Thursday, June 21, 2018

Indignity and Injustice: How much will we allow to be imposed?

Question:  Will you respect the dignity of every human being?
Response:  I will with God’s help.

I was looking for a way to talk about the despicable way our government has been treating refugee/immigrant families at our southern border. I felt that I needed to couch any comments I might make in faith-based terms since the Attorney General of The United States had used Scripture to justify what I consider immoral and reprehensible actions that I am convinced are also repugnant to our Creator. So I found myself once again relying on the vows of our Baptismal Covenant.

The pictures of cages made from chain link fencing, uprights and doors/gates horrified me. And please do not tell me those were not cages. Two images came to mind for such structures: One is a dog kennel run. The other is the cage where the “big box” membership clubs lock up tobacco products. Neither image is suitable for any human being, much less children and babies! I KNOW what a cage looks like, so please don’t even try to spin that any other way.

Then I saw more pictures that showed these children sleeping on pallets on concrete floors using emergency “blankets” for cover, the kind made from shiny reflective materials intended to help hold in body heat. I was further repulsed. This is not how the wealthiest nation on the face of this planet should be treating children (or adults). Pallets no less. Not even mattresses.

This situation seems to have touched a nerve across a very broad spectrum of the faith communities of our nation. Condemnation has come in from the political right and the political left. That nerve is so raw that some 600 members of the United Methodist Church have filed ecclesiastical charges against the Attorney General. This link tells that story, but be warned it also contains some of the pictures I have referenced.

I have no idea what will come of this but it does give me a degree of hope that we really have not reached the point of having no shame in what we do as a nation.

The POTUS has issued an Executive Order rescinding the policy of separating families at our southern border. Note that I said policy. There was never a law that required such actions.

Personally, I must take a “wait and see” approach because, to be bluntly honest, I do not trust either the author of the executive order or the contents of it to deal with this issue in a way that I think will be in accord with our baptismal covenant vow to respect the dignity of every human being. I just do not believe that such an intent will be found much less enforced.

Would we be having this discussion at all if those refugees fleeing persecution and gang violence had blond hair and blue eyes? Would our concerns be nearly as great if they did not have brown or black skin? Is our systemic racism rearing its ugly head for all the world to see? I fear it so. Again.

Perhaps I remember too much history. When I first learned of this process of separating children from families, my mind immediately went back to Nazi Germany. The gut wrenching stories of parents being separated from children and the journeys each would take - gas chambers and ovens or work camps - still have not left my thoughts. I would like to think that we would never descend to such depths of depravity, but I am not willing to rule that out... sadly so. Too often we forget that we had our own version of concentration camps in this country. We just used the word “internment” camps to make it sound a little nicer and more civilized. Really!?

The haunting words of Pastor Martin Niemoller come to mind: “They came for the _______ and I was not a ________, so I did not speak up. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak up.” We are called by the faith we profess to speak up for those who are marginalized and oppressed for any reason. How could we claim to be respecting the dignity of every human being if we did not speak up?

The General Convention is almost upon us. Will we have the moral courage to speak up and speak out on behalf of all who are marginalized and oppressed for whatever reason? Will we have the strength of conviction to take actions to change our ways? Will we make an effort to respect the dignity of every human being regardless of how that human being should be respected?

We do not know the outcome of any resolution until we are actually in committee with it and vote on the floors of the houses of General Convention. But we can still contact our deputies to General Convention. We can contact our bishop(s). We can remind them of our common vow to respect the dignity of every human being whether it is about marriage equality or refugee treatment or any of the myriad of ways we can think of to mistreat each other. Let them hear your stories about how not having your dignity respected looks like in this our household of faith.

Please continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that affect us.

Some other perspectives:

Elections for the new leadership of Integrity USA are now taking place. Pray and cast your vote if you are a member. If you are not, join us in bearing good fruit.

Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

No comments: