Sunday, July 13, 2014

No, Pastor Jeffress, Simply Closing Borders Isn't 'Compassion'...

When President Obama came to Dallas last Wednesday, he invited community leaders, politicians and faith leaders to meet with him about the humanitarian crisis at the Texas border. Among those faith leaders left off of the list was Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the famed First Baptist Church of Dallas. Now, I don't know if he was smarting from the lack of respect, but on Fox news this week he decided to let his feelings known...

 “If you’re a homeowner with a swimming pool that doesn’t have a fence around it, and a neighborhood child wanders in and drowns, you’re liable because you have enticed that child into a dangerous situation. The remedy is to build a fence.”
“What we are doing by having these unsecured borders is we are enticing children and mothers to make this dangerous journey,” the Christian leader added. “Yes, we want to show compassion to the children who are here, but the most compassionate thing we can do is secure the borders.”“They’re wondering what the right thing to do is,” he noted. “Yes, Jesus loved children, but he also respected law. He said, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars.”
“So, we need to do both. Show compassion, but secure the borders.”
Now on the one hand, I understand what he means by 'secure borders'. America has the right to secure its borders and protect itself from terrorists and criminals. But in this interview, he was talking about children. And the 'remedy' for the children who have come across the border seeking safe harbor from rape, sex trafficking, being drawn into gangs and or just plain killed, must be secured borders.  
"...Show compassion, but secure the borders."
A clear, inarguable position in times of security. But wholly inadequate when one is talking about circumstances where the normal protocols related to international law apparently aren't working - such as embassies and consulates. 
Jeffress serves in a religion tradition that is used to going out to places like Central American cultures, ministering to them and teaching them how to be 'Christian' while skimming over the social circumstances that have them impoverished and in danger.
Jeffress' comments would have much more weight if he were trying to help County Judge Clay Jenkins prepare to receive the 2000 refugees expected to come into Dallas County. With his mind on scripture the pastor makes reference to the wrong one. And its interesting that small government conservatives and Tea Party members don't understand or think about this. Jesus did indeed say, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar..." after which Jesus paid his taxes!
When it came to laws - both God's law, or more specifically the traditions associated with God's law - Jesus was much more 'liberal' in His calls for obedience. He said, for instance when it came obeying the Sabbath, Jesus said it was alright to heal on the Sabbath Day because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 
On the other hand, if Jeffress' free flowing interpretation of scripture would hold sway, there would've been no Gospel to serve as rationale for his beautiful, newly remodeled church edifice. According to scripture, Jesus would have died along with the innocents slaughtered by Herod's sword. Remember he, along with his parents Mary and Joseph, fled to Egypt. It's a good thing Egypt's borders weren't 'closed'!
This is a hard time. Made much harder by foreign policy decisions and indecision made years ago, by administrations older than this one and Congress' less competent than this. It produced a ravaged Honduras and other Central American countries from which many of these children have come and to which far too many may have to return. During this time, preachers can tell the truth about U.S.'s part in this upheaval and while ministering comfort to these afflicted children, many of whom are only 10-12 years old. 
America has resources to take care of these children for a short while, while in harnesses the resources to adjudicate where fate says they belong. First Baptist Dallas, has the resources to make certain the 2000 sent to Dallas County are cared for humanely. There's a Gospel to be preached AND shown to these children, as their stories are told. Now is not the time to parrot the worst fears and apprehensions of the fearful and mean-spirited among us. Now is not the time to fan the flames of  racism and xenophobia that identify scapegoats by the color of their skin or their national origin. Now is not the time for men of God to pretend that that they are speaking God's Word by speaking truth to the powerless, with no Word of Truth to the powerful.
Rev. Jeffress, you can find a great many Americans, rich and poor, black AND white, who feel the way you do because they actually believe that undocumented Americans take jobs from the hard working citizens, or who take public assistance away from the 'worthy' poor, or who may actually believe that the undocumented are guilty of crimes against Americans. And so with you they call for a 'closed border'. The fact is, as someone said, the answer to a 20 foot fence is a 21 foot ladder. The answer to this problem is far more complex than this. The one answer that is viable for the Christian Church is the work of compassion and love toward the stranger, and making certain that those in power consider their stories as they craft real policy.
As Marla Bearden, disaster relief specialist for Baptist General Convention of Texas said,  about the border situation which has a political dimension that other crisis situations do not.
“I spoke with a couple of volunteers who worked with the children, who went with the idea that we just need to turn them back,” Bearden said.
She added that their attitude didn’t last very long after arrival.
“Once they saw the conditions the children were in, it changed their hearts and it changed them.”
The children are dirty and tired and infested with lice when they arrive in the U.S., she said.
“Some of them are as young as 3 years old who came across unaccompanied,” Bearden said. “That’s pretty bad.”
There are some who can be helped more directly, Henderson added, including immigrant families who are being sent back to their native countries.
Between the time of their processing and their return by bus, they can do laundry at a TBM laundry truck in McAllen and take showers at a TBM shower trailer in Loredo.
The key is that something is being done when possible — especially when children are involved, Henderson said.
“If Jesus was standing here with us, what would he tell us to do? That sounds kind of basic, but that’s the deal,” he said."
And that's the real deal Rev. Jeffress. Read the scripture right. Jesus didn't say, "Let the little children suffer..." He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me...and forbid them not. For such is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mark 10:14).
The way we treat these children is a demonstration of  our response to the Kingdom of God. 

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