Where Has All the Conscience Gone?

Storm

Gentle Reader,

The view from my window is not a pretty one. The wind blows, pulling at the early summer roses, forcing them to release their petals. The sky darkens, clouds laden with rain and hail. The birds are silent, hunkered down in their nests, beaks tucked into their feathers. The roughly 2-foot scar on my abdomen throbs. A storm is brewing.

In 1955, Pete Seeger wrote the first version of the folk song Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Penned just after the fall of Joseph McCarthy but before the United States became heavily involved in Vietnam, the lyrics are oddly prophetic, beginning with:

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

And ending with:

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Indeed, when will we ever learn?

I am ashamed of this government, these people who call themselves leaders. They play politics while children scream and shudder, wondering if they will ever see their parents again. I am appalled by those who speak of immigration in cold and abstract terms, forgetting that there are real humans involved. I am angered by Christians who dismiss the immigrants, especially the children, who say “they aren’t ours to worry about.”

Jesus begs to differ.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?

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.’ ”

And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 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. On the next day, 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.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

– Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV; emphasis mine)

I am not a lawyer nor an expert in the law. I don’t pretend to be. I do know that legally emigrating to the United States is a far more difficult process than most of us realize. I do know that someone from a poverty-stricken country isn’t going to have thousands of dollars to go through the process (application fees, lawyer fees, travel costs; see this for an example). I do know that our government has contributed to the problems in Mexico and Central American countries via ignoring certain dictators because it benefits us, raising tariffs on goods, overthrowing the occasional president.

I do know that these people are our neighbors and they’re crying out for help.

Will there be some who manipulate the system? Yes. Does that mean you slam the door in everyone’s faces? No.

The United States isn’t a theocracy; we aren’t a Christian nation. But there are Christians living here and if that’s you, you can be sure that Jesus commands you to love your neighbor – all people, everywhere, sacrificially, all the time. It doesn’t matter if the immigrant who moves in next door is here legally or not. Our job is to love and serve.

Our consciences are seared on this issue. We think we have rights and privileges because of where we were born, rights and privileges that we must defend, at all costs, against “those people.” Well, “those people” are quite literally the same as us. Same biology, same aspirations, same needs. Why are we building walls – literally and metaphorically – when we are given no leave to do so in Scripture, which is supposedly our foundation for living? Why are we so desperate to cling to the passing, fading, identity of “nation” when we’re flat out told that we don’t belong here (see Hebrews 13:14, 1 Peter 2:11)?

I’m hardly an anarchist. I believe in order. I believe in obeying the laws. I also believe that our allegiance is to God, over and above all else, and when the direction the country takes is contrary to His way, we stand up, say so, and tenaciously stick to His path. Our ancient brothers and sisters did so when they refused to worship the emperor of Rome and when they rescued babies left out to die in the cold. Our brothers and sisters living in the shadow of the Third Reich did so when they hid Jewish people and helped smuggle them out of the country. They saw the evil for what it was. They didn’t attempt to defend or justify it.

It’s time for us to let go of the illusion of the United States as morally superior and innocent. We aren’t. This country is just like any other throughout history. Good and bad, bright and blight. We aren’t special. We aren’t unique. Right now, we horrify people around the world. This “zero tolerance” policy is wrong. Refusing to really do anything about it – all parties are guilty of this – is wrong.

Christian, you and me have to face this. We have to stop making excuses and we certainly, definitely, absolutely have to stop twisting and abusing Scripture the way Attorney General Jeff Sessions did in his attempt to justify separating families at the border. We have to get real and stop believing that any political party – GOP or otherwise – is the “party of Jesus.” When our government does something wrong, ours should be the voices raised the loudest, speaking truth and defending those harmed by the action. We need to recognize lies we’ve believed and reject them.

We can – and should – care about all those who are marginalized: the children, the elderly, the poor, the disabled, the immigrants. We must use our privilege wisely and effectively. We were once the children and time will make us the elderly. We are all one disaster away from becoming the poor, the disabled, the immigrant.

God loves them, just as He loves us. Jesus died for them, just as He died for us.

We are all the same.

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5 thoughts on “Where Has All the Conscience Gone?

    1. I learned so much from your sessions at District Assembly. All this has been rolling around in my heart and mind for a long time. Thank you for being willing to share and teach!

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  1. I’ve been struggling with all of this along with other people of good conscience, but what do we do with people at our borders requesting political asylum? It seems the President’s answer to separating parents and children at the border is to keep them together, turn them around, and send them back south without any legal proceeding whatsoever.
    I’ve seen a lot of pushback in the news and social media about the President denying these immigrants due process. Then a friend of mine in Israel sent me the following message:
    “The answer is found is a Supreme Court ruling from 1903, Yamataya v. Fisher, 189 U.S. 86, whereby a young Japanese girl — age 16 — was deported because she had no one here and would be a “Ward of the State.” Rather then make her “our” burden, she was sent back to Japan. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the deportation and even ruled that the courts have no say-so in the matter. As long as the deportee was fairly tried by the authorities, the immigrants had no right to appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court has already given the President all the authority he needs to deport all these folks, children and adults. It is arguable that, as non-citizens, their “due process” may not consist of much more than an investigation of their background, the circumstances of their illegal entry, and a hearing that reviews such information.”
    I’ve looked, and as far as I can tell, most if not all countries on Earth have some sort of immigration law in place. Even very liberal Canada has immigration law, and in spite of all the celebrities saying they’d move to Canada if Donald Trump was elected President, it’s actually pretty hard to emigrate there.
    Short of abolishing our immigration laws and creating absolutely open borders, we have to have some sort of “vetting process” by which we assess who we admit and under what circumstances.
    Actually, I’ve read that a large number of so-called “illegal immigrants” are people who entered the U.S. legally on a student or other Visa, and then stayed after the Visa expired.
    That the President has the legal authority to do what he’s doing isn’t in contention relative to Yamataya v. Fisher, but does or should he have the moral authority to separate families or willy-nilly deny everyone entry?
    Either the laws have to be changed to something more palatable to our moral and ethical conscience, or we have to admit that we can’t admit everyone just because they want entry. I know that’s hard, and if you can show me a third practical option, I’d love to see it.

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  2. I agree with James about struggling with this issue because it is so complex. As a Christian, I strive to do “locally” what I can to spread kindness where I can. I also am praying that the Lord will show our leaders what is the most “humane” answer to a very emotionally-charged issue. Thank you, Marie for stating it so clearly and honestly because it isn’t going away until we find a “practical third option”!

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  3. James and Lenore, I love and respect both of you and I know that you wrestle with this just as I do.

    I know that we need to have laws and processes. Since I’m not an expert in the law, I don’t know if we need to reform existing processes or just fairly enforce what we already have in place. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the first questions we ask should be, “Why do all these people want to come here? What is truly going on in these countries? Have we contributed? Is there a way we can help?” I’m not against amnesty for all illegal immigrants who are currently residing in the United States. Seems to me that it would be good to say, “Okay. Come forward. Let’s wipe the slate clean.” Maybe then we could put whatever different/better system in place?

    What truly matters to me is the reaction of us as believers. We don’t get to pick and choose who we love and serve. We don’t get to say that these aren’t our neighbors.

    Liked by 1 person

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