I heard on the radio this morning that our president is doing something “illegal.” Also, I read a post just now…but I won’t link to it. I don’t want to give the devil legs.
Suffice it to say, I see people of faith across the United States of America claiming today that God’s law would secure our borders. I see people of faith claiming that these borders, these concrete walls in sand, are expressions of God’s will for humanity.
I am a person of faith. I am a Jesus follower. I do not support the conflation of US laws with God’s laws. I do not support the mixing and crossing of the identity of a North American country with “God’s country.” I do not support the notion that Jesus himself would deport the brown-skinned people, or call it good that they should live in daily fear of being chased back to their origin countries.
I take this moment to invite people of faith to seek out the true borders of God’s country.
Where are the laws that are drawn in rock and not in sand?
Are we charged by our God to defend our wealth and our privilege? Or to give it up? And as we consider criminality, and wrongness…as we seek out injustice, where do we find it? Is it in the family that crosses the border for work, or in the hearts of Americans who reject and despise them, and form legal restrictions by which to justify our spite?
Our president is granting two years of freedom from deportation to a certain group of people living and working inside the borders of the United States of America. This is something. It isn’t nothing. But it isn’t such a thing as it is made to be, either. It certainly isn’t a transformation of the system, by any means. His action is dangerous for quite another reason.
The shock we hear today, from our president’s dramatic executive action, which his political opponents describe as “overstepping his authority,” is simply the sound of everyone realizing that these laws are made up in the first place.
I mean, if you can just go around changing these laws…? If you can just go around granting freedom from deportation…? Then how do we justify the whole darn thing? How do you justify claiming that this group of people are “criminal” or somehow else “less than” if the rules they break are so easily changed? The borders so easily shifted?
You have to ask yourself, do these rules really exist at all? Or did we just make them up?
Did we just make up these laws by which human beings are controlled and “othered” by the fear of deportation? Is it simply the capricious will of those who have the power to locate others on the wrong side of the law?
President Obama spoke last night of our immigration system as “broken.” I think we’ll hear of this brokenness in political discourse for the next two years, and possibly beyond. I invite people of faith to take this language with a grain of salt, observing that the “brokenness” of our immigration system is advantageous to the maintenance of a system of inequality.
As long as the immigration system is “broken,” we are able to think of the people who have traveled here to work, especially from the Global South, as “criminals” on the run. We are able to terrorize these darker-skinned people, threatening them with random searches, keeping them in constant fear of disciplinary action, and withholding rights to organization and services. And we are able to do all this without actually sending them away, and doing without the crucial services they provide.
It is my cynical expectation that the US immigration system will remain “broken” for some time. It works so well.
But I don’t live in my cynicism. I live in my faith.
People of faith, we know about brokenness. Don’t we? We know all about this. We know about corporate, or collective, sin. We know about getting it all wrong, and yet having a living God that speaks righteousness into our broken places. We know about turning back to God, over and over again, away from our idols. We know about raising the Kingdom, in which there is an overturning of the earthly hierarchy. We know that it is a constant, daily work, to turn from our mistakes and towards righteousness.
This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
Let us not claim God’s will as a baptism for the existence of our borders in the first place, let alone the particulars of our border enforcement. Let us seek instead for the borders of God’s country, where justice replaces inequality, where the stranger is welcomed, and where the leaders speak faith instead of fear.
Let us open the borders in our own hearts.