Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night and went to the United States, and upon arrival Joseph and Mary were arrested and the child was separated from them, never to be seen by his parents again.”
Thank goodness, the holy family fled Herod over 2,000 years ago into Egypt and not into the modern day United States. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Joseph and Mary didn’t have the proper documentation. Would the baby Jesus be forcibly separated from them, never to see his parents again? Would his parents be jailed and dehumanized? Is it safer to flee to ancient Egypt than the modern day United States?
The Trump administration recently announced tougher enforcement of the policy of separating children from their parents if the family is caught crossing the border illegally. We’ve also learned that the federal government has already lost track of some 1,500 children after they were taken into custody at the border. Some children have been released to human traffickers.
I’m constantly amazed at what does and does not cause my fellow Christians to have righteous anger. Some are more than willing to be outraged over an imagined loss of rights to say “Merry Christmas,” but feel no responsibility for outrage or actions around issues that should alarm people of faith. I’m talking about racism, sexism, the treatment of transgender folks in our military, the rise of white supremacy, the proliferation of gun violence, and the marginalization of the poor. The list is long and overwhelming. As alarming as the list is, the church must not miss the treatment of children at the border. These are some of God’s most vulnerable children and people of faith cannot turn a blind eye to their plight.
You will rarely walk into a church that does not claim to value children. Churches go to great lengths to provide welcoming spaces to children. Some have gone to such great lengths that it is difficult to tell the difference between their children’s wing and an amusement park. So, while some kids are entering a tube slide into their classrooms, others are being forcibly removed from their parents at our borders. Are Christians more worried about how children arrive at their Sunday school class or about the systematic dividing of immigrant children from their parents at our border? Perhaps the best way for our churches to show that we care for children is to value, love and advocate for all children, especially those who are the most vulnerable. Claiming something is different than living it out.
I understand that we need border security, but it’s a shame that the language of legal and illegal has entered our vocabulary. It has caused a gross misunderstanding of how God views each person and creates a false dichotomy of how people should be treated. No matter what we choose to call someone, God simply recognizes them as God’s beloved child. The labels we use fool us into thinking we are someone different or better than others. They force us further away from God’s realm rather than moving us closer to God’s realm. I believe Jesus was speaking broadly when he told some religious people like the Pharisees “what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
This administration and its band of evangelical advisers has combined bad biblical interpretation and a lust for power to enact some pretty heinous policies that have marginalized many of God’s beloved children. Separating children from their parents at our borders is the latest in a long line of immoral and unbiblical acts. Christians need to ask themselves the question, “Who would Jesus separate?” The answer is clear.