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Statement Regarding the Expanded Travel Ban From the Academic Council of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

The Trump administration recently added six countries to the travel ban list which, as a recent New York Times article puts it, “will virtually block immigration from Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, and from Myanmar, where the Muslim minority is fleeing genocide.”

Even before the addition of these six countries to the restricted travel list, Trump’s travel ban stood as an example of the racism, xenophobia, and fear-mongering which undergirds so many policies enacted during this administration. For all those fleeing persecution or seeking a better life, the United States should be seen as a beacon of light, hope, and refuge--not a locked door behind which lurks suspicion, fear of the other, and the ideology of white supremacy.

United is a progressive Christian seminary grounded in the liberal Protestant tradition and committed to interreligious engagement. United is known for our deep-rooted concerns for justice, inclusion, and a commitment to the value of diversity. As such, we are compelled to speak publicly, joining our voices with many others across the nation and the world. We speak from the traditions of prophetic justice, first and foremost from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth but also from other prophetic witnesses of other religious traditions.

In the stories of our Scriptures and in the prophetic witnesses of Jesus and these other traditions, we do not find legitimation for intolerance, bigotry, and fear which leads to exclusionary policies and practices.

Rather, we find a heart of welcome for the stranger and the dispossessed, a priority for justice and reprieve for the oppressed, protection for the vulnerable, and healing for the broken.

United counts among our student body a number of international students who come from some of these newly banned countries. They contribute immeasurably to our spiritual and educational community. While the travel ban does not pertain to students with visas, we are concerned about the implications of these restrictions upon our students and upon their families.

In this volatile age, may it be known that we stand on the side of the vulnerable and the outsider. We proclaim that we will be a community of welcome and hospitality and we join our arms with all of God’s people, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, any other faith, or none at all.

We acknowledge that none of us are immune to fear. Whether in the form of terrorism, crime, poverty, or simply the frailty of finitude, we are constantly tempted to give into our fears. But history has repeatedly taught us that isolationism, demonization of others, mass incarceration, and violence do not ever make things better. They only add to the cycle of fear and death.

We call upon President Trump, his Administration and the Congress to care for the lives of all Americans by promoting tolerance and combating racism, xenophobia, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. We reject any attempts to manipulate our fears to turn our citizens against each other, destroying the bonds that should hold us together.

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities is committed to preparing leaders to work with people of all walks of life and of every political perspective to courageously face their legitimate fears, while maintaining a stance of openness, inclusiveness, and hospitality toward others.

Together we commit to advocating for and living into the way modeled by the prophets, priests, and exemplars of our better nature: the way of faith, hope, love, and peace.

 

Dr. Kyle Roberts

Kyle Roberts (Ph.D.) is VP of Academic Affairs and Dean and holds the Schilling chair as Professor of Public Theology and the Church and Economic Life at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Roberts has published essays on Kierkegaard and modern theology, including several essays in the series Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources (Ashgate / University of Copenhagen) and other collected volumes on various topics, including Pietism, Karl Barth, eschatology, and Christian spirituality. Roberts has published Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013) and has recently completed a co-authored commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans) and a book about the virgin birth (Fortress). At United, Roberts teaches Public Theology, Christian Ethics, Historical Theology (modern period), Senior Capstone Seminar, and various electives—including Evil, Death, and Alienation and Eschatology and Hope.

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