Cruelty continues to be the point as Texas Governor Greg Abbott pushes on with his fight against migrants at the Texas border. He dehumanizes them in order to justify deadly barriers, barriers which he says are needed to keep people from illegally crossing the border. In reality, he is attacking those who are coming or staying legally, such as those looking for asylum, even as his own tactics are hypocritical as he has workers illegally cross the border to place barriers in Mexican territory as Camilo Montoya-Galvez reported to CBS News (8-15-2023):
Nearly 80% of the controversial floating barrier Texas state officials assembled in the middle of the Rio Grande to deter migrant crossings is technically on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a federal government survey released on Tuesday.
It is Abbott, and his administration, who proves to be lawless. He does not care about international laws, which is why he is willing to deploy barriers in Mexico, even as he ignores the human trafficking or smuggling laws which he appears to be breaking; he believes he can do whatever he wants, that might makes right. The implementation of his plan does not only mean the violation of Mexican territory, but also private American property, which, as Valeria Gonzalez and Acacia Coronado explain on AP News (7-24-23): “Wrecking ball-sized buoys on the Rio Grande. Razor wire strung across private property without permission. Bulldozers changing the very terrain of America’s southern border.” While the argument many make are all about how terrible it is for “illegal immigrants” to enter into the United States, and that Abbott is doing what needs to be done to stop them from doing so, the reality is that he is doing so illegally. The immigration problem, which is a major concern, will not be fixed by strong-arm tactics which ignores why many are coming to the United States, nor by ignoring why the United States is not properly processing them and welcoming them as it should.
Sadly, many who claim to be Christian are hostile to immigrants of all kinds. This is why so many of them support Abbott’s cruelty instead of denouncing him as they should. In doing so, they show themselves at odds with their own Scriptures, for Christian Scriptures are clear that they should show hospitality to migrants and refugees: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 19:34 RSV). Similarly, Scripture said that those who do not follow this principle are to be accursed: “`Cursed be he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, `Amen’” (Deut. 27:29 RSV). Scripture suggests that it was because Israel came to ignore this, that is, because its leaders and authorities, secular and religious, ignored the love and care they should show to others, especially to those in need, no matter where they came from, Israel faced backlash and suffered from a real foreign invasion. The prophets told them that if they changed their ways, what was taken from them could be restored, and then they would find God’s presence once again amongst them:
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever (Jer. 7:5-7 RSV).
Israel suffered an invasion, not because they showed respect to foreigners and treated them well, but because they didn’t. Christians should learn that lesson; instead of saying that their country, their land, is being invaded by foreigners, justifying showing cruelty to foreigners to keep them out, they should show hospitality to foreigners, making them welcome so that justice can and will prevail. Similarly, Christians should realize that their Scriptures, and Christian history, is full of promotion, not to those who stand in deference to nation-states and the right of such states to be cruel to others, but to those who were outcasts, migrants or asylum seekers, those who were constantly on the move. Those who aided and defended such outcasts were blessed, while those who despised them and so hurt them, found themselves to be accursed. What happened around Abraham, Moses and the Israelites, the Holy Family, Christians fleeing Jerusalem, all show the truth of this. Later Christian history, when Christians entered other lands, similarly show this point, as those who attacked and killed such Christians were deemed reprehensible while those same Christians were recognized and lifted up as holy martyrs.
In case anyone would suggest that the commands to show hospitality to others, to foreigners, was only for the people of Israel, or for the time before Christ, the New Testament confirms that expectations in many times, such as when the author of the book of Hebrews writes:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body (Heb. 13:1-3 RSV).
Christ said that our way of life should be the way of love, something which Paul, likewise, confirmed when he said they should not be cruel to others: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10 RSV). Anyone who would treat those in need with care with such disdain have been warned that they will face the consequence of their actions at the last judgement. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40b RSV). Pope Francis, understanding the relationship between Christ’s words in Matthew 25 and the migrant crisis, said, in his Message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (9-24-2023):
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36). These words are a constant admonition to see in the migrant not simply a brother or sister in difficulty, but Christ himself, who knocks at our door. Consequently, even as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of migration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for a safe and regular migration. In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.
Christians should look to the migrants at the border as they would look to Christ. When they are in need, then Christ is in need. If they truly love Christ, they would do as he said, and so take care of migrants instead of finding excuses to mistreat them, or worse, cause them to needlessly suffer or die.
St. John Paul II, speaking in relation to the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (12-15-2003), said: “No one should be indifferent to the conditions of multitudes of immigrants! They are at the mercy of events, often with dramatic situations behind them.” How many Christians oppose Scripture, and so oppose the way of love? When they do so, they can be said to stand against Christ. Those who stand with Abbott and his cruelty, those who support him doing whatever he wants to migrants and refugees out of his hatred for them, find themselves far from Christ. If they claim their way is the Christian way, all they reveal is they have fallen for a principle from an anti-Christ. Scripture consistently warns us acting in this way places us on the wide-open road to perdition. It is possible for us to correct course, to get off that road. But to do so, we must build bridges and help those in need. Certainly, we must deal with the problems underlying the migrant crisis, doing what we can to make sure people do not feel the need to migrate, even as we must make sure those who find it necessary to become migrants do not find their migration leads them to continue to experience pure hell on earth. Those Christians who stand behind cruelty, who use power as a tool to hurt and dehumanize others, stand not with Christ, but Satan, desiring, as it were, to reign in the hell on earth they have created instead of embracing the kingdom of God with its way of humility and love. We must not let ourselves fall into the temptation which Jesus rejected in the desert. We must stand with Christ and the way of love, and in doing so, resist those, like Abbott, who show no compassion for their fellow humanity.
Stay in touch! Like A Little Bit of Nothing on Facebook.
If you liked what you read, please consider sharing it with your friends and family!
N.B.: While I read comments to moderate them, I rarely respond to them. If I don’t respond to your comment directly, don’t assume I am unthankful for it. I appreciate it. But I want readers to feel free to ask questions, and hopefully, dialogue with each other. I have shared what I wanted to say, though some responses will get a brief reply by me, or, if I find it interesting and something I can engage fully, as the foundation for another post. I have had many posts inspired or improved upon thanks to my readers.