As we look forward to the 242nd birthday of America, I find myself thinking about this experiment of democracy. I love history, and I read the Constitution regularly (lots of discussion about it, so I think it is good to be aware of what it says). I am in no way an expert on these things – just an interested amateur. I love this country, and am proud of much of what we have done in the past and around the world. I think it is our responsibility to make sure our mission continues and gets better.
The congregation I serve has been involved with one of the 3 facilities in the country that have been used as detention centers for immigrants who have illegally entered our country. We have helped a family transition out of it, and we are involved in protesting what they are doing. I firmly believe that every person coming into America should be vetted, and if they fit the criteria, they should be given asylum. If they are a danger to us, they should be sent back. Simple. But here is my problem – as I watch as children are being taken from their parents and guardians, I can’t help be think of the times this has been done in the past. We separated enslaved families because we believed they were not fully human. We did the same to Native American families – we treated them like animals. We have seen fascist regimes do this very same thing – it is a form of domestic violence/terrorism that creates psychological pain and suffering in the minds of each person involved. It is a parent’s worst nightmare.
Jesus told the people of His time that if any of them hurt a child, it would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck and be thrown into the ocean than to, I assume, face God’s judgment (I think this is implied). Jesus loved children, even if they weren’t His own flesh and blood. Treating children the way they are being treated in these detention camps is what terrorists do. The Palestinians put their missile launchers in schools and hospitals, believing Israel won’t fire back. Terrorist groups in Africa and Asia kidnap children and train them to be killers, or rape them. We should be better than that. Right now, America isn’t. We in the church should be speaking out and calling for changes to this heinous policy. If we aren’t, we are no better than the people mistreating these children, and we should be watching out for millstones. It would be what we deserve.
Pastor Steve Ohnsman as served Calvary UCC in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), an MDiv from Drew Theological School (NJ), a DMin in Christian Ethics from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a PhD from Alvernia University (PA).