To Christians Condemning Child Separation: Where Have You Been?
In the 2018 presidential election, Donald Trump earned 81 percent of the evangelical Christian vote. Nearly two years later, he still holds a very favorable 75 percent of support by white evangelicals.
Surprisingly, Christians have been put in a state of distress over Trump’s zero-tolerance policy against migrants crossing the border, which has caused nearly 2,000 children to be forcibly separated from their parents in six weeks alone.
Since Trump and other members of his administration are trying to say otherwise, it’s worth clarifying that the separation of families is not required by any federal law. This is a clampdown on immigration that we are actively choosing to enforce, and we can decide to stop doing it any time.
Many Christian faith groups would like it to stop. The Southern Baptist Convention, FCNL (Quakers,) the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mennonite Church USA, Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ have all rebuked the policy. Prominent leaders in Christianity have spoken out against it as well, including Scott Arbeiter, President of World Relief, and Richard Stearns, President of World Vision. Former First Lady Laura Bush even published an opinion piece in the Washington Post condemning the act.
(A more complete list of faith groups and leaders who oppose the policy can be found on Jack Jenkins’ twitter thread.)
The most surprising condemnation came from Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and founder of Samaritan’s Purse. Graham has previously expressed strong support for Trump and his policies, particularly those on immigration. He and Trump agree that Muslim immigration should be stopped for the sake of “our security and the future of our nation,” and he expressed strong support for Trump’s refugee ban. He joined Trump in post-election rallies and most recently campaigned for conservative candidates in the California primaries.
On the issue of family separation, however, Graham gave a heartfelt judgement, saying it was “disgraceful and terrible to see families ripped apart.”
This was certainly not the tune that Graham and other Christian leaders were singing a few years ago. Graham has consistently made excuses for Trump’s questionable behavior, calling him a “changed person.” Theologian Wayne Grudem wrote that supporting Trump was a “morally good choice” and he was simply “a good candidate with flaws.” He briefly recanted this position after the Access Hollywood tape went public, but later reconsidered and voted for him anyway, encouraging all other Christians to do the same.
Why, then, is this immigration policy so abhorrent? It is completely consistent with Trump’s attitude toward immigrants since day one of his campaign, which his Christian supporters have demonstrated no problem with. It’s difficult to claim ignorance to this attitude, since “build a wall” was a primary hallmark of his candidacy. Walls are generally built to divide, not to create a welcoming environment for those seeking refuge. Anyone with a TV or access to the internet in 2015 could have easily seen this coming.
Apparently Trump’s Christian supporters didn’t see it coming, or if they did they found a way to willfully accept it; they accepted his blatantly racist declarations against immigrants, and they accepted much more. They accepted his adultery that led to two divorces. They accepted his call to put private citizens in prison. They accepted his mocking of a disabled reporter. They accepted his racist birther campaign against Barack Obama. They accepted his misogyny, both past and present. They accepted his dismantling of environmental policies that keep our air and water clean. They accepted his refugee ban. They accepted his sympathy for white supremacists. They accepted his treatment of Native Americans. They accepted his corruption and money laundering. They accepted his life-threatening healthcare policies. They accepted his (more than) 3,000 falsehoods since taking office.
But kids being separated from their parents? We can’t have that.
Frankly, Christians who are calling out this policy who have been completely silent on everything else Trump has said and done have no leg to stand on. Trump has been trampling on everything Christians claim to hold dear, and where have they been? Cowering in silence while they hold out hope for him to fulfill vague campaign promises?
They have failed to realize that Trump’s tendency to keep his promises is as changeable as the wind, and he certainly isn’t beholden to any moral compass, an attitude that unfortunately most Christians have adopted. 72 percent of evangelicals now think a politician’s morality behind closed doors has nothing to do with their ability to be a moral leader. Only 49 percent now believe religious beliefs are important for potential presidents (though I imagine that would change if a Muslim or an atheist were running.)
This cartoon by Garry Trudeau quite plainly sums up our state of affairs in the Christian church:
Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau for Apr 22, 2018 | GoComics.com
View the daily comic strip for Doonesbury by cartoonist Garry Trudeau created Apr 22, 2018 available on GoComics.com
“We now condone the following conduct: lewdness, vulgarity, profanity, adultery, and sexual assault. Exemptions to Christian values also include greed, bullying, conspiring, boasting, lying, cheating, sloth, envy, wrath, gluttony and pride. Others TBA. Lastly, we’re willing to overlook biblical illiteracy, church non-attendance, and no credible sign of faith.”
And gosh, we feel just great about that. But again, separating children from their parents? That’s a step too far.
We are headed into midterm elections, which is the time and place to put Trump’s super-majority under the restraint of true checks and balances. Honestly, I’m not confident that conservative Christians will step up and do it. I don’t think any of them would say they want to be held responsible for the degradation of American society, but that’s what this comes down to.
I’ll ask once more: where have they been? If they can say they truly care about what is happening in our country, how long were they going to stand idly by and watch everything they believe in be chipped away? When was the “moral majority” actually going to stand up for morality?
If taking children away from their parents and putting them in camps is where the line is going to be drawn, fine. But now is the time to decide what else sits on the other side of that line. Now is the time to decide what else you think is wrong and what, if anything, you’re willing to do about it.