Summer time and the living is easy…so goes the song lyric. When I was a kid in elementary school living in Kansas City, MO, summer time was a time when good memories got made. Some of those memories are related to the fourth of July celebrations, that in my youthful innocence and ignorance I took part in with great enthusiasm. The Earliest July fourth memories are of the little black “snakes” that were the very first fireworks I was allowed to light. I have no idea how they work, but a little black pill shaped thing when lit would stretch out into a snakelike object. They were barely titillating even for a small child. Later we kids were given sparklers to run around with. We could be seen spinning frantically and making streaks of light with the lit end. Far more satisfactory and active than the black snakes! Sometime around fourth grade I was allowed to have “Black Cats” firecrackers and smoke bombs to play with. We were given a “punk,” which was like an unscented stick of incense, with which to light our smoke bombs and fire crackers. All of us boys, me, a very young uncle,and my first cousin, were old enough by then to stage miniature wars with the fireworks. We’d twist two or three Black Cats together and try to blow up little plastic army men, unwittingly glorifying warfare, or would stick them by mole holes in the yard and light them. When it got dark, we’d get some lawn furniture and look across the sky towards the stadium where the Kansas City Royals played to watch the fireworks display at the ballpark. Other summers my sister and I would go down to southern Missouri to visit our other grandparents and that would coincide with the Independence Day celebrations. One year, my sister’s dad lit a Roman Candle firework, and it fell over before it had finished its miniature explosions. One of the flaming balls came right towards us. I remember jumping instinctively over it as it flew towards Gramps who was wearing open toed sandals. He got a burned foot as a result. Ah, summer…
Memories of childhood frivolity can sometimes belie or obscure our perceptions of childhood. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) can lead to mental health or addiction issues later in life, especially when ACES become a normal part of a child’s existence. Such it was for me. Though I do have plenty of memories of good times, my childhood was replete with ACES that were bad enough that I ended up with Complex PTSD and have subsequently been dealing with the repercussions of that ever since. The adults in my life sometimes failed spectacularly to heed the words of Jesus when he said that putting stumbling blocks in front of children would bring about woe for those who do such things (Matthew 18:6-8; Luke 17:2). They’d be better off putting a millstone around their necks before jumping into the sea in fact according to Jesus.
What kind of stumbling blocks are being put in front of the children in Trump’s concentration camps? What are the depths to levels of harm being perpetuated by those unscrupulous people who are profiting from these concentration camps where children of God are being held in squalid and emotionally eviscerating conditions that create the kind of toxic stress that leads to Complex PTSD, which is a huge millstone. The people running these camps are creating a phony crisis in order to make enormous profits on human misery. That’s right, these concentration camps are being run by private corporations who are given government contracts to “detain” people. Think about that for half a second. These companies can only be profitable if there are large numbers of people to detain. In other words, they have ZERO incentive to move asylum seekers or other immigrants through the system with efficiency because to do so would be to lose money. These shareholders, corporate execs, and now government agencies are complicit is putting stumbling blocks in front of every child in those concentration camps.
As America celebrates its independence from England, patriotic fervor is seen as laudable by most Americans. Theologically and historically speaking however, it is not. This nation was founded upon white supremacy which led to the genocide of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans, and was maintained by a white, landowning androcratic form of government that has never once lived up to the rhetoric of freedom so often espoused by politicians and patriots. Today the current occupant of the White House continues to sink America further into a satanic abyss with his narcissistic display of military power in Washington D.C. and his obnoxious, blatantly racist tweets about immigrants in the concentration camps. We as a nation are in grave danger of judgement according to Matthew 25:31-46 for what we do to the least of these, we do unto Jesus himself. Jesus is to be found in the concentration camps with the Spanish speaking asylum seekers and immigrants seeking a better life, who are fleeing conditions often created by U.S. foreign policy (see chapters five and six of Go Golden for more historical background). Americans are abdicating their Biblical responsibilities towards the immigrant, sojourner, and alien in their lands as attested to many verses in the Bible. We as a nation have allowed the creation of intentionally manufactured harm and continue to do it as a for-profit enterprise.
I truly believe that if Jesus were he here would not be ooohing and aaahing over fireworks or celebrating with a burger and a cold beer. He’d likely be emptying the concentration camps, chasing off the harm-profiteers, and healing the bodily and mental hurts of God’s children who have been unlawfully, brutally, and cruelly detained in them. We must, we absolutely must, see every single immigrant as a child of God. They are not, nor should they ever be referred to in dehumanizing terms like “illegals” or any variation on that language. Similarly, we must call these concentration camps what they are. Words matter and are powerful. There is no mistaking what a concentration camp is. It is evocative of human misery, suffering, avarice, hatred, ignorance, and evil. That is exactly what is happening on our border on this fourth of July holiday. It has happened before with Japanese Americans during World War II and to native Americans who were forced onto reservations and into schools run by white people whose job it was to “take the Indian out of the Indian.” We must do better and now.
As Christians, we are called to nonviolently resist evil, empire, and systems of oppression. It’s past time that people of faith answered that call en masse with grace, peace, and the willingness to take up our crosses because that’s the gig according to Yeshua.
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