It seemed like every people group imaginable showed up to support the #FamiliesBelongTogether march in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday (6/30/18) — except for Christians.
BY JON GARCIA
Tens of thousands of people crowded the steps of City Hall as they chanted, sang songs, and held signs in display of solidarity against the separation of migrant children from their undocumented parents. The incidents of such action at the nation’s southern border came into focus recently under the President’s call for zero tolerance. Donald Trump has since given an executive order to stop the practice.
While I can’t be sure that the majority of people in the crowd weren’t Christians, judging by the signs I read, the T-shirts I saw, and the language I heard, we were definitely outnumbered … I think.
We are indeed living in strange times when the loudest voices fighting to keep families together are non-Christians. This is not an indictment of non-believers (because I know they love their children), but rather a question as to why this issue seems to be so confusing for Christians.
While most believers agree that the current situation is bad for families, they cannot seem to reconcile with the fact that the law has been broken — the consequences of such (while not condoned) have resulted in unfortunate circumstances.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions put it, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”
Sessions represents a position that many Christians hold to. But perhaps his tell was when he said, “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and protects the weak — it protects the lawful.”
The questions remain: Are these immigration law tactics orderly and lawful processes? Do they really protect the weak? Do they accurately represent a faithful interpretation of scripture?
I spoke to Emilio Nunez, who is the Director of Spanish Ministries for the Pacific Church Network in Southern California and pastor at Bell Gardens Baptist, about this issue.
“If we’re thinking about Christians (followers of Jesus), I would think that we have to have our priorities properly ordered. What is the most important thing for a Christian?” Nunez said. “For Christians, the principles of the kingdom should be the most important. While one of those values is to respect and honor government (Rom. 13), the first order of value is to say, ‘I have to do what God wants me to do with the people that I’m ministering to.’ And the second order of value is loyalty and love for country — and there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as it doesn’t become an idol that is more powerful in my life than Jesus himself.”
The disagreement is clear. Sessions believes that above all, the law should be obeyed as an end in and of itself. And to that, his position is well intentioned, but ultimately flawed.
I wonder what Sessions would say to Rahab, a woman who lied to the king of Jericho so that she could protect the lives of foreign spies (Josh. 2:1-7)? Or to the Apostle Paul, who wrote to Philemon to receive Onesimus (a runaway slave) back as a brother and an equal — even though Onesimus had clearly broken the law (Philem. 1:8-17).
The law is a good thing when it protects the people that it is designed to serve. However, when the law fails to be a respector of human persons made in God’s image, then our commitment as Christians is to be faithful to a higher law.
Ironically, I stood and marched with thousands of non-Christians on Saturday who believe exactly that. Namely, that the current laws pertaining to immigration show no respect for basic human rights. And to that, I stand in solidarity with the thousands that marched to protest such atrocities.
Still, I couldn’t help but think that the chants of, “Tell me what democracy looks like,” were a bit naïve as history quickly reminds us that even the best democratic system can never deliver what it promises.
And as beautiful as the crowds were on Saturday, the picture of hope was incomplete because it was ultimately misplaced.
For any form of government that grounds its hope in democracy will disappoint. Because the truth is, we don’t need a democracy for a better future; we need a monarchy.
But you can’t have a monarchy without a king, and that king is Jesus. So in the meantime, we fight for truth and justice.
But that’s easier said than done because it appears as if no one can agree on the truth.
If only there was a group of people that had the truth.
If only there was a group of people willing to stand up for the truth.
PHOTOS by JUSTIN LEVECK
Jon Garcia is a writer, storyteller, and aspiring theologian. He lives in the Los Angeles area where he spends most of his time working on PhD studies and serving the Latino/a community. For fun, he hosts Storyography, a podcast where he shares true life stories about interesting experiences he’s had.
Editor’s Note: We want to hear from you on this topic. What is God telling us about our nation’s immigration policy? Should there be a louder voice from the Christian community about the separation of children from parents who are being processed for immigration at the border? Please leave comments below.