T.S.Eliot began his epic poem, The Wasteland, with these words, “April is the cruellest month.” Perhaps, but November is going to come in close as the Trump Administration has declared that some 60,000 Haitians must now leave the United States. Already this administration has told some 2,500 Nicaraguans they must leave the country. The Temporary Protection Status of some 195,000 Salvadorans faces a March renewal deadline.
As we come to our Thanksgiving tables this week and plates of food are shared between family and friends, take a moment to consider how it must feel to step into this quintessential American holiday of thanks knowing you are about to lose everything and be returned to countries that are in many ways, dangerous or simply incapable of providing you and your family and friends the means to live above an impoverished existence. Let us say prayers of thanks but also let us prophetically call out for justice and compassion to inform our nation’s policies, foreign and domestic.
The cruelty of this administration seems to know no bounds. From its intentional removal of protections for the environment to protections of citizenship for the immigrant; from its colossal tax cut plan for the extremely rich and then paying for it on the backs of the poor and middle class; from its incessant itch to pick fights, divide Americans and wreck wholesale those institutions designed to elevate our civic life, the Trump Administration and its congressional aids and abettors seem fueled by a need for cruelty. The land of the free and home of the brave is quickly transmogrifying into the kingdom of Moloch.
Lord, we give thanks for our boundless blessings. We plead with you on behalf of the poor, the sick, the elderly and the immigrant: Lord, protect them and help us as a nation to throw off the wicked cruelty that blankets us. May we adorn ourselves instead with justice and mercy. We pray in the name of the immigrant holy child who sought safety in Egypt, Amen +
Years ago I spoke to the horrific war in Syria and in particular, the destruction of Near Eastern Christianity. We have witnessed the barbaric eradication of individuals and an entire culture not only in Syria but across the Middle East for the “crime” of being Christian. Saying so does not, however, mean we are not sensitive to Muslims who are also killed and executed by radicals who claim Islam but destroy their own. And saying so does not mean we agree with the new administration in its efforts to curb immigration by erecting not only a wall but a religious test to keep Muslims out of our country. That is a vile act. It is not only an affront to the Christ but makes a mockery of the Statue of Liberty and its inscription dedicated to the huddled and tired masses of the world. Saturday, January 28th, immigrants were placed in holding areas at airports across our country. Persons with legitimate visas were barred entrance. This is a dark moment in our nation’s unfolding history, but sadly not a new one. The U.S. government rejected Jews because it viewed them as a national security risk. President Trump issued a statement this week on remembering the Holocaust but didn’t even mention Jews, preferring instead to speak in general terms. Coupled with his executive order that requires a religious test for entry into our country, the President displays either a glaring ignorance or an outright hostility to those who are not “Christian.”
Riverside has an experience with an immigrant who sought refuge in our country because their native land (in eastern Europe) is not safe for LGBT persons. A couple in our church offered their home and safety for over one year. Our church tried to bless this person both emotionally and spiritually and with some money now and then. How blessed we have been to have this person in our midst! How remarkable to watch this couple offer their home and support. That, dear friends, is Christ in our midst and the inclusion of this person, providing a safe and welcoming space, is what America is about. Or at least it used to be.
Welcome the stranger. That is a biblical mandate in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. That is a ringing bell of liberty our country has rung throughout its history. Protest the policy put in place by President Trump. Resist. To do so is American patriotism at its best. To do so is to practice the compassion of Christ.