This has happened before.
The United States is currently tearing children away from their families at border crossings. The children are detained in a repurposed Walmart warehouse, given 3 meals a day, forced to take classes in English and U.S. Civics, with no guarantee they will be reunited with their parents. The cannot be guaranteed by the government because the Office of Refugee Resettlement reported that of the over 7,000 children placed with sponsors in 2017, 1,475 of those children are now unaccounted for. Lost! How do you recover and return 1,475 immigrant children whose parents may not have legal status, addresses, or any documentation? You don’t.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, IN, used the words of the Apostle Paul of the Bible to justify these actions. “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,”
This has happened before. In fact, in this same country the Bible was used to justify forcibly tearing apart families and a well documented deployment of horrors during American slavery. Slave owners, again, turned to the Apostle Paul’s letter of Ephesians (6:5-7) to justify their actions. “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” The families, first separated from their families on another continent, then again on American soil, are still trying to recreate those family trees from the sparse document scraps available. It is an exercise not unlike trying to reassemble shredded documents to read a message without having all of the shredded pieces.
In 1692, Christians in Massachusetts turned to the Bible again, this time it was the Old Testament books of Leviticus (20:27), to promote hysteria around the ideas that witches existed. Those suspected of witchcraft where imprisoned, tried and executed. This is an event so notorious that even the perpetrator of the current border horrors invokes it to defend himself from what he refers to as a “witch hunt” against him. Sidenote: The phrase “witch hunt” is not synonymous with the word “accountability”.
This has happened before. Throughout history, holy books have been leveraged to justify Inquisitions, Crusades, incursions upon land, violation of treaties, and all manner of horror. There is a discussion to be had about how we read, interpret and use these books. Now is not that time. The idea of cherry picking scriptures to justify established ideas, called ‘proof-texting’, is as old as the book. AG Sessions uses this tactic in his quoting of Romans 13:1. It is a use of a scripture completely devoid of context and ignoring everything around it that challenges Sessions’ interpretation, like verse 10. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulling of the law.”.
Around 50 AD (CE), Paul is in the process of moving his base of operations away from Antioch. He believes Rome will be the new center of gravity for his efforts to continue to spread the news about Jesus, what happened and what it means. One of the challenges he faces is due to the power of Rome, the churches existing in the Capital were house churches (Rom 16:5), disconnected from each other in composition and beliefs. Paul is writing a letter to them to get them to move from focusing on individual matters of importance (i.e. who can eat what, who are God’s people, and following the law) and instead focus on the big picture of what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean.
This is relevant because the audience for the letter are specifically those followers in Rome, the capital of the empire. Sessions’ use of Romans 13:1 seems to suggest that what Paul is saying is citizens must obey the law under all conditions and whether those laws are just or unjust. But Paul is not writing to citizens in an area of unjust law. The brutality of Rome is known, as the empire is spreading to conquer new lands. But that brutality is not required in the capital city. Imagine the United States Border Patrol ripping children away from their families and placing them in detainment facilities in Washington D.C. There would be no need for this because there is no national border around the capital. In the same way, the methods Rome used to move into other lands and assume power were not required methods within the capital. The laws Paul tells those followers to follow would not be those unjust laws the followers would have issue following. Paul is speaking to collections of Jews and Gentiles. The Jewish believers who were accustomed to keeping Torah (the Old Testament law) had a natural question about which laws applied. This letter is trying to get everyone to understand things differently. To the Jewish followers he is saying “it’s ok to follow the Roman law. it won’t disqualify you from this new and incredible thing.” and the Gentile followers he’s saying “it’s ok if they keep the Torah or if you don’t. it won’t disqualify you or them from this new and incredible thing.”
We are witnessing the advancement of white supremacy on our national policies and landscape. Everyday, a new development offers to help us forget the progress of the previous day. As a nation, we seem powerless to stop it but at some point, a stand must be made. If something this horrific can occur in an election year, a time traditionally reserved for actions that ingratiate citizens to their leaders, there is no line our leaders are unwilling to cross. We cannot allow this again.
At many points throughout history, this has happened before. When this happens, it is up to the true followers to hold those in power accountable for their misuse of the holy texts and beliefs. It is up to humans of all belief systems to stand up to this resurgence of evil and hold leaders accountable for their actions. /div>
This has happened before but it does not have to happen now.