Tag Archives: immigration

At the U.S.- Mexico Border: Jesus’ response to crowds is compassion


“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few’…”

| Matthew 9.35-37, NRSV

In Matthew 9, Jesus’ sleeves are rolled up, healing a paralyzed man, stopping the would- be funeral procession of a young girl and the years’ long hemorrhaging of a woman, restoring sight to two blind men and giving voice to a man who was mute.  Still, the people and the requests keep coming.  The people are amazed but the Pharisees are suspicious (9.33-34).  The people look on in astonishment and the Pharisees roll their eyes.

If either of their responses influenced him, he didn’t show it.  Jesus continues to travel in order to teach and touch as many people as possible.  The needs are great but his compassion is greater.  One of him and lots of them, Jesus could have felt overwhelmed.  Fully aware of the limitations of his flesh, he could have been afraid or intimidated by the crowd size.  He could have backed away and backed out of any further commitment to them.

And they would have understood.  He has done a lot and more than any one they have ever seen.  More so, he didn’t have to do it.  They had been following him and now he is meeting them where they are, traveling to their cities, villages and places of worship.

***

I thought of this story after watching the images on the evening news of my brothers and sisters, including children who I now claim as my nieces and nephews, being teargassed.  Some looked at the crowd but not with compassion.  They didn’t see their needs but perhaps, what they have been told to fear.  Immigrants seeking asylum and a better life is now synonymous with criminals.  No background check, Trump says, “They are bringing drugs.  They are bringing crime.”

While some members of the crowd did rush the fence at the U.S.- Mexico border, the decision to punish everyone for the actions of a few was a poor one.  Have some compassion because they still have needs and the teargas burning their eyes doesn’t change that.  Instead, using force only increases the needs, which now include medical attention.

Jesus said there were not enough laborers but Trump is sending more soldiers.  They need grace not riot gear.  The response should be mercy not the military.  There is good work to be done here and part divine, Jesus says his two hands are not enough.  Still, he did more with his than we have done.  And if we are the hands and feet of Christ, then why aren’t we with him in the crowd teaching and touching?

Is it because we have something in our hands and not in our heart?

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Let my children go

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“Jesus loves the little children/ all the children of world…”

Children are being separated from their parents at America’s borders.  The most recent story is of a mother who was breastfeeding her daughter.  She is taken into custody and her mother is placed in handcuffs.  “Zero tolerance,” they say.  “We are just following the law,” they tell us.  But, these are laws that we choose to create and enforce, that we choose to believe are the right way to “protect our borders.”

Human beings are called “illegals” as if their very existence is somehow wrong and not the hands of those who bring division.  And politicians have put God’s hands in it.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for the Bible’s witness to testify on his behalf and I cringed.  He read from Romans chapter 13: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (13.1, NRSV).  This is not the first time that the Holy Scriptures has been twisted, bent out of shape to fit the will of America’s government.  See American slavery and segregation.

And it must be noted that he stops short of these words: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (13.8-10, NRSV).  Yes, love fulfills the law.

Because God’s law is not to be confused with Caesar’s order.  They are never synonymous and one does not support or maintain the other.  Just ask Moses.    In Exodus chapter nine, Pharaoh is commanded to let God’s people go.  In bondage and defenseless, God commands their release– or else.  I am praying for such a leader tonight and for ears to hear God who says, “Let my children go.”  Amen.

 

 

 

Jumping Out Of The Melting Pot

Acccept it: racial supremacy. Blend it: melting pot. Ignore it: color blind. Deny it: white privilege. We have come up with many potential solutions to the presence of race in American society. None of which have rid us of the tension of this socially constructed human difference. When I was in elementary school, the image of the melting pot was presented as a means of explaining how the different cultures of American society come together.The textbook went on to discuss the many dangers of mixing: American slavery, The Trail of Tears, Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow segregation and the like.  Still, in the pot, no one stands out but all are gathered to make one grand cultural dish wherein all of the cultures and their traditions are evident, named, seen, experienced and equally represented. But, we all know that this was not true in the 1990s and is certainly not true now. I did not know at the time but the term was made popular by a play performed in 1908 (A copy of the playbill is pictured on the left.). The image has since been challenged and today, America is described as both a “salad bowl,” wherein each of the ingredients remain distinct.

But, while many might agree that the idea of the melting pot is problematic, it is still viewed by many as the American way. Wait. I’ll prove it to you. The melting pot is about acculturation, assimilation and more importantly, identification as persons are melted down to an homogenized image of what it means to be an American, which is raised as the standard and in turn, becomes our golden calf. It is the image that we bow down to; this image of whiteness that was presented to the Italians, Jews, and those from Poland who first immigrated to the United States. The Chinese immigrants faired worse as they were often ostracized and forced to form their own communities of support, referred to as “Chinatown.” Today, we hear the same arguments that were presented beginning in the 1890s when there is discussion of immigration laws, America’s borders and the “browning of America.”  The mixture of equal parts or at least the illusion of such must be maintained. We are deciding who gets to be in the pot.

And the melting pot begs the question, “What are we attempting to make?” And since we’re on the subject: Whose recipe are we using? Who decides which cultural groups get to go in? Who is adjusting the heat? Who is responsible for the mixing? How will we know when the melting is complete? What is the desired appearance of the mixture, the end result, the desired outcome? And are we mixing and melting in order to form an image?  And if so, of who or what? At least for me, it would call for one who is not able to be mixed in, who must remain pure and whose presence is not a requirement. Who is removing the dross and what classifies as such? Who is standing over the melting pot? Finally, “Is God calling us to jump into a melting pot?” I don’t think so and I’m jumping out.

Additional Readings

The Changing Face of America, The Daily Mail Reporter, May 27, 2011.
Making America Home: Racial Masquerade and Ethnic Assimilation in the Transition to Taking Pictures
Roediger, D, Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White
Roediger, D, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class
Roediger, D, Toward the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics and the Working Class
Roediger, D, Gook: the short history of an Americanism. Monthly Review, March 1992.