In his speech to CPAC on Friday President Donald Trump employed the same tone and style as he did on the campaign trail. It was predictably boring as he revealed himself to be the puppet of those much smarter and more sophisticated than him.
Just two days after having a listening session with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School he continued to parrot the NRA talking point that the solution to gun violence in schools is arming a select group of teaches. Despite that fact that students, teachers, law enforcement, and military personnel are nearly unanimously against this, Trump’s ears deaf to their pleas. Even though he read off his little card, “I hear you,” all he really hears is the sound of NRA blood money flowing into his accounts.
Then near the end of his stream of consciousness diatribe of lies, President Trump read singer and social activist Oscar Brown Jr.’s song “The Snake” with great passion and conviction. Listening to his voice, it was palpable that the anti-immigrant spin he placed on these words resonated deep within him.
At a time when Congress is trying to work out a deal for Dreamers and address other issues regarding our nation’s immigration system, this was especially offensive and ludicrous.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections end in a week, because of Donald Trump’s actions last September. Though this action is currently blocked in the courts, it is imperative that something be done so these young adults have certainty they can continue to work, go to school, serve in our armed forces, and be with their families.
Getting any action done this week on DACA is going to be unlikely. There is still not a plan that can pass both houses of Congress. And since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, much attention has rightly been given to the epidemic of gun violence in our country and the repeated failures to address the scourge on our society.
The indefatigable activism over the past 10 days of the students who survived the February 14 massacre in their high school is changing the landscape. It is clear that the cycle of thoughts and prayers that fade into forgetfulness is not going to happen. Business are already dropping the NRA seeing any ongoing relationship as toxic for their brand. And the students show no signs of giving up until significant progress is made towards curbing gun violence not just in schools but throughout society.
However, it is not likely there will be any meaningful debate or bill will that be passed this week to address gun violence either, despite the promises of some, because Congress will be shut down for two days while the Rev. Billy Graham’s casket lies in honor in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday.
His brand of Evangelical Christianity is not the state religion, despite his efforts and that of several others to marry conservative Evangelical Christianity with Republican politics.
The Rev. Graham’s counsel to president’s over the decades and his influence on American culture and life are notable. And regardless of whether one agrees or not with his interpretation of the gospel or his public policy views, honoring his life should not shut down Congress for two days.
This week as Black History Month comes to a close we can continue to honor the legacy of people like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. As we dream of a more inclusive tomorrow we can remember that “we are not all immigrants.” We can continue to talk about white privilege and our nation’s original sin of racism. We can consider how these play into our policy visions for both addressing our country’s unique epidemic of gun violence and comprehensive immigration reform.
While Trump disgustingly wants to equate immigrants with a poisonous snake, build a ridiculous wall, and end an immigration program designed to keep families together, it may be helpful to recall what scripture has to say about how the foreigner is to be treated. After all most of the people supporting these grotesque policies also claim to be Christians.
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22.21
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23.9
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 19.34
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 leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 23.22
You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. Deuteronomy 24.14
You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Deuteronomy 24.17
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings. Deuteronomy 24.19
When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Deuteronomy 24.20
When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Deuteronomy 24.21
In the context of these verses we may well read alien as foreigner or even immigrant or refugee into today’s context for the emphasis is on caring for the vulnerable in society and treating them in ways that are just. Dare we add Dreamer to the list? Dare we expand the agrarian context of many of these passages to our public policies that are made to protect the vulnerable? And as the scriptures make clear this gracious treatment is born out of remembering when we though our ancestors were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Jesus summed these and all the commandments in his great commandment to love God and love our neighbor. It all finally does come down to love, compassion, understanding, and kindness.
I am left wondering where are all the Christians so captivated with the gospel of Jesus Christ because of the Rev. Graham’s charismatic character. I fear too many are cheering in the crowds at CPAC for speeches that are contrary to the faith and not enough are standing with Dreamers and the students of Parkland, Florida, for it is in their suffering and struggle that Jesus Christ is found.
Donald Trump may call them snakes and only pretend to hear their pleas, but God in Jesus Christ calls them all beloved and never fails to hear their suffering cries.
It is it time to act for all of God’s beloved. It is time to act. It is time.