Is there a biblical justification for separating children from their parents? No. This is especially true when the immigrant who is legally seeking amnesty, has a right to due process of law under the laws of our land.
The recent immigration situation has inspired tremendous debate. On April 6, 2018, The New York Times reported, the Trump administration asserted a “no tolerance” policy for those crossing the border from Mexico to the United States. This policy indicated that parents would be separated from their children and treated individually to stand trial for entering illegally. Recently it was learned that parents who were legally seeking political asylum were being separated from their children. Weeks into the crisis and the children have not been reunited with their parents, thus creating a humanitarian crisis.
Theologians are expressing themselves in support or in opposition to what’s been happening in Texas. Scripture is very clear on the issue. From Genesis in Jewish Scriptures to Paul’s letters in the New Testament the ethic of welcoming the stranger and kind treatment is scattered throughout.
In Exodus, the point is clearly made when Moses leads the Israelites to the Promised Land. The example of their hardship, and the blessed gifts of God providing for them as they survived the harsh conditions in the desert, indicate where God was on the issue. Welcoming the stranger is a cornerstone of Judeo/Christian ethic. The immigrant’s survival depended on it. When Herod was threatened by the birth of the Messiah and decreed that children should be slain, Joseph, Mary and Jesus depended on the kindness of strangers as they fled to Egypt.
Jesus welcomes the stranger. Matthew 25 delivers the harshest condemnation for in “The Judgment of Nations” he says, “When were you a stranger and we did not welcome you? or naked and we did not clothe you.” The answer is plain and simple, “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” Jesus is clear on the issue as he notes the separation of the goats from the sheep – those who abided by the message and those refused. Those who refused to treat the most vulnerable justly were the goats that were eternally doomed as a result of their choices.
Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me”. Would there ever be a time where Jesus would reject a child? No. Are there conditions for separating children from their parents? Yes, the logical answer is if they are harming them. But these parents who are sacrificing the lives of themselves and their children are desperate. Any person making a decision to risk life and limb trekking across the desert in search of freedom is making a desperate choice. This act should make anyone pause and question why an individual would make the decision.
Our discourse and attempt at seeking common ground has collapsed under our feet and we are on shaky ground these days. Gone are the days of the compassionate conservative where the likes of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush debated quid pro quo solutions to the problem that would benefit both the business and the worker. They knew the need to arrive at a reasonable agreement for the sake of the economy. They knew the devastating impact of losing assistance from the immigrant work force, as did the employers who during the Obama administration agreed to helping workers on a path to citizenship.
Although this is a complicated situation, there are steps that need to be taken as a Nation in order to solve the problem. Look for the common ground on this issue and ask the significant questions. For example, what needs to happen where the common good can be served? What can we do to help the immigrant? What can we as a country do to hold other countries accountable for their lack of human rights? What are we doing as a country to be the standard bearer for human rights? Most importantly, listen to the concerns of those seeking asylum so there is a better understanding of what human rights need to be addressed.
The assertion of rights for immigrants is a demonstration of true Democracy at work. Our Nation’s willingness to address the concerns of the stranger is implicit in the human rights we afford all people. It is also implicit in Christian ethic and the compassionate dignity Jesus calls all followers to demonstrate in their actions.