatemalan mechanic who crossed illegally into the U. S. through Arizona’s Sonora Desert.
Miguel Angel Montalvo Chavez (1958-2019)
Miguel Angel Montalvo Chavez was born in a small rural village in central Mexico. From very humble beginnings, through hard work and determination Miguel went from picking tomatoes to learning english, studying at Florida International University and eventually earning his J.D. from Creighton University. He was a member of the Florida Bar and dedicated his life to defending the rights of the underprivileged and migrant farmworkers throughout the United States.
His tireless work and advocacy on behalf of his clients has impacted the lives of innumerable people. After moving to his ranch in Mexico, Miguel continued his advocacy on behalf of the farmworker and immigrant community, and in particular on behalf of H2A and H2B guestworkers. In the past ten years, Miguel’s tireless and almost legendary efforts allowed U.S. based advocacy groups to reach an entirely new level of effectiveness in combating the worst abuses of guestworkers in the US. Several legal precedents of national importance are a direct result of Miguel’s work.
Miguel never forgot his humble roots believed that every person no matter their background or station in life deserved to be treated with the utmost respect. He had an easy smile and a quick wit. A cowboy at heart, Miguel also was a talented artist, a lover of the great outdoors, and an avid reader of great literature.
Miguel Montalvo offered his testimony about the H2 guest worker program for The Second Cooler. In addition, he acted as a producer for the H2 sequence, organizing interviews, driving director, Ellin Jimmerson, and cinematographer, Adam Valencia, to numerous far flung spaces, with his wife, Laura Vasquez, offering his home and hospitality to them, and interpreting. He was a wonderful man.
Sean O’Donnell is an organizer with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, Local 78, in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.
“Margarita Padilla” is a migrant from Michoacan, Mexico. She has been in the U. S. since 1993.
Patriciano Paraza García
Patriciano Paraza García es sacerdote en el Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado, Altar, Sonora, México. Altar es un punto principal de encuentro de migrantes y coyotes [traficantes] para prepararse a cruzar la frontera entre México y los EE.UU.
P. Paraza les aconseja a los migrantes que están para cruzar sobre los peligros graves asociados con cruzar. También les aconseja a los migrantes repatriados de los EE.UU.
Robin Redondo is a volunteer with Samaritans, an interfaith group which looks for injured or abandoned migrants in the Sonora Desert. They carry food, water, and first aid supplies to them. Samaritans is based in Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Jay Reed is President of the Alabama chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, he also has served as staff liaison to the Association’s legislative committee, as treasurer of their Merit Political Action Committee, and as publisher of Alabama Construction News. During 2007-2008, Reed was chair of the Alabama Legislature’s Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission.
“Juan Rodríguez” is the son of small business people in Vera Cruz, Mexico. He crossed illegally through Arizona’s Sonora Desert for the first time when he was 15 years old. He met his wife, “María Gómez Rodríguez” at a church in Alabama. They now have two children who are U. S. citizens.
“Diego Sánchez” migrated illegally from Mexico crossing through the Rio Grande.
Pedro Rivas migrated illegally from El Salvador. In 2000, following an earthquake in El Salvador, he and other Salvadorans were given a temporary protected status, giving them a legal status in the U. S.
He was with Hispanic Ministries of Dothan, Alabama, USA when we interviewed him.
Mexican migrant Roberto Segura crossed illegally through Arizona’s Sonora Desert with his mother and younger brother when he was nine years old. He was twelve years old when we interviewed him.
Martin Sheen, Narrator
Martin Sheen is a stage, film, and television actor and a political activist. Born to an Irish immigrant mother and a Spanish immigrant father in Dayton, Ohio, his birth name is Ramón Gerard Antonio Estevez. He re-named himself Martin Sheen after Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen when he became an actor.
In 1965 Sheen received a Tony Award nomination for his role in The Subject Was Roses. He appeared in such television shows as Route 66, The Outer Limits, and My Three Sons before making his film debut in The Incident in 1967. In the 1970s Sheen had roles in Catch-22, adapted from Joseph Heller’s novel, Badlands (1973) co-starring Sissy Spacek and inspired by the story of serial killer Charles Starkweather, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). He gave memorable performances in Gandhi (1982), Wall Street (1987), The American President (1995), and Catch Me if You Can (2002).
Sheen’s most recent movie is The Way (2010 )directed by his son Emilio Estevez.
Martin Sheen’s television credits include The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) for which he received an Emmy Award nomination, The West Wing (1999-2006) in which he played President Josiah Bartlett and for which he won a Best Actor Golden Globe Award (2001), and an appearance on his son Charlie Sheen’s comedy Two and a Half Men.
Sheen is a pro-life, anti-nuclear weapons, pro-workers’ rights activist. He is particularly committed to closing the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, otherwise known as the School of the Americas, located on the Ft. Benning, Georgia military base. He believes that the Institute is closely associated with Latin American military dictatorships and political torture. He has been arrested numerous times for non-violent civil disobedience.
Martin Sheen has an honorary doctor of letters degree from Marquette University (2003). In 2007 he realized his lifelong dream of studying at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Notre Dame University awarded him the Laetare Medal, given to prominent Roman Catholics, in 2008.
Fred Shepherd is Chair and Professor of the Department of Political Science at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. His book, Christianity and Human Rights: Christians and the Struggle for Global Justice, published by Lexington Press, came out in 2009. He has contributed to numerous books and journals on Latin America, religion, and politics. Shepherd’s current work focuses on genocide and human rights.
Shepherd has been affiliated with the Lilly Foundation, the Holocaust Education Fund, and the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum. He has been an invited presenter at the International Association for Genocide Scholars. He was Co-Director of the 2004 Lilly Fellows National Research Conference on Christianity and Human Rights, is the political analyst for CBS’s affiliate station in Birmingham, and serves as Amnesty International’s Legislative Coordinator for the state of Alabama. He is currently at work on studies of comparative genocide with a special focus on Guatemala.
Shepherd’s upper-level teaching includes Politics in Developing Nations, U. S. Foreign Relations, and Latin American Politics, Genocide, and Human Rights.
Klari B. Tedrow
Klari B. Tedrow is the owner of the firm, Klari B. Tedrow LLC and is co-founder of Tedrow and Myers Immigration Law Group, dedicated to the practice of immigration and nationality law. She represents a wide variety of domestic and multinational corporations, non-profits, educational institutions, entrepreneurs, professionals, individuals and families in all aspects of business and family-based immigration, including temporary and long-term visas, employment authorization, permanent resident status (green cards) and naturalization. She provides her clients with effective corporate and transnational HR strategies to maximize business and immigration benefits. Tedrow regularly represents clients before the Citizenship and Immigration Service, US Embassies and Consulates around the world, the US Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and State Departments of Public Health. She possesses an abundance of experience representing foreign physicians and foreign healthcare workers.
An adjunct professor at The Cumberland School of Law, Samford University since 1999, and a frequent speaker on current immigration issues, Tedrow carefully monitors developments in immigration law and policy and provides her clients with strategic advice concerning both short and long-term immigration alternatives.
Tedrow currently serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association covering Alabama and Georgia, and has served on various committees including advocacy for immigration law reform and specific immigrant and immigration law issues before being elected to the executive board in 2009.
Tedrow is the author of numerous speeches and articles on immigration issues. Her awards include Best of the Bar by her peers and one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2001.
Tedrow brings a singular and personal interest in immigration to her practice. She is a naturalized citizen who came to the United States from Budapest, Hungary as a refugee. Her parents had escaped the violent Hungarian Revolution of 1956 by swimming a large waterway into Austria with their two small children—Klari and her sister.
Marcela Vásquez-León was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She has a Ph. D. in Anthropology and an M. S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arizona. She has a joint appointment at the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology and at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Vásquez-León’s research interests include environmental anthropology, political ecology, fisheries management and maritime anthropology, rural development and agricultural cooperatives, environmental justice, and human dimensions of global environmental change. Her research focuses on the interrelationships between human agency and large-scale structures, with an emphasis on how contradictory processes occurring at a global scale (e.g. neoliberalism and environmentalism) affect state policy, scientific management of natural resources, notions of “sustainable development,” and environmental conservation.
Vásquez-León has on-going projects in the areas of Gulf of California Fisheries, Farming in the Sonora Desert, and Grassroots Collective Organization in rural South America which is funded by the United States Agency of International Development (USAID).
Among her publications are Free Markets and Fair Trade: Collective Livelihood Struggles, The Cooperative Model: Two Case Studies from Paraguay and Walking the Tight Rope: Latin American Agricultural Cooperatives and Small Farmer Participation in Global Markets.
Terry Waters is the owner / operator of Waters Nursery in Robertsdale, Alabama, USA. He employs undocumented migrants and testified before the Alabama Legislature about his desire for more guest worker visas.
Scott Whiteford is Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His research integrates issues in economic development, political ecology, environmentalism, migration, social movements, and power. Whiteford has collaborated with colleagues from Argentina, Mexico, and the US border. / Mexico for their most recent research. He has conducted additional research in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador.
The Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Advanced Study of International Development have funded their research. He has served on several scholarship review juries including the National Science Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation, and the Fulbright Commission.
At the University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies, Whiteford teaches a graduate seminar on "Immigration, Inequality, and the Frontiers of the Americas." He also teaches with others an undergraduate seminar on and the US border. / Mexico.
His numerous publications include: The Impact of NAFTA on Small Farmers in Mexico, co-edited with Juan Rivera and Manuel Chávez, New York: Scranton University Press, Political Ecology in the Water Culture of Querétaro, co-edited with Sergio Quesada Aldana. Querétaro: Autonomous University of Querétaro, 2006, Security, Water and Development: The Future of the United States-Mexico Border, co-edited with Alfonso Andrés Cortez Lara and Manuel Chávez Márquez, Tijuana: College of the Northern Border, 2005, Globalization, Water, and Health: Resource Management in Times of Scarcity, co-edited with Linda Whiteford, Santa Fe: School of American Research, 2005, Managing a Sacred Gift: Changing Water Management Strategies in Mexico, co-edited with Roberto Melville, La Jolla: Center for United States / Mexico Studies, University of California, San Diego, 2002, New Political Economy of Globalization and Regional Blocks, co-edited with Manuel Gomez Cruz, Rita Schwentesius, and Manuel Chavez, Mexico: Autonomous University of Chapingo, 2001, Crossing Currents: Continuity and Change in Latin America, co-edited with Michael Whiteford, Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1998, and Workers from the North: Plantations, Bolivian Labor and the City in Northwest Argentina , Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Chuck Williams is a manufacturing engineer in Huntsville, Alabama, USA. He spent time in Mexican maquiladoras [foreign owned assembly plants] while working for a Huntsville-based business.
Michael S. “Mike” Wilson is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation located in northern Mexico and Arizona. He is retired from the United States Army. He was a member of the Army’s Special Operations and was a military advisor in El Salvador in the late 1980s.
Wilson has defied tribal leadership’s ban on placing gallon jugs of water on reservation lands for use by for illegal migrants traveling through them.
The Second Cooler
The Second Cooler—Screenings
April 26, 2016, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.
Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson.
March 23, 2016. Kinomondo Series, Texas Christian University. Fort Worth, Texas. Q&A with Director, Ellin Jimmerson, follows screening. Free. Public.
May 9, 2015. 6:30 PM. United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Leawood, Kansas. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Free. Public.
May 9, 2015, 2:30 PM. Countryside United Methodist Church, Topeka, Kansas. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Free. Public.
May 8, 2015. 7 PM. Trinity United Methodist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Free. Public.
May 7, 2015, 7 PM. St. Paul United Methodist Church, Omaha, Nebraska. Q&A with Director, Ellin Jimmerson, follows. Free. Public.
April 9, 2015, 7 PM. Wingate Hall, Wake Forest School of Divinity, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Free. Public.
March 18, 2015, 7 PM. College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.
Q&A follows with the film's Mike Wilson.
February 26, 2015, 6:30 PM. Wingate Hall, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Free. Public. CANCELLED -- WEATHER
February, 5, 2015, 7:00 PM, Liberal Arts #120, Building 18, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona. Q&A follows with Robert Neustadt. Free. Public.
November, 21, 2014, 6:00 PM, Flying Monkey Arts Center, Lowe Mill, Huntsville, Alabama. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Admission: $10.
October 28, 2014, 6:00 PM, Birmingham Southern College, The Norton Theater, Birmingham, Alabama. Q&A afterwards with Ellin Jimmerson. Public.
October 9, 2014, 7:00 PM, Bank of America Theater, National Hispanic Cultural Center, host, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson.
September 25, 2014, 5:30 PM, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Charger Union Theater, Huntsville, Alabama. Q&A afterwards with Ellin Jimmerson. Reception follows. Public.
September 21, 2014, 3:00 PM, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 510 W. Main Street, Franklin, Tennessee. Q&A with Ellin Jimmerson afterward. Public.
March 30, 2014, 3:00 PM, Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois. Q&A with Ellin Jimmerson afterward. Public.
March 28, 2014, 6;30 PM, Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois. Q&A with Ellin Jimmerson afterward. Public.
February 21, 2014, 3:30 PM, Vanderbilt University, Panel Discussion on Art, Advocacy, and Action with Ellin Jimmerson, Brenda Perez (Worker Dignity) and Stephanie Teatro (TIRRC). Immigration is the theme.
February 20, 2014, 6:00 PM, The Cal Turner Program on Moral Leadership, Art, Advocacy, and Action Symposium. Benton Chapel, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson.
February 15, 2014, New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, St. Pious High School, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Free. Public.
January 10-16, 2014, 6:30 PM, Friday & Saturday, 7:15, Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday. The Magic Lantern Theater, Spokane, WA. Public.
OFFICIAL SELECTION! November, 17, 2013, Boston Latino International Film Festival, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts. Public.
OFFICIAL SELECTION! November 15, 2013, El Cine Palacio, Blue Mall, 7:15 PM, Dominican Republic Global Film Festival, Santo Domingo. Public.
Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson.
November 8, 2013, 2:20 PM, Red Rock International Film Festival, Zion Canyon, Utah, Hurricane Fine Arts Center. Public.
October 28, 2013, DeSales University, Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson. Public.
October 27, 2013, St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 417 N. 7th Street, Allentown, PA 18102. Public. Q&A follows with Director, Ellin Jimmerson.
July 26, 2013, Trinity United Methodist Church, Airport Road, Huntsville, AL. Public. Fund-raiser benefitting the Interfaith Mission Service, Inc. and the Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC, the producer of The Second Cooler. $3,000 raised!!!
June 23, 2013, Sunday, 5:45 PM, Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Manhattan Film Festival, New York City, New York, 10011. Winner, Film Heals Award!
June 15, 2013, Sunday, 7:30 PM, Mary Pickford Theater, AMFM Festival of Music, Art, and Film, Cathedral City, California. Winner, Film 4 Change Award! Winner, Special Humanitarian Award! for Director, Ellin Jimmerson
OFFICIAL SELECTION! April 14, 2013, Sunday, 3:00 PM, The Screening Room, 127 East Congress, Arizona International Film Festival, Tucson, AZ. Public.
April 6, 2013, Alliance of Baptists Annual Gathering, First Baptist Church Greenville, Greenville, SC. Private.
March 8, World Premiere, Peace on Earth Film Festival, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago, IL. Public. Winner, Best Feature Documentary!
October 25, 2012, Restorative Justice Conference, Columbia High School, Huntsville, AL. Private.
October 13, 2012, US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL. Private.
The Second Cooler
The Second Cooler—Artists
Mizue Aizeki, Visual Artist
Mizue Aizeki is a documentary photographer and social justice organizer based in New York, New York. Aizeki works primarily at the intersection of the criminal justice and immigration system to stop the deportation of immigrants with convictions.
Her photographs have appeared in many publications including Dying to Live: A Story of U. S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid, by Joseph Nevins (City Lights Books, 2008) and in journals and newspapers including Colorlines, The Progressive, L. A. Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, Z Magazine, and The Nation. Her projects include Palestinian refugees in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, immigrant deportees and their families, taxi worker organizing in New York City, and Mexican migrants in New York.
Jordan Bullard, Songwriter / Performer
Jordan Bullard is a singer / songwriter from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina who lives and works in New York City. He accompanies himself with guitar, cello, and harmonica. He graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina in 2006. He received a Masters degree in Spanish in May, 2009 from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
After graduating, Bullard spent a year in Agua Prieta, Sonora, México with Frontera de Cristo, a border ministry co-sponsored by the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Presbyterian Church USA. In Agua Prieta, he was US Coordinator of the Migrant Resource Center located outside the Douglas, Arizona, USA port of entry. The Center ministers to migrants who have been deported to México after attempting to cross into the United States. Among other things, it documents human rights abuses experienced by migrants while in custody of US authorities.
In 2010, Bullard recorded a seven song album called Border Songs: Movers, Shakers, and Prayers. His searing, highly-personal songs are documents of his experiences filtered through the Bible and Christianity.
Bullard lent three of them to The Second Cooler. “Commonwealth” interprets a passage from the book of Ephesians and is a prayer of hope that the US will bring down the dividing wall of hostility and be unified as citizens of the community of God. “Geronimo’s Daughter” was inspired by Domitila Geronimo Silva, from Guerrero, Mexico, an indigenous woman who spoke very little Spanish. A Border Patrol agent had hit her in the back with a rifle. While the Migrant Resource Center was documenting the assault, employees of the Mexican Consulate came and documented it as well. They took “a very awkward and sad picture of her. Domitila (Geronimo’s Daughter) was not happy to have her photo taken. The bit about manufactured dreams of men in suits and ties is me addressing the American Dream. Because I saw countless American Dreams dashed while I was on the border. I was feeling helpless. I wanted to communicate my belief that blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Why do we continue to hurt them? Why do we not treat people as blessings?” “Birmingham” was recorded for The Second Cooler at Ellin Jimmerson’s request. Bullard wrote it after meeting a guy named Sergio in Agua Prieta who had been a green energy technician in Texas working on windmills. He was married to a US citizen and had two children who were US citizens. He wanted to do the right thing and get his papers in order. He went to the US Embassy in Ciudad Juarez where he was told he could live legally in the US if he returned to Mexico for two years. That meant two years away from his wife, his kids, his work. So he had no option but to cross back into the US. The song was written in the midst of SB 1070 fervor in Arizona which, says Bullard, “very much parallels aspects of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in Alabama. So the song is a question to the politicians in the US: “Do we really want to do this over again? Do we really want another Birmingham?”
Proceeds from the sale of Border Songs: Movers, Shakers, and Prayers benefit the Migrant Resource Center in Agua Prieta, Sonora, México.
You may contact Jordan Bullard at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Randal E. Culbreth, Photographer
Randal “Randy” E. Culbreth was a photographer based in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham and its history were often the subject of his photos. Culbreth’s collections include 2,000 photographs of stained glass windows in Birmingham and Atlanta churches including the bombed and replaced “Jesus Knocking at the Door” in Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church and the window given by the people of Wales in memory of the four little girls who died in the bombing there. A number of his window photos have become subjects of his own compositions.
Other of Culbreth’s collections include extensive photographs of abandoned factories and warehouses c. 1880-1970, Birmingham wall art c. 1900-1960, the geometrical shapes of Birmingham fire escapes, Civil Rights history including 16th Street Baptist Church and the Civil Rights memorial in Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham historical buildings and architectural details, and nature photographs. He was in the process of documenting Birmingham brothels of the 19th and 20th centuries when he died.
Culbreth’s interest in politics, economics, and the relationship that he, as a child of God, has to marginalized people subtly underlines much of his photographic work. As he has said, “I daily place my life in God’s hands. He chases me down daily to remind me that He loves me, even me, especially me, without qualification.”
As proof of that love, Culbreth has been actively involved as a volunteer or board member of a number of legal clinics, arts community non-profits, and faith-based organizations in Dallas, Atlanta, and Birmingham. “If you want to better your own life,” he says, “improve someone else’s.”
Joseph Harchanko, Score / Cello Performances
Harchanko is an electric cellist and composer based in Salem, Oregon. He has written extensively for traditional instruments, large ensembles, digital media, and film. Harchanko received an ASCAP Film Scoring Fellowship to the Aspen Music Festival and has received fellowships from the Lilly Endowment and the University of Texas. His works have been performed across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia including performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, London’s Colourscape installation, France’s Bourges and Videoformes festivals, The Korean Electroacoustic Festival, and New Music Tasmania.
You may contact Joe Harchanko at: email@example.com.
Leticia V. Huerta, Visual Artist
Leticia Huerta earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1985 and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting in 1991 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.Huerta has exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, Texas, the San Antonio Museum of Art, in San Antonio, Texas, the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas, and the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi, Texas have collected her work. Huerta has attended residencies at the McColl Center for the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, Coronado Studio in Austin, Texas, Self Help Graphics in Los Angeles, California, and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.
She has worked on numerous public art projects, most of them involving the community, design teams, and fabricators. Her completed projects include transit stations in Dallas, Texas for the Dallas Area Transit System, the Charlotte [North Carolina] Area Transit System, and the Phoenix [Arizona] Metro. In addition to transit projects, Huerta has completed streetscape and park projects including the Hemphill / Berry Urban Village Streetscape Project in Fort Worth, Texas and the Nani Falcone Park Bench Project in San Antonio, Texas. Huerta’s studio work is in mixed media combining text and images that allude to personal reflection as well as universal themes about identity, love, death, pain and joy. Among her studio work are “A Seed,” “Élégie,” “Mi familia,” “Padre Nuestro,” which she lent to the Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC for inclusion in The Second Cooler.
Huerta is a native San Antonian. Her family dates back several generations in San Antonio and Brownsville, Texas. She maintains a studio and home outside of San Antonio. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Hyatt, Photographer
Michael Hyatt’s interest in photography began in 1968 after he saw the documentary work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. This led to an active eleven-year period doing street photography in Boston and Los Angeles. His portfolios from this period focus on Boston’s Italian neighborhood and on the residents and transients in and around the Chapman Hotel at the corner of 5th & Wall Street in Los Angeles.
In 1979 Hyatt spent a month photographing in Ireland. While there he photographed the all-female Irish punk rock band, The Boy Scouts, which inspired him to pursue the Los Angeles music scene upon his return. Within the month he began documenting the performances and backstage activities of the prominent punk rock and roots rock bands of the era including X, The Blasters, and Los Lobos. Hyatt also documented the fascinating and visually stimulating audience for this music.
Between 1986, when he moved to Arizona, and 2002, he photographed a variety of subject matters. Then in October, 2002, Hyatt began documenting the efforts of Humane Borders, the volunteer organization that places water stations in the desert to help prevent migrant deaths, and lobbying for more humane border policies. A year later, he began documenting the humanitarian work of Samaritans, a group which takes food, water, and first aid supplies onto the migrant trails, and of the No More Deaths coalition of migrant relief groups. During this period, the University of Arizona Press invited Hyatt to photograph Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument west of Tucson on the US / Mexico border for its Desert Places book series. The result was Organ Pipe–Life on the Edge, published in August, 2004. Soon after, The University of Arizona Special Collections, associated with The Center for Creative Photography, commissioned Hyatt to produce a limited edition box set of photographs. Hyatt’s contribution was Along the Migrant Trail which contains thirteen gelatin silver prints sized 4″ X 5″. The set is displayed in a jewel box with a cover sleeve, list of photographs, and a booklet describing the work illustrated with three additional photographs.
In May, 2007, The University of British Columbia awarded Hyatt and cultural geographer Juanita Sundburg a Hampton Research Fund Grant titled Documenting New Cultural Landscapes of Immigration in the United States-Mexico Borderlands. The same month, Great Circle Books in Los Angeles published Hyatt’s monograph Migrant Artifacts: Magic and Loss in the Sonoran Desert. In April, 2008, it won an annual Eric Hoffer Independent Book Publishing Award in the category of Art. Photographer’s Forum included the book’s cover photograph in its Annual–Best of 2009.
To view Hyatt’s award winning book Migrant Artifacts: Magic & Loss in the Sonoran Desert go to Photography, then Books at:
Valarie Lee James
Valarie James is a sculptor, writer and Benedictine Oblate from the Arizona/Mexico border, specializing in Contemplative Arts. She has designed and created public memorials that mark those who have died in the desert crossing the U.S./Mexico border and most recently, a collaborative International Installation on the hardship and hopes of family and migration.
In 2005, James and her colleagues created “The Mothers; Las Madres/No Mas Lagrimas; No More Tears” Memorial figure sculptures on the Main (East) Campus of Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ. In 2007, James along with sculptor Antonia Gallegos, mounted “The Migrant Shrine; El Santuario Migratorio” at Tucson’s Southside Presbyterian Church. Both public art installations were created from found denim and burlap, plaster, concrete and steel. Currently (2010 – 2012), the installation: “Hardship and Hope: Crossing the U.S. Mexico border", a found object assemblage created by James and Gallegos can be viewed at “Destination X,” an exhibit on world-wide migration at the Museum of World Culture in Goteburg, Sweden.
Classically trained in Pietrasanta, Italy and the Academy of Art in San Francisco among others, James is a former Art Therapist and Sculpture Instructor. She and her art have been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, Fiber Arts Magazine, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, and on Univisión in Miami to name a few and the artist’s own border arts essays have been published in the Hummingbird Review and Science of Mind.
Microwave Dave, Songwriter / Performer
Microwave Dave is an Alabama traditional blues musician who, with his band, “The Nukes,” has an international following. Writer Stephen King ended his seven year column on popular art in Entertainment Weekly by writing, “I want to beg you to . . . [go to YouTube and] check out Microwave Dave and the Nukes blasting ‘Highway 49’. . . .That electric slide will change your way of life.”
Over the course of his career, Microwave has developed a solo electric blues style utilizing real-time loop accompaniment. His bio includes such legends as producer Johnny Sandlin, artists Aretha Franklin, Bo Diddley, and Johnny Shines, and such awards as Canada’s REAL BLUES 2003 Southern Blues Guitarist of the Year / Modern. In 2003, The Nukes’ album, “Atomic Electric,” won awards in Canada’s REAL BLUES competition in the Southern Blues Releases and Southern Blues Band categories, and Microwave Dave was named “2003 Southern Blues Guitarist of the Year/Modern.” In 2004, Microwave Dave’s LoweBow instrumental, “Trail of Tears,” was nominated in the “Best Other Instrument” category by Nashville’s Music City Blues Society.
The Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC commissioned Microwave Dave to do two pieces for The Second Cooler which he provided enthusiastically and pro-bono. The resulting “Why Did You Take My Job?”, a song in the modern country blues idiom, expresses real anger over the recklessness of corporations and politicians who just can’t get enough, coveting even blue collar workers’ factory jobs. His Ry Cooder influenced Lowebow instrumental, “Guests Who Work,” suggests the alarming nature of the Federal guest worker program.
You may contact Microwave Dave Gallaher at http://www.microwavedave.com/home.htm
Barbara Mitchell, Textile Artist
Barbara Mitchell has sewn and stitched most of her life. She has taken courses in drawing, watercolor, acrylics, and art history. Her media are fabric and fibers. She makes contemporary art quilts, clergy stoles, liturgical banners, fiber-wrapped wall hangings, and one-of-a-kind purses.
All Mitchell’s designs are original. They include such abstract designs as “Everything is Not Always in Black and White” and such representational designs as “Exploring Turtle Island.” Others, such as “Eclipse: Moving Through the Darkness,” which was included in the Sacred Threads biennial exhibition outside Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2011, are cross-over pieces which can be interpreted literally or experientially. God’s creation, travel, archetypes, and literature all influence her work. Mitchell’s goal is to bring awareness of God’s love and the beauty of God’s creation to the viewer. She exhibits her work in juried art shows in the Southeast, primarily in Alabama.
Early in 2011, The Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC commissioned a piece of fiber art for The Second Cooler. Ellin Jimmerson wanted her to help interpret the devastating impact of the Central American Free Trade Agreement on the once-thriving textile industry in Fort Payne, Alabama. Reflecting her interest in architecture, she conceived and executed “Transitions,” which interprets a sock factory moving from a brightly lit building to a closed and dark one.
Mitchell’s website is www.barbara-mitchell.com. You may contact her at email@example.com.
Alberto Morackis (1959-2008), Visual Artist
Alberto Morackis was a muralist, painter, and illustrator in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. He was a principal artist at Nogales’s important Taller Yonke (Junk Workshop). He exhibited individually and collectively in Mexico and the United States. He received numerous honors from the Sonora Culture Institute and the US / Mexico border art competition “Ford-Pollock-Suigueiros” funded by the National Council for Culture and the Ford Foundation. He was a member of Nogales’s Municipal Council for Culture and Arts from 1999-2000.
With his business parter, Guadalupe Serrano, Morackis designed, executed, and installed “Paseo de Humanidad,” a serious of painted aluminum cut-outs detailing aspects of migrant crossing experiences. It is affixed to the Mexican side of the U. S. border wall at Nogales. A portion was recently re-located to the Karin Newby Gallery in Tubac, Arizona, USA. His sculpture, “Border Dynamics” also done in collaboration with Serrano, is located on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Only a few weeks after we interviewed him in his studio, Morackis died unexpectedly of pneumonia. Our interview was his final one.
Pablo Peregrina, Songwriter / Performer Photo by Joel Smith
Tucson’s “Pablo” is a third-generation tile artist, troubadour, and volunteer with Humane Borders, a group which legally places water for migrants in Arizona’s Sonora Desert. When he performs, he always wears a migrant’s bandana which he has found in the desert. Of the habit he says, “I wear them because they carry the spirit of my people–the brown Aztecs, Mayans and all the other indigenes, some who survive and some who perish in our back yard–the unforgiving desierto.” He lent two of his songs to The Second Cooler and a third to the documentary’s CD.
With his strong, poignant falsetto, Pablo’s searing “A Migrant’s Sufrimiento” is a prayer for survival in the treacherous Sonora Desert. His chilling “Run, Run, Run” seems to allude to the children’s nursery rhyme while referencing the dangers of the “coyotes’ domain.” One of Pablo’s newest songs, “Josseline,” is a bonus track on The Second Cooler’s CD. Tucson artist Nanette Robinson provided the lyrics. Telling the story of the death of 14 year old El Salvadoran migrant, Josseline Jamileth Hernández Quintero, who died cold and alone in the Sonora Desert, the song is about state-sponsored stolen childhoods.
You may contact Pablo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alfred Quíroz, Visual Artist
Quíroz is Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, USA. His contemporary narrative paintings have been exhibited internationally and reviewed by many magazines including Art in America, Artforum and many others. His satirical paintings are noted for his outraged attention to murderous injustices including the killing fields of Cambodia, rafters of Haitians drowning in the Caribbean Sea, and people “disappeared” by their own governments in South America. For many years, his aluminum cutouts detailing certain realities of illegal migration were on the U.S. border wall on the Mexican side in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Sarah Reynolds, Visual Artist
Reynolds is a radio producer and multimedia storyteller. She produces stories for public radio and specializes in digital storytelling, devising and producing multimedia for the non-profit sector as a way of improving the receptivity and messaging of an organization's work, building arsenals of stories that often go untold.
Reynolds worked in labor law as an investigator before making the move to radio and multimedia documentary. A large body of her investigative and documentary work has focused on immigrant communities around the U.S. and has been published in numerous reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Center for American Progress. In 2009, Sarah won a Project Censored Award for her investigative work on Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States. Her multimedia work on migrant farmworkers was also chosen for screening at the Women and Minorities in Media Festival in 2011.
Reynolds formally trained in radio at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies after which she worked with Atlantic Public Media on Cape Cod and with the Peabody Award winning Transom.org, while reporting for the local NPR station, WCAI. She has also reported, written and produced for the WNYC newsroom and for the New York Press Club Award winning political news website, WNYC's It's a Free Country.
Her work has taken her around the globe and has been aired on NPR's All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and other national programs including Studio 360 and The Story. She has taught radio with WNYC's Radio Rookies, a youth radio project in New York City, the Transom Story Workshop and at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU.
Guadalupe Serrano lives in Nogales, Sonora, México where he is an active muralist, painter, and illustrator. He is a member of Nogales’ highly-regarded “Taller Yonke” or Junk Workshop. Serrano produces art for public, urban spaces. Among the Workshop’s most significant works are the highly colored, mixed media series depicting migration issues installed on the Méxican side of the United States Department of Homeland Security’s corrugated metal and barbed wire fence which divides the US from Mexico. The series was co-produced with the late Alberto Morackis.
His “Border Dynamics,” a metal sculpture now on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, also was co-produced with Morackis. Serrano was a member of the Nogales Municipal Council for Culture and Arts, 1999-2000. He won the State of Sonora Culture Institute’s Plastic Arts contest in 1996 and 1997. Bill Schweikert’s photos of these works, as well as of Taller Jonke’s mural depicting the Mexican countryside were the starting points for the look of The Second Cooler.
Serrano later generously donated the use of his paintings, “Untitled (with Angels and Border Wall),” “Untitled (with Helicopter and Border Dogs),” and “Juan Soldado.”
Joel Smith, Photographer
Photographer Joel Smith is a United States Air Force brat and Marine Corps veteran. He resides in his place of birth, Tucson, Arizona, USA. Currently, he is Operations Manager for Humane Borders, a 501 C-3 non-profit organization which places emergency water stations on routes used by migrants coming north through the Sonora Desert. He graciously lent multiple of his photos to The Second Cooler
You may contact Joel Smith and find out more about Humane Borders at www.humaneborders.org.
Tony Zapata “El Descendiente,” Songwriter / Performer
Tony Zapata is a hip hop artist living in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. He was born in Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico, a city located three hours from Mexico’s border with Texas, USA. His family moved to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico looking for better economic opportunites. When things didn’t work out, and they became increasingly concerned about the violence of the border, the family migrated to Georgia, USA. Later, they moved to Alabama which, they felt, was a friendlier state to live in.
Zapata’s music is a way of life with him. It is how he expresses himself and how he communicates with the Hispanic community. In his music, he takes on real-life issues, especially how Latinos like him face life in the USA. His songs are about discrimination, life on the streets, poverty, education–in short, every day struggles. So, although Zapata’s music is about and for Latinos, he also believes it is universal in that it addresses the struggles of all kinds of people of all ages. His CDs are Real Revolution and El momento esperado [The Awaited Moment],.
You can buy them at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/realrevolution and at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tonyzapata or on i tunes at:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/real-revolution/id373700119?ign-mpt+uo%3D4 and http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/elmomento-esperado/id305552008
You may contact Tony Zapata at:
tony z - email@example.com
Rainbow in the Word:
LGBTQ Christians' Biblical Memoirs
LGBTQ Christians read, love, scrutinize, become absorbed with, and find deep spiritual meaning in the Bible. It is they whose rare insights into particular Bible stories and characters, told with poignancy and clarity, reveal a gay-friendly Bible and a gay-friendly God who cherishes and needs them just as they are. If given free rein, these inventive, challenging, and profoundly engaged evangelists may be the ones we have been waiting for to rescue biblical interpretation from those who too often are not only hurtful but dismal and boring. Thank God for them!
Ellin Sterne Jimmerson, 2017
Wipf & Stock, Publisher
Barnes & Noble
Wipf & Stock
Rainbow Home Page
Rainbow in the Word: LGBTQ Christians' Biblical Memoirs—Reviews
"In the dialogue and debate about the place of LGBTQ persons in Christian churches, too often only the voices of straight, white, usually male, scholars and theologians are heard. Rainbow in the Word introduces us to the beautiful voices of LGBTQ persons themselves, people who, against all odds, have kept the faith and who can speak for themselves. No conversation about these courageous and articulate Christians should take place without their own voices being heard. Highly recommended!" — Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"An interesting thing happened to me the other day, I had met a young man who was down on his luck. While we were talking, he said , "I've never liked it when people say, 'act normal', or 'be normal'," he said. "I have always thought that was a negative thing to say to someone, why don't we say, be natural, or act natural... that seems so much truer to who you actually are". I loved that, then I opened my new book, Rainbow in the Word and one of the chapters is "The Non-Normative Jesus", I thought, "wow ,how cool is that! "Bravo, Ellin Jimmerson and all the wonderful collaborators of this beautiful book!!"— Lauren K.
"No better treatment of the LGBT issue for serious Christian readers."—Dr. Lynn E. Mitchell, University of Houston, author of Walking in the Light: How Christians Face Ethical Issues
"A love song to the Christian scriptures"
Ellin Sterne Jimmerson is an ordained clergywoman, film-maker, and prophet who has spent most of her life asking hard questions and seeking nuanced answers that take the Gospels seriously. Anyone who offers Dr. Jimmerson a facile answer walks away in tatters—her love of the Scriptures and their implications for how we treat each other won't allow for platitudes and memorized answers. Her Rainbow in the World: LGBTQ Christians' Biblical Memoirs interrogates our assumptions about Queer People and their approaches to the very texts that have many times been used as a weapon against them. The bravery that these writers show in their willingness to undergo this task and their answers to Jimmerson's hard questions should inspire all of us who love the Christian Scriptures. There are works from several genres here: apologetics, confession, poetry, autobiography--all with a strongly personal hermeneutic that draws the reader into a deeply wounded yet joyous approach to our shared heritage. I highly recommend this for any mature reader—but especially for those who are seeking to answer the hard questions about how our love of the Scriptures fits together with our understanding of sexuality, gender and identity." — Dr. Pamela H. Long, Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama
"Water to a parched land"!
"There is so much noise in the church these days, particularly the United Methodist Church, as debate continues as to whether LGBTQ people have a right to be recognized as people—children of God even—within church institutions. And the more the debate continues I am more and more convinced that conservative, anti-LGBTQ groups are dedicated to simply creating noise. The louder the noise the more attention is drawn away from the theological truth that the biblical narrative is one that is entirely about liberation. Noise distracts us from what matters and that is the voice of those directly impacted: LGBTQ people themselves.
And so this is what I find so refreshing about a book I recently read and tremendously enjoyed and one I hope you will read as well: Rainbow in the Word: LGBTQ Christians’ Biblical Memoirs, edited by my friend, Ellin Sterne Jimmerson. Through a collection of writers that take the reader through Scripture and who personally and theologically reflect on passages, we are reminded of how utterly stupid and futile, yet harmful, the debate about full recognition of LGBTQ people in the church is. It is too late! LGBTQ people are not only our sisters and brothers in Christ; they are our pastors, teachers, theologians, and prophets. Right now the only viable path forward for the church is to listen and learn. Not to do so only creates more harm.
For me, I am listening and learning and Rainbow in the Word is an incredibly helpful tool in that process.
I found myself, as I read this book, looking at the biblical passages that the chapter reflections were based on. It made me hungry for Scripture! And as with all good theology, I found the reflections from this collection of authors (most of whom I have never heard of before, which is so refreshing!) to be encouraging and challenging.
Here are just a few moments from the book that stand out to me.
Jonathan Freeman-Coppadge’s personal reflection on Abraham building an altar to sacrifice his son Isaac was so vulnerable and powerful as he shared his struggle to live into who God has created and called him to be amidst the unholy condemnation that has sadly sounded through his heart and mind for far too long. But praise God for liberation!
Likewise, Kenny Pierce, in his reflection on Esther (a book I dearly love) reminds us that sin is the failure to recognize our identity and God’s call upon our lives, especially among LGBTQ people. He writes prophetically and liberatively, "I've come to believe that the great sin on the part of our community - and the larger church and society that would stifle this very nature God has created - is that of silencing our stories."
Once again Kenny Pierce writes a haunting reflection based on Isaiah and taken from a memory of caring for AIDS patients. It was his personal interaction with one patient who was in the late stages of the disease that uncovered Kenny’s own struggle to look past him; to make him invisible. I was so challenged by this chapter in particular – not to be so busy serving the world that we forget the humanness of those we serve, even and especially when that humanness if difficult to look at. This chapter still haunts me.
Richard Barham’s chapter on Jesus naming the good fruit and his own journey towards full acceptance of himself and past the harmful compartmentalization that stunted his spiritual growth and acceptance for so long, reminds us all of the power of the Jesus’ call is for every aspect of our lives and not just those deemed acceptable by others.
Jennifer Hasler identifies her story of transitioning to Mary’s song and story. Like Mary, Jennifer felt fear and uncertainty in transitioning to who God created her to be. And it was because she transitioned that she has found that her faith is not merely an “intellectual pursuit,” but an authentic and profoundly transformative relationship.
Lastly, Andrew Dykstra’s describes his own liberation when he realized that “Jesus himself did not present as heteronormative…When I finally came to believe that Jesus stands in solidarity with all of us by being like us. I felt like a prisoner set free. By relinquishing privilege, by choosing to be a ‘eunuch for the Kingdom,’ I believe Christ elevates those of us who are non-normative, embracing us who were once excluded.”
Amen. Dykstra rightly summarizes the power of Rainbow in the Word, the voices of those who once had been castigated and marginalized (and tragically, still are far too often) are embraced by Jesus the Liberator." —Bill Mefford, Fig Tree Revolution
"One amazing read!"
"Life stories can remake today's theology," James W. McClendon, Jr. once said, and in this movingly penned. intellectually diverse, and spiritually transformative volume of story-theology, Ellin Jimmerson and her contributors show us how. Rainbow in the Word offers earthbound earthbound models of Christian desire for transcendent meaning, which is no small accomplishment. This book's wisdom has been forged on life's touch anvil, yet each tale in it will endure, branded by the ability to take theology in some unexpectedly new directions. One amazing read!"— Darren J. N. Middleton, Texas Christian University.
"Amazing, loving book!"
"A book for all folks who would want a Scriptural understanding of how non-normative individuals come to know themselves as Beloved Children of God. I’m a cis-gendered RN who started caring for HIV/AIDS patients during the 1980’s. I had little understanding of what being gay meant other than that my patients were not just suffering physically but mentally as well as spiritually. The Christ I learned from them lives, and the essays offered here give an antidote to the toxic cherry picking and clobber verses. Pastors, LBGTQ, allies, parents, it’s for everyone." — Creewoman
"Informing heads, reaching hearts"
"Are you a secular person or someone of deep religious faith? Are you "straight" or do you fall within that broad, diverse demographic category bearing the label LGBTQ? Whatever your answer to that question, personally and in the depths of your essence, you should read this book. Gifts of inestimable value, that's what you will find from the contributions of the people who offer their observations, reflections, and conclusions in this anthology. In common with other LGBTQ people, the participants have experienced judgement and hostility. They have also engaged with the entirety of biblical text, including those "clobber verses." The insights they provide in their reconciliation of faith and essence are meaningful and profound. It is a slim volume, a newly-opened door to the participation of others in books possibly to come." — Dr. David Gillespie, political scientist
"Invitation to a dying church"
"An entire reformation was birthed when the Bible was given to the common worshiper. It's amazing what the Spirit will do when she is not withheld from those who need her most. In Rainbow in the Word, Ellin Jimmerson invites a dying Church to free itself from the constraints of its long-held homophobia and exposes it to the biblical insights of today's most marginalized voices. New life will emerge on the other side of this."—John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ.
"Inspiring, devastating, healing!"
“Rainbow in the Word: LGBTQ Christians’ Biblical Memoirs offers a diverse collection of narratives told in a unified voice: God not only loves queer people, but God is revealed through queer lives. Indeed, the narratives remind us that the marginalization of queer people from Christian practice amounts to a marginalization of God, Godself. The stories are told primarily in the mode of testimony and, in that mode, they redeploy a traditionally conservative Christian form for progressive purposes. They are poetic, at times inspiring, at times devastating and at times healing. And most of all, they open up the Christian Scriptures in compelling, creative ways.” — Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Contextual Education and Theology at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
"Will draw you closer to God"
"God always invites the uninvited, welcomes the unwelcome, includes the excluded, and loves the unloved. Even when we don't. These beautiful stories by LGBTQ Christians will draw you closer to God and God's inviting, welcoming, inclusive love." — Nathan Hamm, social media theologian
"Refreshing and powerful!
"I love that this book about LGBTQ Christians and their interactions with the Bible dispenses with the debate over whether the Bible condemns homosexuality or non-normative gender expression, etc. It goes right to the heart of the experiences of real people. And like Kenny Pierce, one of the contributors, points out in one of his essays, there is holy, healing power in sharing stories and experiences. To often, the right/wrong debate in conservative circles paints LGBTQ identity and Christian identity as incompatible, but these essays show how wrong that kind of reductive thinking is, because here we have earnest believers wrestling with their faith, God, and the Bible like so many Jacobs. Based on the responses of their communities, they have had so many reasons to simply let go and give up the fight, but you can tell in their stories that they have held on, refusing to let go, and have found blessing as a result." — Dr. Leslie M. Kaiura, PhD, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Rainbow = God's promise"
"Ellin Sterne Jimmerson has assembled deeply personal memoirs of people who experienced rejection by their religious communities because they did not conform to societal expectations of gender expression or sexual orientation. However, these writers refused to go away. Each person in their unique way seized from Scripture stories that resonated with them, that conveyed to them God’s deep commitment to them. They found a God who gives preference to the marginalized, a God who is one with the excluded. In the written word, they each found God’s rainbow." —Andrew Dykstra, contributor
"Unique invitation to brighter hues"
"When so many conversations around LGBTQ people in the church centers around debating our legitimacy, Rainbow in the Word reminds us that our sexual identity is not a liability to be defended but inessential contribution to the Church's understanding of Scripture and of God. This unique book invites us into richer hues and brighter colors as we encounter the Creator whose divine image is reflected in us all."—Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author of The Cost of Community
"An enlightening journey"!
"An enlightening journey into the Bible through the eyes of LGBTQ+ individuals. This is a new view of the Bible, not in defense of the validation for LGBTQ+ people or the continued dialogue in defense, but a look at how LGBTQ+ people have been empowered and found strength within scripture. This is encouraging to see for family and friends of LGBTQ+ people and for LGBTQ+ people who often do not find a resemblance of their life in their spiritual homes." — Riley, GoodReads reviewer
"Wrestles blessings from sacred texts!"
"Queer voices in Theology are important, especially after the release of documents like the Nashville Statement that attempt to establish a very narrow Evangelical orthodoxy.
I am probably very traditional in my theology even as a queer man — several of these essays made me uncomfortable. Yet these short reflections demonstrate a deep love for the Bible and the God revealed by wrestling a blessing from these sacred texts, and especially in the person of Jesus the Christ." — Robert, GoodReads reviewer
Rainbow Home Page
Rainbow in the Word: LGBTQ Christians' Biblical Memoirs—Contributors
Ellin Sterne Jimmerson
Ellin Jimmerson conceived, compiled, and edited Rainbow in the Word. She holds a Master of Arts in US History from Samford University, a Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in Latin American liberation theology from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a PhD in US History from the University of Houston. Her specialization is the intersection of politics and Christianity. She wrote and directed the award winning migrant advocacy documentary, The Second Cooler, narrated by Martin Sheen. An ordained Baptist minister, Jimmerson gained international attention when she officiated at the first same sex wedding in Madison County, Alabama. Following the wedding, she resigned her position as Minister to the Community at her home church in Huntsville, Alabama which subsequently was disfellowshipped by the Southern Baptist Convention. She is the author of numerous articles on issues surrounding both immigration and lgbtq rights. You can follow her on Facebook (Ellin Jimmerson) and Twitter @EllinJimmerson. Viki Matson
Prof. Matson wrote the Foreword for Rainbow in the Word. She is the Director of Field Education and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ministry at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, she served as Chaplain at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, TN. Prof. Matson holds a BS in Religion from Phillips University in Enid, OK (1977) a Master of Divinity (with distinction) from Phillips Theological Seminary in Enid, OK (1982). Additionally, she has completed a residency year in Clinical Pastoral Education and has done graduate study in Ethics. Prof. Matson's professional interests and expertise include theological reflection on practice, the global dimensions of theological education, and the capacities needed for religious leaders in our times. Prof. Matson is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is currently a Member-at-Large on the Steering Committee for the Association of Theological Field Education.
Richard Barham was reared in Bridgeport, Alabama. He started preaching on a regular basis at age fifteen. He graduated from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a minor in religious studies. He attended the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming out, he served as an interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, Alabama and as pastor of Kennedy Baptist Church in Kennedy, Alabama. After coming out, Barham served as the associate pastor at Covenant Community Church in Birmingham. Since December, 1999, he has served as the senior pastor of Spirit of the Cross Church in Huntsville, Alabama. He has volunteered for various community LGBTQ organizations and has served on the board of directors of the AIDS Action Coalition of Huntsville (now Thrive Alabama), Soulforce Alabama, and GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services (now Free2Be). He is a frequent guest on local college panels and local media regarding gay and religious issues.
Riley Chattin is a Spiritual Director in Roanoke, Virginia. He is a self professed seeker of truth in Christianity. It was in gender transition that he experienced the undeniable connect to God that we all share. S. R. Davis
S. R. Davis is genderqueer and teaches high school students with developmental disabilities. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy and a Master of Arts in English from McMaster University, a Bachelor of Education from York University, and studied theology at Emmanuel College of the University of Toronto. She is passionate about disability rights, opera, and the novels of Marilynne Robinson. She lives with her partner, one-year-old daughter, and a retired racing greyhound named Lady Gaga in Toronto, Canada. Please contact her @SRLimDavis.
Lisa A. Dordal
Lisa A. Dordal holds a Master of Divinity and a Master of Fine Arts, both from Vanderbilt University, and currently teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Robert Watson Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals including Best New Poets, Cave Wall, CALYX, The Greensboro Review, Vinyl Poetry, and The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Mosaic of the Dark, was published by Black Lawrence Press (2018). She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. For more information about her poetry or to be added to her mailing list, please visit her website at lisadordal.com.
Andrew Dykstra was born in the city of Bolsward in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. With his parents and his sister, Sofie, Dykstra immigrated to Canada in 1952. He was raised in the Reformed Church (RCA) but at age 22 became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Feeling that there was no home for him there as a gay man, Dykstra eventually withdrew for twenty years but returned in 2000. He retired from the printing business in 2016 after working in various capacities for 47 years. He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada where he is an active member of Immanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan Freeman-Coppadge is a writer and a new father. He is the fiction editor at Oyster River Pages, and he teaches English at Groton School where he lives with his husband and their son. You can find him on Medium and Twitter @jdcoppadge. Jennifer Hasler
Jennifer Hasler is a part time Theology student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a full professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She transitioned from male to female between 2006 and 2012, keeping both her academic position, and more importantly, her family together. Hasler has been married for twenty-one years and has two children, ages seventeen and fourteen. Her entry was written to commemorate the 18th Transgender Day of Remembrance, a solemn day in the transgender community which remembers those who were murdered during the previous year. She particularly wanted to remember Gwen Araujo, a Fremont, California trans woman who was killed by four men after forcibly finding out she was transgender.
Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood
Jeff Hood holds a Master of Arts, a Master of Science, a Master of Divinity, a Master of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry. He is an activist theologian and author of fifteen books and numerous articles. In 2013, Hood was awarded PFLAG Fort Worth’s Equality Award for activism and service. In 2016, Hood's book, The Courage to Be Queer, was named the third best religion book of the year at the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Through consistent media appearances, Hood has been able to share the message of queerness with a broad audience. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ray Jordan currently serves as the Interim Senior Pastor of Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Dallas, Texas, after serving as Central's associate pastor. He has also worked in the public and private sectors as a public school teacher, university professor, non-profit administrator, corporate trainer, and consultant. Although originally from Oakland, California, Ray was raised by his grandmother on a farm in rural Arkansas, where he often traversed the intersectionality of his race (African American), class (poor), and sexuality (gay). Ray holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Education, a Master of Arts in Teaching, a Master of Theological Studies from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, and is completing his PhD (ABD) from Union Institute and University. In addition to pastoring, Ray serves on the board of directors of the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ, teaches classes in Interdisciplinary Studies and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, teaches classes in Political Science at Southern Methodist University, and spends time with his three children, Trey, Alley, and Joshua Caleb.
Tyler Heston is a second-year Master of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School and serves as the Assistant Minister for Middle School at University Christian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated with a degree in Religion in Society and a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Memphis. Raised in a non-denominational evangelical church in suburban Memphis, Tennessee, Tyler joined Kingsway Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) after coming out as gay while he was in college and now serves as a council member for the GLAD Alliance, which works toward “transforming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) into a just and inclusive church that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities into the full life and leadership of the church.” Aside from school and ministry, he enjoys a variety of things, such as Sufjan Stevens, The X-Files, traveling, and eating sushi with friends.
Todd McGraw grew up in rural West Virginia where his spiritual life was basically nonexistence. His family attended church because, like many other families in his community, they knew that to keep up with the Jones, they had to pray with the Jones. They attended church, but for him God and faith seemed distant and bleak. He was a young, gay male struggling to reconcile a religious teaching that shunned homosexuals with the reality that, in spite of all the bravado and gentility, he was gay and could do nothing to change it. He attended the University of Georgia on a swimming scholarship. After college, he accepted a lucrative corporate job in Atlanta. At twenty-three, God became the epicenter of his life. He left the corporate job to attend Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. A youth pastor at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, McGraw lives in Fort Worth, Texas.
Kenny Pierce, a native of Southern California, came out in 1985 as the AIDS epidemic raged around him in the Greater Los Angeles area, and later during his years spent living in San Francisco. He is passionate about God and about the needs of the changing Church. He is dedicated to building bridges to the survivors and their families and friends, alienated and disillusioned by the Church’s betrayal and silence during the “gay genocide” in those earliest years of HIV/AIDS in America. Pierce lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter (@KennyRayPierce) and on his blog, "Tangentials".
Stephen V. Sprinkle is Professor of Practical Theology at Brite Divinity School, located on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and has held the office of Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry since 1994. He is the first openly gay scholar in Brite’s history. A native of North Carolina, he holds a Bachelor of Arts from Barton College, a Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School, and a PhD in Systematic Theology from Duke University. He is an ordained minister of the Alliance of Baptists. Sprinkle was named 2010–2011 Hero of Hope by the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas for his advocacy on behalf of the lgbtq community and served as Theologian in Residence for the Cathedral for six years. In 2016, he received the Pillar of Freedom Award for his passion, activism, and dedication to the advancement of justice and human rights. He has authored three books and many scholarly articles and holds professional memberships in the Academy of Religious Leadership and the Association of Theological Field Educators. Sprinkle is a human rights advocate, a widely sought after speaker and pulpiteer, and an internationally recognized authority on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.
Peterson Thomas Toscano
Peterson Toscano is a playwright, actor, Bible scholar, blogger, podcaster, advocate against global warming, and gay rights activist. Toscano spent nearly two decades undergoing ex-gay treatment and conversion therapy before accepting his sexual orientation and coming out as a gay man. He bills himself as a "Quirky Queer Quaker performance artist and scholar." He lives in Pretoria, South Africa with his husband, South African writer Glen Retief.
Matthew and the Centurion: A Liberationist Reading
"For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it." Matt 8:9 In The Social History of Rome, Geza Alfödy says the "only institutionalized path for upwards [sic] mobility from the base (e.g. slavery) to the top of the social pyramid (i.e. the emperor) was the career of a centurion who entered the equestrian order through the primipilate."
Ellin Jimmerson, 2005
Painting: The Four Evangelists, Jacob Jordaens, c. 1625
Matthew and the Centurion: A Liberationist Reading
Alfödy goes on to make the argument that the military position of the centurion provided the Roman social system with the “elasticity [which] was essential to its strength and stability.”
In other words, because it was an “elastic” institutional position, it was about change over time. Yet, because it was change over time that existed in order to shore up the stability of the Empire, the position fundamentally was about opposition to change. Indeed it ultimately served the interests of the status quo.
This institutional safety valve which provided elasticity and mobility for the few ultimately served to underwrite the oppressive lack of mobility of the many. Moreover, Alfödy notes that social demotion was a rare occurrence in the early Empire. Once a centurion or other imperial servant acquired them, privileges such as freedom, citizenship, or membership in an ordo usually were revoked only for criminal acts.
Matthew’s story about the centurion is helpful for liberationist purposes for two reasons:
1. History, as we historians say, consists of stories about change over time. A centurion, whether an imaginative or factual figure, was inherently an “historical” figure because he was about change over time. This change constitutively was about socioeconomics, i.e. upward mobility in terms of status, standard of living, and power with the threat of downward mobility for actions (as opposed to beliefs, for example) which opposed the power of the Empire.
2. Matthew’s story about the centurion also was constitutively a narrative about power because the position of the centurion not only was about protecting the Empire from external military threats it was about protecting the Empire via an institutional advertisement for the benevolence of the state. In other words, the position of centurion had ideological value for the Empire.
The purpose of this blog post is to develop and point out the value of an “historical” liberationist hermeneutic or method of interpreting the Bible.
I do this from my perspective as a professional historian who understands history fundamentally to be about multifarious, competing, and often high-stakes human narratives developed along the axis of change over time. These narratives always are situated within the historian’s own worldview, constructed by the historian, semantically encoded by the historian, often told in the context of cultural discourses of interest to the historian’s audience, and have premeditated or unpremeditated implications about the status quo or its opponents.
I also do this from my perspective as a theologian influenced primarily Latin America’s theologians of liberation including Leonardo Boff, Oscar Romero, and Ernesto Cardenal.
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN “HISTORICIST” AND “HISTORICAL” HERMENEUTICS
One of the collective strategies of Latin America’s liberation theologians has been to appropriate and redefine the term “historical”. Part of the rationale for this has been the perceived necessity of countering Western Europe / Northern Hemisphere modernist projects which, they conclude, definitely have been implicated in the subjugation, domination, and exploitation of non-Western / Southern people, their cultures, and their economies.
Modernist projects include defining “history” in a way that I am calling “historicist”, i.e. as that which is finite, concrete, and past yet excavatable, transportable and objectively subject to ideologically neutral reconstruction in the present — by professionals.
It is a project which emphasizes the importance of the antique past to what have been Christian academic concerns including desires to reconcile religion with nationalism, colonialism, and capitalism.
One solution has been to stabilize the Bible via the discovery of biblical “facts” and their perceived inverse — biblical “myths”. In biblical studies circles this translates into historical criticism including “quests for the historical Jesus” and by extension the historical Bible, the historical Matthew, the historical centurion, and so on, as well as for the presumed “lessons of (biblical) history”.
While purporting to be non-ideological, the upshot is a definition of Christian “history” which often works to the advantage of the status quo and its self-aggrandizements and in opposition to calls for socioeconomic and other types of systemic change.
In part this is because the definition of history as finite, concrete, excavatable and transportable places a premium on what is past. It is the past itself which is given value, i.e. it is an inherently reactionary — and consequently highly ideological — religious project.
Because of its emphasis on the past as an ideological standard of value (or a value related to power), as liberation theologians have underscored, modernist biblical interpreters’ understanding of history is, in fact, an historicist, inherently reactionary approach serving the interests of the status quo.
I am striving to develop a distinction between “historicist” biblical readings which benefit the status quo and “historical” biblical readings which have the potential of benefiting those who are in opposition to or are harmed by the status quo.
In large part, I am drawing on my professional historian’s understanding of history simply defined as narratives about change over time. In deliberate opposition to an historicist understanding of biblical history, an historical approach would emphasize several aspects of “history”. An historical approach to biblical history would emphasize that history by definition consists of multifarious, competing and often high-stakes ideologically situated human narratives, constructed by historians along the axis of change over time, told in the context of cultural discourses of interest to the historian’s audience and with power implications vis-à-vis the status quo or its opponents.
An historical understanding of biblical history underscores its inherent subjectivity and volatility (orientation to change) rather than its presumed objectivity and stability (orientation to the status quo). It seeks to activate and orient on-going historical narratives now being constructed. In particular, it seeks to orient and direct those narratives about change over time to the advantage of peoples currently existing on the socioeconomic and other margins.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN HISTORICIST AND A HISTORICAL MATTHEW
If we assume human authorship of the Bible, we can construct an identity for Matthew in both the historicist and historical senses. The historicist Matthew (we can be absolutely certain of this) knew how to read, write, and construct a narrative about change over time. He wa a Jew (this seems clear enough) who wrote an interpretive narrative of Jesus Christ. He appears (this is indirectly clear) to have written his gospel sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem and the razing of the Temple by about 70 CE (his gospel reflects knowledge of it).
Matthew appears to have written his gospel in Syrian Antioch around 85 CE (this conclusion is widely although not universally held by Matthew’s most recent historians) in part because earliest citations of his gospel are found in works having strong ties to Antioch and date from about 100 CE. I can say with some degree of certainty, then, that the historicist (excavatable and transportable) Matthew was a Jewish writer who interpreted Jesus and the destruction of the Temple around 85 CE. CE, by the way, stands for “Common Era” and is the equivalent of AD.
Although I am less certain of his location in Syrian Antioch, I am choosing to presume that location because by doing so I can activate a narrative about an historical centurion written by an historical Matthew. The distinction between the historicist Matthew and the historical Matthew is important: the historicist Matthew more or less demonstrably existed; the historical Matthew emphatically did something thereby attempting to change his and others’ biographical narratives about change over time.
One of the things he did was to write about a centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant / son. Borrowing insights from liberation theology, my argument is that this is what made him “historical”.
The Antioch location is historically suggestive. As the Empire’s chief eastern city and principle eastern military outpost, the continual presence of the Roman army was perhaps the single most significant feature of life in Antioch. Historians indicate that there were approximately 30,000 Roman troops garrisoned in or near Antioch during the time Matthew was writing his gospel. As a centurion was by definition the commander of a hundred soldiers and if there were approximately 30,000 troops in Antioch around 85 CE, there presumably were about 300 centurions in Antioch as Matthew was writing.
Moreover, Antioch was claustrophobic. It was about two miles long and one mile wide with an exceedingly dense population of about 100,000 or 205 people per acre making it more crowded than Calcutta in the 21st century.
Three hundred centurions, then, almost surely would have been an omnipresent signifier of the militarily-backed authoritarian reality of the power of the Roman Empire in the city.
In addition to being a key center of the Roman Empire’s military apparatus, Antioch was a linchpin polis in its system of cities, a political network consisting of cities all around the Mediterranean basin with legal, political, and economic entitlements over the agricultural and monetary yields of the countryside attached to it.
In other words, Antioch was also the center of a parasitic economic system.
My purpose in emphasizing Matthew’s presumed Antioch location is to underscore a context in which a centurion theoretically could signify the omnipresence of the Roman Empire and its potential for violence. Additionally, the location theoretically (whether actually is speculative) could have provided Matthew with a context which could signify the reality of an oppressive socioeconomic system, a reality which would have been safeguarded to the benefit of the elites by the 300 centurions, but not to the benefit of servants and slaves.
The Antioch location also suggests that Matthew, the writer of the story about the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant / son, may have had a socioeconomic location closer to that of the centurion than to that of the servant / son. I can make this speculation for no other reason than that the historicist Matthew had discretionary income which allowed for the employment of teachers who taught him to read and write narratives and discretionary time which allowed for the activity of writing.
However, Matthew is not yet a historical figure because he has not yet acted. The thing I can say with certainty that he did (that which makes him historical — the reason for which we remember his actions and his name) was to write a narrative about Jesus which moves along the axis of change over time. Moreover, I am also arguing that the construction of a narrative is inherently a destabilizing act regardless of one’s intentions.
It was Matthew who provided the narrative with its (inherently unstable) words. For example, are we to interpret the word Κυριε Christologically or counter-imperially? It was Matthew who provided the narrative with its inherently unstable narrative framework, (e.g. what significance if any may be attached to all the coming and going?) and it’s only equivocally retrievable ideological or power orientation.
In addition, in creating their own narratives, his historians, including me, make Matthew an historical figure (activate him) by making multiple and competing decisions about theological meanings of his words and narrative arrangements and speculate about his orientation to power by reading his text through the optics of their own ideologies.
I am also arguing that Matthew has constructed a historical narrative by which I do not mean that he excavated an event in Jesus’ past which he then transported undisturbed through time and stabilized in a story. Rather I mean that as I read it, he constructed a narrative which not only progresses through time as the plot unfolds but one which is fundamentally about change over time — the centurion fundamentally reorients his own relationship to the empire by putting himself under Jesus’ authority, Jesus fundamentally reorients his initial response to the centurion’s request by accepting the centurion’s analysis of his role in relationship to the empire, and Jesus fundamentally reorients the relationship of Jews and Gentiles to the kingdom of heaven.
Fundamentally, then, Matthew has constructed a story which at the level of various discourses is about rejection of the status quo and its promises of stability.
A LIBERATIONIST HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE CENTURION WHO ASKED JESUS TO HEAL HIS SERVANT / SON
One might speculate that the appearance of a centurion in Matthew’s narrative inherently implies a character that has become, in the language of liberation interpretive principles, the subject of his own forward-moving history. The centurion is inherently a historical figure not because he is a finite, concrete man with a name and address in the antique world, stabilized as an unnamed character in Matthew’s narrative, and excavated and transported through time by professionals into the present.
Rather, generally speaking he is historical because he or a forebear was a character whose very existence implies one who at some point in time made a conscious decision to activate socioeconomic change through time by entering the Roman Empire’s only fully vertical socioeconomic conduit, a conduit established in part to reinforce the imperial national security state, i.e. for reasons of power.
I am suggesting that the centurion was a historical figure because he consistently engaged in constructing an autobiographical narrative about change, i.e. ever larger accruals of socioeconomic power and prestige, over time.
I also am suggesting that the centurion was a linchpin figure in the historical empire’s subjectively shaped narrative about change, i.e. in its own ever larger accruals of militarily-backed territorial and socioeconomic power and prestige, over time.
Matthew’s narrative clearly makes it possible to understand the centurion as an historical figure. He moves through space, decisively choosing to go to Jesus who has returned to his home in Capernaum. He speaks, pleading with Jesus to respond to his paralyzed and ailing παις.
I want to linger a moment over Matthew’s use of the word παις to describe the object of Jesus’s healing.
Matthew does not use the word δουγος, as did the gospel writer Luke in a similar story, to describe the one the centurion wants healed. That would have indicated unambiguously that he was a slave. Nor does he use the word υιος which would have indicated unambiguously that he was the centurion’s son.
Instead, Matthew made the decision to use the word παις which indicated a son who is a servant (a socioeconomic inferior) or a servant who is a son (a potential equal). Inherent in the word is that this is a tangled relationship with socioeconomic and familial meaning. So, I have translated it here as servant / son.
The centurion is a historical figure, too, because he attempts to manipulate Jesus by deferring to Jesus’ authority. He suggests how Jesus might activate a cure: “speak the word only” (8b). He presses Jesus by analyzing the nature of the empire and his equivocal place in it. He does not emphasize, as one might anticipate under the terms of Matthew’s movement-oriented narrative, the mobility implied by his place in the empire. Instead, in the only speech he delivers he emphasizes its authoritarianism — he obeys orders of the one above him as do the soldiers and servants beneath him: “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it” (9).
Most significantly, the historical centurion gets what he wants. He is the subject of his own narrative, altering its historical trajectory.
The historical centurion is not unlike this story’s historical Jesus who similarly moves through space by entering Capernaum, equivocates as to whether he will heal the παις, marvels at the centurion’s analysis thereby deciding to provide the requested healing, delivers his own speech concerning the movements of various groups of people who have a relationship to the kingdom of heaven, and heals the centurion’s servant / son. Like the historical centurion, the historical Jesus alters the trajectory of his own narrative, i.e. he shapes his own story along the axis of change over time.
The point of inquiring about the historical centurion is not to stabilize an identity and an interpretation once and for all and thereby underwrite the reliability of Matthew’s story. Rather, the point is to use a historical interpretive principle in order to create a centurion which can be activated to the benefit of tortured and paralyzed (ahistorical) men, women, and children (those who are analogous to the centurion’s παις) on the edges of current national and global narratives.
The centurion was a historical figure because he was the subject of his narrative about change over time and may be activated in current narratives about change over time.
Conversely, I want to suggest that the παις was an ahistorical figure who by contrast languishes paralyzed, tortured, and mute at the edge of Matthew’s narrative, Jesus’s interest, and current “historical” readings. Whether there was an historicist, factual παις is a dead-end, pointless question.
His ahistorical nature is underscored by the difficulty of drawing a comparison between him and current identities. The reality is that, unlike the centurion or Jesus, we can give him no real historicist identity. Was the παις male or female? Was he / she more servant than child? More child than servant? Was he accustomed to being struck? Was he loved by the centurion as Luke may have indicated? All are equivocal possibilities inherent in the word παις.
More to the point, however, is the fact that we can give him no historical identity as I am using the term. The healing, when it finally comes, comes at a distance, at the request of the centurion, and only in response to the pleading, speech, and analysis of the centurion. In other words, the παις is by no means the subject of his healing. He never asks for healing or for anything else. Implicitly, then, unlike the centurion he is in no position to get what he wants.
Rather, he is the object of his healing, a healing that comes only because the centurion and Jesus have interests in healing him. Moreover, under the terms of this narrative, there is no reason to conclude that the servant / son’s socioeconomic status has been altered by his healing. Apparently he has been healed only because it is of interest to the centurion.
One may legitimately conclude, then, that insofar as this story per se goes, both the centurion and Jesus, who appear here roughly as historical equals, are accomplices to his marginalized existence rather than his liberators.
Conclusion — Who benefits?
Matthew wrote a story which includes a cast of characters (Jesus, a centurion, a servant / son, the centurion’s off-stage soldiers, Jesus’ followers who overhear the exchange between Jesus and the centurion, the ones off-stage who will inherit or be disinherited from the kingdom of heaven), plot (a centurion approaches Jesus asking him to heal his paralyzed servant/ son), conflict (Jesus’ initial response can be read as an equivocation), and resolution (Jesus heals the centurion’s servant / son). His story is historical (a story about human change over time) in which he enters various first-century discursive arenas.
In other words, he says something about Jesus’ relationship to Capernaum, something about the Roman Empire’s military apparatus, something about authority, something about Jews and Gentiles, something about the Kingdom of Heaven, something about inheritances, something about faith, and something about the power of Jesus’ word to heal even at a distance. These apparently (in other words I cannot definitively nail down his discursive intentions) are the things he intends to say something about in this story.
What is more problematic for the reader approaching Matthew’s story with an ideological commitment to people currently languishing at the margins of state, national, and global socioeconomic systems, i.e. with a liberationist interpretive principle (rather than with a commitment to safeguarding the Bible or Jesus), is what he does not intend to say.
In other words, what is more problematic is his (apparently) unpremeditated ideological orientation in favor of the status quo as regards the unequal relationships of power surrounding the servant / son which is also manifest in this story.
Neither the centurion nor Jesus demonstrates any interest in the παις striding boldly across Capernaum, speaking, analyzing, and demanding. Neither demonstrates any inherent ideological affinity for the liberation of the one at the margins of the Empire’s oppressive socioeconomic system and at the margins of Matthew’s story.
This discouraging verdict does not take into account, of course, that Matthew at this point has not been allowed to finish his narrative — his historical project has not yet been concluded
One way out, if a way out is desired, is to argue that one of the biblical projects was an historical one — it was intended to activate the continuing unfolding of a liberationist human narrative about change over time.
SOURCES: Nigel Pollard, Soldiers, Cities, and Civilians in Roman Syria (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000, Brent Shaw, “Soldiers and Society: The Army in Numidia,” in Opus 2, no. 1, 1983, Ramsay MacMullen, Roman Social Relations: 50 BC to AD 284 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974), Keith Hopkins, “Economic Growth and Towns in Classical Antiquity,” Towns and Societies: Essays in Economic History and Historical Sociology, Philip Abrams and E. A. Wrigley, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), and Johannes P. Louw, Eugene A. Nida, Rondal B. Smith, Karen A. Munson, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (United Bible Societies, 1988).
"In the Beginning: Big Bang" Violence in Ernesto
Cardenal's Cosmic Canticle in Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible . Beth Hawkins Benedix, ed., Palgrave Macmillan (2009)
"In this epic poem, Cardenal explores Latin American history by relating the evolution of the universe to the development of human understanding. Throughout, Cardenal blends the visible and the invisible, science and poetry, religion and nature, in 43 autonomous yet integrated cantos." —Ellin Jimmerson, PhD
Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible— Reviews
"Surprising and exciting!"
"Opens new paths of study! "
"A dazzling array of choices!"
"This provides a new and convincing account of the strategic reception of the Bible in a wide range of writers and thinkers. That such a use can be truly subversive; that it can undermine the very meaning attached to biblical narratives by organized religion, is one of the surprising and exciting discoveries of this readable and intelligent book." — Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
"This collection provides a wonderful array of essays attuned to the manifold literary and political uses and abuses of scripture in the contemporary world. The contributors show both the need to subvert the presumptions of scripture to overreach its historical contexts and scripture's power to remain a source of critique of the hubristic pretensions of secular culture . . . This collection is full of surprising treasures that serve to open new paths in the study of the relation between the Bible and postmodern culture." — Steven Kepnes, Murray W. and Mildred K. Finard Professor in Jewish Studies and Religion, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, USA
"This could not be more timely or more crucial; in a period where we are ever more conscious of the effect of the appropriation, manipulation, subversion, or reinterpretation of canonical religious texts for at times bewildering variety of purposes, any attempt to examine the phenomenon is highly welcome...The 'subversive' literary works covered in the contributors' selections constitute a dazzling array of choices. They provide ample proof of the book's value as a vital way of thinking about international literary culture. This has the potential to be a frequently consulted and often thumbed anthology of secondary literature that creatively rediscovers a perennially absorbing topic." — Jeremy Dauber, Associate Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture, Columbia University, New York City, NY, USA
"They Come Smiling Out of the Morgue": Historical Resurrections in Ernesto Cardenal's Nicaragua (1934-1970)
in Mother Tongue Theologies: Poets, Novelists, Non-Western Christianity, by Darren N. J. Middleton, ed., Wipf and Stock (2009)
"Ellin Sterne Jimmerson addresses one of the most widely-read poets in the Spanish language—Ernesto Cardenal—Roman Catholic priest, liberation theologian, and onetime Minister of Culture in Sandinista Nicaragua. As Jimmerson makes clear, his work consistently grapples with such issues as the theological legitimacy of violence in the Nicaraguan context, such themes as the resurrection, and such personalities as U. S. backed Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza García, and his National Guard."
Mother Tongue Theologies: Poets, Novelists, Non-Western Christianity—Reviews
"Should be widely read!"
"In a world where the reality of globalization pervades our every experience, it is only right we should now have a volume that explores so ably the globalizing of Western Christianity — =and not only its theology, but the means of expressing that theology. The re-configuration, and in some cases re-creation, of Christian meaning into local language, as impressively drawn into a collective here, invites us now to think in terms of a transnational aesthetic, one which carries new potential for our understanding of ‘transcendence’.”— Andrew W. Hass, University of Stirling
“This book presents the reader with a remarkable array of essays on Christianity in world literature outside the Western tradition, from Christian communities both ancient and modern. It demonstrates the power of poetry and fiction to illuminate the riches of a religious tradition that is capable of extraordinary cultural adaptations in a diversity of political and historically defined contexts. It should be widely read in the West as a brilliant illustration of imaginative and intellectual capacity of the Christian churches both new and old throughout the world.”— David Jasper, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland and Renmin University of China, Beijing, China “This highly ambitious volume extends the study of the relationship between Christianity and literature to a global context, beyond the Western world to which the vast preponderance of previous scholarship has heretofore confined itself. Given this purpose, the volume necessarily and explicitly focuses upon 'non-Western' Christianity, dividing the subject up, not only culturally, but also, in effect, according to geography. It is a pathbreaking book in the most positive sense of the metaphor.”— Eric Ziolkowski, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA "Required source!"
“Novels are the most attractive means of presenting specific situations. Thus Mother Tongue Theologies provides specific contextual portrayals of global and diverse Christianities, from Eastern orthodoxy to Native (or First Peoples) American. These portrayals, whether positive or negative, are means to understanding both the other and one's own understanding of Christianity. Required source for all learning about religion in the non-Western world. — Iain S. Maclean, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA
The Resurrection Question
Death has many agents—mobs that cry “Crucify him!,” war, physical laws of the universe which mandate without any appeal that if you are slammed into by a car traveling at 60 miles an hour while you are standing still you will die. The list of the agents of death is endless. Cancer. The list is endless. The issue of how long is the list of the agents of death is not crucial to us. The issue that is crucial, the question we struggle with in the midnight hour of our souls, is “Does death have the last word?”
Ellin Jimmerson, August 2, 2009, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church
Photo: Leigh Anna Jimmerson and Tad Mattle, RIP
The Resurrection Question
Texts: Job 14:14, “If mortals die, will they live again?”
Luke 22:19, “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
I Cor 11:24, “and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”
I Cor 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Good morning. Death has many agents—mobs that cry “Crucify him!,” war, physical laws of the universe which mandate without any appeal that if you are slammed into by a car traveling at 60 miles an hour while you are standing still you will die. The list of the agents of death is endless. Cancer. The list is endless.
The issue of how long is the list of the agents of death is not crucial to us. The issue that is crucial, the question we struggle with in the midnight hour of our souls, is “Does death have the last word?” Job raised the question. Jesus and Luke raised the question. Paul raised the question. The death question. Does death have the last word?
I am obsessed with the question right now. I am desperate to know whether the after life I’ve heard about as long as I can remember is true or a delusion meant to comfort people like me trying to face up to the next thirty years. I am desperate to know exactly where Leigh Anna is, exactly in what state she is. For me, right now, the question about Leigh Anna and Tad is agonizingly abstract, agonizingly inscrutable, and agonizingly imprecise. It is an agonizing, abstract question with agonizingly abstract answers. What I need is a question to which there is a concrete answer.
And so I turn the question to its flip side, to the question Job and Paul raised—the resurrection question. And I find that the flip side question—the resurrection question—has an answer that, for me, is concrete, knowable, and precise. And as it was for Job and Jesus and Luke and Paul— part of the answer to the resurrection question—can we live again—is found in that which we celebrate this morning—communion. Or to put it better, I think, communal union.
Does death have the last word? Or can we live again? It occurs to me that Jesus gathered the disciples around him for one final pre-crucifixion meal in part because he was in the midnight hour of his soul. It occurs to me that in this particular moment, Jesus was gathering strength, not from the promises of God, not from the church universal, but from his intimate group, his soul mates so that, like me, he could face a future he did not want to face. “Let this cup pass,” he said later. And for him these old companions were the answer to the question. They had all been in communal union; they were part of him. He needed to know they cared about him; he needed to know they would remember him. And so, he asked them to remember him with small, but important concrete actions—not with abstract theological conclusions.
Later on, he said, will you gather together and talk about me? Later on? Would you do the things we used to enjoy? Would you eat bread again? Would you drink wine again? Don’t forget me.
The Bible says that only one person, Paul, quoted Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And I think it is significant that Paul was also facing an inevitably violent death given his theological politics that chaffed at the Roman authorities—the Roman authorities who had announced in three languages that when it came to the death question they had the last word.
And what Paul wanted to proclaim more than anything else was the certainty that when God resurrected Jesus, God defiantly announced to the Roman authorities that God has the last word over death, not they. Paul was profoundly aware that how the church at Corinth behaved—whether the members were in communal union or individuals divided—was as important to the future of the resurrection question as any individual’s abstract theological conclusion.
Would Jesus’ resurrection continue to be proclaimed and be the church’s foundation? Or would it pass away from human memory because the group at Corinth couldn’t get its act together? Would death have the last word? Or would mortals die but live again? Job had his reasons for raising the resurrection question. Jesus had his. So did Luke and Paul. And I have mine. I’ll be searching for a long time for the answer to the ultimate resurrection question when it comes to Leigh Anna and Tad.
But I want to put aside the question of Tad and Leigh Anna’s resurrection, just for now, and talk about my own. Because I have experienced it. And I want to tell you about it.
Just before midnight on April 17, my life was knocked out of me. Before I even reached the scene of the accident, I turned into a zombie. And I choose that word carefully. I became one of the living dead. I could still breathe. I could still talk. But I was an impersonator of the woman I had been only minutes earlier.
And later on, at the house waiting for my older daughter and her husband to arrive, I got up and without saying anything to anyone I went upstairs, not to cry, but to lie down and stare at nothing. And I felt like I’d never have the strength to move again—to live again. And I laid there for a long time, I think.
At some point, around 2 o’clock in the morning, I heard the front door opening and my daughter crying the most horrible cries and immediately I got up. I knew without even thinking about it that she could not be victorious over Leigh Anna’s death if I could not because what happens to me happens to her.
And so I began what for a very brief while felt like a solitary self-propelled quasiresurrection. But I was wrong. My full resurrection had begun before that door opened and I heard my older daughter's cries. Because hours earlier, many teenagers and adults had begun to get the news and had begun texting one another hoping that there had been some mistake. And so no one wanted to call us before they were certain.
But Olivia and we have been in communion for a long time and Olivia understood that we had to be given the news and she mustered up great courage and called us to let us know there had been a terrible wreck and a fire and that Leigh Anna had been hurt.
And after we returned from the scene of the accident and we understood that Leigh Anna and Tad had died, Abigail, who has been in communion with us for a long time, was sitting on the front porch.
And later on Jana, who had been searching frantically for Leigh Anna at the hospital, arrived followed by Bodo and so many others with whom we have been in communion for a long time. And Charlene stayed up all night cooking so that she and Steven could be at the front door by 7 o’clock the next morning with breakfast.
So when I went upstairs to lie down and stare like a zombie you were already there, in profound communion with Al and our older daughter and her husband and me, surrounding us, pulling us back to life again, encouraging our resurrections.
We all have a strong communal union here. A union that is so profound that some of you even stepped in to experience what I could not. At the scene of the accident, Kelly wretched, violently, just as if Leigh Anna had been her child. And Eunice, who had come to the hospital to celebrate the day Leigh Anna was born, drove through the night from Atlanta to wail with me and for me and as me in the death of “my baby,” “my baby.” And while I was silent, Yvonne said that Leigh Anna’s death was the worst thing that had ever happened to her.
And bit by bit Olivia and Abigail and Jana and Bodo and Charlene and Steven and Kelly and Eunice and Yvonne and so many others of you pulled me back from death and pushed me just a bit farther again into life.
And when Mitch gave me a wooden bracelet he had made he pulled me back just a little bit farther. And when Pat knitted a prayer shawl for our older daughter and R. G. called her so many times, they pulled me back just a bit more. And when Dan and David arranged bike rides for Al they pulled me back just a bit more. And when Joyce and Jan and Norma came by after church and drank a glass of wine with us and laughed at nothing they pulled me back just a little bit more. And when Dean said he needed your patience while he grieved he pulled me back just a little bit more. And when Kim said she decided to get her family a tiny, bouncy dog named Leigh2 Bear to help fill the void in her home left by a tiny, bouncy girl she helped pull me back just a little bit more.
And one of the most encouraging of my resurrection moments was the Sunday a few weeks ago when Elsie brought me a grocery bag filled with tomatoes out of her garden as she has for years. And the following Sunday I gave her a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies as I have for years.
Life goes on. My life goes on. I started down a dangerous path with all this naming of names. I didn’t even mention Marvin and Claire and Ben and Linder and Jim and Rick and the choir and the Wednesday night group.
The list of the agents of my resurrection is endless. Pat at my door with her first roses. The list is endless.
So, in a few minutes, when we share symbolic bread and drink symbolic wine, I’ll celebrate the resurrected Lord, to be sure. But mostly, this morning, I’ll celebrate the resurrected me. And I’ll celebrate that, because of this powerful communal union we have, I am able to say as defiantly as Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory now? Where O death, is your sting?” TALK / SERMON
The Migrant Trail Walk
“A lot of water. A lot of light. And a God of the cosmos who changes ZIP codes.
Here is something I bet you didn’t know. In the original Greek, John 1:14 reads: “And the Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us. Do ya’ll know what a “tabernacle” was? It was a tent used by the Hebrews to worship God in while they wandered in the desert during the Exodus.
A lot of water. A lot of light. And a God of the cosmos who changes ZIP codes by pitching his tent among aliens on the run from Pharaoh, wandering in a foreign desert.
Ellin Jimmerson, September 19, 2010
Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama
Aluminum cutout by artist Alfred Quíroz. Used with permission.
Aluminum cut-out by artist, Alfred Quíroz.
Reflecting on the Migrant Trail Walk
Texts Genesis 1
For those of you who don’t know, I have been an advocate for illegal migrants for a number of years now.
And what I have come to realize is that migrants are not being pulled by America, they are being pushed by economic policies which are far bigger than they are. And that because of the militarization of the border which began in conjunction with those policies, they are being pushed far away from the safety of crossing through the urban areas and into treacherous desert areas where to date the remains of around 5,000 migrants—men, women, children, and babies—have been recovered. And that these deaths were anticipated by the Federal government which thought they would act as a “deterrent” to illegal migration. If you want to, you can go online and read about this policy of deterrence in the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s document called the Southwest Border Strategy.
I’ve talked a lot about these things.
For the past seven years, a coalition of groups which advocate for migrants has gotten people to go on a 75 mile long walk through Arizona’s Sonora Desert to call attention to migrant deaths.
In May of 2010, I decided to stop talking for a little while and join the walkers. We began by driving from Tucson to a place called Sasabe. Sasabe is at the end of a section of border wall, and there is not much there other than a few lonely Border Patrol agents.
For symbolic reasons, we walked from the station a few steps over into Mexico, turned around, came back, showed our passports and began our six days of walking, much of it through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The temperature was in the 90s.
And when I say we walked, that is what we did. We walked. And we walked. And we walked. We walked as many as 15 miles a day. And every day the temperature rose. By the time we walked into Tucson, 75 miles later, the temperature was a deadly 108 degrees.
We had been cautioned to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and hats on our heads so that we wouldn’t succumb to the treacherous Arizona sun. And to wear sturdy hiking shoes so that we wouldn’t twist an ankle stepping over rock after rock.
And we were on the constant watch-out for cactus, especially little barrel shaped cactus called cholla which has evil fish-hooks on the ends of numerous spines and which jumps on you as you pass by. And when we would see those little, evil cacti we would call out: “Cholla!”
When we reached our campsite for the day, we would put shade up over our heads and lay a plastic cloth on the ground and sit very close together and wait—for hours—for the stifling heat to subside. And I would use my bedroll to elevate my swollen legs and someone I did not know would have his feet in my face and it was at this point that I would say, “I can’t stand this.” But once it was cooler we would pitch our tents because if you pitched your tent while it was hot, your tent would become an oven.
I was well outside my ZIP code. I don’t camp. I cannot emphasize this enough. My idea of roughing it is when the bathroom is down the hall.
But mainly I was outside my ZIP code because I was with people whose backgrounds are quite unlike mine. And because we had a lot of time on our hands the words flew.
And there were really only two people who spoke my native tongue. One was a man, about my age, who grew up Baptist in Mississippi, moved to Oregon, became a Mennonite, and can sing “Jesus Is On the Main Line” like nobody’s business. But he told me that when he first moved to Mississippi as a child, he had not understood the significance of Southern mores. And he remembers being surrounded once by a gang of kids who had him on the ground and were kicking him and yelling “kill the nigger-lover!” And I could relate to what he had been through.
And there was a young singer / songwriter who, after graduating from a Presbyterian college in North Carolina, had spent a year in a Mexican shelter for migrants who have been deported and was on his way home. One of his songs is called “Birmingham” and the refrain is: “Mr. Politician, it's time to take a stand about the state of things. One thing that we don’t need here in the sand is another Birmingham, another burnin’ Birmingham.”
That was 2 people out of 56 who spoke my language. There was also a big, angry, cowboy member of a peace and justice group. There was a young Native American man who was on the walk for Native American reasons who the big, angry, peace and justice cowboy deported back to Tucson because he wouldn’t wear a shirt.
There was a leather-faced man who said the Gila monster was his totem. He said that he had been walking in the desert once when he approached a Gila monster who reminded him that he—the Gila monster—had been there first and asked the man to respect that. When I asked this man about his Native American religion he looked puzzled and said, “No. I’m not Native American. I’m Quaker.”
There was a man-of-few-words Peruvian Methodist minister from Rhode Island who was not crazy about the Native American who wouldn’t wear his shirt.
There was a Franciscan monk, formerly Lutheran, who walked with his brown robe over his jeans.
There was a gay woman who grew up Jewish in Morelos, Mexico but is now an atheist and a gay man from Washington, DC who also grew up Jewish and who also is now an atheist. The gay, born as a Jew Mexican woman told me that two years ago, her sister had crossed illegally through the same area we were in. She had had a good smuggler, a good coyote as they say, who got word of drug deals in the area. To avoid the drug smugglers, he had had to move his group through an area of the desert unknown to him and they wandered, lost, for two days and two nights.
There was a transgender Mexican-American lawyer named Mel who, after I told him about the death of my daughter Leigh Anna, got together a group of people to sing “I’ll Fly Away” because he loves the song and thought it would mean something to me.
And there was a Mexican botanist who, when he could find two scraggly trees, would string up a hammock and say, “Just relax.” And he would wash our feet and put ointment and bandages on our blisters. And the big, angry, peace and justice cowboy got mad because he said that had never been done before on the Migrant Trail Walk.
And so we ZIP code changing, form changing, tent pitching aliens in a foreign desert walked. And we walked. And we walked. 75 miles. Six days.
And our experience was nothing like that of migrants because we had two things migrants don’t have. A lot of light. And a lot of water.
We found our way by the light of day. Migrants, on the other hand, move at night in order to escape being detected. The cholla cactus—that evil little cactus with the fish hooks which jumps on you—we could see and warn one another of. But migrants can’t see the cholla or any other cactus, can’t see snakes, can’t see Gila monsters, can’t see ants, can’t see rocks or ravines. And during the daytime, they hide in the ravines and cover themselves with debris among the cholla and snakes.
Once I asked a little boy and his sister who had migrated through this wilderness to tell me about their experiences. The little boy said, “Well, I was a little bit scared.” And when I asked why, he said, “Cause in the desert there are-are-are lizards and-and-and-snakes.” And his sister said she remembered the long grass that was always poking her and always sticking her. And I asked, “Were you scared?” And when she said yes, I asked her why and she said, “Because I used to be afraid of the dark.” And it took me years to comprehend what she had meant.
We had a lot of light.
And we had a lot of water. It takes a gallon of water per person per day to survive the heat of the scorching Sonora Desert. And it takes six days of walking in a straight line to get from Sasabe to Tucson. Do the math. One person cannot possibly carry six gallons of water or more if that person is carrying water for a little girl or a grandfather.
So, in order for us to change our symbolic ZIP codes, we had to have water brought to us. We had to have a lot of water brought to us.
There is a group in Arizona called Humane Borders which places water in the desert for migrants. They came out from Tucson every day, bringing enough water so that every hour and a half we could refill our water bottles and soak our bandanas in ice water. And every three hours we got a full rest stop where we refilled our water bottles and ate fresh fruit and salted nuts and completely replenished the nutrients our bodies need so that we could keep going.
And in the evenings, after the day cooled off a bit, other groups brought us food—cold salads and ice cream. And a tile artisan troubadour who grew up in Nogales, Mexico, the city which has a twin city in Arizona—twins cities divided by a militarized border wall—would come out in the evenings from Tucson and sing his songs about deaths in foreign deserts.
But the best part was the water. One evening the people from Humane Borders came with their water truck. And they brought a hose and a bottle of shampoo. And for no reason whatsoever other than their great generosity of spirit towards us, they shampooed our hair. And the desert sand turned to mud and splashed on our legs but we didn’t care because our hair was clean and we were cool and we all laughed like little kids. And I got so carried away by this baptism in generosity and shampoo and the great river of water brought in by truck that I told them it was like the kingdom of heaven drawn near.
And so, we had a little adventure. But the 5,000 migrants whose remains have been recovered from the American Southwest were not enjoying a little adventure. They had risked it all and had lost.
In February, 2008, a man whose name is Daniel Millis and several others with a group called No More Deaths discovered the body of 14-year-old Josseline Janiletha Hernandez Quintero. Josseline and her 10 year old brother had been trying to re-unite with their mother who had migrated to Los Angeles. They were from El Salvador and already had crossed, illegally, through Guatemala and had made it safely across Mexico’s 2,000 hostile miles.
Talk about changing ZIP codes.
She and her party finally had crossed near Sasabe—the place we had begun our walk. But Josseline could no longer keep up and her coyote left her behind. It was January and the weather was as treacherous as it is in July. A winter rain had come up and the temperature had dropped to 29 degrees. And so Josseline froze to death, alone in an alien desert, wearing her pink-lined jacket, her green tennis shoes, and a pair of sweat pants which said “Hollywood” on the seat.
On February 8, 2008, Daniel Millis, one of the people who had discovered Josseline’s body, was arrested by agents of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He was arrested for littering—for leaving garbage in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The garbage he had left was gallon jugs of water which he had set out for migrants.
There are many people in Arizona who are responding to the humanitarian crisis on our southern border. A group called Samaritan Patrol travels along the migrant trails calling out to migrants hiding in the ravines and thorns. As they walk they call out in singsong Spanish: “We have water! Food! Medicine! We are not Border Patrol! We are from a church! We have water! Food!” Sometimes migrants will come out and sometimes they won’t.
Once, a group was walking and calling out their singsong. No migrants had come out and eventually they turned around to go back to the road. And to their astonishment, there on the trail were a few migrants, a few of the expelled people, with a little water and a little food. The migrants, who were unfamiliar with the Samaritans’ accent, had misunderstood and thought they were begging for help. And so these aliens in a foreign desert risked coming out into the light to bring life to the Samaritans.
Talk about words becoming flesh.
There is a young mother in Huntsville who crossed that alien desert with her infant. Border Patrol was in the area and so, to keep the agents from hearing them, the coyote covered the baby’s mouth to silence it. When he took his hand away, he realized he had smothered the baby.
A lot of light. A lot of water. And the freedom not to be silent.
And so finally we got into Tucson. It was late morning and the temperature was 108 degrees. Well-wishers were there, applauding, and Fox TV. And the big, angry, peace and justice cowboy made a speech about how important it is to stop migrant deaths and cried. And a priest met us and had an old-fashioned foot washing ceremony. And the priest cried.
A lot of water. A lot of light. And the freedom not to be silent.
Which brings me back to where I started. To the Beginning. To that time before God began God’s six days of creativity. To that time when the earth was a formless void—a lot of nothing covered by darkness. Characterized by immobility and silence. But then something happened. During God’s six days of activity, God sent a wind to interrupt the immobility. And God broke the silence by speaking light into being. And this spoken Word which called light into being was God. And all things came into being through this Word God and without this Word God not one thing came into being. And what came into being was life and the life was light and the darkness could not overcome it. And the Word God changed shape and changed form and moved over a great distance and pitched a tent in the midst of people who had been pushed from Egypt and were wandering, aliens in a foreign desert.
And make no mistake—this was not what Pharaoh had in mind. What Pharaoh had in mind was immobility and people who adjusted to their status. And what Caesar had in mind was immobility and people who adjusted to their status. What Pharaoh had in mind was death. What Caesar had in mind was death.
But immobility and death were not what God had in mind. The God who spoke Living Waters and Light and Spatial Mobility into being had Life in mind. And the God who changed form and crossed the boundary line did so without papers and without the permission of Pharaoh and his agents, of Caesar and his agents.
And so illegal migration is a complex and complicated issue that is here to stay. But the most fundamental issue is not at all complicated. The most fundamental issue—the theological issue—is: whom do we serve? Pharaoh and Caesar and their idols of death? Or the God of life?
Would you pray with me?”
Tengo Sed: Servicio de Las Siete Palabras Finales de Jesucristo la Noche Antes de Pascua
El verso original de la Biblia, 1:14 de San Juan dice: “Y la Palabra se convirtió en carne y puso un tabernáculo entre nosotros. ¿Ustedes saben qué era un “tabernáculo”? Era una tienda de campaña usada por los hebreos para adorar a Dios mientras vagaban en el desierto durante el Éxodo.
Ellin Jimmerson, 23 de abril de 2010
Cuadro: Lo que nuestro Señor vio en la cruz, por James Tissot, c. 1890
Tengo Sed: Servicio de Las Siete Palabras Finales de Jesucristo la Noche Antes de Pascua
San Juan 1:14
San Juan 19:28
El verso original de la Biblia, 1:14 (uno: catorce) de San Juan dice: “Y la Palabra se convirtió en carne y puso un tabernáculo entre nosotros. ¿Ustedes saben qué era un “tabernáculo”? Era una tienda de campaña usada por los hebreos para adorar a Dios mientras vagaban en el desierto durante el Éxodo.
En Génesis, mucha agua llena de vida. Y en San Juan un Dios del mundo que lanzó su tienda de campaña entre los extranjeros que corrían del Faraón, vagando en un desierto extraño.
Para los que no saben, he estado abogando por los migrantes indocumentados por un cierto número de años.
Y lo que me he dado cuenta, es que una de las principales razones por la que mueren tantos migrantes, es porque no tienen agua en el vasto desierto de Sonora. Mueren porque tienen sed. Al igual que Cristo que fue crucificado porque contradijo al César y sus planes, muchos mueren gritando, "¡Tengo sed!"
Una coalición de los grupos que abogan por migrantes ha conseguido que gente vaya en una caminata de 75 (setenta y cinco) millas a través del desierto de Sonora en Arizona para llamar la atención sobre las muertes de 5,000 migrantes. El pasado mayo, yo decidí unirme a estos caminantes. Empezamos conduciendo de Tucson a un lugar llamado Sasabe. Sasabe está al final de un tramo del muro fronterizo y no hay mucho más que unos pocos agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza.
Por razones simbólicas, caminamos de la estación a unos pasos dentro de México, nos dimos la vuelta, regresamos, y comenzamos los seis días de marcha. La temperatura estaba en los 90 (noventa) grados Fahrenheit.
Caminamos. Y caminamos. Y caminamos. Caminamos hasta 15 (quince) millas por día. Y cada día la temperatura se elevaba. En el momento en que llegamos a Tucson, 75 (setenta y cinco) millas más tarde, la temperatura estaba en unos mortales 108 (ciento ocho) grados Fahrenheit.
Nos habían advertido que debíamos usar camisas de manga larga, pantalones largos y sombreros en la cabeza para que no fallecíeramos ante el traidor sol de Arizona. Y que debíamos usar zapatos resistentes al senderismo para que no se nos torciera un tobillo después de pasar por encima de roca tras roca.
Cuando llegábamos a nuestro campamento por el día, nos poníamos a la sombra y colocábamos un paño de plástico en el suelo, nos sentábamos muy juntos y esperábamos durante horas para que el calor sofocante disminuyera. Y bebíamos mucha agua.
Una vez que estaba más fresco, armábamos nuestras tiendas de campaña, porque si las armábamos mientras hacia calor, las tiendas de campaña se convertirían en un horno.
Caminamos, extranjeros en tiendas de campaña en un desierto extraño. Y caminamos. Y caminamos. 75 (setenta y cinco) millas. Seis días.
Y nuestra experiencia no era nada como la de los migrantes, debido a que había una cosa que los migrantes no tienen. Una gran cantidad de agua. Y teníamos mucha sed.Se necesita un galón de agua por persona por día para sobrevivir el calor abrasador del desierto de Sonora. Y toma seis días al caminar en línea recta para llegar desde Sasabe a Tucson. Haga sus cálculos. Una persona no puede llevar seis galones de agua o más si esa persona está llevando agua para una niña o un abuelo.
Así que, teníamos que tener agua llevada hacia nosotros. Teníamos que tener una gran cantidad de agua llevada hacia nosotros.
Hay un grupo en Arizona llamado Fronteras Humanas, que coloca agua en el desierto para los migrantes. Salieron de Tucson todos los días, llevando agua suficiente para nosotros para que cada hora y media pudiéramos llenar nuestras botellas de agua y ahogar nuestros pañuelos de la cabeza en agua con hielo. Y cada tres horas teníamos una parada de receso completo donde rellenar nuestras botellas de agua y comer frutas frescas y almendras saladas y restaurar nuestros cuerpos para que pudiéramos seguir adelante.
Y por las tardes, después de que el día había enfriado un poco, otros grupos nos traían alimentos -ensaladas frías y helados. Y un obrero de la construcción salía por las noches de Tucson y cantaba sus canciones sobre los migrantes, cuya religión se convierte en agua.
Una tarde la gente de Fronteras Humanas llegó con su camión de agua. Y trajeron una mangera y una botella de champú. Y por ningún motivo distinto a su gran generosidad de espíritu hacia nosotros, lavaron nuestro pelo con champú. Y la arena del desierto se volvió barro y nos salpicaba las piernas, pero no nos importaba porque nuestro pelo estaba limpio y nos enfriábamos y todos nos reímos como niños pequeños. Y yo me deje llevar por este bautismo de generosidad y el champú y el gran río de agua traída por un camión que les dije que era, como si el reino de los cielos se hubiera acercado (acerkado) a nosotros.
Y así, tuvimos un poco de aventura. Pero los 5.000 (cinco mil) migrantes cuyos restos han sido recuperados del suroeste de los Estados Unidos no estaban disfrutando de un poco de aventura. Lo habían arriesgado todo y habían perdido. Se podría decir que se encuentran entre las personas que fueron crucificadas.
Y finalmente llegamos a Tucson. Era mediodía y la temperatura era de 108 (ciento ocho) grados Fahrenheit. Una multitud estaba allí, aplaudiendo, y Fox TV. Y el pastor se reunió con nosotros y tenía preparada la antigua ceremonia de lavado de pies.
Esto me trae de vuelta a donde empecé al leer en Génesis 1 (uno). Al comienzo. Al momento antes de que Dios comenzara sus seis días de creatividad. A ese momento cuando la tierra era un vacío sin forma, un montón de nada cubierta por la oscuridad. Pero entonces, algo sucedió. Durante los seis días de actividad de Dios, Dios rompió los mares a la existencia y los llenó de vida. Y esta Palabra que se llama Aguas Vivas era Dios. Y todas las cosas fueron hechas a través de esta Palabra / Dios y sin esta Palabra / Dios ni una sola cosa podría existir. Y lo que llegó a ser fue la vida y las Aguas Vivas. Y la Palabra / Dios se trasladó largas distancias y lanzó una tienda de campaña en medio de personas que habían sido expulsadas de Egipto y fueron vagando, los extranjeros en un desierto extraño, en busca de Aguas Vivas.
Y no se equivoquen, esto no era lo que el Faraón tenía en mente. Qué Faraón tenía en mente era que el pueblo se desanimára y perdiera la esperanza. Y lo que César tenía en mente era que el pueblo se desanimára y perdiera la esperanza. Qué Faraón tenía en mente era la deshidratación y la muerte. Lo que César tenía en mente era la crucifixión, la deshidratación y la muerte. Y lo que parecía, por unos días, era que el César había tenido la última palabra. Parecía que la crucifixión, el quebrantamiento, la humillación, la sed y la muerte habían tenido la última palabra.
Pero el quebrantamiento, la humillación, la sed y la muerte no eran lo que Dios tenía en mente. La crucifixión no era lo que Dios tenía en mente. El Dios que convirtió en Aguas Vivas el ser, tenía la vida en mente. Y así, cuando Cristo grita: "Tengo sed", Dios escuchó su grito. Y el Dios que cruzó la frontera lo hizo sin papeles y sin el permiso del Faraón y de sus agentes, del César y sus agentes.
Y mañana por la mañana vamos a celebrar. Vamos a celebrar la decisión de Dios de desafiar al César. Vamos a celebrar que desafió al César al cruzar la línea fronteriza, al lanzar su tienda de campaña en medio de los crucificados, por la resurrección de Cristo crucificado.
Pero la pregunta para nosotros esta noche es la siguiente: Cuando mañana por la mañana haya pasado y hayamos terminado de celebrar, ¿a quién le serviremos? ¿Al Faraón y al César y sus ídolos de la muerte? O al Dios de la resurrección que trae Aguas Vivas a los crucificados?
The Difference Between Charity and Justice
Isaiah was an Old Testament prophet which means he had a gift for pulling back the curtain that covers reality in order to expose truth. The larger backdrop has to do with the rise and fall of Near Eastern empires. He was a Judean of some importance who had access to Kings and the Temple—to major political, military, and religious figures seeking a way out of continual threats from the Assyrians. In other words, Isaiah's prophetic words are about real-time salvation.
Ellin Jimmerson, August 4, 2012
Weatherly Heights Baptist Church
Photo: Street Arabs and Gutter Snipes, by George C. Needham, 1884
The Difference Between Charity and Justice
About being saved from war. From chaos, domination, and death. And his theme is that justice is the straight path to a kingdom characterized by a peace so radical, so un-experienced that it passes all our understanding.
Text: Isaiah 59
Look! Listen! God's arm is not amputated—he can still save. God's ears are not stopped up—he can still hear. There's nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn't hear. Your hands are drenched in blood, your fingers dripping with guilt, Your lips smeared with lies, your tongue swollen from muttering obscenities. No one speaks up for the right, no one deals fairly. They trust in illusion, they tell lies, they get pregnant with mischief and have sin-babies. They hatch snake eggs and weave spider webs. Eat an egg and die; break an egg and get a snake! The spider webs are no good for shirts or shawls. No one can wear these weavings! They weave wickedness, they hatch violence. They compete in the race to do evil and run to be the first to murder. They plan and plot evil, think and breathe evil, and leave a trail of wrecked lives behind them. They know nothing about peace and less than nothing about justice. They make tortuously twisted roads. No peace for the wretch who walks down those roads!
Which means that we're a far cry from fair dealing, and we're not even close to right living. We long for light but sink into darkness, long for brightness but stumble through the night. Like the blind, we inch along a wall, groping eyeless in the dark. We shuffle our way in broad daylight, like the dead, but somehow walking. We're no better off than bears, groaning, and no worse off than doves, moaning. We look for justice—not a sign of it; for salvation—not so much as a hint.
Our wrongdoings pile up before you, God, our sins stand up and accuse us. Our wrongdoings stare us down; we know in detail what we've done: Mocking and denying God, not following our God, Spreading false rumors, inciting sedition, pregnant with lies, muttering malice. Justice is beaten back, Righteousness is banished to the sidelines, Truth staggers down the street, Honesty is nowhere to be found, Good is missing in action. Anyone renouncing evil is beaten and robbed.
God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon— so much evil and no sign of Justice. He couldn't believe what he saw: not a soul around to correct this awful situation. So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation, fueled by his own Righteousness. He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor, with Salvation on his head like a helmet, Put on Judgment like an overcoat, and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders. He'll make everyone pay for what they've done: fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies. Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full. In the west they'll fear the name of God, in the east they'll fear the glory of God, For he'll arrive like a river in flood stage, whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.
"I'll arrive in Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who leave their sins." God's Decree.
"As for me," God says, "this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I've placed upon you and the words that I've given you to speak, they're not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won't ever stop." God's orders.
On my first trip to the US / Mexico border, I was challenged to come to grips with the distinction between charity and justice. I was in a town called Agua Prieta which is just across the border wall from Douglas, Arizona. I was visiting a shelter for migrants who were about to cross the border illegally or who had just been deported to Agua Prieta. The shelter was run by Catholics. When I walked in the dining hall, I could smell chickens simmering and freshly cut cilantro and corn tortillas. What a blessing that good food must have been to the man who came in as we were beginning to eat. I remember that he had been in the desert for days and had been bothered by coyotes. I remember asking him whether he meant the human kind or the animal kind and noticing that he had on the cowboy boots of the experienced illegal migrant who anticipates thorns and snakes.
The volunteers offered charity. Much-needed charity that came right on time.
After our meal, we began to talk with the nun who had accompanied us to the Center for Attention to Migrants in Exodus as the shelter was called. And as we talked, other Mexican volunteers began to gather. And I remember asking the nun, whose name was Noemí, what she thought about the North American Free Trade Agreement. Had it had any impact on the lives of the migrants they encountered? And she began to get visibly angry. So passionate she had to compose herself. Then she and the other volunteers began to talk. And what they talked about was tariffs, and subsidies, and aquifers, and patents, and the Mexican Constitution. And I, who had never heard clergy or church volunteers speak about such things, stopped them at one point and said, "I'm confused. Are you economists?" And they laughed and said, "we're volunteers but our priest insisted that we could not minister to migrants though charity alone. We had to understand what caused them to be here in the first place." Their priest had charged them to do charity but also to do justice. And I began to ponder this new-to-me kind of church.
A few months ago my friend, Kate, who is married to Stephanie, told me a fairy tale. It seems there was a small community located on a flowing river. And one day someone saw a baby floating down the river. And she jumped up and scooped the baby out of the river and handed the baby off to someone who dried the baby and found clothes for it and baby food. And then another baby floated down the river and another and another. So the community got organized; they formed committees which gathered all the things a baby needs and, later on, they raised money for orphanages. And the babies grew up healthy and as happy as anyone ever has been who grew up in orphanages. And they put pictures of those smiling, happy babies on the cover of the slick magazine they started to raise money to build more happy orphanages.
And this is a story—a trick story—all about the difference between charity and justice. And the trick has to do with whether you caught what did not happen. Because nowhere in this story did anyone ask the justice question: "Who's putting all these babies in the river and what do we need to do to make them stop?"
And so I've been thinking about charity and justice and the difference between the two. And I want to nail this down right here and now: I think charity is a good thing. You wouldn't want a situation in which dozens of babies are floating down the river, hitting their heads on rocks or drowning, while everyone sits on the bank of the river pondering where they all were coming from. And if I saw a church focused on justice with no interest in charity, I'd spin this sermon differently. But what I see is a church--and I'm not talking about Weatherly Heights Baptist Church per se, I'm talking about the Church generally--which has put most of its eggs in the charity basket and very few in the justice basket.
At the most basic level, charity involves meeting an immediate need. Justice involves changing the system that creates the need. Charity is about the person in distress at the "now" point in time. Justice is about the persons who will come after the one at the "now" point in time.
Our Church and our culture value charity. There is no question about that. But we're terribly afraid of justice. Because somehow we understand that charity works from within the system, accepting the system as it is, while justice challenges the system.
Here is an example of two heroes of the Christian faith. One is Mother Teresa, one of the Catholic Churches' Missionaries of Charity, who tended the desperately poor people of Calcutta as well as those with HIV/AIDS. I think its significant for our purpose to know that in 1979 she received the Nobel Peace Prize and later died of old age.
Another hero of the Christian faith is Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador in the 1970s. Like Mother Teresa, he lived and worked among the abjectly poor people of El Salvador. But unlike her, he spoke out against poverty, social injustice, and El Salvador's military dictatorship which was responsible for widespread human rights abuses. He criticized the United States for giving military aid to the government and pleaded with President Jimmy Carter to stop the aid, saying that it would "undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression on people whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights." Carter ignored his pleas. Romero, who had a devotion to the Mother of Peace, was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nor did he die of old age. Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980, one day after he preached a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, Christians, to obey God's higher order and, in words over the radio that rang throughout El Salvador, "Stop the repression!"
It's about recognizing that the stands we take and the God or idols that we worship have everything to do with whether we'll ever experience salvation. They have everything to do with whether we'll ever experience the full-blown arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the Realm of Peace, in real-time, on earth.
Isaiah reminds us that its our massive stock-pile of sin that stands between us and God. And he associates this stock-piling of sin with the decision to do injustice. And Isaiah associates injustice more than anything else with the spoken word: "lips smeared with lies, tongues swollen from muttering obscenities, failing to speak up for right, telling lies, planning and plotting evil, mocking, spreading false rumors, muttering malice." And what are the consequences of injustice? "A trail of wrecked lives" and "not so much as a hint of salvation. Justice: beaten back, righteousness: banished, truth: staggering down the street, honesty: nowhere to be found, good: missing in action."
God hears so many lies. And not even a whisper of Justice.
And what does God want? Isaiah says God wants Justice / Salvation so much that He takes it on himself. He suits up to fight for Justice / Salvation as though He were going into war. Not with baby food. Not with orphanages. Instead, God covers God's self in Righteousness, Analysis, Passion, and Verdict in order to realize Justice / Salvation that will blow through the Kingdom of Injustice like a hurricane through New Orleans. That will dismantle the Kingdom of Injustice like an earthquake in Haiti. That will wash over the Kingdom of Injustice like a tsunami in Japan. So that we can realize the Kingdom of Peace right now. Right today. And what are our orders from this God on a Justice mission? "To repeat Justice words over and over and over without stopping."
Right. Let's see if we can follow orders.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you that a Mexican friend had lost 14 immediate family members and 8 more distant relatives in an horrendous bus crash in Mexico that took over 30 lives. Many of them were young children. The details, as they began to unfold, were horrifying. Days going by not knowing who had died and who had lived. A scarcity of coffins.
I wondered: how will this family survive? How will they bear the burden of funeral expenses for multiple members of one family who died all at one time? How will they bear the burden of the loss of multiple wage earners in one family? How will they survive the publicity? The strains that such a calamity necessarily causes a family?
And so let me be emphatic about this: if you feel called upon to pick up some of their expenses, please do it. I'll facilitate it. That would be a wonderful charity thing.
But would that be a justice thing? Not at all, because it would do nothing to keep such an event from happening in the future. How could we do justice in this situation? First of all, we would have to do some investigation, some analysis, spend some serious money, and we'd have to take a stand. And I suspect that once we began investigating it would not be too long before we would have to think about the bus driver who had been driving for 20 hours and fell asleep at the wheel. Are there no unions in Mexico which oversee the conditions under which bus drivers work?
Does the idea of getting involved in protections for Mexican bus drivers seem far fetched? Well, that is often the problem with doing justice. The problems are complicated, the fixes not at all clear, the research time-consuming and expensive, the passion can be hard to sustain over the long-haul, and often, as many assassinated Mexican labor organizers know, justice can be very dangerous.
So maybe we could tackle an issue closer to home. When I was in Nashville last weekend, I got to talking with Stephanie, my friend who is married to Kate, about food and farmers' markets. And Stephanie, who grew up on a farm in Kentucky, is as passionate as I am about heirloom tomatoes, locally produced non-homogenized milk, and cage-free eggs. And our discussion wandered into the issue of the precariousness of local farmers' economic positions. And we talked about those sign-up programs where you buy produce or meat in advance to help stabilize farmers' incomes. And high-end restaurants which specialize in local food sources. And the difficulty of getting good, fresh food into poor neighborhoods.
Not a Thursday goes by, during the season, which I'm not at the Greene Street Market buying up Cherokee Purples, eggs from a chicken named Rosie, and October beans.
But is this Justice? Not at all, because it doesn't help change the system which causes real farmers, and real food, to be so scarce. Because the usefulness of sign up programs and farmers' markets for farmers, at the end of the day, is dependent on the whims of the consumer. I say I go every Thursday to the Greene Street Market, but not if its raining, or if I have a nail appointment, or I'm just not in the mood. As with Mexican bus drivers, to do Justice we would have to do some investigation, some analysis, we'd have to spend some serious money, we'd have to sustain our passion over a long period of time, and we'd have to take a stand. And I suspect that once we began investigating it would not be too long before we were looking at a system which involves subsidized factory farms, powerful corporations like Monsanto which has made it illegal for so many farmers to save their own seeds, putting many of them out of business, causing an epidemic of suicides among farmers in India, and those pesky free trade agreements.
So maybe there is an easier Justice project we could take on. What about putting on our Justice suit of armor--Righteousness, Judgment, and Passion and joining the troops fighting the Chik-Fil-A War? And I'm not kidding when I say that the war is crucial to Salvation--mine, yours, everybody's.
If you don't know, the Chik-Fil-A War began when owner Dan Cathy said he was "guilty as charged" when it came out in the press that he had donated a great deal of money to organizations which oppose homosexuality and homosexuals. And when homosexuals and their friends complained, members of the predominantly Christian right staged a buy-in at Chik-Fil-A restaurants all over the country on this past Wednesday.
When the first shots were fired in the Chik-Fil-A War, I admit I wasn't sure what I thought. I am in favor of gay rights and always have been. But, some said, this is a free-speech issue and didn't Mr. Cathy have the right to say that he is opposed to gay rights?
But then I began to investigate and I began to remember and I began to analyze.
I discovered that one of the organizations that Mr. Cathy gives his money to is Exodus International, an organization of Christian counselors who advise their homosexual clients that homosexual behavior is sinful and label "same sex attraction" (SSA) in capital letters within parentheses, as though homosexuality were a disease to be cured. Another of the organizations is the Family Research Council which opposes any legislative, executive, or judicial action that seeks to protect homosexuals and their relationships. In particular, it opposes legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, the kind of recognition, for example, that would allow a gay man to visit his partner in the hospital. Peter Sprigg, its Senior Researcher for Policy Studies, officially stated that gay behavior should be outlawed and that "criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior" should be enforced. And I discovered that the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the Family Research Council a "hate group" because of its insistence, its lie really, that homosexuals have a tendency to sexually abuse children. No protections? Outlawed? Criminalized? Paedophiles? No wonder Stephanie was so upset.
Stephanie and Kate who so long for a baby that I wish one would float down a river and they could scoop it up and take it into one of the warmest, sweetest homes I've ever been invited into.
I began to remember one of the reasons why gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and all the queer people, some of whom are straight, have always been so dear to my heart. And that is because I can relate to what it means to be closeted because of who you are, because of things about yourself that you cannot change, and to live in constant fear of exposure.
I remembered the afternoon of November 22, 1963. I was in the 7th grade in Albany, Georgia, a hotbed of the most vicious racism when we got word that President Kennedy had been shot. And we children, who had been taking a math test, remained very silent. A few minutes later we were told the President was dead. My classroom and the one next to us, erupted in applause, foot-stomping, and cheers: "The nigger-lover is dead!" And I sat mute, stunned by the President's death and the applause and I wondered whether, if they knew my integrationist mind and my integrationist heart and I were shot dead, would they cheer?
I remembered, too, that among the victims of the Holocaust were thousands of homosexuals, put in the ovens because Hitler deemed them unfit to live. And I remembered the Lavender Scare of the 1950s when 91 homosexual members of the US State Department lost their jobs because they were seen as risks to national security. And I remembered the Mariel boat lifts from Cuba in the 1980s when Cuban homosexuals were exiled to the US because Castro believed that homosexuality was a threat to national security. And I remembered Matthew Shepherd, tortured, murdered, and strung up on a Montana fence in such a way that he resembled the crucified Christ. And the signs at his funeral which said "Fag Matt in Hell" and "No Tears for Queers." To paraphrase Isaiah, "No peace for the wretch that walks down the twisted road of homophobia," a road built on lies, obscenities, and crucifying plots.
I began to analyze. Now, you might say that those kids in Albany, Georgia on the afternoon of the murder of the President had a constitutional right to express their opinion, and about that you might be correct. But I felt then and I feel now that God thought they were wrong and was on my side. And you might say that Dan Cathy has a constitutional right to give his money to any organization he wants. And you might be correct. But I feel that God thinks he's wrong and is on the side of homosexuals. And, following the free speech logic, you might say that Caesar had a right to ridicule the already humiliated, already suffering, already dying Christ by pressing a mocking crown of thorns onto his brow and posting "King of Jews" over his head in three languages. And undoubtedly you would be correct. Caesar had that imperial right. But God was not on Caesar's side. God was on the side of the humiliated One, the spat-upon One, the mocked One, the crucified One. God reached a conclusion and took a stand by resurrecting the One who Caesar so feared and so mocked.
Here is what I think is Isaiah's point: until we pursue Justice as though it were a war on which everything were riding, until we believe that our very Salvation is dependent upon the systemic safety of Mexican bus drivers and farmers in India and lesbian couples with babies, we will never realize the real-time Realm of Peace. And my prayer is that today be the day when we begin to speak Justice words over and over and over and we never stop. Because we worship the Lord of Life and not the idols of death.
We love you. Help calm our fears. Help us to speak words of Justice.
What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?
He was what you might call a "redneck" or "white trash". His name was Johnny. I remember the day County men brought him to our classroom. He was barefoot, a teenager much taller than us 4th graders and had long, poorly cut, blond hair. In 1960, boys who wore their hair long were boys too poor or too neglected to get haircuts. The County men pushed him into a desk. He never made eye contact with anyone and never said a word. The next day he was gone.
Ellin Jimmerson, July 6, 2013 Weatherly Heights Baptist Church
Image: "The Garden of Eden," by Von Adi Holzer, 2012
What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?
I don't remember anyone ever talking about him, ever expressing curiosity about what his story was or what had happened to him.
Today as I recall him, I can't help but wonder why the County hadn't at least bought him a pair of shoes. How exposed he must have felt. How humiliated. Did his humiliation over a single incident—or more likely many, many incidents—turn into shame? Did humiliation turn into a sense there was something fundamentally wrong with him? Did he go through the rest of his life fearful of exposure?
The Bible says that before the event with the Serpent, the Trickster, the Garden of Eden had been a Paradise. Then something happened. The Serpent entered the Garden, approached the Woman, and deliberately tricked her. The Trick involved three things. First, it involved persuading the Woman that something good would come of her acting in a way contrary to the laws established by God. Two, it involved tricking her into believing that the forbidden tree held access to knowledge. Instead, the Tree was was not the Tree of Knowledge. The tree was the Tree of Shame. The Woman fell for the Trickster's wiles. Third, the trick involved establishing the Serpent, Satan, as a contender for the cosmic authority that rightly belongs only to God.
By the same token, there were three simultaneous outcomes. One, the Woman sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, offered some to the Man, and he sinned by eating, too. The Woman and the Man sinned. The second outcome was that shame was introduced on a global and comprehensive scale into what once had been but no longer was Paradise. Shame signaled the end of Paradise and the Woman and the Man covered themselves and fled. The third outcome was that Satan achieved Satan's goal of successfully challenging God as the only source of power and authority over humankind. The text goes on to say that from then on the Serpent and the Woman would be locked in a cosmic struggle. The Woman, in what becomes a motif throughout the Bible and ends in a grand battle between them in the book of Revelation, groans in the agony of giving birth to a New Heaven and a New Earth--a New Paradise.
But let's go back to the Woman's and the Man's sin. Sin is the word we give to an act. It is the word we give to doing something--doing something that is contrary to the boundaries established by God. The word "sin" covers a lot of territory. It can mean anything from a kid swiping an apple which doesn't belong to him to a corporation using its power legally to control farmers' seeds (seeds given to farmers by God) in order to control the genetics of major commodity crops and thereby their bottom line and in doing so destroying the lives of thousands upon thousands of family farmers in the process.
God has established the appropriate human response to sin. The appropriate human response to sin is regret or remorse. The appropriate response is guilt and the desire to make things right. Had the appropriate thing, the God ordained thing happened, the Woman and the Man would have experienced guilt. But that is not what happened.
Because The Trickster, Satan had entered the picture, in the guise of a Serpent, so the story goes, instead of feeling guilt, the appropriate response, the Woman and the Man were overwhelmed by shame, by a sense of exposure so global and so intense that they covered themselves and hid from God. Through the Trickster, shame had entered the garden.
Eden had been Paradise not only because it was filled with land to be tilled and trees bearing fruit to be eaten and beasts of the fields and birds of the air and seeds which allow for perpetual rebirth. Eden was Paradise because shame and fear of exposure did not exist there. The text clearly says that prior to the event with the Crafty One, the Man and the Woman were naked but they felt no sense of exposure. They felt no shame. They did not experience that global sense that something was fundamentally wrong with them. What we need to grasp, in my reading of this text, is that shame was not part of God's plan for the Man and the Woman--shame was part of the Trickster's plan. Guilt comes from God. Shame comes from the Crafty One, the Trickster, Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, the Accuser.
We need to understand this. Shame and the sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with us is not God's plan for our lives and we need to rebuke that sense at every turn.
I want to pause here and elaborate again on the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is limited and local. It comes from inside us. Guilt is an appropriate response to a wrong action. Guilt can lead to a decision to make right the wrong. Take the apple back to the store, apologize to the owner and move on. Stop genetically modifying plants and offer full restitution to the farmers you've put out of business. Try to make right the wrong.
But how do you re-wind on shame? Shame, unlike guilt, is expansive and global. Shame is that profound sense that who we are is fundamentally wrong. Shame is that terrible sense that we were knit together in our mother's womb to be someone inherently inferior. Shame always comes from the outside. Shame is always an intrusion, a transgressor, a usurper of that sense to which each of us is entitled--that sense that we were made in the image of God. Shame is the result of being told over and over, not that we have been created in the very image of God, which we ought to hear every day of our lives, but that who we are is fundamentally contrary to the image of God.
When I was a child in Georgia, I very occasionally was told with real contempt by someone who was not especially important to me that I was a "nigger lover." Suppose I had heard that over and over and over by someone who was supposed to love me? How could I have helped but internalize his contempt for me?
Later on, because of circumstances surrounding Leigh Anna's death, I heard that I should be given a "Worst Mother of the Year" Award and that I was a "complete ass of a human." Suppose I had heard that over and over and over from someone who had authority over me? How could I have helped but internalize her opinion of me?
I have been lucky. I've never repeatedly heard derogatory remarks about me. But other people do all the time. Later on, because of circumstances surrounding Leigh Anna's death, I heard that I should be given a "Worst Mother of the Year" Award and that I was a "complete ass of a human." Suppose I had heard that over and over and over from someone who had authority over me? How could I have helped but internalize her opinion of me?
I have been lucky. I've never repeatedly heard derogatory remarks about me. But other people do all the time.
Like foul, demonic spirits they come forth from the mouths of the False Prophets--Yid, Kike, Raghead, Bible Thumper, Fundie, Sand Nigger, Camel Jockey, Chink, Jap, Gook, Spik, Beaner, Fag, Dyke, Gal-Boy, Sissy, Twinkle-Toes, Butch, Curry Muncher, Honky, Redskin, Squaw, Buck, Kraut, Mick, Dago, Wop, Flag Waver, Douchebag, Whore, Predator. Demonic words meant to shame people and make them believe there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Its not enough for the Accusers to crucify our bodies, they want to crucify our souls, too.
Sometimes Satan's lust for our souls makes its way into our own families. Suppose you heard your father refer to you throughout your childhood as a "worthless piece of filth." How could you not internalize that? How could you not feel that something was fundamentally wrong with you? Or suppose your mother repeatedly called you a "little slut." How could you not internalize that? How could you not wonder whether something were fundamentally wrong with you?
Sometimes, however, its not even about what others say, its about what we say to ourselves. Suppose you had an abortion and for years and years you were haunted by, "what kind of a mother kills her own child?" Or you had an abortion and you didn't experience regret and because of that you say to yourself, "what is the matter with me?" What God wants you to know, I think, is that right or wrong an abortion was something you did and not who you are.
Sometimes, of course, we do things that are just plain wrong by any standard. We know it and we do it anyway. We go to a party and we intend to drink too much and we do drink too much and we get behind the wheel of our car and we cause a wreck that takes someone's life. We need to feel guilty. Its appropriate. Guilt is the God-ordained appropriate response for doing what we know to be wrong. Feel guilt over what you did, but don't allow guilt to become transformed into a global feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with you because that is not true. There is not a single person here this morning who is fundamentally wrong or inherently flawed.
We hear a lot about the Israelite and Jewish societies being shame based. I think we post-Modern Westerners can make that claim, too. U. S. Army Reserves Specialist Lynndie England at Iraq's infamous Abu-Ghraib prison pulling an Iraqi prisoner in his underwear along the floor by a leash around his neck in one of numerous horrifying shaming acts there. Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio forcing his male prisoners to wear pink underwear and swelter in tents. How does one recover from being treated that way?
More to the point, isn't there something fundamentally wrong with Lynndie England and Joe Arpaio? I think that if we take seriously the idea that each of us is the image of God, we have to conclude that the actions of Lynndie England and Joe Arpaio reach the level of being demonic. But, I think we have to conclude that these were things England did, things for which she ought to feel a great deal of guilt and for which she probably deserved her dishonorable discharge and prison sentence. But even these actions were what she did and not who she was. These miserable things Sheriff Arpaio does to people in Arizona are things for which he should feel a great deal of guilt and for which, I believe, he should at least lose his job. But these miserable actions are what he does and not who he is. Even US. Army Reserves Specialist Lynndie England and Sheriff Joe Arpaio were knit together in their mother's wombs in the image of God. Even the venom-spitting False Prophets, even the Englands and Arpaios were knit together in their mother's wombs in the image of God. We have to ask ourselves, "What went wrong in their lives? What words did they hear? What accusations? Were shaming acts perpetrated upon them?"
This is important. The Bible tells us that God and Satan are at war over this. Satan, the Trickster, the Accuser, wants Lynndie England and Joe Arpaio to believe something is fundamentally wrong with them. The Trickster wants them, as he wants each one of us, to feel eternally exposed and forever ashamed. God wants us to know that each of us is God's very image. The very image of God to which terrible things have been done. The image of God which does terrible things.
Shame was a big part of what Caesar was up to at Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus was executed. Crucifixion, after all, was reserved for non-Romans--the ethnicities, the Jews, the permanent outsiders who were believed to be a fundamental threat to Caesar and his national security state. Crucifixion was about more than torturing the body--it was about torturing the soul.
We know God was of a different mind-set which is why God effected the Resurrection. We know that Jesus was resurrected in body and in spirit and that God was triumphant over Caesar. Yet, we also know that the battle between God and Satan persists and will persist until the day of Armageddon. "See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame." Shame and the fear of exposure. Together they have been one of the persistent motifs of humankind since the intrusion of Satan into the Garden of Eden.
The County may not care whether it humiliates a child. Caesar makes it a point to humiliate. But one of the promises made in the book of Revelation is that one day the brutal realities of this world will cease away and there will be a new Paradise in which no one is ever shamed. Write this down. What I'm about to say is trustworthy and true. God will wipe away every tear. Shame and the fear of exposure will be no more. That sounds like Good News to me.
What Nicodemus Gave Up
Three things in particular strike me about this Gospel. One is that much of it revolves around discourses challenging hearers to examine that which they know. The second is that John’s Gospel is filled with the politics of oppression and rebellion—Jesus and Nicodemus move in secret, there are repeated attempts to arrest Jesus and Jesus’ repeated escapes, there are trials, testimonies, judges, betrayals, persecutions, and detachments of soldiers with their lanterns, torches, and weapons. Third, much of the action takes place in Jerusalem during major Jewish festivals.
Ellin Jimmerson, March 26, 2015 Faith Presbyterian Church
Painting: Nicodemus Visiting With Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899
What Nicodemus and Ernesto Cardenal Gave Up
TEXTS: Jn 3:1-21 Jn 7:50-51
Nicodemus Visits Jesus
“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked,
“Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?”
Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.
Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.
The story of Nicodemus is part of the fabric of John’s Gospel. Three things in particular strike me about this Gospel.
One is the degree to which much of it revolves around discourses in which people are challenged to examine that which they know.
The second is that John’s Gospel is filled with details of the politics of oppression and rebellion—Jesus moves in secret, Nicodemus moves in secret, there are repeated attempts to arrest Jesus and Jesus’ repeated escapes, there are trials, testimonies, judges, betrayals, persecutions, and detachments of soldiers with their lanterns and torches and weapons.
Third, much of the action takes place in Jerusalem during major Jewish festivals.
Off-season, Jerusalem was a major metropolitan area set within a wall measuring about 4 miles in circumference. Within the walls lived a permanent population of perhaps 80,000 people including thousands of temple priests, their attendants, and temple police.
During the festivals, however, the population would swell to include as many as 250,000 pilgrims, along with thousands of terrified animals necessary for the festivals. Jerusalem during festival times was extremely crowded and noisy, people were overly excited and every corner bar did a land office business. Roman security was added at every gate and at the Temple, Jewish police officers were on the lookout for trouble makers. Every festival had the potential for trouble.
On top of this, Temple and Jewish leadership, including the Pharisees, existed at the pleasure of the Roman Empire. The job of the leadership was two-fold.
First, it was to maintain Jewish law and ritual, and thereby maintain the ability of Jews to exist as a people of faith within an empire that was hostile to them. This in part was what made them exemplary Jews—exemplary men of faith.
Second, their job was to keep the lid on Jewish rebellions so that the Jews could continue to exist as a political entity. So, in essence, the Pharisees had struck a bargain with Rome—allow us to exist as a people and a faith, they seem to have concluded with much justification, and we will keep Jerusalem rebellion-free. At best, the Pharisees had a difficult, unenviable job.
The difficulty of their job could only have increased during the times of the major festivals—Passover, the feast of Tabernacles, and the feast of Dedication because what were these festivals commemorating?
Passover celebrated the liberation from Egypt, the fundamental event in Israel’s history.
The feast of Tabernacles celebrated God’s protection of Israel in the wilderness.
The feast of Dedication celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes and the cleansing of the Temple by the Maccabees.
And this is the volatile situation into which John’s Jesus Christ inserts himself. As Passover is drawing near, he goes up to Jerusalem, enters the temple, which has tightened its security, makes a whip out of cords and uses it to cleanse the temple.
Adding insult to injury, he pours out the coins of the money changers and overturns their heavy tables shouting, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
It is after this that Nicodemus comes secretly, by night, to Jesus. One of the Pharisees whose job it is to maintain Jewish law and the Jews’ right to exist within a hostile empire, Nicodemus is a man of serious faith. He asks Jesus to clarify his theology of being born again, in other words, of what it means to be born anew into fullness of life.
Nicodemus, it occurs to me, is beginning to question whether the bargain struck with Rome will ever result in the kind of true liberation which was at the core of these major Jewish festivals. I think he may be questioning whether the bargain with Rome is a bargain for life or a bargain for death. At the close of Jesus’ discourse, this intensely political Jesus identifies himself as the full-blown apocalyptic Son of Man sent by God to liberate the whole world.
And it seems to me that Nicodemus is beginning to conclude that the bargain the Jewish leadership has made with the Romans is a devil’s bargain. I think he has begun to conclude that oppression by definition cannot possibly be the solution for oppression.
Months later, during the festival of Tabernacles during which the faithful read Liberation Song 118 (sometimes known as Psalm 118), Jesus cries out, “let anyone who is thirsty come over to me.” And in what is a real shock to the chief priests and Pharisees, even the temple police begin to believe that Jesus is a prophet or even the long-expected messiah.
Even one of their own, Nicodemus, says that Jesus needs to be given a hearing.
The people are going over to Jesus. The temple police appear to be going over to Jesus. And now, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is going over to Jesus. And the Pharisees’ anxiety begins to skyrocket. “Search the scriptures,” they say. No prophet will ever come out of Galilee.”
So the chief priests and Pharisees call a meeting and say “What are we to do? If we let this man go on like this everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”
And Passover comes around again, and many ordinary Jews are deserting to Jesus and believing in him. And when Jesus enters Jerusalem on the colt of a king and the crowd greets him with shouts of “The King of Israel!” the Pharisees say to one another, “Look, the whole world has gone over to him!”
And in a desperate effort to hold onto their authority, the Pharisees begin to excommunicate those who go over to Jesus. And they assist the Roman soldiers in their arrest of Jesus who is tried and crucified.
I think that it is a testament to the degree to which Nicodemus has changed his orientation that, along with Joseph of Arimathea, it is he who takes care of Jesus’ body, bringing about 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to place inside the burial linens, according to Jewish custom.
And this is on the day of Preparation, the day when Jews remember that freedom day when Israel prepared to leave Egypt.
This is one way to recall Nicodemus this Easter. As one who examined that good thing which he as a good Pharisee knew, that good thing he gave up in order to claim the freedom, the liberation which had been promised by God.
I am struck by how much Nicodemus’ pursuit of holistic liberation reminds me of Nicaragua’s Ernesto Cardenal. For those of you who don’t know about him, Cardenal is one of the most widely-read poets in the Spanish language and a Roman Catholic priest.
To understand Cardenal, you need to know that throughout most of the twentieth-century, Nicaragua was the U. S.’s primary Latin American client state. The US installed and militarily backed the brutal Somoza regime, one of the most brutal of all the military dictatorships in Latin America.
I don’t think its hyperbolic to say that Nicaragua existed at the pleasure of the U. S. Nor is it hyperbolic to say that the Catholic Church in Nicaragua existed at the pleasure of President Somoza and the Nicaraguan National Guard.
So, in my mind, there is something of a parallel between the relationship of the Nicaraguan Church to the U. S. and the relationship of the Jewish Temple leadership to the Roman Empire.
As a young adult, Cardenal participated in a plot to overthrow the Somoza / National Guard dictatorship. However, because of the excessive violence of the reprisals against the rebellion, like Nicodemus, Cardenal had a “born again” experience in which he disavowed violence and decided to enter the priesthood.
He went to Kentucky to study philosophical non-violence with Thomas Merton. At Merton’s urging, Cardenal later returned to Nicaragua where he founded a commune devoted to contemplation, the arts, and strict non-violence.
Along with Daniel and Phillip Berrigan as well as Thomas Merton, Cardenal became one of the key figures of the philosophical non-violence movement. Philosophical non-violence was indeed that which made them such exemplary Christians. It was a principle they knew was right.
But by 1972, Cardenal reluctantly concluded that priestly calls for non-violence would not end violence. Indeed, he began to conclude, it would only prolong the intense suffering of the Nicaraguan people.
And so Cardenal scandalized his international admirers with a decision to publicly support the guerrillas who were gathering strength in their effort to overthrow the Somoza / National Guard dictatorship. He longed for fullness of life for Nicaragua and concluded that hope for Nicaraguan life was inconsistent with philosophical non-violence and its bargain with the dictatorship.
His decision was most welcome among the young guerrillas with whom he read and discussed the Bible at the front and among many other Christians in Latin America.
Yet, it was most unwelcome among good Christians outside Latin America including Daniel Berrigan and Pope John Paul II whose criticism was especially hurtful. When I see video footage of the Pope wagging his finger at a kneeling Ernesto Cardenal on a public runway in Managua, I hear an anxious caution from the Pope:
“Surely, no prophet will ever come out of Nicaragua!”
As with Nicodemus’s turn from that principle on which he had staked a calling and a career, Cardenal’s turn from non-violence coincided with preparations for a major Christian festival. On the morning of December 23, 1972, a violent earthquake struck Managua as the city’s elite were preparing for a lavish Christmas. Later, Nicaraguan poet Tomás Borge wrote that Managua shattered “like a castle of cards constructed by a Peruvian sorceress.”
Approximately 10,000 people were killed. Hundreds of thousands more were injured or left homeless. The devastation to property was nearly incalculable.
National Guard soldiers, often led by their officers, engaged in extensive looting. They enjoyed tormenting desperately hungry people chasing them by showing them tin cans of food which they would not give up.
Massive amounts of foreign aid poured into Nicaragua. Most of it ended up in the already deep pockets of Somoza, his family, and his business and Guard cronies.
Cardenal concluded that the Nicaraguan Church’s bargain with the National Guard and Somoza would never lead to fullness of life for Nicaragua. Cardenal, like Nicodemus, responded to a political temple-cleansing Jesus who was the full-blown, apocalyptic, Word Become Flesh, Son of Man. He recalled Liberation Psalm 118 and Mary’s Christmas Magnificat and became reborn once again.
We are entering into the final days leading up to the major festival of the Christian calendar, the Easter festival, the festival during which we Christians celebrate more than any other the promise that fullness of life can overcome even the politics of death. It seems appropriate that we remember Nicodemus and Ernesto Cardenal. It seems appropriate that we recall that the political Jesus who cleansed the temple and died on the cross is the apocalyptic Son of Man sent to bring the whole world liberation.
Most importantly, it seems appropriate during what remains of this Lenten season that we, too, examine that which makes us a good Christian.
If being a good Christian is inconsistent with the full liberation of the whole world, are we prepared to give it up?
God Is Sending a Prophet
Good morning! I cannot tell you how pleased I am to have been invited to preach for you on this most exciting day—your 30th Anniversary! Thank you, Richard [Barham].
The purpose of the church is to bring Good News to people who have been suffering for a long and seemingly interminable season.
Ellin Jimmerson, 2016
Spirit of the Cross Church, Huntsville, AL
Image: "Malachi," by Duccio di Buoninsegma, c. 1310
God is Sending a Prophet
Luke 1:68-79 (Richard Barham)
Good morning! I cannot tell you how pleased I am to have been invited to preach for you on this most exciting day – your 30th Anniversary! Thank you, Richard.
The purpose of the church is to bring Good News to people who have been suffering for a long and seemingly interminable season. So I would maintain that Spirit of the Cross, a church founded on the need of lgbt people to have a safe space in which to be Christians, having been an outpost of love and acceptance in Alabama, of all places, for 30 years is Good News indeed. And to that I say, Amen! And again, a rousing Amen!
We are here this morning to celebrate the life and history of Spirit of the Cross over these past 30 years, but what of the next 30 years? Will Spirit of the Cross rest on its laurels? Or will it build on its success in creating a safe space for lgbt Christians? Will it, perhaps, raise up a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender prophet who will proclaim safety and justice for all?
I found it intriguing that the lessons today from Jeremiah and Luke are about prophets and their voices. In the context of the Exile, God raised up Jeremiah to bring Good News. Later, in the context of the Roman Empire, God raised up John the Baptist to bring Good News.
By Good News, I don't mean news that causes us to do the Snoopy Dance. I don't mean the news that causes us to laugh and shout such as when we learn we have won a round trip for two to Morocco. Or even when the the Supreme Court hands down its decision affirming same sex marriage. By Good News, which is what the word “gospel” means, I mean news that has about it certain qualities – the quality of being reliable. Of being authentic. Of being unimpeachable. The kind of news delivered with a lot of edginess by Jeremiah and John the Baptist. The news that the desperate circumstances in which the people found themselves were not the end. That constitutively time cannot run in reverse. It always moves forward. That the future, by definition, is both not yet in existence and already in existence.
The Good News, the news which is reliable and unimpeachable, is that there is a radical distinction between God and Pharaoh, between God and Caesar. Being mindful of this distinction implies having the resolve to keep a certain critical distance between ourselves and Pharaoh, between ourselves and Caesar, between ourselves and the President of the United States, and others who have control over people's lives, their safety, and their dignity.
If Jeremiah's words are to have any meaning for us, we have to find the contemporary reality – the contemporary Good News – implicit in them. So here is my take on the lectionary's verses for this morning which were written in the context of exile: “Watch out you politicians and presidents and prime ministers who harm and displace the peoples on the planet I created! says the Lord. Because of your ways, says the Lord, the God of the United States, about all the politicians and presidents and prime ministers who were supposed to take care of the peoples of the planet I created: It is you who displaced the peoples of my planet, driving them from their ancestral lands, perpetrating injustice and economic oppression, refusing to take care of them, looking the other way while they suffered needlessly. So! I will take care of you for your evil doings, says the Lord. I myself will gather them back together, bring them home to the people who love them, and there will become many of them. I will raise up politicians and presidents and prime ministers who will take care of them, both their dignity and their economic welfare, and they will not be afraid any more or worry about whether they have a future nor will any be disappeared by government agents, nor will they be threatened in any way, says the Lord. You can take this to heart and rest assured that the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a president who will be characterized by righteousness, by a hunger and thirst for justice, by an intention to bring into being an encompassing realm of wholistic safety and the peace that passes all our understanding.”
I'm fairly certain that no one hearing Jeremiah's words ever did the Snoopy Dance. This is the prophet from whom we get the word “jeremiad” meaning a long and threatening list of woes and charges against a society because of its injustices and its economic oppression and in which that society's downfall is predicted. A jeremiad is angry. Cautionary. Unsettling.
Yet, Jeremiah, the prophetic voice, delivered Good News – authentic, reliable news. The Good News was that the safety and security of people is directly tied to the rule of justice for all the people, not just some.
The United States, in its times of great suffering, has produced its prophets, both major and minor. It would be hard to argue that there has been a more prophetic voice than that of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His most prophetic speech, his Good News speech, the speech which caused so many of his followers to abandon him, was delivered a year to the day before he was assassinated in 1968. Called “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence” in this his most controversial speech, he brought the Good News, the reliable if uncomfortable news, that the freedom of African Americans was bound up in ending the war in Vietnam, in ending the policies that had caused the war in Vietnam, in ending American predatoriness in Central America, and in bringing about social and economic justice for everyone in America.
A decade later, there arose up a prophet in San Francisco's Harvey Milk. As many of you know, Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California. He addressed homophobia and the deaths to the soul it caused lgbt young people. But, as the so-called Mayor of Castro Street, he tried to make government responsive to people's immediate needs – all people's needs – and to that end he tried to build coalitions between gay people and the unions, among other things. He was known for being theatrical, charismatic, and a rousing orator. In one of his last speeches, he had this to say:
“The only thing [the young gays] have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up.”
What I want to leave you with is this thought. Next Sunday, we officially enter Advent, the season of waiting expectantly for the prophetic voice which, once and for all, will bring into being the radical overturning of current realities. I want to suggest as forcefully as I can that from this congregation, Spirit of the Cross, there can, and perhaps must, come a prophet. A prophet who will keep his, her, or their eyes on the politicians, presidents, and prime ministers. A prophet who will maintain a good measure of critical distance between himself and whomever is the president of the United States or any other elected official. A prophet so distanced from the politicians, presidents, and prime ministers that they are able to care less about winning and more about the welfare of all the displaced, exiled, and disadvantaged peoples.
Let me paraphrase the words of Zechariah about the coming of John the Baptist in order to give Spirit of the Cross both a blessing and a charge:
“God has already looked favorably on lgbt people
He already has raised up a mighty prophet in this house of his servants, Spirit of the Cross,
as he spoke through the mouths of his prophets Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Martin Luther King, and Harvey Milk
that we would all be saved from our enemies
and from the hands of those who hate us
Thus God has shown us the mercy promised to our ancestors Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan
and has remembered his holy covenant
the oath that he swore to the ancestor of all of us – Abraham,
to grant that we, having been rescued from the hands of our enemies
might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days,
and you, Child, sitting here in a covenantal relationship with all those who call Spirit of the Cross home,
you, Child, will be called to be a prophet of the Most High
to prepare the way
to give knowledge of complete salvation from all injustices and all economic predatoriness
to all the peoples of the planet so they will know they are being redeemed, just as you are being redeemed, that they are being rescued.
By the tender mercy of the Lord our God
the dawn from on high will break upon you, Child of Spirit of the Cross,
so that you may give light to all those who sit in the darkness and the shadows of death
to all those lgbt and all those straight people abandoned in prisons and detention centers, losing their lives to greed and corruption, crossing militarized borders, being bombed as we speak, losing their families as we speak, prostituting their bodies and their souls as we speak, losing all hope, believing with good reason that they have no future
let the dawn from on high break upon you, Child of Spirit of the Cross,
to guide all our feet into the way of peace.”
Tempted by Glory
The story of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness is predicated on the fact that Jesus has already been established in Luke’s Gospel as the Son of God. That has been established.
Ellin Jimmerson, March 10, 2019
United Church of Huntsville
Photo: Christ in the Wilderness, Ivan Kramskoi, 1872
Tempted by Glory
TEXTS: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Luke 4:1-13
The story of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness is predicated on the fact that Jesus has already been established in Luke’s Gospel as the Son of God.
That has been established.
To understand what that claim about Jesus means, though, we have to understand what the claim meant in the context of the Roman Empire. Jesus was making not only a spiritual claim, he was making a political claim. By the time of Jesus’s birth, the position, if not the person, of Caesar had been deified. By the time Augustus was Caesar, the person of Caesar had been deified. Augustus began to be worshiped as a deity, somewhere between a “Divine Son” and a “Son of God”. Augustus used this title to advance his political position finally overcoming all rivals for power within the Roman state.
The point is, the title “Son of God” was not exclusive to Jesus. By the time of Jesus’s ministry, the other Son of God was Caesar Tiberius whose power extended over many political realms.
Having a better understanding of what the claim Son of God meant in its contemporary context, we can begin to get at what Luke was up to with his story.
One of Luke’s storytelling techniques is the use of allusion. He mentions a word or a phrase and it recalls to mind entire episodes that the hearers of his story will immediately understand. And they’ll make connections. Luke begins the story of the temptations Jesus faced this way:“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan (where he had just been baptized) and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Luke is reminding the hearer of his Gospel that Jesus is the Son of God as signified by the story of his baptism in the Jordan River. He is also setting us up with interpretive tools for the story of Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness. One of those interpretive tools is Luke’s use of the number “40”.
For those of you who have been exposed to Bible stories for a while, the number 40 may conjure the rains which flooded the earth for 40 days and 40 nights in what we now call the Flood Story of Noah and the Ark way back at the beginning of Jewish time. It may conjure the story of Moses being told by God to come up on a high mount way up into the clouds where he would receive the terms of the covenant offered by God, and he stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights. And, it may conjure the broader Mosaic story of the Israelites wandering in a wilderness for 40 years.
All of which to say that the number 40 and the stories to which it alludes and the connections it evokes, connect Jesus backwards to his ancestors in the people, the politics, and the faith of Israel and forward to the story which is about to unfold. The number 40 also reaffirms the claim that Jesus is the authentic Son of God. 3. Keep your eyes on this: that Jesus was led by the Spirit in the desert. Listen out for “Jesus was led” in the rest of the story. The phrase becomes a motif and motifs are developed for a reason.
So, for 40 days Jesus was tempted by the devil. Now, look at what is going on here. In the first part of the sentence, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan . . . . “. Who is the protagonist here? Jesus. He returns. He’s his own man in charge of his destiny in the active voice. But no sooner has he returned than there is a plot twist: the protagonist suddenly becomes the Spirit. Active voice. Jesus becomes the antagonist operating in the passive voice. And this is where he stays for a good part of the story—he is no longer the protagonist of the story. Why? Because he is being tempted.
Now, we need to hit the pause button for a minute and reflect on what it means to be tempted. Temptation has to do with desire. Desire is the strong want to do something or have something, especially something that is unwise or wrong. What this means is that Jesus desires in a strong way the things the devil is holding out to Him, if only momentarily. Without the aspect of Jesus’s desire for these things, there is no temptation, and the story falls apart. The devil tempts Jesus; Jesus is tempted.
The framework for the first thing which tempts Jesus is the wilderness where for 40 days, Jesus fasted. He ate nothing at all and when his fast was over, he was famished. He wanted something to eat. He needed something to eat. The devil begins to tempt him by challenging Jesus’s claim that he is the Son of God. He is challenging both Jesus’s religious claim and his political claim. Because the one true Son of God in the context of the Roman Empire was Caesar Tiberius. And the devil challenges him by toying with a sensitive spot—Jesus’s identity.
The word translated as “if”: “If you are the Son of God” can also be translated more sarcastically as “since.” “Since you are the Son of God” . . . with the implied “prove it.” Command this stone to become a loaf of bread. And wouldn’t Jesus love a loaf of bread right about now. Jesus is tempted to take the devil up on his challenge because he is hungry to the point of starvation and because he wants to settle the challenge to his identity. If Jesus is not actually tempted to turn the stone into bread, the story and its meaning fall apart.
Jesus overcomes the temptation by remembering who he is—he is a descendant of Moses and of those who were fed by God with manna, a previously unknown type of bread. So he finally rebukes the devil’s tempting by remembering the story told in Deuteronomy: “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Which is to say that we emphatically need bread to live—why else would God provide manna to the Israelites? But that there are other things we need, too, in order to thrive. Things like dignity, self-respect, and autonomy. Man does not live by bread alone.
But the devil is restless. The devil is always restless. Look at what happens next. The devil displaces the Spirit. The Spirit has exited the scene and is not coming back. The devil is fully protagonist now which is signaled by the phrase “the devil led him”. Just a second ago, it was the Spirit which led Jesus. Now, it is the devil. Does Jesus rebuke the devil? Does he say, “get thee behind me?” Absolutely not. Jesus literally follows the Devil up a mountain. Did we just hear about a mountain? Oh, yeah: Moses, God, the clouds, the Covenant. . . .
Up on that mountaintop, the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. In the context of the dueling claims as to who is the Son of God, Jesus or Caesar, what does “the world” mean? It means the Roman Empire. Rome had once been a kingdom, then it was a republic. But by the time Jesus was on the scene, Rome was an empire. How do you become an empire? By subsuming other peoples’ lands’, their peoples, and their cultures and by controlling their religions. The devil promises Jesus all the kingdoms of the Roman world. The devil promises Jesus all the glory and and all the authority, and he makes the claim that all the glory and all the authority over the Roman world is his and he can give to anyone he pleases. It is a bold claim which raises the question: just who is this devil? He’s beginning to look an awful lot like Caesar.
Jesus is tempted. He is tempted by glory and authority over all the world. Because if he is not actually tempted, if he does not actually want the glory and the authority and all the kingdoms, the story and its meaning fall apart.
But then the devil discloses what will clinch the deal: all Jesus has to do is worship him. The devil is beginning to look an awful lot like a stand-in for Caesar. The deal clincher brings Jesus to his senses. He cannot worship the devil. As part of his own claim to being the Son of God, he cannot worship the devil. Jesus recalls an injunction from Deuteronomy: “ You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear.”
But the devil is restless in his search for power and glory. The devil is always restless. He tries the third time. The devil leads Jesus to Jerusalem and literally places him on the pinnacle of the Temple, the Temple being the place where Jewish authorities were collaborating with Rome. Again the Devil challenges Jesus’s claim to being the Son of God: “if you are the Son of God” or “Since you are the Son of God”, throw yourself off the pinnacle. Then the Roman devil quotes Jesus’s own Jewish Scriptures with this passage from Psalm 91:
“For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”
And Jesus is tempted. Because if Jesus is not tempted, the story and its meaning fall apart. But Jesus remembered this caution from Deuteronomy: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massuh.”
What’s this about Massuh? Massuh is a place mentioned in Exodus at the beginning of the time of the 40 years wandering. Because of the lack of water, the Israelites begin to complain about Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, just to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst? Is the Lord not with us?” So God tells him to go to a certain rock and strike it with his rod whereupon water gushes forth and the people drink. Moses called the place Massuh because they tempted the Lord to prove Himself even though, as he said in a retort, “you’ve already seen my work.” And the Lord said, “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.” Even God is tempted by glory and authority!
So Jesus quotes Scripture right back at the devil, “Do not put temptation out in front of the Lord your God.” And Jesus reminds the devil, unlike me God has been known to actually act on temptation which is something you really don’t want.” Fair warning. So the devil goes away. But he’s coming back. When an opportune time presents itself, he’ll be back. Later on Jesus will turn his temptations in the wilderness into a prayer of deliverance, “God, don’t lead us into temptations of glory and authority and kingdoms, but when we are tempted, deliver us from it. Because all the kingdoms and all the glory and all the power belong to you and you alone forever and forever.
Interpreting the Present Time
All Christians, as all people of faith, should be in the business of interpreting the present time. However, I don’t think we are doing that in ways that are effective. In ways that change our world in redemptive ways. Part of the reason is because long ago we Christian ministers stopped preaching the central Bible messages which are basically only two. The first is that Pharaoh is not the equivalent of God, that Caesar is not the equivalent of God. We have not been preaching that God and Caesar will never intersect.
Ellin Jimmerson, August 18, 2019
United Church of Huntsville
Photo: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Bible in Pictures, 1860