Commentary
By Jim Wallis 6-21-2018

Following the signing of the Reclaiming Jesus declaration, multiracial elders from across traditions — including evangelical, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and African-American churches — yesterday spoke out about the horrific border crisis . We spoke out because the Trump administration is abusing Scripture to justify abusing migrant children and their families. We said the separation of immigrant children from their parents is not biblical.

Because of enormous public outrage to the Trump administration’s family separation policy, the president issued an executive order late yesterday — after insisting day after day that an executive order wasn’t possible to end family separations — that he claims has “solved the problem” of family separations. But it hasn’t.

Let’s be clear: All Trump did was decide to detain families together in prison camps going forward, and there is no clear plan yet to re-unify the more than 2,300 children who have already been orphaned and sent away from their parents under his administration’s cruel policy. Those separations could be forever if the enormous task of reunification is not carefully undertaken. So far, the Trump administration has not taken responsibility for doing that. The press has still not been given access to the detention facilities where young children, including infants and toddlers, are being held and still won’t answer the question of where the girls are. The new proposed plan moves from the detaining children separately to imprisoning families together.

As Christians committed to social justice, there are many ways that you can help end this morally indefensible policy so that these children can be reunited with their parents.

Here is how you can help right now:

  1. Bring this elder “call” into your churches — for preaching, prayer, reflection, and action.
     
  2. Take action online and in person. Tell Congress to permanently prevent family separation and demand that families be reunited. Bring the new elders statement ‘Suffer the Little Children’: The Separation of Immigrant Children From Their Parents Is Not Biblical directly to the local offices of your Members of Congress and talk to them about it. Demand they take action to end these shameful policies and protect “the stranger” among us. Click here to access a How-To Guide, along with other resources to take on your visit.
     
  3. Get your candles ready. As the Reclaiming Jesus movement has spread across the nation, we’ve been using candlelight as a symbol — to shine a light in the darkness of these times. You’ll be called upon soon to participate in candlelight vigils to surround those in power with our light of hope and truth — both in Washington, D.C., and around the country at appropriate places like ICE offices, detention centers, and local congressional offices. Suggested local actions to protect migrant families and their children week will be forthcoming. Watch for more information.

Apparently, the Trump administration didn’t believe that the American people would care about our government ripping children away from Central American parents seeking asylum in in the United States, fleeing terrible violence in their countries that was threatening the existence of their families.

But Trump and his people were wrong. The nation — the world — is outraged. Faith communities across the country have risen up to speak against this utter lack of compassion — especially when Attorney General Jeff Sessions, backed up by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tried to call child detention “biblical,” citing Romans 13. The elders responded, “This is yet another misuse and violation of the Word of God to defend a morally indefensible policy. This is a line of demarcation that political power must not be allowed to cross. If Jesus is Lord, we are called to love our neighbors in every circumstance, and to even love our enemies. In Matthew 22, Jesus puts loving God and loving your neighbor at the heart of everything. ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ In Matthew 25, Jesus commands us to welcome the stranger.”

From the Catholic bishops, from across denominations (including Sessions’ own United Methodist Church), from the National Association of Evangelicals, to the Southern Baptists, faith leaders said no. As the broad Reclaiming Jesus elders call said, this cruel policy that destroyed families was clearly unbiblical and showed why. This just released statement is for you to use, take into your churches, and send or deliver to your members of Congress.

The statement says in part:

The apostle Paul, in Romans 13, does not say that cruelty is a justifiable tool or role of government. Rather, Paul says the government’s role is meant to be “God’s servant for your good”; government exists to be the protector of the good and to guard people from evil. Romans 13:3 says, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” In cruel contrast, the new family-destroying policies of the administration are the reverse of the proper role of government described in Romans 13: These actions by our government are a terror to families and an infliction of evil on children.

These family separation policies are directly contrary to the test of love laid out later in the same chapter of Romans (verses 8-10):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this Word: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Trump was blocked by the moral outrage of the society, and parents in particular, really for the first time, and had to retreat. It’s a great affirmation for moral conscience that provides some hope for the future.

But, Trump doubled down on his hard line against immigrants — even calling undocumented immigrants an “infestation” of America. All Christians, including those who support the president for other reasons, must condemn such morally indefensible and “unbiblical” language by Donald Trump. He confirmed his zero-tolerance policies will continue. Let’s name Trump’s “no tolerance policy” for what it is — a “no compassion policy.” And it has to be stopped.

It is now time to morally press our members of Congress to permanently prevent the Trump administration from family separation, to ensure the reunification of separated families, and to demand the humane treatment of families seeking asylum who have yet to commit a crime and have their case adjudicated with empathy and justice.

Ultimately, the elders statement names these policies and language toward immigrants and refugees “as cruelly contrary to the love of Jesus Christ, who says how we treat the “stranger” is how we treat Jesus. (Matthew 25:31-46)

For followers of Jesus, these are not just political issues but matters of discipleship. As elders, we have committed ourselves to “Reclaiming Jesus” as an urgent call in a time of crisis. We believe that reclaiming Jesus requires us to believe in welcoming the stranger and to reject the policies and practices that separate immigrant children from their mothers and fathers.

Read and print out the full statement here to share with your churches and government officials.

The elders commend this call, in prayer and hope for the reclaiming of Jesus in our time.

It is time to cast the light of Jesus on this political crisis.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another …— 1 John 1:5-7a

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:5

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His new Audible spoken-word series, Jim Wallis In Conversation, is available now, as is his book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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