Proverbs 14:15 MSG
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here…We should have more people from places like Norway…Why do we want people from Haiti here? Take ‘em out.” Donald Trump
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’" Matthew 25:45
Many of us are rightly offended and outraged by the language our Supreme Leader used this week to describe poor countries where the majority of citizens happen to be people of color who hope and seek desperately to come here, to our country. And our indignation is appropriate. But not for the reason many think.
Let us not, in our outrage, fool oursleves. There is a sense in which the Supreme Leader's metaphor is appropriate. There really are some places on this earth that are, well, cesspools. They stink of poverty and penury. They reek of corruption and cruelty. If they ever had any political, philosophical, or moral foundations those values have been eroded away by constant deprivation and destitution. They are places where misery, hopelessness, and despair crush human souls in ways that are unimaginable to even the poorest Americans.
There is no sin in calling these places out and naming them for what they are as did the prophets of old. Perhaps this kind of painful honesty, spoken to the wealthy and powerful elite who always seem to live at the extreme edges of such places will budge them from their ennui and apathy.
Until such a time, however, we must remember and take care to remind our leaders and ourselves that those who are so unfortunate as to live in such places, are not to be denigrated and demeaned by any good and decent folk, but especially not by those of us who dare to call ourselves "Christians." Our Lord made it clear that we are to approach those who live under poverty and oppression with atitudes of empathy and charity. We are called, by him, to go to them and serve (yes, serve) them with acts of unqualified kindness, tender gentleness, extravagant generosity, and selfless love.
The fact that they happen to live in a, uh, cesspool, is the very thing that compells us to their side, not away from them. It is the thing that causes us to open our doors to them, not to slam the doors in their face. It is the thing that invites them in, not the thing that shuts them out.
Our Supreme Leader wants to bring into our country only those who have no need and, for many, no desire to come here. Why would they? They have plenteous comfort where are. They have free health care, universal higher education, lower crime rates, safer streets, and a happier citizenry than we have. Besides, even if they wanted to come here, is that really how we make our country great(er), by reaching out only to those who can serve us, who can make us richer, who can contribute to our economy and then go home?
Scripture would seem to indicate that there is a better way. If it is true, if Scripture is trustworthy when it says that we become great as individuals by serving others, by allowing oursleves to be broken and poured out for our neighbors, then how much truer must this be for nations? If we really want to make America great again, then let us do that which we did in the beginning, let us return to the love we had at first. Let us welcome again to our shores those tired, those poor, the wretched refuse, the homeless, tempest-tossed, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
For they are the ones who first made us great and will do so again if, indeed, that is really what we want, as it surely is what God wants for us.
Dean Feldmeyer is the author of 5 novels, 4 non-fiction books, three plays, and over 100 essays, articles, poems, and short stories, some of which can be found on this web site.