God and Liberty
Updated: Aug 15
Last night thousands of people gathered in 700 “Lights for Liberty” protests and vigils across five continents to raise awareness of conditions in immigrant detention facilities in the southern United States. People are demanding changes in government mandated migrant detention centers, which includes separating children from parents and a lack of basic needs such as hygiene, nutrition, safety and medical care. One refugee pointed out that no one chooses to leave home. Instead, they are compelled to migrate when conditions so threaten their lives and liberty that they decide the only way to survive is to escape to a new land.
EVANGELICAL SUPPORT FOR U.S. POLICY
U.S. Federal policy is backed up by a strong wind of right wing Evangelical Christians who are rigidly devoted to Trump as a divinely chosen leader. Here is how some of the prominent pastors justify immigration policies and inhumane treatment. James Dobson (of Focus on the Family) claims that asylum seekers are "illiterate" and sometimes "violent." Pastor Robert Jeffress says, "Heaven itself is gonna have a wall". Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) looks the other way, claiming that helping refugees is somehow "not a Bible issue”. He says this even though the Bible is full of repeated injunctions to care for the oppressed, the poor, and refugees (Isaiah 10, Leviticus 19:33-34; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Ezekiel 47:22; and Zachariah 7:9-10). Robert Jeffress invokes the Romans 13 passage from the Bible to defend Trump’s ability to do “whatever” he wants in terms of foreign policy disputes. In Romans 13 the apostle Paul tells Christians to obey all secular authority.
However, throughout history, Romans 13 has been used to justify a range of politically motivated views. It was used during the American Revolution by loyalists who preached loyalty to the Crown, as well as by revolutionaries who argued for elimination of the unjust authority of the King. Later in US history Romans 13 was employed by anti-abolitionists to justify the keeping of slaves. In June 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used it to justify Trump’s family separation policy. He said, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” (Jacobs, Ben.15 June 2018.The Guardian). Commenting on the fight to define Romans 13, Lincoln Mullen argues that, “what the attorney general actually has on his side is the thread of American history that justifies oppression and domination in the name of law and order.” (Mullen, Lincoln. “The fight to define Romans 13” The Atlantic )
I find the trend of white Christian evangelicals supporting family separation deeply troubling. Although the Pope and other Christians have come out to support refugees and demand humane treatment, many people are beginning to associate all Christianity with the extreme views of right wing evangelical Christians.
Those who are obsessed with building a wall and defending a border that turns away refugees apparently think God is not generous enough or wise enough or creative enough to help them figure out how to welcome and care for everyone who requires help. Compassion means, “to suffer with”. You can only do that if you look deeply into the eyes of the one suffering. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” He scolded his followers for turning the children away from Him. Christianity and all major religions have at their core some version of, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
EFFECTS ON CHILDREN
Our government’s present immigration policy causes children to suffer. Decades of psychological and brain research show that adverse experiences in the first three years of life – including forced parental separation and placement in incarceration like settings, can cause profound immediate and long-term harm. As dependent beings, babies are exquisitely sensitive to the nuances of bonding and need a secure attachment with a reliable and loving caretaker in order to thrive. In separating kids from parents, the primary bond is severed, causing stress hormones to flood the brain, and disrupting neurological growth. These kids will feel rejected and abandoned by their parents, undermining a sense of safety, value and self-esteem. On top of losing their main caretaker, this intense trauma, including confinement, lack of stimulation and proper care creates physiological damage to the brain, like developmental delays, regression and emotional disturbances. What would you do to protect your child from this fate?
CALL FOR ACTION
I see from reading comments that many people are suspicious of throwing money at efforts to fight the border policy and wonder where the money goes. Some feel that constant protest is the only way to make government uncomfortable enough to force change. One organization I support is RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services – http://raicestexas.org/) because they are at the border everyday and provide legal help for detained immigrants. Protest. Shine a light for liberty. Carry a sign. Donate to those who can help. The longer we allow our inhumane border policy, the longer hope for a normal life is chipped away at for hundreds of innocent young people. #closethecamps #freethechildren