The Least of These
Christian doctrine actually has a lot to say that is of relevance to the border.
If we are to take seriously the claims that religious teachings and doctrines are of significant to the lives of those who claim adherence to a specific faith group (and I think we should), then it is not unfair to look to those doctrines to see what that religion says about how it expects its adherents to behave. I think that this is no different than assuming that if a person claims to adhere to a specific ideology or philosophy that they ought to be held to the standards they profess to respect.
This observation is not a simplistic hypocrisy trap. Living up to a set of religious or philosophical standards can be challenging, and it is unfair to hold up adherents to a perfection standard. However, it is not unreasonable to point out when major tenets are being ignored.
And, I think one can talk about the philosophical and behavioral implications of religious texts and traditions without getting into questions of divinity or ever the supernatural. All religions assert a moral philosophy of behavior.
Along those lines, the teachings of Christianity, the dominant religious tradition in the US, and far and away the religion of Trump supporters, is crazy clear on how we ought to treat one another and in a way that is extremely relevant to the current humanitarian crisis on the border.
This passage from Matthew 25 keeps rolling round in my head (emphasis mine):
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the [c]holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer [d]Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
But of even more significance is this from Luke 10:
25 And behold, a certain [a]lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?“
27 So he answered and said, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ “
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Before continuing with the passage from Luke, and the answer to the question “who is my neighbor?” let me reinforce the answer above with the following from Matthew 22:
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
So, here we have the founding figure of Christianity, whose theology asserts he is God, stating that the second most important law, and a constituent element of all the law, is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now, back to the question of who one’s neighbor is and this selfsame Jesus back from Luke:
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among [b]thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, [c]when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Compare that to “If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!” (DJT)
And no conversation of this type can go without noting Luke 6:31
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Oh so golden, that rule.
Taking all of this into account when coupled with the defense of the way we are treating migrants (especially children, surely the very definition of “the least of these”) makes one think of the quote that is attributed to Ghandi about liking Christ, but not being so keen on Christians. (And I am looking straight at you, James Dobson, and you Robert Jeffress, and a host of others).
Please note, I am not saying that all Christians are at fault. But I am saying that I see this president and his policies being supported overwhelmingly by self-identified Evangelical Christians.
It is not unfair to see a significant disjuncture between these rather central teachings of the moral philosophy of Christianity and the behavior of the Trump administration (and, by extension, a lot of its supporters).