My grandfathers were Anchor Babies. You know, like Jesus.
Their parents came from other countries, where they’d left behind sketchy pasts, where their coming here had as much to do with getting away from people who were after them as it did with freedom. Like I said, like Jesus. Oh, and like Moses — particularly the criminal parts.
The countries they came from were, by the standards of their day, civilized, but the places they came from within those countries were probably better described by the unprintable words used by the head of one of today’s civilized nations during a meeting in his office when he spoke of an entire continent and punctuated his remarks by naming a Caribbean Island. You know, like when one of Jesus’ disciples asked whether anything good could come from his hometown.
Once my grandfathers were born, their parents immediately set about the process we now call Chain Migration. Blessing this country with people who came and, eventually, did well, a few of whom were racists, anti-Semites and bums. Shining examples some of my ancestors were not — like a lot of our heroes in the Bible.
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Like Jesus, they were smeared with innuendo, insinuation and recrimination.
Like Jesus, they were told they didn’t belong, that they should pack up and go back to where they came from.
Like Jesus, who spoke Aramaic, they dealt with people who wondered out loud who the heck they thought they were, if and when, like Jesus, they dared speak in public about anything approaching morality – particularly if they dared raise their voice inside a religious building.
Like Jesus, they were stereotyped and impugned with every conceivable treasonous motive. Like Jesus, they were accused of crimes, simply because they dared to contend for their rights. Like Jesus, they did not strike back — though, certainly more than once, they openly called corrupt officials to account.
Like Jesus, they never held public office, never got rich, never had a national platform, never intentionally founded a movement or a school of thought or an important institution.
And, like Jesus, they died what, at the time, only their closest family and friends, would have considered anything other than a relatively obscure death.
Most of that happened in the late 1800s, though parts of their lives spilled into the 1930s and ’40s.
Despite the derelicts and truants who are found on every family tree, virtually all their offspring ended up making, and continue to make, a difference. Some became teachers, growing thousands of minds and fostering hundreds more teachers. Some worked for important companies whose products, ranging from foodstuffs to children’s cartoons, have elevated the quality of life and minds of millions. Some have gone on to run major institutions, even famous art museums, enriching the world for generations to come. Some became doctors and lawyers and preachers, enriching the very fabric of countless other lives. And some just plain worked, and continue to work, hard. You know, like the spiritual offspring of Jesus.
All of them are proud to be descended from Anchor Babies, and from their relatives who got here by Chain Migration.
So when someone tells them those words are slurs, they say, “No their not. They’re badges of pride. You want to try to define me by calling me an Anchor Baby? Or as a person who got to this land of plenty and promise by Chain Migration? Call me those names, anytime. I’m proud of whom I am, where I come from, and of all those others who came before me. And I’m proud to be among those trying to overcome stereotypes, bigotries and the selfish injustice of politics in order to help other Chains and Anchors come here, too. You know, like Jesus.”
The Rev. Dr. Robert Sichta, Congregational United Church of Christ, 3700 26th St. W., Bradenton, can be reached by calling941-756-1018 or e-mailing PBKAlpha1@gmail.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.