I am increasingly aware that there are many people who simply do not follow the news. At all. There are many others who only follow one or two sources, and that one source is not what those who care about facts and truth would call reliable. There are still others, who are trying to follow the news, but find it overwhelming, confusing, and difficult to discuss for fear of looking ignorant. They are concerned and they want to engage in our democracy, but they are also well aware of how much they don’t know, so in the end, they speak about these things that matter, to no one.
I have, at different times in my life, been all of these people.
But today, I find myself in an odd place of wanting to speak to these same groups to help them better understand. To help them engage. To tell them, your heart matters and your voice matters and we need you in this conversation. And it’s okay if you don’t fully know all the issues, all the facts, all the lies, who said what, when what was signed, and what we do about it now.
Wednesday night, I saw the musical, Hamilton, in Chicago. It was stunning — visually, musically, spiritually. And in all that bigness, there was this one tiny moment I’ve been thinking about ever since. In the second half, a couple of politicians decide to tell Alexander Hamilton what they know about his indiscretions. What they tell him is painful…and true. It also begins an avalanche of heartache for him and his wife.
And yet, the story of Hamilton is about both politics and faith. It is the story of how our democracy was formed, and it is the story of how redemption is found in the wake of deceit, betrayal, and death.
It is that belief in redemption that inspired this writing. Because I am certain some who read it will be enraged; some will be horrified; some will become defensive. But for those who read it for whom this is new information, it will hurt. The only solace I can offer is that the first step in a people finding redemption is talking about what they are afraid to talk about.
So, if you are one who avoids the news, doesn’t trust it, or doesn’t feel competent to discuss it, this particular piece is for you.
You need to know that the United States Government has separated 2000 immigrant children from their parents, and put them into detention centers without telling either the children, or the parents, where the other is, or when they will see one another again. Some of these children are less than a year old.
You need to know that they are adding an estimated 45 children to this number every day, and that the detention centers include an empty Walmart building with blacked-out windows.
You need to know that the president has just approved moving 360 of these children to Tornillo, Texas, where a tent city has been set up, and where the temperatures are frequently between 90 and 100 degrees.
You also need to know that many of these immigrants are coming to the U.S. seeking Asylum which is LEGAL, and that the majority of those being called “criminals” are charged with first-time misdemeanors including not entering the country at the proper checkpoint, despite the fact that many seeking Asylum are being turned away from the proper checkpoints without cause.
You need to know that your tax dollars are supporting these actions, and that the president of the United States, is, in effect, using the children as hostages to get democrats to agree to building his wall on our southern border.
You need to know that one father who was separated from his 3-year old son was so distraught he committed suicide.
You need to know that the U.S. government is paying another family one-million dollars because our border patrol beat a man to death for no reason whatsoever.
You need to know these things because if you do not know what is happening, you cannot speak out against it. And if you are not speaking out, you are allowing children to be tortured, right here, in this country, and you are risking that people you know and love will be next. Because make no mistake, this policy, as horrific as it is, is only one indicator of a deeper, more insidious evil that is playing out in our country. This is about White Nationalism and the end-game for many elected officials is to create a country in which people of color, immigrants, the disabled, children, LGBTQ people, and those with “pre-existing conditions” are no longer protected. In fact, they may be persecuted, and our elected officials will justify their persecution by laws and policies they continue to create for this very purpose. It is already happening.
Jack Jenkins, National Reporter for Religion News Service, who often writes about both religion and politics, posted a series of tweets yesterday listing faith organizations and individual faith leaders who have publicly condemned either the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy that separates families, Jeff Sessions’ argument that the Bible supports its enforcement, or both.
When I read Jenkins’ list, I was flooded with relief. Not because the list immediately ends this inhumane policy by the U.S. Government, but because the narrative that has been receiving an inordinate amount of coverage was of evangelicals who either support this administration, this policy, or both. And this one-sided coverage has left many people of faith who support neither wondering: why don’t people know that we do NOT support the actions of this administration in the way its leadership is enacting policies that justify mistreating people who did nothing to deserve it?
At the end of this article is the list, thus far, showing all the faith organizations who have spoken out against these new immigration policies because of their inhumane treatment of children and families. The list is noteworthy in both its diversity and in the number of organizations who see these policies as so deeply unjust and immoral that they are publicly opposing them.
Yet, even presented with this list of faithful, educated, respected organizations and religious leaders, who are speaking out against these policies, there are many people in this country who continue to defend the actions of our government.
And that has made me wonder: are people continuing to defend the indefensible because they don’t fully know what is happening? Or are they doing it because they believe that the U.S. is so lacking resources that we have no other choice but to pay to imprison people rather than allow them to integrate into our society, where they contribute their talents, their taxes, their blood, sweat, and tears to this land of the free and home of the brave? Or, are they doing it, because they honestly agree that money, the driving force behind these practices, is more important than the people whose lives are being destroyed?
The U.S. has sufficient resources. We waste as much as we use every single day. We have vast expanses of land still undeveloped. We have committed people working together to develop programs aimed at helping us all more efficiently use the resources we have. When it comes to the things that are required to live: food, water, shelter, and community, we are not a land of scarcity. We are a land of abundance. The problem is not that we don’t have enough, it’s that we don’t protect it and distribute it efficiently. And that is a sign of a people who have plenty. Which is why what we need, what we really need, is people. All people. People who have lived in other countries. People who come from different traditions. People who have overcome horrible adversity. These people are invested in helping us protect, multiply, and share what we have. Their coming to the United States is not something to fear, it is something to embrace.
The current immigration policies being enforced do not embrace these people we need. The truth is, they are attacking them. Terrorizing them. And promoting untrue stories that paint them all as violent criminals whose goal is to take over are country.
Now if you are thinking, stop! I can’t take in any more! This is why I avoid the damn news! Trust me, I get it. Those of us who have been following this news are limping from the sheer weight of carrying it. So here is some relief…
You don’t need to know all the heartbreaking details about what is happening. Perhaps, instead, you could simply choose to trust the recommendations from this list of faith leaders whose life’s work is tied to the care of all of creation, and especially, the people put here by God to care for it. And you don’t have to agree with many of these faith leaders on many topics. I sure don’t — not at all! But on this one topic of what is happening to families who come here for refuge, we all agree.
I hope you will choose to stand with us in opposing this inhumane practice. For if we do not come together to address this problem, those who manage to live through it will surely live with deep shame, heartache, and regret for not having spoken up when they could. And one day, we will be asked about what we did – or didn’t do – to stop it. Those who ask, will be our own children and grandchildren.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned both policies and individual bishops have called for inspection of detention centers, protests, and possible “canonical penalties” for those who enforce the policies.
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution Tuesday at its gathering in Dallas calling for immigration reform that maintains the “priority of family unity.”
Franklin Graham, a longtime supporter of this president, said of the practice, “It’s disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.”
The African Methodist Episcopal Church said Sessions’ attempt to justify the practice “in addition to being sad and sinful, shows a deep misunderstanding of the transforming truth of scripture.”
The Friends committee on National Legislation (Quakers) has been vocal about their pushback on these policies. Here is their response to a recent New York Times article in which the White House tried to use a 1997 court settlement to justify its current practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. “Don’t buy into the taking points. #FamilySeparation isn’t upholding the law – it’s a choice that the administration is making. A cruel, unnecessary choice. Congress has to speak out now.”
In addition, the Quakers publicly criticized Jeff Sessions’ misuse of scripture to justify this practice.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joined 19 other interfaith leaders to directly criticize the policy.
Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (and preacher, whose sermon from the Royal Wedding in May you might have heard), signed the same statement.
Other denominations who signed the statement include:
Armenian Church of America
Islamic Society of North America
United Church of Christ
Moravian Church Southern (and northern) Province
Mennonite Church USA
Disciples of Christ
Union for Reform Judaism
Islamic Relief USA
As well as leaders from:
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Reformed Church in America
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
International Council of Community Churches
A separate group of evangelical leaders condemned the practices in a letter which included the signatures of Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who read scripture at Trump’s inauguration, as well as Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, as well as:
Scott Arbeiter, President of World Relief
Shirley V. Hoogstra, President of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
Hyepin Im, President & CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development
Jo Anne Lyon, Ambassador for The Wesleyan Church
Russell Moore, President of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Richard Stearns, President of World Vision
26 different Jewish organizations sent this letter condemning the policy.
Over 2500 women faith leaders sent this statement demanding the policy be brought to an end.
The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church (in which Jeff Sessions’ claims membership) called for an immediate end to the policy here . Also, The General Board of Church & Society (also United Methodist Church) issued this statement which names these policies as a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel.
Other faith organizations that have issued statements condemning these practices include:
The Unitarian Universalist Association
The head of the Washington Cathedral
The Jewish Orthodox Union
World Vision, an evangelical Christian organization
The American Baptists
And Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharris of the Poor People’s Campaign responded to Jeff Sessions’ remarks as “an anathema to any person of faith” and called out any politician who supports Sessions’ position as “an accessory to these crimes against children and humanity.”