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Pace: Our leaders need to know forced separations don’t line up with our gospel

A couple of days ago I did something I should do more often. I called my congressmen, Reps. Hank Johnson and Jody Hice, as well as Georgia’s U.S. senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson.

A lot of people complain that contacting our representatives is unproductive, but it’s one of the ways in which we exercise our freedom in a democracy. It’s one of the ways we bring our own values to bear on a conversation with decision-makers who enact the policies under which we live. It’s also one of the ways I, as a Christian, can raise my voice to an injustice that goes against the sheer core of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the last weeks we’ve learned more and more about how children and parents are separated from one another when they are detained at the border or otherwise. This is not necessarily new news, but the practice is becoming so common that it’s finally attracting the media coverage that’s making us more aware. When parents from other countries arrive with children, including ones seeking asylum, they’re detained and the children are being separated from them and turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services. This is a Trump administration policy and one this administration also has the power to stop. They should do so immediately.

Biblical texts have been used to justify these horrific actions. I could use counter texts to offer justification as to why this is an unjust policy. I could write about how Jesus valued children and reminded his followers of the importance of giving children a central place in the family and community. He did this even though the culture undervalued them.

I could share with you texts from biblical prophets who remind us, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless” (Isaiah 10:1-3 NIV).

We could look at Paul’s letters and how he teaches us this gospel of which he has been made a minister is a gospel of love. He reminds us in Romans 13:9 that all the commandments are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Maybe there’s another way to read the Bible, though. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, encouraged his community to take into account the whole tenor of the biblical text rather than plucking out specific parts to justify your message. Today, I think this means context is important. The context in which you find yourself, but also the context in which the biblical text was written.

It’s important to also look at the context of the Scripture we’re using. For instance, what are the stories that come just before and after the text we’re looking at? How do they give meaning or change what we see in the text we’ve landed on? If we look at the whole of the biblical text, it’s clear it leans toward love— that, in the end, we are to build up one another and treat others as we would want to be treated. The spirit of this sentiment is found throughout our major religions.

That, and the encouragement of my friend Julie, is why I can’t keep silent. Now it’s my turn to encourage others.

Call your local representative and say you are NOT supportive of parent-child separation, and that you want to know what they’re doing on this issue.

Call Rep. Hank Johnson at 202-225-1605 or Rep. Jody Hice at 202-225-4101.

Contact Sen. Johnny Isakson at 202-224-3643 and Sen. David Perdue at 202-224-3521.

Separating children from their parents is not the gospel of love or humane.

The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University.