There are times when I wish I had never read the scriptures or been formed by them. There are times when I wish I had never learned history and taken in its horrors and its blessings to reject the first and follow the hopes of the second. There are times when I wish my own self-interest, comfort and privilege were the only things that I needed to protect and somehow comfort myself in the vain idea that they are what is sanctified and blessed because I am so exceptional and belong to an exceptional people. There are times…
Perhaps then I could be indifferent to the forced separation of children from their parents and families. Then I could forget my own grandfather who came at the age of eight with his aunt to these shores. Was he a refugee or an immigrant?
Perhaps then I could feel no empathy for the intentional severing of desperate families with no plan or hope of reunion. Perhaps then I would not be sickened and enraged by the squalor I am complicit in paying for that degrade and condemn these little ones to grave and uncertain fates. Perhaps then I could turn away. Perhaps then I could diminish and marginalize this intolerable treatment of the sojourner and the immigrant in a land that raises a lamp of invitation above the golden door and proclaims its desire to welcome the tired, the poor and the huddled masses that simply yearn to breathe free and seek a better life. Perhaps then I could ignore the dark, sordid and shadowy underbelly of that history which has rejected, oppressed and persecuted the same sojourners and immigrants while embracing the arguments of moral ambiguity and political necessity. Perhaps then I could set it aside and content myself with going on about my business as if this was not my (and all of our) business.
Perhaps I could look away with remorse. Perhaps I could argue that what I have been shown is so unlike what German citizens were shown when the camps were liberated that my righteous indignation at such a suggestion would comfort me. Perhaps I could believe that the internment of Japanese Americans or the Native American Trail of Tears or the indentured servitude of generations of farmers and mill workers or the suspicion and hatred of every new wave of immigrants or the sale of slave children and the division of slave marriages has been so completely expunged from the character of our nation and our people that this horror at the border is so unlike these others that we cannot even contemplate them as an expression of our original sin and the deeply unfaithful flaw in our character and sanctified imagination of an exceptional people.
Perhaps then – or most certainly then – I would be a person much despised and of no account before my God, myself or the better angels of our nature. Then the words of Jesus would hold no meaning, nor would I know them as words of salvation or of hope. Then I would be strained beyond credulity to find any meaning or lasting purpose in running with perseverance the race set before us.
Jesus interrupted his teaching and instruction because there were children playing nearby. Let the little children come to me, for to them belong the kin-dom of heaven. Unless you become like one of these you shall never enter the kin-dom of heaven. – throughout Jesus’ ministry
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Matthew 7:12
The Lord our God is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me and whoever receives me, receives not me, but the one who sent me. Matthew 9:36-37
How dreadful it will be in those days for the woman with child and nursing mothers…that dread and awful day Matthew 24:19
Welcome the stranger and the sojourner and your life will be long in the land, for so they welcomed you when you were a wandering one. The ungodly do not even give them a foot of ground…
And then, there is what is familiarly called the last judgement in Matthew 25. The final accounting:
Depart from me…For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
We have been given the fragile gift of freedom and a promise of the free exercise of faith. If we can do one thing that unifies us in following the way of Jesus it is to put the children first. It is to remember that Jesus warned us not to be a stumbling block to any of them. It would be better for us if a millstone was tied around our neck and we were tossed into the deepest part of the sea. Such an horrific image from the mouth of the Prince of Peace and the God of Love pushes the issue to its extreme place of urgency. In baptism we are bound to these children as our own, to these families as our own. Let us exercise our rights:
The links below connect us to the work of the church already being done on behalf of these children and their families:
Please call your representatives and let your voice be heard: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-protest-human-rights-abuses-at-u-s-detention-ce-1835731469?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=lifehacker_facebook&utm_campaign=bottom&fbclid=IwAR1wTfIC7SVm0EuuY8po89mMJg5_CfqKCjx69yNxqYwX3i4e5PsKt9R_MDs
July 12 has been set as a day of national demonstration. Information will come and we will post it here. https://www.upworthy.com/thousands-of-people-are-organizing-a-huge-nationwide-vigil-at-detention-camps-across-america?fbclid=IwAR0FXX8gMEl0S3YXNwOD0mMc0WhglYbYgP4nnm7vW4uh9RazrsYvpWnHgKE
The United Methodist Church's Global Ministries remains active in our world. https://www.umcmission.org/share-our-work/news-stories/2019/june/ensuring-universal-rights-and-welcome-for-global-migrants
Most of all PRAY. Prayer for healing and restoration. Pray for redemption and justice. Pray for these little ones. Pray for inspiration to the action you might take, no matter how small or ineffectual it may seem at the moment. Pray.
Prayers for us all,
Rev. Dr. Mark A. Fowler