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“Someone is lying,” I told my son last Wednesday night as I kept flipping channels between the U.S. news networks and the Mexican ones. The major news was Donald Trump’s day trip to Mexico as well as his evening immigration speech in Arizona. Early that day, Trump flew to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to discuss important issues that affect both nations, chief among them the topic of immigration. The news broadcasts reported that during a joint press conference Trump affirmed that they did not discuss the issue of who would pay for the construction of a border wall. However, the Mexican news showed an interview with Peña Nieto saying that he had been very clear with Trump that Mexico would not pay for the wall. It was obvious from the reports that someone was lying.
Most likely we will never know the truth about what really happened in this private meeting. What we know is that one of them is lying. It did not surprise me, since both, Trump and Peña Nieto have had incidents, conscious or unconscious, overt or covert, where they have tampered with the truth by hiding it, failing to tell it completely, changing it, or manipulating it.
My heart ached after watching this news. I did not hurt for the lies; I am used to them, at least coming from these two men. My heart hurt for the people.
Many Mexican nationals were furious with President Peña Nieto. They were disappointed that the president had invited Trump. They were enraged that during the press conference their president had not confronted Trump and his ideas more aggressively. They were offended with Trump’s rhetoric. In fact, they have been upset with him since the beginning of Trump’s campaign when he described Mexicans as drug dealers, rapists and criminals.
My heart ached when I watched many U.S. citizens become excited as Trump delivered an immigration speech permeated with hate, intolerance, prejudice, uniformity and egocentrism. It was disturbing to observe how hate can stimulate the masses. I was even more distressed remembering the historical tragedies and atrocities that have happened when hate is the main motivator in society.
My heart ached, too, when I thought about the pain, fear and uncertainty that undocumented people in the United States must have felt with the news of that day.
My heart ached because I came as an immigrant to this country, and I know, to a certain extent, the struggles that this group experiences. My heart ached because I am a proud dual citizen with strong roots and connections in both countries. It pains me to see and hear about actions that promote division and hate between the citizens of these neighboring countries.
At this point, some of my readers on both sides of the border may be thinking: “Well, her loyalties are divided. She has a foot here and the other one there. She is not clear with whom she needs to side.”
While it is true that I exist in a multifaceted reality which I describe as extremely rich, it comes with its own challenges. However, I believe that these challenges are not that different from the ones of any Christian who is called, in his/her own particularities, to live according to the values of God’s reign. So, the real issue here is not about loyalties to earthly leaders or nations, but about loyalty to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and what is expressed in the Bible. In this sense, every faithful Christian, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, faces the same test.
On the subject of immigrants and refugees, the Bible keeps saying:
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:33-34).
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10).
For the Lord your God is … who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:21).
I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35).
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14)
In addition to these verses, the Bible alludes to heroes and heroines who had to migrate to find the needed safety and refuge in order to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives, among them Abram (Genesis 12: 1, 10), Jacob (Genesis 46:1-7), Ruth (Ruth 1:15-22), and Jesus and his family (Matthew 2:13-15). As they migrated God protected them and provided for them.
Now, some may say, but the Bible mentions, too, about obeying earthly authorities and laws (Romans 13:1-7). However, as Christians our first loyalty is to God’s decrees, thus we must strive to promote earthly laws that support God’s values, and change/abolish those that contradict them (Acts 5:29).
But Wednesday’s news about Trump goes beyond the issues of lying and immigration. It is about hate, mistrust, suspicion, intolerance, uniformity and egocentrism. It is about creating a hateful environment that will open the door to an evil spirit that will stay with us as a nation for years to come, and will eventually turn against us, not some of us, but all of us, no exception.
Normally I try to stay away from people who lie and gossip. If they lie openly before me about something or someone, I know that eventually they will lie to me, too. If someone gossips with me about someone, I know that eventually they will gossip about me. I believe the same case applies to Trump’s rhetoric. If a person instigates a hateful spirit before me against someone else, I know that eventually this same hate will turn against me for the most unexpected reason.
When hate is promoted nobody is safe. Eventually, we will all be the victims of this hate rhetoric.
It is indeed a challenging election season, but regardless of the season or the events, the constant call for the faithful Christian continues to be the promotion of God’s values of justice, peace, love, mercy, abundant life, hospitality and truth. May God help us to imitate these values now and in the years to come. Amen!