At the southern border of the United States there is a situation going on right now described in many different adjectives. The bottom line is there is a mass of children – not accompanied by parents arriving and seeking out the US Customs and Immigration (USCIS/Border Patrol) officers and declaring their intentions to enter and stay. There’s a lot of them – more than USCIS can handle. More than the services set up to help them can handle. And there is a lot of chatter about those kids and just what we should “do with them”. For some reason I feel led to jump into that fray.
There are two “issues” in this situation. (and I hate terms like situation and issue, but I want to keep the adjectives simple and zoom in on a few things, not buzz words or worry over labels and which adverbs are and aren’t used).
One of the issues is – Why do they keep coming, and what have we done to encourage that and what should be done. That’s a great issue for politicians to discuss. I’m not going to wander terribly far into that one here – not today at least.
The other issue is – What do we do with the kids on the border right now? Some are bad actors – gangsters even. Some (many by many accounts) have a parent living someplace in the US – probably here without a legal right to be here*. Some are just lost and were sent here hoping to find success in our land of opportunity. They come from countries that don’t share a contiguous border with us. Under the laws on the books they have to be evaluated to make sure they don’t just get put back in the hands of the traffickers or coyotes who somehow managed to bring them here.
(*I will refer to that as an Illegal Alien here – Aliens are people, my oldest daughter is a legal alien until the naturalization process happens – I still consider her a person that I’d give my life to protect, so I mean nothing wrong by alien. And if they are not hear with visa documentation after going through paperwork – they are in violation of US Civil law and they are supposed to be deported according to our criminal code – and that’s the same as it’s always been).
I’m going to talk a bit about these kids. And I think I’m going to formulate some thoughts even as I type this – so bear with my stream of consciousness style with lots of commas and parenthesis. I’ll try and gather thoughts together as I go. But I don’t want to talk about the politics of this. I don’t want to talk about the parties. I don’t want to talk about optics. I don’t want to spit out talking points. I want to look at the human beings in this mess a bit.
There’s a lot of talk going on out there. I was scanning through the radio on the way to a meeting today and heard an evangelical radio talk show that delves into the intersection of faith and politics. I like a lot of what these folks on Point of View say at various times, but I also sometimes feel that they take talking points from a party, iron them with a Bible shaped iron and spit them out in that form to explain why someone who calls themselves evangelical should agree. Now that’s not all of their show at all. And I don’t even believe that is the heart of the hosts. But sometimes, it comes out that way. They were talking tough. And you know – as a parent – I get it. The point I came into the station to hear was something along the lines of “If we keep putting them up and helping them out – they’ll keep coming.. They’ll be put in danger of the bad traffickers: many will die before they even reach Mexico let alone our border, many will be enslaved and the folks sending them will keep doing it”. I agree with that point fully. (I’m not delving into issue #1 so that’s all I’ll say) but at the same time – that’s too easy of an answer. It doesn’t talk about the cost of sending them back. The cost to them. I see some folks saying we should just electrify the fence or shoot them or fire at them and send them back. But that has a view point of these kids as not human beings. You know the more I think about it and the more I see a few things my “social media friend” and brother in Christ, Jon Speed a Pastor out of New York and co-producer of the Babies Are Murdered Here video mention a few things – the more I see a striking similarity to the language and dehumanizing here that happens to babies in the womb. The more I see the kids I hear my friend Andy Leonard talks about when he visited the dump in Honduras. The more I see the destitute people I’ve heard Paul Washer talk about from his mission trips. The more I think of the abandoned babies I was able to hold and rock in a hospital in Western Ukraine recently. The more I think of these – the more I realize that once you lose empathy and dehumanize a situation – the easier it is to argue against something and take a stand that otherwise you may not have taken.
I often love the Dr. Seuss quote when thinking of the unborn. “People are people – no matter how small.” But they are also people no matter how hurt, how messed up, how hardened, and how rotten their circumstances are.
I know this even more because I’ve been to an orphanage where a lot of hurt kids are. I’ve hugged, held hands and chatted with teenagers trapped by an orphanage and adoptive system geared towards better success for placing younger children with families because they are cuter, cuddlier, “easier” kids who have more “impressionable years” left to them. We’ve chosen to adopt a teenager and are in process with another one – because God doesn’t give up on someone because of their circumstances. God stole my heart by His grace when I was a real jerk of a 20-something. Going nowhere but down into the gutters of partying and selfishness.
So.. That’s a long intro. And I’ve still not begun. But that explains a bit of my heart
These kids on the border. They’ve broken our immigration laws. We have to stop allowing our immigration laws to be broken. We have to stop encouraging (however we are and I don’t get the dynamics there fully but we seem to be doing something to encourage them to go on what reportedly, for many, amounts to a death or rape or violence filled journey) them to come across. We have to stem the flow. For sure.
But the kids who are here. We have to do better by them. We shouldn’t let the left politicize them as some sort of justification for liberalization of our immigration laws – nations that go too loose there end up in trouble for it later.. We shouldn’t let the right politicize them as some sort of justification to send them back instantly, arrest and detain them or to beat up our President. Instead – we have to do right by them.
Now right may look like eventual deportation. It may look like finding the folks in the US who are here illegally who paid for or encouraged the journey and making them become right with immigration law. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if that is amnesty. I don’t know if that is deporting and then being allowed to start process, I don’t know. But these kids have short term needs and long term needs. The long term needs are sadly going to be politicized and battled over and as long as we feed in and regurgitate talking points it will never amount to what is probably best (whatever that is) because no one will shut up and listen and discuss long enough to figure out what is best.
But right now. At this moment. There are some hurting kids who have come to America for some reason or another. A nation that us evangelicals say is a “Christian nation” a nation, we say, that is founded on “Judeo-Christian values”. A nation that is called the land of opportunity by patriotic Americans like myself. There are some hurting kids in a really bad spot. The government is doing wrong by them because they have overwhelmed a system that is not designed to care for an influx of children here alone. The politicians are either avoiding them, using them as fodder for their cause or screaming about sending them back and letting the door hit them on the way out.
I hate to ask this because it always sounds like a corny/flippant question. But I have to wonder
What would Jesus do? He likes the law. His Bible talks a lot about the importance of government and civil obedience.
Perhaps Romans 13:1-5 speaks most clearly here:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
But again. I’m not talking about that part. I’m talking about what do we do with those kids here. I don’t mean we as a country necessarily, either. I firmly believe that if the Church in America didn’t have the problem that I described here – that we would not need to worry about the government impact of these kids in this transitory time while the government solves government sized problems (stopping them from starting that journey and how to process the ones here best). [ About government sized problems – what I mean is – these kids are one at a time needs. Individual needs. They need to be loved on and helped one at a time each in the way that is right for them. The government stinks at one sized fits all situations. That’s why so many state run orphanages around the world are such horrible horrible places. The families who are hurting need to be helped individually and uniquely. The kids who are truly orphans need to be helped one at a time. This isn’t one 30,000+ kid problem. It is 30,000 one kid problems..]
So as Christians. As evangelicals what do we do with someone who needs help. Maybe even someone who in some sense may have put themselves in the situation (I’m not passing judgment or implying any, some, most or all did, I don’t know the individual stories, just the picture MSNBC or FoxNews paint on either side).
I don’t believe most of these kids are orphans. But in a sense they are temporarily stuck in that position.
James has this to say about orphans (bolded) and a few other topics that we would all do well to hear – even related to this issue:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:19-27
Now the arguments will fly at the Orphan term. Arguments that I understand and could even levy myself. “They aren’t orphans!” “Just send them back to their parents!” “Put them on the train they got here on!”
May be some good arguments hidden in those quotes. And in talking about the “other issue” they have some weight. But again I’m talking about us evangelicals. Us Christians who hold signs and protest the slaughter of our neighbors at abortion clinics.
Orphans? Temporary check.
In Affliction? Definitely.
So James – just got done telling me that faith without works is dead. He just got done telling me that I better not just be a hearer of the Word but a doer.
Not just James. Here is Paul on caring for others:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8
In humility, consider others more significant than myself. Don’t just look to my interests but also to the interests of others. Keep in mind the sacrifice Christ made. The one who had all the reason in the world to pull out the “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?!” card. The one who had all the authority to say “Pfft! You?! You are a lousy, no good tax collector who robs from the people, you line your own pockets and you mock the precepts I’ve taught you” – yet He emptied Himself of this – He became a servant and served the least of society. The lowest of society. His example was self sacrificial. He prayed for the same people who spit on Him. He went into the lives and sufferings of those who despised Him. He didn’t accept sin. He didn’t free people from consequences of wrong actions. He wouldn’t ignore the “other issue” – but he would put at least as much emphasis on the current pain and hurt. He humbled Himself to become a curse on behalf of the people who once mocked Him. He humbled Himself on the cross for a sinner like me who told some of the most awful jokes about Him before I was His.
I look to those examples. And I wrap them up in the stories of the Old Testament – like the principle of gleaning leftovers from the harvest. Leaving some harvest behind for those who had nothing to come and glean. They didn’t plant the harvest. They didn’t buy the land. But God instructed the farmers to leave the corners of the land unharvested for them anyway.
I look to words of wisdom like this in Proverbs 28:27 – “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”
I look to these things and I see examples and precepts that say that while the government may have some legal affairs to attend to.. The church has some affairs of its own to attend to here.
I see this all wrapped up in Jesus’ command in Luke 9:23 (and elsewhere in the Gospels) “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
He is the author of the Bible. He is the incarnate Word. These principles are His principles. Those kids on the border are all created in the image of His father. They may not all come to know Him – but they still wear God’s image. They are, as I talked about in this post, all our neighbors. And God makes no mistake about what we are to do for our neighbors when they are in need.
I don’t know what should happen to these kids legally. I don’t care to share with you what I think of the situations and events that caused them to be lured here seeking what it is they seek. I don’t like that this situation is created, while families doing adoption legally have to go through so much paperwork and money to bring their kids in the legal way. But what I do know is that – people are people no matter how small. And people are people no matter how their background. And I know that they need to be ministered to. They should hear the Gospel. They should see the Gospel in action. They should be helped, loved, fed and taken care of while the bigger questions are handled.
Pat Robertson can talk about the curses on America because of abortion. And make no mistake – I am 100% confident that God looks down on us and sees us killing those unborn babies bearing His image and He must not be happy about it. He will not be patient forever with us.. But I don’t know how we can talk about the curse we deserve because of that while at the same exact time let our politicians rev us up into a fire about those kids at the border and come at them with pitchforks and torches with the attitude of “good for nothing stealers. Get out of our country and go back home” and dismiss their real trials, situations and woes as nothing to be affected by. I don’t get that.
Here is an opportunity for the church to arise. Go and help those in need. Save the yelling for after. Save the anger for trying to talk politicians into getting along and stopping the dangerous journey here, but cover the ears of these kids while you yell.
I so want to put a million caveats here, but I’ll just end it and risk being misunderstood by both sides of the issue.