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Suffer the Little (Immigrant) Children

Maya Bohnhoff | Nov 30, 2014

PART 1 IN SERIES Crossing Borders

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Maya Bohnhoff | Nov 30, 2014

PART 1 IN SERIES Crossing Borders

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

When you meet a stranger, say, “Yonder is coming to me a letter sent me by God.” The outside of the envelope may be dirty, and torn and broken, but if we could open the envelope of the life that comes before us and look within the envelope and learn to read the writing, we would find in every human soul which crosses our threshold or which is yonder over the man-made national border, a message from God, and if we could understand the message it would be God’s benediction to us. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 6, p. 638.

Read any article, news story or blog discussing the immigration issue and/or the refugee crisis on our southern border, and you will find phrases like the ones below, pulled verbatim from comment threads, blogs, and news stories:

“We need to stop the infestation…”

“We need to stop this plague…”

“If it’s between our citizens and foreign invading kids, my compassion is not for the invaders.”

“…the state of Texas would appear to have the right, not only to use whatever means, whether its troops, even using ships of war, even exacting a tax on interstate commerce that wouldn’t normally be allowed to have or utilize, they’d be entitled in order to pay to stop the invasion.”

The last comment came from an elected official—someone with the authority to make laws. What, I wondered, did this legislator propose the troops and warships do? A professing Christian, his commentary immediately called to mind this verse:

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. – Mark 10:14.

Immigration Rally in Washington

Immigration Rally in Washington

Perhaps the Gospel of Mark misquoted Jesus. Perhaps he really said: “Suffer, the little children who come unto me, and forbid them. Not of such is the kingdom of God.” This would make sense, if you listen to the reactions of protestors in Arizona, California and other states.

One commenter on the above-mentioned legislator’s Facebook page found the idea that we should treat these “invaders” with kindness because Jesus would do so absolutely ridiculous. “Jesus said, ‘Render unto caesar what is caesar’s,’” she wrote, “’and they aren’t rendering.’”

Just for reference, here’s the exact quote: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Mark 22:21.

The words of Christ are pretty clear about what his followers owe God. They ask for obedience, primarily–obedience to a specific law, in fact, which Christ states this way: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” – John 15: 12.

Christ repeats this three times in the same context. In another talk, he notes the difficulty of this ability to love others:

Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate: …Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. – Matthew 7:12-14.

But, the argument goes, these invaders aren’t fellow Americans, which surely trumps the fact that most, if not all of them, are professing Christians (as are a large proportion of the people protesting their presence). Actually, Jesus covers that, too. He says, when asked about the greatest commandment:

The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. – Mark 12: 29-31.

But, the anti-immigrant argument would have you believe, these people aren’t our neighbors. They’re invaders. They’re not even from the neighboring country of Mexico. And Jesus wasn’t talking about how we treat neighboring countries, only neighboring individuals. These individuals come from Guatemala and other points south. They’re not neighbors, at all.

Jesus also dealt with that sort of argument in the story of the Good Samaritan, which makes the point that your neighbor is not just the person who shares your religion, or your ethnicity, or your point of origin, or your language. It may be someone you find “other” in some way—inferior, unwashed, not us, or not U.S.

But, the arguers say, these children are invading our country, which makes them our enemies.

Sorry. Christ covered that one, too:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven… – Matthew 5:43-48.

But, they argue, these South American children are not our enemies, exactly, and therefore aren’t covered by Christ’s teachings. We’re asked to love family, fellow believer, friend, neighbor and enemy, but these little guys fall somewhere between those groups, and therefore we can send troops and warships after them, shake our fists at them, and mob them with bright signs telling them just how unwelcome they are in our country.

Almost as if he knew the situations Christians would encounter in the future, Jesus Christ gave this illustration:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: …Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. …Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: …Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. – Matthew 25:31-46.

Oh, surely Jesus didn’t mean the least of these children from Central America. But if not these, then who? And under what circumstances?

Please follow along as we try to find answers to those questions in the next two essays.

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Comments

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  • Feb 7, 2016
    -
    You write "or the refugee crisis on \'our\' southern border" (having to read on to know where you were talking about).. not everyone reading this is an American. The whole article is about loving our neighbours (unification etc.) but you started with an immediate assumption on the locality of all the readers of this post i.e. not in a neighbourly fashion.
    • Apr 13, 2016
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      Sorry, Vahid. I promise to be more careful next time. :)
  • Nov 30, 2014
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    You are right! We are one family, humanity is one family. We don't have to love or even like every member of the family but if he needs help we should help him.
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