In speaking about the current administration’s interpretation of immigration and border control policies to mean that it is legal and appropriate to separate children from their parents, a woman said to me, “I don’t believe this. This is not who we are.”
I understood what she was saying, but I wholeheartedly disagreed. This is who America is. We have been “this” for the entire history of my ancestor’s presence in this country. American slave holders separated black children from parents and sold those children off in front of their parent’s eyes for over two centuries. That’s just an example of who American has been. Pay attention to the lived experienced of other marginalized people in this country. They have stories that affirm this is who America is and has been for centuries.
Just because “this” is who America has been does not mean that “this” is what America will always be. We don’t have to be this way. America can grow up.
While I appreciate the many right-wing, right leaning and other religious leaders who have condemned this interpretation of policy, for some of them – not all – their condemnations ring hollow. Some of them hailed the election that brought this president into office. They championed this administration’s dismantling of protections and safety nets programs for poor Americans. They were and are silent about this president’s global shenanigans.
I’m heartened by the statements from religious leaders. I really am. It’s something. At least. More than statements – that the likes of AG Sessions is not reading — what is needed is for religious leaders to gather up the shards of lives scattered about in the wake of the tanks that came before this border evil. Put your bodies on the line. Educate your members. (If this is your conviction, put your canons where your mouth is.) Do something. Or – shut up with your version of useless “thoughts and prayers.”
Harder yet may be the fight Right may often yield to might Wickedness awhile may reign Satan’s cause may seem to gain There is a God that rules above With hand of power andheart of love If we are right, He’ll fight our battles — We shall have peace some day! (Beams of Heaven,Charles Tindley)
Sometimes, it seems as if this mean old world is winning! Though many people try to do good, it seems as if “right yields to might” far, far too often.
How do you build the courage you will need to take on the hard fights — the good fights where the overwhelming odds are against justice? How do you not become engulfed in cynicism? How do you stand taller than your fears that this may be the last fight in me…and I’m not winning…..? How do you not give in to the temptation to drink the bitterness. (You know, God can’t do anything with bitterness.)
When we are talking about our children, the senseless loss of life and potential, and the ways in which those with power are given a free pass to “shoot and ask questions later” — giving up is not an option.
Giving up is also not an option when we are called to face the never ending flow of illegal guns into our communities. We are being killed from within and without….
I find strength and courage in the songs of the church. I am awed by the power of songs to give me the perspective I need to pick up the battle for one more day, and yet another day, and yet another day….
It may not seem like it, but “Beams of Heaven” is a battle song for me. It reminds me that I am on a journey; there is a destination, for sure. But the journey, if we are following Jesus, is characterized by wilderness, midnights, stars of hope and fights against injustice. “But this I know, if Jesus leads me, I shall get home someday.”
When Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote a hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” at the time when America was facing the Great Depression, an economic disaster that “drained the nation of life and hope.” One of the lines of the hymn — “Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore,” reminds me that we cannot afford to think that any wrong doing or injustice has more power than The One who is All Powerful. We cannot give up so easily! God cannot be defeated — therefore, God’s children cannot retreat into safe spaces, waiting for the rough times to blow over — because injustice unopposed does not blow over. We must face the hour — but we do so with God.
Another battle song I sing was lifted first by the slaves in the American south. They were aiming for freedom and would sometimes become discouraged. So they sang to each other:
“Stay in the field, stay in the field, Stay in the field – until the war is ended.”
The verses of the song are directional and subversive — providing clues for survival. I wish more of our contemporary songs provided clues for survival.