Eighteen years ago this fall, I accompanied a group of college students on a retreat over at a beautiful camp in Angola, NY. The setting was on the bluffs high above the Lake Erie shoreline. We had a delightful time there except for one terrifying incident that is still burnished into my memory two decades hence. I had five-year-old Anthony and four-year-old Samantha with me; they played happily with the students at a variety of games and activities, but at some point on Saturday evening, I realized I did not know where Anthony was. At first I searched calmly but as the minutes dragged on I became increasingly frantic and non-functional. The world suddenly seemed like such a dark and foreboding place. The cliffs down to the water seemed higher and steeper, the other people using the beach and building bonfires below seemed sinister and dangerous. As I descended into hysteria the sweet students took over and began systematically searching the camp and the beach below for my lost son. After what felt like hours but was probably less than 30 minutes, he was located, he’d been off playing happily with a couple of the boys. I still remember how my legs collapsed under me as I clutched him tightly to me, vowing to never let go of him again.
Every parent who has ever been separated from a child surely knows my terror. In my instance it had a happy ending and only I was frantic – Anthony never even realized he was lost. But it gives me a tiny glimpse into what refugee parents are experiencing now at our borders and at the hands of my own government, having their children ripped from their arms! Our Immigration and Naturalization Service is intentionally inflicting this horror onto adults AND CHILDREN as a deterrent to undocumented immigrants. This human rights violation is being undertaken by the nation which was supposed to be the shining city on the hill, leading the rest of the world to freedom, democracy, opportunity and liberty. I teach my high school government students that our republic is based on “the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.” When the Trump administration enacted this family separation “strategy” it is doing so with my implied consent, which it absolutely DOES NOT HAVE. I have objected to so much that has been done by this administration but this hideous policy exceeds all other egregious behavior by this so-called president.
Trump won (sort of) the presidency by appealing to the most base fears and prejudices and greed of the electorate. There has been no appeal to us as a more caring, generous, and inclusive society. He plays on fears and where there are none, he creates them. (Wait, is that a Mexican rapist I see lurking outside my window?! Oh wait, sorry, never mind, it is my lilac bush.) While I have come to expect this sort of behavior from the president, and some of his ill-informed followers, it horrifies me to have to engage in arguments with other believers, even Christian parents, who somehow find themselves willing to support this new horror at our borders. Then to add insult to injury, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, that great lighthouse of truth and honor, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, both attempted to distort scripture to back up their support for this heinous policy.
I implore my fellow believers to consider the message of love and social justice that Jesus brought to this world and his admonition that “what we have done to the least of these, we have done unto him.” Do you not see that our arbitrary national boundaries–with or without a $30 billion dollar waste of our tax dollars–is entirely invisible to God? He is looking at our hearts, and calling us to welcome the strangers among us as were the Israelites and the Holy Family in Egypt. Instead of counting ourselves blessed to have been born on this side of this imaginary line and all of the advantages and abundance that go with that, we are greedily trying to be sure that we don’t have to share any of that abundance with others in need. I’ve had a terribly hard time recognizing my own country for the past 18 months, now I also can’t even recognize my own faith. As a father, as a Christian, as an American, and as a human being, I beg you to join me in petitioning Congress to stop this and to work to bring an end to this cruel, unjust, and vindictive policy. We are the richest nation on earth and we should be better than this.