“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:17-19
“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’” – Matthew 2:13-15
I remember through the seasons of The Walking Dead watching how Rick started as a person who wanted to stay as ethical as possible. As time passed and the situation wore on, Rick makes decisions in which his community unilaterally chooses to attack people in another group. While the others appeared more toxic, Rick and his followers forgot their system of ethics. To them, the end justified the means. Killing people out of a vague fear was a better decision than waiting to see what would happen next.
I feel that as Americans we have reached – or are at least nearing – this point once again. There have been times in the past which we have sunk this low. As Native Americans were slaughtered, slavery of people of color was encouraged, and people of Japanese ancestory were placed in internment camps, we were, without a doubt, the “bad guy.”
We acted out of fear and used privilege to invade our hearts. And now we watch refugees fleeing from dangerous parts of Latin America, and we refuse to have constructive conversations about this situation. When children are separated from their parents and kept in cages, we’ve reached an ethical valley. We’ve chosen to allow America to sink into the hole of injustice and fear once again.
We can’t just pretend that we are the “good guys” all of the time just because we are America. When we oppress aliens/sojourners/immigrants as well as widows/single moms and orphans/marginalized children, then we are absolutely not the “good guy.” I remember as children that we were taught that America was the best country and how fortunate to have been born here. As we got older, we heard history beyond the victor’s side. We’ve seen how America is the best country… but not for most Americans much of the time.
Back in the days of the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites always believed that God was on their side. But the prophets disagreed. As they left behind the widows, orphans, and aliens, God was not in favor of their actions.
So when unethical and marginalizing behaviors are being done in the name of America or the name of God, we must embrace a collective self-awareness that helps us to articulate that we have much room to change and grow. Just because we identify as American or Christian doesn’t automatically make us right when unhealthy actions are being done to others. If we wouldn’t treat Jesus this way, then why is it fine to treat others in the same manner?
Friends, it’s time for us to work together to end this reign of fear. It’s time for us to embrace the radical hospitality of Jesus. If we don’t, our country will keep regressing, and it’s spiritual flags will continue to become worn. By moving from exclusively nationalistic to inclusively patriotic, from fully autonomous to covenantal, and from fearful to embracing holy vulnerability, we will build the New Heaven and Earth God visions for our world.