Tear Gassing Children is Not Christian

Tear Gassing Children is Not Christian November 27, 2018

As Americans finished up Thanksgiving celebrations, immigrant children fleeing violence in their home countries were tear gassed at the border. President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and racist, fear-mongering rhetoric are to blame. We can be better than this.

As a Christian, my soul is indelibly marked by God’s frequent exhortation: “remember who you are.” Hundreds of verses like this one pepper nearly every book of the Bible, particularly the legal codes of Hebrew Scripture: “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19).

Repeatedly God sides with those who are oppressed. We must treat others justly and should not turn our back on those in distress, Scripture tells us. Our fates are intertwined with our neighbors since we are children of the same Creator who loves us all.

To forget our story, these verses taught me, is to lose our way. The prophets of old made this clear. From where I sit as a pastor, a mom, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America, I see we are losing our way.

Many fear the immigrants fleeing for our border because of their race. Some say they are not racist, but simple pragmatists. They argue we cannot protect our own if we try to protect the whole world. I agree that we must take care of our own, but because of my faith I see that the safety and well-being of my own children can only be accomplished by caring for others. Scripture teaches me that seeing the image of God in my neighbor is the first step toward strengthening my own community.

The Masai are known for its use of the greeting, “How are the children?” instead of the more individualistic Western greeting of “how are you?” Just as Jesus called us to love neighbor and welcomed the little children, the Masai daily remind one another that their futures could only be realized through their care of all children.

Our children, in fact, are not well. America has the highest infant mortality rates of any developed nation. My home state of Georgia, which declined Medicaid for political purposes, ranks fiftieth in the nation. We are right up there with Uzbekistan.

What does children’s health care in the U.S. have to do with tear gassed immigrant children? The way we treat our own children is inextricably tied to how we treat children from other nations. When we are willing to mistreat one group of children, we will mistreat them all. This is why God warns us repeatedly: “Remember who you are.” We can either be Cain, who killed Abel, or we can be like the heroes of scripture who took care of the widow, the orphan, the refugee.

If we were to put our best selves and our scripture in practice and “remember who we are,” we would reject Trump’s efforts to create an asylum crisis where there is none.  We would instead see that that real crisis is the President’s rejection of human rights norms in favor of militarizing the border to gain political points.

We would address the root causes of immigrants fleeing Central America rather than vilify them. We would acknowledge our nation’s complicity in making El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala among most violent countries on earth through our nation’s demand for illicit drugs and our failed “War on Drugs” which made the region more unstable. We would address the fact that most of the weapons that fuel the gangs come from the U.S. We would create trade policies that strengthen American families alongside families in Latin America.

Remembering who we are takes faith and courage. It requires us to think beyond the headlines and seek the common good. As a country, I believe that we can reject fear and realize that we can only truly flourish when we stand in solidarity with one another. We are called us to welcome and love, not violence and fear.

One way you can take concrete action now is by joining with thousands of other people of faith in pledging to speak the truth about people seeking refuge, accompany them when possible and hold elected leaders accountable.

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  • Dennis

    Jen Butler: Here is a quiz for you from Tomi Lahren: What is the best way to ensure you will not be detained, separated from your family, and tear-gassed? Answer: DON’T RUSH THE BORDER!!! Even Obama and Clinton said that we cannot open our borders to allow everyone to cross. If you want to enter America, get in line! We have a process for that. It is amazing to me that Trump haters like you do not recognize and acknowledge your double standard when it comes to Trump.

  • swbarnes2

    We have a process for that.

    No, we don’t. Trump has had border crossings refuse entry. It takes an honest person 5 seconds to google this.

    And you can apply for asylum even if you entered illegally. It takes an honest person 5 seconds to google this, which is why I am absolutely certain you won’t.

    Really, it takes about 5 seconds to find a document on uscis.gov saying this, but your Christian morality makes it absolutely impossible for you to find it.

  • Scott

    Customs and border patrol has used tear gas since 2010, and deployed it 26 times in 2012 and 27 times in 2013 (by their own admission). The use dropped after that, but was still deployed three times in 2016, President Obama’s final full year in office. On any given day there are women and children at the border. Where was the outrage then? There wasn’t any because this is all ideologically driven.

  • Glenn Blumhorst

    Rev. Butler, you are absolutely right. As former Peace Corps Volunteers and Christian missionaries to Guatemala, my wife and I have witnessed firsthand how the U.S. has brought this problem on itself, through our misdirected foreign policy and exploitation of our neighbors. Deep down, surely we can all agree that God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

  • Were you speaking out 5 years ago, when immigrants were being tear-gassed at the border?

  • You are 100% correct. Blind, partisan agenda-driven hatred.

  • Linda Coleman Allen

    Your blindness to Trump’s numerous personal deficits amazes me.