The vast majority of news coverage in the last couple weeks has been largely focused on our nation’s southern border. Specifically, the zero-tolerance policy that Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted per the recommendation of President Trump and his head adviser, Stephen Miller, back in May.
Since then, approximately 2,600 minors have been interned in camps, with the Trump administration largely directing blame to Congress. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen hosted the Monday White House press briefing to face reporters directly about what they consider “the facts.” Nielsen reported that “it’s the law,” backing her statement made via Twitter that, “this is not a policy” when asked about whether this constituted as child abuse.
Monday morning was filled with PR cleanup, as the Trump administration was busy attempting to calm the political quell. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, went live on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, and First Lady Melania Trump sent a statement through her spokeswoman. By Wednesday, Congress was readying to pass a law against the separations, and Trump himself said families should be reunited..
Last week, Sessions cited Romans 13 from the Bible as justification for the zero-tolerance policy – historians later argued that the same passage was used in justifying the practice of chattel slavery and public discrimination for non-whites.
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Massive outcry is occurring from both sides of the aisle. Laura Bush, former first lady to George W. Bush wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post on Father’s Day, arguing that she had full appreciation for following the law, but, “this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” drawing comparisons to Japanese-internment during WWII.
Two Democratic senators argued that Nielsen ought to resign over the human rights abuses occurring under her policy and oversight.
At the time of this writing, multiple evangelical and Catholic denominations denounced the policy, signing statements disagreeing with Sessions’ use of the Bible in justifying and executing the policy.
Many religious leaders are not calling into question how this affects people of faith, and how it will affect attitudes towards evangelical and Catholic believers, especially with Sessions’utilization of the Bible to promote the zero-tolerance policy.
American Christianity has undergone some reckoning with the Trump administration, beginning all the way back to the origins of his candidacy and his rhetoric about immigrants. More recently, Christians found themselves pausing at controversial policies, such as the travel ban and the border separation.
Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” said “God wants these families separated at the border in this way? Doesn’t sound very WWJD, does it? That's because it isn’t. In fact, the only aspect of this practice that should be of biblical proportions should be the outrage.” He then cited Bible verses in response to Sessions’ own. People in my personal Twitter feed fought this scripture with the words of Jesus from the gospels, one of the more popular ones being, “‘…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40).
Will Christians be able to stand against these actions from the Trump White House? Or, will they fall in line with Trump, who probably thinks of himself as his own deity?
The bigger question now is whether Christians will choose to align with government, or with the words and actions of Jesus in the gospels. Jesus himself is a social justice seeker, and took children into his arms even with the disgust of others nearby (Matthew 19:14). His disciples broke the laws of the Roman Empire, with the example of Paul himself, the author of Romans 13 being incarcerated and persecuted for subversion of Roman law.
I plead with everyone watching this travesty unfold that the real Jesus of the Bible would not sanction this. If you read the gospels, you see him offering forgiveness of sins, healing the broken and the hurt, and rebuking the fundamentalism that stemmed from the Pharisees (Matthew 23), and told us in the parable of the Good Samaritan (one of my favorite parables) to show mercy to everyone when an expert in the law asked how to get into heaven (Luke 10:25-37). I close with the words of Jesus as he closed that passage, in hopes that all who read this will take it to heart and turn it to action, “go and do likewise.”
Stetler Brown is a recent graduate of CSU, Fresno, with a bachelor of arts in communication, and a minor in history.