The events of the last few weeks regarding the separation of families entering the United States illegally (as well as some of whom are trying to seek asylum legally) has weighed heavily on us all as a country, as a Church community, and as people who follow Jesus Christ.
I have had conversations with many of you about the situation and have shared my thoughts privately. Others have asked without having the chance to have meaningful discussion. It is my duty as spiritual leader of this community to make some comments concerning how people are being treated in our human community. It is also my duty to speak out against wrongful acts in our world and to help those who commit those acts to seek forgiveness and restoration with God and their brothers and sisters of the human family. I seek to do this very thing in my own life as well. It is imperative that, as Christians, we remember that we have each taken vows to...
“Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
That vow was promised at our Baptisms, Confirmations, Receptions, or Reaffirmations into this Episcopal Church. It is from this lens that I approach the issue.
For me the argument is not about the legality of the policy, it is about the morality of the carrying out of the law. The collateral damage of seeking to uphold a policy that is inhumane creates a moral inconsistency with my faith belief. The explicit stated intention of using the policy as a “deterrent” and “scare tactic” violates my vow as a Christian and a priest “to respect the dignity of every human being”. It also is in direct conflict with what Jesus called the greatest commandments, paraphrased as; “Love God, love your neighbor”. I believe we can uphold the laws of this country without treading on each other’s dignity and intentionally causing great pain to “the least of these”. Separating these children from their families is an act of malice. The policy also contradicts a stated platform of the administration, importance of the family unit. (Please read Rabbi David Schuck’s article linked at the bottom of the page that discusses the primacy of family, treatment of the Jewish people during times of oppressive government policies, and the idea of scapegoating.)
Another piece of this issue is the Attorney General’s invocation of the Bible into the policy, which surmises that the policy (the way in which the law is being upheld) is consistent with biblical teaching. This is simply not true. What the Attorney General has done is use a fragment of a Scriptural passage that fits the administration’s purpose. This is something that has been done throughout human history (Apartheid, Slavery, and the Jewish Holocaust to name a few) to suppress those who are in the minority. In fact, much of what Jesus condemns about “the law” in the New Testament has to do with unethical and immoral use of the law and treatment of “the least of these” by those in places of political and religious power. The whole arc of our sacred Scriptures must be taken into consideration, not used on an as-needed basis. The Bible is about our (the Abrahamic tradition) relationship with a loving, compassionate God who cared enough about us not only to create us, but to redeem our misdoings again and again by giving mercy and compassion when annihilation and destruction were an option: yet those are not the ways of God. Attorney General Session’s misuse of the passage, essentially stating that we should follow human law rather than God’s law, is an exploitation of the Gospel of Jesus.
Because this is a fluid situation, the facts are changing rapidly. Many political and religious leaders are eagerly seeking changes to this policy. It is my hope and prayer that our leaders will act responsibly to correct the injustices of these actions and reunite these families who are in crisis. May the words from Micah 6:8 which are echoed by Jesus lead us, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Fr. Will ✝
Below are links to several articles pertaining to this issue. I hope they are helpful.
"What the Bible Really Says About Trump's Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy" James Carroll, The New Yorker, 21 June 2018