“Those who are governed by reason desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of humankind”
— Baruch Spinoza
This quote seems all the more relevant today as I write this blog post to you. It’s World Refugee Day (June 20) and a day honoring the strength and perseverance of the millions of people displaced around the world where violence and economic destitution have forced thousands upon thousands of families to flee for their lives each day. And on this day, so many of us are still reeling in disbelief and horror from our nation’s recent policy of Zero Tolerance and the resultant practice of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border for extended periods of time. Most of us cannot imagine the terror of this experience, much less the withering, desperate and treacherous journey of thousands of miles to get to the US border in hopes of some kind of freedom. Today, perhaps bending finally to the national, bi-partisan and global outcry against this action, our nation’s leader rescinded that order and issued an immediate cessation to such practices. While this is a great relief to see such an unconscionable practice ended, the 2,000 plus children affected, and their families, still need our prayers and our intentional participation in finding helpful solutions not only to their reconnection with their parents and future health but in finding helpful ways to deal with the ongoing needs of refugees and immigrants coming to our country.
Hospitality and compassion are at the heart of our faith as Christians. Beyond that fact, we are also all, or certainly most of us reading this blog, at some point in our generational history, the product of refugees and immigrants seeking a better life, a safe haven, a place of hope and compassion in America. My Irish grandmother was exiled by her family in the 1920’s because she’d married outside her faith; and so she fled to America with my father, then an infant. I cannot imagine the thought of her arriving in Boston and being suddenly separated from him for an indefinite amount of time. Nor can I really imagine where I might be now, were it not for the American Office of Immigration eventually placing her, and my grandfather who arrived soon after, in the process of citizenship.
Being accepted in this country was for her the beginning of a process of self-acceptance and affirmation, as well as gaining the opportunity to establish a home, career, family and eventual legacy instead of a future of shame and alienation. My mother’s ancestors were French Huguenots and came to America in the early 17th century fleeing persecution and death in France.
There is no politically tactful way around this issue. We are mostly a country of immigrants and refugees. The fact that some of us have succeeded more at making a fortune for ourselves than others does not change the reality of our origins. Nor does it change the reality that no matter where we are in our socio-economic and ethnic status, we are interdependent on both the residents and the aliens in our midst — for everything from our healthcare to our lawn care to our favorite places to eat and vacation. It is not for naught that Jesus was so emphatic on the most important commandment of all, to love God and neighbor with all our hearts and being. Nor should it be surprising that one of the great philosophical and theological minds of the Enlightenment argued for a “big picture view” of humanity — to live without mutual regard for the rest of humanity is to ignore one’s own long destiny and the ongoing legacy of humanity (Spinoza). Most certainly, it is to ignore the teachings of Jesus for the building of God’s Kingdom. We are interconnected and interdependent, our white track record with indigenous and ethnic minorities notwithstanding. Clearly, this is often hard for me to see from a place of privilege and comfort until it often feels too late — a crippled economy with widening economic disparities, an ecological crisis, a global refugee crisis and on and on.
But I am encouraged and inspired! I am encouraged by the resistance of many Christians, and non-Christians alike, to the inhumanity and greed that raises its ugly head in our midst. I am encouraged by the resistance of many Christians, and non-Christians alike, to the exclusivist attitudes and practices of many in the faith (and in the UMC) towards others of differing ethnic or sexual or faith or economic orientation. I am encouraged and inspired by the resistance of those in our own church who participate in acts of compassion, inclusiveness, and affirmation in a culture of disconnection, denial, and fear.
This Sunday, in eleven:eleven, we’ll explore the third part of our series — “open, inclusive, inquisitive.” I hope you can join us at the Historic 512 — great music, a baptism to celebrate, and the consecrate our new space in a special way!
See you then!
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven