NEWS UPDATE: Some of the caravan of brown-skinned invaders have made it to our border, intent on overthrowing the last vestiges of a free America.
Surely you remember this caravan. Just before the mid-terms, our TVs and social media blew up with warnings from politicians and pundits, their collective hair afire.
Hordes of Central Americans were bent on reaching the United States, they told us. Although in news footage the caravan looked like a bunch of scared men desperate for work, pregnant women and underfed children, it in fact had been infiltrated by everyone from ISIS to MS-13. Plus it carried the rabies, the scabies and the smallpox.
Only the re-election of Republicans could stop the mob from storming the ramparts of the USA! USA! USA! and forcing us all, at the point of a machete, to adopt Sharia law and line dance to mariachi music.
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President Trump, sounding like Winston Churchill dispatching the RAF to block the Luftwaffe, sent forth our military. If the infidels so much as threw a rock at our troops, he vowed, we’d mow’em down and stack the bodies like cordwood.
Then the election passed and — crickets.
I puzzled for days: Where did the invaders go?
Did they melt into the desert in despair once they learned Ted Cruz had defeated Beto O’Rourke?
Did they realize that, with Ted firmly ensconced in office, there was no chance they’d be able to make Texas Baptists trade their Bibles for Qurans?
Did they crate up their suicide vests and go home, dragging their hungry toddlers behind them?
No. An internet search has confirmed that, indeed, much of the caravan remains on its meandering journey, with its first members arriving in Tijuana by bus earlier this week. Its huddled masses are still desperate to touch our soil and breathe free.
I imagine that once the larger group does arrive, our administration will rip its nursing infants from their mothers’ arms and jail them in kiddie concentration camps, to save us all from — something. I’m rarely sure what the government actually wants to save us from.
Granted, I’m no expert on immigration policy. I do realize we can’t take in everybody who comes knocking. There are only so many rooms at our inn, as it were. We have rules and the rules should be followed. I get that.
What I don’t get is our bug-eyed fear of these folks. Or the meanness that results from that fear.
Snatching children from their parents and sticking them in internment camps is cruelty for its own sake. Threatening to shoot down desperate, poor people fleeing systemic poverty and violence is barbarism.
Here’s my personal fear about immigration. I fear our current actions toward immigrants may send us, individually and collectively, straight to a burning hell where the fire is never extinguished and the worm never dies.
Yes, to that hell. Not a figurative one, the literal one.
I’m not exaggerating. I promise I’m not.
Because, while I’m not a prophet, I am a long-time student of the Bible. Old and New Testaments alike tell us — over and again — that hardly anything chafes God as thoroughly as the ill treatment of displaced foreigners.
Here’s a sampling:
Some scholars say the Genesis story about God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is, contrary to popular interpretations, really about their residents’ failure to welcome two strangers (who happen to be angels). Righteous Lot takes the two men into his home, fulfilling the ancient Middle Eastern custom of hospitality toward outsiders. But other locals try to drag the men out of Lot’s house and rape them.
When God rains fire and brimstone on those cities, Lot and his family are spared; everyone else is immolated. This story has often been used as a cudgel against gay people, since the intended assaults against the strangers are homosexual in nature, but scholars say that dimension is secondary at best. The central violation is that the residents mistreated two sojourners seeking refuge.
One entire book of the Old Testament, Ruth, is a treatise on the proper treatment of immigrants. The title character and her mother-in-law flee their country to escape a famine. In a new land, they encounter a kindly farmer named Boaz, who feels compassion for them, feeds them from his own crops and protects them from opportunists who would abuse them. Ruth and Boaz eventually fall in love, marry — and become the ancestors of Jesus. Boaz is considered righteous because he welcomed these homeless wanderers.
Jeremiah prophesies to his nation about God’s burning anger toward it and warns of its impending destruction. At the top of Jeremiah’s list of his countrymen’s offenses: they’ve oppressed aliens, orphans and widows.
The New Testament book of Hebrews admonishes us to unfailingly show hospitality to strangers, pointing out (apparently in a reference to Lot in Genesis) that we may find we’ve entertained angels without realizing it.
Jesus himself, in defining who’ll get into heaven and who’ll be cast into perdition, describes the saved like this: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ ”
Those who didn’t act charitably will be cast into hell, he says — including, presumably, those who rejected strangers.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
Truly, that scares me worse than all the refugees in Central America