“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
A recent comment on what has been the most read blog entry to date on this site, ICE Raid in Laurel MS, made a statement that I was “veiling my liberal philosophy behind a facade of religious love.” I responded to this by stating that I was not veiling my liberal philosophy and that I claimed my stance on Biblical teaching. I then quoted the above quote.
The person felt that undocumented people had no rights, no inalienable rights as declared by our most sacred civil documents. They broke the law and therefore must be rounded up and deported, end of story. Does this also mean that we are to have no compassion? No sense of moral decency in our treatment of these people? The families who have had their husbands and wives taken into custody, have no ability to buy food, they will not be able to maintain their shelter because their income is now gone. Is this what it means to be an American; to turn our backs on the stranger in our lands? Is this who we have become? Have our hearts really grown this cold towards the face of suffering?
The writer re-iterates an argument for the clapping that occurred as these workers were rounded up. It was mentioned in previous comments that the clapping was done only because a law was being enforced. I suggested clapping at that moment was a rejoicing at the misfortune of others.
Which message was sent to those being carried away by ICE agents? Clapping because a law was upheld or clapping because these people are getting what they deserve? I still believe the latter was sent. It stated, ‘you are not welcome here.’ It stated, ‘what happens to you is not of my concern.’ It stated, ‘you are not a person that I identify as having human worth.’ This is the message the clapping sent. And it goes against the commandment that is expressed in Leviticus 19.
There is a growing trend in the south and elsewhere in the country to demonize groups of people. I see it in our congregations when conservative religious topics are brought up. I see it in the conservative media reports of Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and others. We need to stop this nonsense.
Bill Moyers did a PBS story on the events that occurred in sister congregation in Knoxville, TN. In a letter written by Jim Adkisson, he blames the liberals for his woes and states that because he could not get to the elected liberals, he was going to target to kill those liberals who voted for them. Bill Moyers examines the virulent messages that are being sent out by the media that may have spurred Jim Adkisson on to commit a such violent act. It is a disturbing report with graphic hate language against groups of people, immigrants and liberals among them.
There is a way to disagree with presenting points of view without succumbing to demonizing language that seeks to strip the humanity from a person or group of peoples. That way is to honor the person who is speaking as being more than just the words they are saying. To listen to what is being said behind the words to what the real message is.
I am hearing fear. That ubiquitous emotion that takes on a form of a ghoul and devours a person’s heart if they are not careful. When the heart is devoured then there is no telling what the person may end up doing. Clapping at the arrest of co-workers seems pretty benign on the onset but it was, I believe fear that instigated the events at Howard Industries. Fear of loss of jobs. Fear of not being able to support families. Fear of not recognizing ones community as it becomes bi-lingual.
Listening intently to the radical right on talk radio spew their hatred at groups of people is a more invasive fear that corrupts the heart. Listening to the radical left do the same in return has the same result. If one begins to believe this fear is based in a real threat, then people begin to act on these hateful words the radical right and radical left spew. That is when fear has won the soul and spirit of a person, of a community. We only need to look at Rwanda and Darfur for recent examples of how fear spewed from the media engendered a people to place into action a genocide. Germany is now too distant a memory to see how they used their messages of hatred to blame the Jews for their economic problems.
And America is in trouble economically. Another bank collapses due to faulty management practices and gas prices rocket to all time highs of over $5 a gallon; people will be looking for a scapecoat for their woes. It is not hard to imagine where the radical right will be looking to place blame. Yet, we are all accountable for our current economy. As the cartoon character Pogo from the 1940′s to 1970′s said, ”we have met the enemy and he is us.”
We are our own worst enemy. And that acknowledgement alone should engender some compassion on those who are in the minority among us. Getting rid of them is not the answer. It does not solve the problems that our system has institutionalized into our fabric of being. Blaming groups of people is an immature way of solving problems. We used it when we were kids and it didn’t work then. So why would we think it would work now?
One of Unitarian Universalists’ forebears, Francis David of 16th century Hungary, is quoted as saying, “We do not need to think alike to love alike.” May we begin to emphasis the loving alike in how we live our daily lives. Blessings,
Postscript: In case some of my readers think that what I am writing here is just a liberal religious point of view I offer you these following links of more conservative (conservative to Unitarian Universalists) Christian faiths who are seeking to live out the commandment in Leviticus 19:34: Disciples of Christ ; Roman Catholic Church and there is an excellent video on the blog site of Jim Wallis, leader of Sojourners, a conservative Christian community in Washington, DC.