$h^+ Jesus Says: On DACA, Pharisees, and Bogus Authority

A study in contradiction: On the one hand, a cadre of Trump supporters in favor of ending DACA, deporting immigrants who came to America as children and have built lives, homes, families and careers here for decades.

On the other hand, there is this bunch of Christians who claim that the Bible is the literal, inherent, infallible word of God–unchanged from one generation to the other, unwavering in its authority.

Strangely enough–these are some of the same people.

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I’m not usually one to go around calling out hipocrisy. Because, for one thing, what’s the point? And also because we are, none of us, perfect believers. Regardless of how we read and interpret scripture–whether literally or otherwise–we fall short every day; of even our own understanding of what faithfulness should be.

But the tension between the worldview of even the most basic understanding of Christianity and the repeal of DACA…those two worlds cannot be reconciled. And with real people’s lives on the line, real families that will be destroyed, real communities that will be thrown into turmoil as this unfolds, it cannot go unstated that no reading of scripture will uphold the mass deportation of law-abiding immigrants.

The Bible mentions care and welcome of immigrants more than 90 times–in the Old Testament alone. Add in New Testament references and other nuances of verbiage, like welcoming the ‘stranger,’ the refugee, caring for unknown guests, etc, and the references climb into the hundreds. In other words, it is a constant theme throughout scripture, and a clear directive for both the ancient Hebrew community and those who later followed the life and teachings of Jesus. There is no getting around it–a border wall does not fly if you’re trying to be God’s people. Round them up and run them out? Forget about it.

If the Bible won’t stand for this kind of treatment of our immigrant neighbors, then how are so many self-proclaimed Christians in favor of it? Well, the good news is that most are not. A recent poll showed that nearly 75% of Trump supporters were in favor of keeping Deferred Action for Chlidhood Arrivals. That is hopeful. Still, it leaves a chunk of Jesus-and-Trump following people (however that works) who think this is the ‘right’ and Christian thing to do. How does that add up?

Maybe it’s got something to do with American Christianity’s obsession with rules. “Law and order” have become a false idol at the center of conversation about immigration, refugee resettlement, and escalating racial tensions. Adherence to rules and the letter of the law have made Christians, at times, cruel toward LGBT people; oppressive of women’s voices; and now, willfully ignorant of what life is like for 800,000 of our friends, neighbors and co-workers who crossed the border as children.

Now would be a good time to remember that a desire to uphold the law, at all costs–even the cost of human life and worth and dignity–is Pharisee territory. And Jesus frequently called BS on that business.

The Pharisees, who desperately wanted to prove Jesus to be a fraud, frequently fought him on matters of rule-following vs. human interest. The details vary, but at the heart of it, their conflicts were always the same: a question of authority.

There was this one day, in particular, when they came right out and said so. “On whose authority,” or “by what authority are you doing these things??” they asked him, as he taught in the temple. And as he so often did, he turned their question around on them to show them that they were asking the wrong stupid question.

“Where did John’s authority to baptize come from? An earthly source, or a Heavenly frame?”

And they commenced fighting amongst themselves about the “right” answer.  And Jesus said unto them, “since you can’t even agree amongst your own damn selves on this one, then I’m not going to dignify your proof-texting with a response.” He further said (narrative liberties here), “you don’t even know who the authority is in your own life, for your own faith. If you can’t answer that, you don’t even know what we’re all doing here in church. So why are you sweating me right now?”

And he mic-drop/walked away. Per usual.

The question of authority is a big one. A complex one. An important one for all people of faith, and all people just trying to be decent human beings. On whose authority to we make public policy decisions? On whose authority do we decide to destroy a life, or a family, or a community? If you choose the “letter of the law” over the person in front of you, then like the Pharisees, you have lost sight of the bigger picture.

Perhaps your ‘authority’ comes from the President–from the lies, the scapegoating, the “drug dealer/rapist/Bad Hombre” narrative of fear and other-ness that, there’s no denying, won him the election. Maybe you’ve bought into the idea that a wall will separate all the criminals (read: brown people) from all the law-abiding citizens (read: white people). Perhaps he won you over with the idea that making America great means abandoning our heritage as a great melting pot of diverse culture and race.

Or maybe your authority is rooted in the canon of a conservative news network?  Maybe someone has convinced you that all the rest are #FakeNews–which, really, is a whole other crisis of authority we need to talk about soon. But maybe a series of well-selected sound bites, played out over time to justify the systemic de-humanization of a whole race of people, has made its way into your mind and heart. If that be the case, then we can make this real simple: When it comes to welcoming the stranger and the immigrant, no set of Fox News talking points should speak more loudly in your life than the gospel. In fact–if you call yourself a follower of Christ, then no set of sound bites from anywhere should carry more weight than the call to love your neighbor.

In either case, let’s not pretend the gospel has any authority in your life.

Jesus just rolled his eyes and bounced on out of this joint.

Here are some talking points for calling your Representatives and asking them to defend DACA. Because you know ‘on whose authority’ they speak?


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