“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds. We have become cunning and learned the arts of obfuscation and equivocal speech…. Unbearable events have worn us down or even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?”
These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his fellow pastor-resisters during Christmas 1942 should pull us up short even today and remind us of our own failings.
Confronted with family separations at the border, automatic detentions, dangerous dehumanizing rhetoric from our highest office and authoritarian misappropriations of scripture from our highest attorney, many churches and Christian leaders have remained silent witnesses. Three fourths of white evangelicals continue to support these policies.
Other churches and Christian leaders have responded with appropriate outrage. We’ve said, this is not who we are — as Americans or as Christians. But Bonhoeffer’s words should compel us to take a deeper look at ourselves, at our history, and acknowledge that this is not true.
The truth is, this is who we are. First, this is who we are as Americans. I recently visited El Salvador with my church, Calvary Baptist, in Washington, D.C. One thing that was clear to me is that the current violence rocking that beautiful country and those resilient people — the violence that most immigrants are fleeing — is a result of destabilizing U.S. policy and intervention in the region. Our government is responsible for causing much of the crisis in Central America and is now turning its back and border on those seeking its help.
Second, this is who we are as Christians. This is our collective history. The white nationalism fueling these racist policies and rhetoric is the result of the church’s long history of white supremacy. The church gave white supremacy to the world, to the U.S., and sat back and watched as it justified African slavery, southern lynchings and cold indifference to those suffering, if they did not look like us. This is who we have been and who we are, but this is not who we are meant to be.
For us to be faithful witness to the gospel, we have to confess these uncomfortable truths. For us to be of any use to God’s mission of liberation, we must stand firm, in solidarity with those who are being oppressed, with no tolerance for a racist and unjust “zero tolerance” policy.
Our gospel is a message of love, peace, justice and liberation to the 2,000 children scared and searching for their parents, to the thousands desperately fleeing death and oppression in search of a new home, to the countless members of our communities who live in constant fear of being sent back to a land that is no longer their home and, yes, even liberation to an administration operating just a few blocks from my church that is bound by authoritarian aspirations and white nationalist fears.
We must say to our elected officials and to all the Christians who continue to support these unbiblical, unjust policies: Yes, families belong together, but they do not belong together in prisons. Yes, laws are made to be followed, but an unjust law is no law at all. Yes, the gospel is the good news of love and peace, but love and peace without justice is no good news.
On Saturday, June 30, rallies will take place in cities across the country. If you would like an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those who have been detained at the border or are still separated from their families, please join one of these “Families Belong Together” rallies. Or, if you are unable to attend a rally, consider signing this “All Rights for All, Without Borders” petition.
We follow a Teacher and a Savior who said, “Let the little children come to me, and DO NOT stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Matthew 19:14). Today, the little children include those fleeing violence, poverty and oppression; those burdened by a long, hard journey in search of a life more abundant; and those trying to escape systems of oppression that we helped to conjure.