The Pope or the President?
Has it come to this? Must we choose between Pope Francis and Donald Trump? Unless you've slept through the last two weeks of this nation's news cycle, you already know there is a rather tumultuous (to put it mildly) debate broiling through our news outlets and social media platforms over what the United States should do with the children of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border into this country.
The present policy (defined in April by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as "a zero-tolerance policy") seeks to enforce immigration law by separating migrant children and parents, while the parents are detained and their appeal for asylum or entry is legally evaluated. The children are placed in one of a hundred detention centers, overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) but operated by non-profit groups (www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621065383/what-we-know-family-separation-and-zero...). And therein lies the great debate—should young children (some under the age of five) be separated from their parents during this intensive immigration review process? Viral pictures and recordings of young children sobbing for their parents, as well as bleak photographs of concrete detention centers, have fanned the public outcry and debate.
Pope Francis, in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters news agency this week, weighed in on the U.S. border immigrant debate. ". . . the Pope said he supported recent statements by U.S. Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents 'contrary to our Catholic values' and 'immoral'. 'It's not easy, but populism is not the solution,' Francis said on Sunday night" (/www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-interview/exclusive-pope-criticizes-trum...).
President Trump, on the other hand, has opted to let the decision of whether or not to separate young children at the border be decided politically. And it is obvious the matter now has become a political/ethical hot potato both political parties are blaming on the other and thus have yet to resolve. Meanwhile, the children still wail, the public is still divided, the politicians still argue.
Sidestepping political ramifications, is there a moral stance endorsed by the Word of God? I'm slowly making my way through Deuteronomy for morning worship and came across these words a few days ago: "[The LORD your God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:18-19 NIV). God loves the alien and commands us to do the same? Apparently. But on what basis? "You yourselves were aliens" once. And that is the indisputable truth about every one of us citizens of this nation—pull out the family tree and be reminded that except for our Native American friends we are all children of aliens. Without exception. No wonder our Creator, in the very Sabbath Commandment we champion, commands us to offer His gift of rest to "the alien within your gates" (Exodus 20:10). And they are now within our gates.
Why? "The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow" (Psalm 146:9). But sadly His own people too easily forget: "The people of the land [of Israel] . . . oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice" (Ezekiel 22:29).
Do alien children deserve justice? "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'" (Matthew 19:14). As followers of His, is there a moral obligation for us to find a way to help save innocent, hapless children, irrespective of their parents' socio-economic baggage (or the lack thereof)?
Don't ask the pope or the president. Find someone else who cares and ask them to join you in asking Jesus what He would do if He were you? You may be very surprised what the Spirit reveals to you. This much is sure—courageous action by compassionate people can still change the course of a nation as divided as this one. Just ask Jesus.