Donald Trump promised, “We’re going to show great heart,” and it is time to keep that promise. The fate of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) hangs on the balance as ten states have challenged its legitimacy in court and it is not clear whether or not the Trump administration will do anything to defend it.
What is gained — for the United States, for individual states, for business, for communities — if DACA is allowed to lapse? I can think of nothing that could be gained. We would no safer. We would be no richer. We would be no truer to our democratic heritage.
But we have much to lose! We could lose the dreams and talents and contributions and goodwill of these hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have been “virtual” Americans all their lives. And we would lose something of the “soul” of our nation: our compassion for vulnerable people, our welcome of homeless people, our belief in justice for all, our vision of making “one out of many.”
It’s clear. It’s specific. It’s indisputable. Jesus said this is what righteous people do.
The author of the gospel of Matthew places this message at the end of the twenty-fifth chapter, just before beginning the account of Jesus’ last days — his passion, his arrest, trail, and execution. These are Jesus’ “final words,” his “parting message,” to his followers. This is what matters. It is by this standard that you will be measured. “I was hungry and you fed me.”
But when did we ever see the Lord hungry and feed him? Whenever you did this for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me. That is Jesus’ message. Clear. Specific. Not metaphorical, but quite literal. You see a hungry person? Feed her and you feed me.
I was overcome with grief and horror when I read about the plight of the people of the Horn of Africa as I was doing research for last Sunday’s sermon. Twenty million people in Somalia and South Sudan and Yemen at risk of severe famine. The equivalent of the entire population of Iowa and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Missouri combined, all starving to death.
If that were indeed true here, we would think it a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. It is a crisis of apocalyptic proportions! I could not do nothing: “I was hungry and you fed me.” If you want to do something, consider a gift to the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), a relief organization based in Minneapolis. A gift of $150 supplies one family with a relief package that includes a “food basket, nutrition packs for children, and water“ (https://araha.org/drought-relief-2/).
1) Miami-Dade prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle declined to press charges in the case of Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic prison inmate who died in June 2012 after being locked in a hot shower for two hours, saying that “the evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff.”
witnesses [interviewed by the Miami Herald] including a nurse on duty that night, and several inmates interviewed by the Herald over the past two years, have said that two corrections officers, Cornelius Thompson and Roland Clark, forced Rainey into an enclosed, locked shower stall and that the water had been cranked as high as 180 degrees from a neighboring room, where the heat controls were. … Rainey screamed in terror and begged to be let out for more than an hour until he collapsed and died.
when his body was pulled out, nurses said there were burns on 90 percent of his body. A nurse said his body temperature was too high to register with a thermometer. And his skin fell off at the touch.
Rainey was serving a two-year sentence for cocaine possession.
When a mentally-ill minor drug offender is imprisoned, does he forfeit all his rights, all his human rights, including the right to live? Who protects him? (If not us?) Who will ensure him justice? (If not us?)
2) Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced last Thursday that she will not pursue death sentences for any capital cases during her time in office. That earned her a angry rebuke from Florida governor Rick Scott who removed from her jurisdiction the high profile case of a man charged with killing a police officer, saying she “has made it clear that she will not fight for justice.”
Because only a death satisfies justice? If blood revenge is the only means of “fighting for justice” (which is what the death penalty is, after all, blood revenge), what does that say about us?
Death sentences are notoriously inequitable in their application, do not provide any deterrence, cost taxpayers more, do not bring “resolution” to grieving families, rather, and as Ayala observed, “cases drag on for years, adding to victims’ anguish.” Could it be that refusing to pursue death sentences is in fact “fighting for justice?” Because the question remains, beyond any concerns about fairness and effectiveness, is killing by the state just? Or is it an overreach and abuse of power and a corrosive threat to our humanity?
Which of these prosecutors is fighting for justice? Which showed courage? Which represents the best of who we are as human beings?
The message I sent today to Senators Grassley and Ernst and Representative Blum:
A new travel ban is expected to be issued any day now. Such a ban is not necessary, does not make us any safer, is ill-intentioned, hurts our international standing, and betrays the best of our national heritage. I do hope you will not let party loyalty trump your good sense, your patriotism, and your defense of justice.
Do not mistreat a foreigner; you know how it feels to be a foreigner, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
The Lord does not show partiality, and the Lord does not accept bribes. The Lord makes sure that orphans and widows are treated fairly; the Lord loves the foreigners who live with our people, and gives them food and clothes. So then, show love for those foreigners, because you were once foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
Do not deprive foreigners and orphans of their rights; and do not take a widow’s garment as security for a loan. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God set you free. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)
Stop taking advantage of aliens, orphans, and widows. (Jeremiah 7:6)
The Lord protects the strangers who live in our land. (Psalm 146:9)
Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. (Romans 12:13)
Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are. (Hebrews 13:2-3)
The King will say … “Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.” The righteous will then answer him, “When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” (Matthew 25:34-40)
A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”
The man answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”
But the teacher of the Law … asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Except no more. No more the “mother of exiles.” No more a world-wide welcome. The lamp has been set down and the gates closed. If you are from Syria or Iran or Libya or Yemen or Iraq or Somalia or Sudan – stay away! We don’t want you! We won’t welcome you!
We are not turning away terrorists. We are turning away their victims. And we are betraying our nation’s heritage.
We need to speak up. We need to object. We need to say: “This is not who we are!”
When you fight fire with fire, that’s what you get: more fire. When you fight fire with fire, you are no different than your enemy. When you counter something immoral with something immoral, you are immoral. This is not a partisan issue. This is a moral issue. Torture is NEVER the right thing to do. Torture is a betrayal of everything we claim as a nation to stand for: justice, certain inalienable human rights, and the rule of law.
Torture harms not only those who are tortured; it also damages the souls of those who torture and of those who turn aside and allow people to be tortured.
In 2015, a new law authored by Senators John McCain & Dianne Feinstein and passed by Congress permanently banned the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding and sexual humiliation, that were part of the CIA’s torture program.
We call upon President Trump and his Administration to follow U.S. law and common decency by respecting the dignity and worth of each human being and rejecting torture in every way.