“God’s Army” At The Border

“God’s Army” At The Border February 2, 2024

Brian Auer: The Reunion Fence / flickr

All one has to do is look at the border between Mexico and the United States, and the way so many Christians treat the border, to see how perverted the Christian faith has become in the United States. Instead of looking for a way to help migrants and refugees, who come to the border in extreme need, many Christians want to do whatever they can to hurt them, to make them pay for trying to come into the United States and find a better way of life for themselves. This is because these Christians follow a perverted form of Christianity, Christian Nationalism, a form which idolizes borders and power; they see foreigners trying to make their way to the United States to live in it as an affront to them and their supremacy in the world. An example of such Christian Nationalism can be seen coming from a group of truckers calling themselves, “God’s Army”:

In response to an intensifying standoff between state officials and the federal government over border security, a group calling itself “God’s Army” said it would lead a convoy of up to 40,000 trucks from Virginia to the southern border this week and end with a Feb. 3 rally in Eagle Pass, Texas. With its stated goal to “Take Our Border Back,” the convoy’s organizers paint a portrait of an America besieged by dark, evil forces. God, they say, has charged Christians with halting an invasion of immigrants that is “poisoning the blood” of the country.[1]

Christian Nationalism takes the name of Christ, the name of Christian, but clearly follows principles of the anti-Christ, establishing an anti-Christian Christianity. They might be Christian because they have been baptized and believe Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the World, but they do not listen to Christ or what the Christian tradition teaches: indeed, they do the exact opposite. Instead of looking to the world beyond borders, seeing there is neither Jew nor Gentile, American nor non-American, in Jesus, they seek for a “pure blood” where “Americans” (but only those living in and from the United States) are superior to all others, a superiority given to them by God which should not be deluded by inferiors (foreigners from other countries).

It is easy to present a variety of verses from Christian Scripture which run contrary to such a nationalistic ideology. “The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Ps. 146:9 RSV). “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).  “‘Cursed be he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, `Amen’” (Deut. 27:19 RSV). “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother,  do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart” (Zech. 7:9-10 RSV). “Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13 RSV). The whole story of the Exodus from Egypt and what happened to the people of Israel on their way to Israel demonstrates the way God works for sojourners, for migrants, which is why God told them that as they benefited from such help, the people of Israel should give it to others: “Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19 RSV). Those who now reside in the United States come from families who migrated there, and so should realize what God told Israel applies to them. Christian Nationalism circumvents this; instead of following God and God’s compassion for foreigners, they follow the example of Sodom and Gomorrah and their lack of hospitality to foreigners. Lot was deemed righteous and was saved because he went looking for strangers, for foreigners, to help them, and it is his example Christians have routinely been told to follow: “Call to mind Lot and you will discover that it was not the strangers who sought for him, but he who looked for strangers and this was pursuing hospitality.” [2]

Mercy to the poor, mercy to those in need, such as refugees and migrants, is what is expected of the Christian, indeed, Jesus indicated their salvation in part depended upon it (cf. Matt. 25:40;45), which is why St. Leo the Great preached:

But, since our souls do not attain to salvation by fasting alone, let us supplement our fasting with acts of mercy toward the poor. Let us spend on virtue what we withhold from pleasure. Let abstinence on the part of someone fasting become nourishment for the poor. Let us put our efforts to the defense of widows, the advantage of orphans, the consolation or mourners, the reconciliation of rivals. Take in the stranger, relieve the oppressed, clothe the naked, care for  the sick – in such a way that whoever of us will offer from honest labor a “sacrifice” of compassion to God the Maker of all good things, they might deserve to receive from him as a reward the kingdom of heaven. [3]

Just as Lot was saved, in part, because of the good which he did, in part, because of Abraham and Abraham’s hospitality and the way it allowed Abraham to ask for God’s help, our active work helping those in need, such as migrants and refugees, will go a long way in making satisfaction for our own sins:

The follower of the active life, by harboring the stranger, clothing the naked, governing the subject, redeeming the captive, protecting him who is oppressed by violence, is continually cleansing himself from all his sins and enriching his life with the fruit of good works.[4]

The true Christian spirit about what is happening at the border should be one of compassion, looking for the best way to help those who come to it in need. Their response should not be one of violence brought about by hate, or  one which tries to separate themselves with some barrier, like a wall, or a convoy of trucks, from those who come to them.

Sadly, so many politicians claiming to be Christian are fermenting hate towards foreigners; they use the Christian name, and are believed to represent the Christian faith because they have the means to get their voice heard. They are adversely affecting the whole political scene, as their influence is making it so people must respond to them, appeasing them and their followers. Perhaps this is why even those who should know and do better are slowly succumbing to the political pressure, and are starting to use some of the same rhetoric, such as when President Biden said he would close the border as a part of the deal he is making with Republicans. To be sure, what he intends to do is temporary and limited, and so much better than what his opponents would do if they had power, but it still represents a dangerous precedent coming from Biden. It is another shift towards the extreme right-wing ideological perspective, even though, of course, it is clear that many Christian Nationalists and their allies will not be satisfied unless all foreigners are deported, and the border is completely and permanently closed. If they got their wish, it could easily ruin the United States as it would disrupt the supply chain even worse than what happened during the pandemic. What is the moral thing to do, showing compassion to the foreigner, to the migrant, to the refugee, which includes making sure the border is not completely closed so they have no chance to find refuge in the United States, is also the proper thing to do if one cares about the United States and its continued well-being. Those who want to put in place strict laws, and close off the United States from the rest of the world, have not learned the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is, you can’t keep  selfishly to yourself independent from everyone else, glorifying yourself in your own supremacy, without having everything collapse all around you. Sadly, the same Christians who have not learned this lesson often like to talk about Sodom and Gomorrah, not realizing it is their own ideological perspective which is condemned in Scripture

The border between the United States and Mexico, like all borders, has some value, as it helps delineate the boundaries of the United States. The border, however, should be understood as a tool, not an end in and of itself. Those coming to it should be showed compassion and helped. Christians should follow the example of Lot who met with those who came to the gate of his city to make sure they were cared for instead of being mistreated. Christians should make it clear, those Christians who stand against foreigners, those who want to mistreat them, those who like to talk about nationalism, though they might be Christian, do not represent the teachings of Christ. When Christians calling themselves “God’s Army” go to the border to cause problems, Christians need denounce them, making it clear that such Christian Nationalism is a heresy.

[1] Doug Pagitt, “I’m A Pastor Headed To The Southern Border To Challenge The So-Called ‘God’s Army’” in MSNBC (1-30-2024).

[2] Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans: Books 6-10. Trans. Thomas P. Scheck (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2002), 214-5.

[3] St Leo the Great, Sermons. Trans. Jane Patricia Freeland CSJB and Agnes Josephine Conway SSJ (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1996), 54 [Sermon 13].

[4] Julianus Pomerius, The Contemplative Life. Trans. Mary Josephine Suelzer, PhD (Westminster, MD: The Newman Bookshop, 1947), 32.

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