I sat down to write about something else, but that topic will have to wait because I keep coming back to those children.
Of course, I’m referring to those children at the United States southern border who are being taken away from their parents, from the only security they’ve had in their already chaotic and dangerous worlds. And then, if reports are correct, those caring for them are prohibited by federal regulation from comforting them. They cannot reach out to soothe a terrified child by holding them or hugging them. No one gets rocked to sleep there.
Think about this the next time your child or grandchild or niece or nephew awakens from a bad dream, screaming with fright, Imagine not taking them into your arms, rubbing their backs and rocking them back to calm. Imagine leaving them in their room alone with their terror.
Many of those children showed up at our borders because their families are fleeing worlds of chaos, danger and trauma. Whatever the particular circumstances, these children are being deprived of their only safe connection. In so doing, in the name of the United States of America, children are being traumatized and abused. It doesn’t matter if they are being housed at Club Med (which they’re not). The sudden, forced separation is traumatic.
We’re learning a lot about trauma these days, thanks to advanced brain imaging. We’re learning that trauma rewires the brain, literally changing it. We’re learning how deeply trauma settles into our bodies, and researchers are now considering how many illnesses may in fact have their roots in early childhood trauma. We are changing the course of the rest of the lives of these children in ways we cannot predict nor imagine.
God loves those children, and for God’s sake, we are compelled to love them as well.
No child is a bargaining chip. Not in a nasty divorce battle. And not in defending our borders. I believe that no government should operate as hostage taker, threatening to harm the children if their demands are not met. The irony is that not only will this not protect us but in the long run it will create more enemies. When these children grow up, I can only imagine that a few, if any, will be our defenders and supporters.
Sunday morning, in the hallway between Bible study and choir warm-up, a friend and I were commiserating about how hard this following Jesus stuff is, what with his command to pray for our enemies and the like. I keep trying to get out of this command to pray for those whom I don’t particularly like — and some whom I very deeply and actively dislike — with no success. Following this Jesus is hard because sometimes in our world the answers are complex and complicated.
Except this time.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, whether Democrat or Republican or neither, whether conservative or liberal or something else, whether or not we celebrate the “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in our sanctuaries, we have to stand up for the sanctity of these human lives.
As I was writing this, something else kept hanging around my mind. It’s a haunting line from an anthem the choir sang on Sunday, words that were originally scribbled on a wall by a Holocaust victim:
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
As we sang those words over and over, a picture flashed in my brain. It was a picture of a child screaming, a child alone, a child abused at the border. It nearly slayed me right there in the choir loft. My knees got weak, and it was all I could do to stay standing, all I could do not to wail the words as I fell into a heap.
Little children, let us love those little children not only in word but also in deed.