Driving with a friend recently who was pulled over by a polite officer for a minor traffic violation, we both sighed in relief that it went so well, with merely a warning. But her little daughter in the back seat dissolved into tears, barely able to gasp, “will mama go to jail?” We reassured and comforted her, but I couldn’t help thinking of the many children for whom an encounter with police doesn’t end so well…
On the first day of school in Mississippi, ICE arrested 680 migrants, many of them parents working to support their children in seven poultry plants. The White House ordered this action only days after a massacre in El Paso targeting immigrants and killing 22 people: could the racist hatred linking the two events be any clearer? Of course there was no forethought about care for the children who returned home and found their parents gone. Volunteers, neighbors and social service agencies are scrambling to care for them, but the children are, understandably, devastated.
When evil is so blatant, it’s easy to become depressed. To re-energize, it helps to focus on the good. For instance, the children of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Canton, Miss. who staged a protest in blistering heat. A sign carried by two Hispanic boys read, “I will not sit in silence while my parents are taken away.” Pastor Mike O’Brien stood with parishioners until 4 am outside the Peco Foods plant, awaiting those freed from custody and driving home several who had hidden from federal agents. Many churches have stepped forward to aid the families, and Bishop Brian Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi said forthrightly, “We are called… to speak the truth. And the truth is, this is not right.” Faith in Action has developed a tool kit to understand the issues and influence Congress: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nMHhSm3c4B7aK8C7jK0STpGeh3UarfbHlK9EZEYw8kA/edit Network’s immigration toolkit may be found at: https://networkadvocates.org/advocacytoolbox/educate/immigrantjustice
This deliberate contempt for hard-working people who happen to have brown skin is a wicked challenge to faith. We know we should “find God in all things,” but in this? Few people have answers, but we can at least fumble towards meaning.
“Jesus wept” and continues to—in the abandoned children, the heartbroken parents, the wretched mess created by apparently unfeeling authorities. And Jesus heals—in courageous protestors, concerned neighbors who make room for one more child in a crowded kitchen, legislators who intervene, teachers and all who try to mitigate the disastrous effects.
For the hundredth time, I turn to Richard Rohr and find his definition of grace: “what God does to keep all things [God] has made in love and alive—forever.” (Immortal Diamond, p. xx) In the larger picture, God is still active. Grace is not fragile nor limited, and in the end will triumph. To this hope, we cling.