Things That Matter

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About The Pastor And Stripper Who Have Come Together To Raise Money For Migrant Kids

clackamasucc / Instagram

“I started brainstorming with a stripper on how the church could help,” Rev. Adam Ericksen said in an interview with People Magazine last week. This pastor teamed up with a stripper to “raise awareness and support for the children in Mississippi who were torn apart by the ICE raids from their families.”

This honestly sounds like the setup for a joke and we’re waiting for the punchline.

Instagram / @clackamasucc

There is no punchline because what this pastor and stripper are fighting for is no laughing matter. The two were horrified when in early August almost 700 people were arrested in an ICE raid in Mississippi. Countless children were left without parents to care for them, feed them, and be there for them. Struck by the injustice, Rev. Adam Ericksen and Dawn McCall started the “Our Kids Charity Campaign,” which was designed to raise money for the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, or MIRA. The group provides advocacy and support for immigrants — and, by extension, assists children who have been affected by ICE raids.

So how did a pastor meet a stripper in the first place?

Instagram / @clackamasucc

Rev. Ericksen first caught McCall’s attention a few months ago, after he posted a sign outside his church in support of trans rights. Inspired, McCall got in touch with the reverend over Facebook, saying, “I love what you are are doing, keep it up.” Once the news about the raids got out, it was only a matter of time before Rev. Ericksen and McCall were discussing how the mass detentions had impacted on the community and how they could mobilize their resources to help. What they came up with was handmade, G-rated t-shirts to raise money for MIRA, and similar groups.

Rev. Ericksen’s had mixed feelings when they found out he was collaborating with a stripper and her girls.

Instagram / @laurenssseeley

One the one hand, everyone at the Clackamas United Church of Christ in Oregon, Mississippi was supportive of the reverend’s efforts to raise money for the cause. On the other hand, they were less supportive of the fact that Rev. Ericksen decided to partner with McCall and “her girls” to generate funds. “This was not the first thing on my mind when I became a pastor, that I’d be working with strippers,” said Ericksen, in the interview with People Magazine. “You would never expect a stripper and a pastor having the same values … but here it is.”

And in all honesty, strange times call for even stranger measures.

Instagram / @laurenssseeley

Who would have thought that the US government would essentially spearhead a campaign to separate children from their parents? Even the mayor of Jackson, the state’s capital, said that the raids were “dehumanizing and inhumane,” and were designed to “further alienate communities from law enforcement.” It seems only right that anyone and everyone who has the means to take a stand against the separation of children and parents should do so. Even if that means that reverends and dancers from the local vegan stripping joint have to form their own superhero squad to tackle the issue. Under the hashtag #ourkids – of course.

But let’s stop and think for a second about why this is happening in the first place.

Instagram / @clackamasucc

Here’s the thing: ICE and whatever associated departments that are conducting these raids and facilitating child-parent separations are, on the most fundamental level, simply following governmental policy. They’re not the ones who are developing and passing the laws that permit these atrocities to happen.

Yes this story makes for strange headlines but let’s not forget what this is really about: helping children.

Instagram / @teamblupdx 

McCall sums it up beautifully in a recent Insta post: “I would like to thank our LOCAL MEDIA and our FB and IG followers for helping us spread the word about the #OURKIDS fundraising campaign. However, I need to raise my hand to remind everybody to STAY ON MESSAGE. The #OURKIDS campaign is NOT about a pastor and a stripper … the immigrant families and #OURKIDS in Mississippi were attacked by Donald Trump’s sh*tty government with support from his sh*tty constituents. THESE ARE NOT OUR PEOPLE but those are #OURKIDS. The ICE raids had an evil financial and political agenda that ripped these “not white” families apart, traumatizing them forever!”

And on that note: for those of you who are interested in getting your hot little hands on one of the #ourkids t-shirts, you can find them here, on Etsy.

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Organization Spreading The Bible Via Hotel Rooms Around The World

Things That Matter

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Organization Spreading The Bible Via Hotel Rooms Around The World

J. Mark Bertrand / Flickr

There are some things that are just so normal, we never question how it came to be normalized. One day, historians will ponder this in regards to immigrant detention camps in America, but I digress. Once upon a time, the dusty drawer in your hotel room’s nightstand laid bare. That trusty Holy Bible was nowhere to be found, and likely, people weren’t looking for it.

So in a capitalist economy like the U.S.’s where supply and demand reign as the key influencers in the world around us, how did every hotel in America, and, subsequently, the world, come to guard a Bible? We highly doubt that reading the Bible on your vacation is anywhere nearly as commonplace as the actual Bibles. Here’s what we found out.

It all started in the fall of 1898 when two traveling salesmen met in a Wisconsin hotel room…

By Jonathunder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

John H. Nicholson of Janesville, Wisconsin and Samuel E. Hill of Beloit, Wisconsin found themselves as strangers in a crowded Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. The two ended up being forced to share a room. The two shared pleasantries and soon realized they were both devout Evangelical Christians. They joked about creating an association of traveling Christian businessmen.

The following May, they met again at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin to firm up their idea: create a men’s group for traveling Christian salesmen.

“A Lasting Vision.” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

That July, Nicholson and Hill brought a third member, William J. Knights, to a YMCA in Janesville. There, they hoped to recruit more members, but nobody else would join them. Their first meeting was just the three of them, during which they divvied up roles. Hill would be the President, Knights the Vice President, and Nicholson the Treasurer and Secretary. 

They prayed together on a name and Knights heard God’s answer: “We shall be called Gideons.”

Untitled. Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

The Book of Judges shares the story of a man named Gideon who was recruited by God to lead his small army of 300 men against an enormous army. Their faith led them to gain victory over the much larger army. Their membership grew over the years, mainly consisting of traveling Christian businessmen. 

In 1908, they started leaving the first free Bibles in hotel rooms of the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana. Today, the organization has grown to 200 countries, territories, and possessions and is known as Gideons International. Its website maintains that the foundation is based on a perceived need that “people today need someone to come alongside them in finding their way to true salvation that is available only through the grace of God.”

Still, only men are allowed to hand out Bibles. Women can only serve as auxiliaries to the men, as their wives.

“A Unique Focus” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

The organization boasts more than 269,500 Gideons and distribution of over 2 billion Bibles around the world. Gideons International describes themselves as “an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments.” The organization acknowledges that they’re best known for leaving Bibles in hotels, but want you to know that they also “place and distribute Scriptures in strategic locations so they are available to those who want them, as well as to those who may not know they need them.” 

To elaborate, they also distribute Bibles to “hotels, motels, hospitals, convalescent homes, medical offices, domestic violence shelters, prisons, and jails.” Also, members of The Gideons will personally hand out a free Bible to “police, fire, and medical personnel; prisoners; military personnel; students in the fifth grade and above.”

This is where it gets even more cringy.

“A Worldwide Impact.” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

Their website is littered with images of Black children in presumably African nations holding up free Bibles. The Gideons were founded by a group of white men and has evolved into a group of men “and their wives” proselytizing to young children of color. The presumption that their culture’s spirituality trumps another’s is spiritual colonization of the 21st century. In fact, the ACLU has gotten involved in a case against Gideons International for going into public schools and proselytizing to children in the 5th grade and above. 

But, hey, we’re glad our abuelas are comforted by the free spiritual literature found in their hotel rooms.

Credit: Public Domain

Next time they thank God for the Bible in their hotel room drawer, you can remind her that the man who placed the Bible there, wouldn’t allow her to hand the same treasured book to someone else.

READ: 10 Folk Religions You Didn’t Know Existed In Latin America And The Caribbean

Just A Reminder That It’s Super Strange To Take Pictures With A Dying Man On The Cross

Culture

Just A Reminder That It’s Super Strange To Take Pictures With A Dying Man On The Cross

Like many aspects of Latino culture, we have a complicated relationship with Catholicism. While many of us grew up in the church and take solace in the ritual and community that the church provides, there are also some other aspects of the religion that are harder to deal with. For example, many Catholics express their love for Jesus in some…unusual ways. Anyone who grew up in the church knows that Catholics can be prone to depicting the death of Jesus on the cross in–some would say–graphic ways. Growing up, many Latinos don’t think twice about seeing explicit pictures of Jesus dying at their local parish.

But after Latinos grow up and are exposed to other lifestyles and religions, we develop a different perspective on Catholic art. Outside of our Catholic/Latinx bubble, we begin to see why a lot of people view Catholic art as morbid. And honestly, sometimes we can’t blame them. So, with both Dia de Muertos and Halloween quickly approaching, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to deep-dive into the sometimes weird world of Catholic art. Take a look below and see if any of these spark any memories!

1. The Towering Shadow of Jesus

@bishi_music/Instagram

Whoever thought this giant Jesus shadow was inspiring probably has a different idea of what brings people comfort than what your average person does. To outsiders, it may look intimidating, to say the least. 

2. The Floor Made of Bones

@danmstephenson/Twitter

Yes, Catholics have an unfortunate history of plastering their buildings with bones of their dead patrons. It was very trendy back in the day. We can’t say we want this one to come back in style.

3. Skeletons Everywhere!

@fakingitfab/Instagram

When non-Latinx people think of skeletons, they generally think of spooky stuff like Halloween. But many Latino Catholics have seen a skeleton or two pop up in their own cathedral’s decor (that still doesn’t mean it’s not a little spooky).

4. Morbid Public Rituals

@hildahoy/Twitter

You know an event is sufficiently Catholic when there is a life-size rendering of Jesus on the cross being carried by a group of people. When you’re experiencing stuff like this, you don’t even question it. 

5. Unfortunate Artistic Interpretations of Jesus

@jupit3rrr/Instagram

Look, no one really knows what Jesus looked like. We, however, hope Jesus didn’t look like many of the old and dilapidated statues that we have seen of him in certain cathedrals. It may have looked great back in the day, but some of these need some refurbishing.

6. Tone-Deaf Baked Goods

@hotoynoodle/Twitter

A quick internet search will turn up some unfortunate Catholic-themed baked goods that look like they were made by some clueless but well-intentioned abuelas. If you think these hands-of-Jesus cookies are bad, you should see the “blood of the lamb” cake we stumbled across on Pinterest. 

7. Uncanny Pope Memorabilia

@jscates/Twitter

Naturally, the Pope is someone to be venerated in the Catholic religion, but odd-looking artwork depicting His Holiness is…well, odd. Especially when it’s a dinner table’s centerpiece. 

8. This disproportionate statue of Jesus

@julie_van_winkle/Instagram

Again, it’s obvious that the artist had the best of intentions, but unfortunately, the execution left a bit to be desired. Odd artwork like this is par for the course in many smaller parishes.

9. Graphic Depictions of Saints Being Martyred

@julie_van_winkle/ Instagram

It’s art like this that we remember being particularly afraid of as children. Blood coming out of saints was hard to look at and may have kept us up at night once or twice.

10. Embalmed Bodies of Saints

@ktcoulter/Instagram

Most other religions don’t display their heroes of yore out in the open for everyone to see. Again, this is what makes being a Catholic a sort of secret society–it doesn’t feel unusual when you’re a part of it!

11. This altar dedicated to the preserved head of St. Catherine

@LectorGirl85/Twitter

Really, there are countless sites dedicated to displaying the bodies (or body parts) of Saints who are no longer with us. Like this altar that’s dedicated to displaying the mummified head of St. Catherine. 

12. Yes, it’s as creepy as it sounds:

@VivantBlondie97/Twitter

We can understand how outsiders would give this practice a bit of a side-eye. But they just don’t understand, okay?

13. This Glow-In-The-Dark Crucifix

@revinthenorth/Twitter

This one is equal parts funny and spooky. Who thought it would be a good idea to display this in a church? 

14. To sum up with this astute observation from a priest with a sense of humor:

@thehappypriest/Twitter

Truer words have never been spoken. Sure, Catholic art can be morbid, but for many Latinx people, being Catholic is a substantial and important part of their identity.