To all dads, fathers, grandpas, and anyone who has shown or shows fatherly love and care, Happy Father’s Day!
If you read this blog at all, you know that I am a relatively new parent. So new, that this is my first Father’s Day as a dad actually. I am deeply in love with our darling daughter Caroline.
I couldn’t be more blessed and grateful that Allison and I are able to call her our daughter, to hold her, to comfort her, and be able to watch and be there as she grows, learns to smile, wave, and laugh.
It’s with all of this in mind today, that I write.
It is Father’s Day, and I couldn’t be more happy to be a dad. I couldn’t be more happy to also have the best Dad in the world who continues to show me what it means to love one’s kids, support one’s family, and be a loving spouse and Child of God with a big heart, curious and life long learning brain, and a sense of wonder and gratitude. I couldn’t be more happy to have such a loving father-in-law, and to have been blessed with amazing grandpas who taught me much growing up and helped shape some of my interests, and were there as part of my formation and early vocational discernment.
I am loved. I am grateful.
And perhaps this is why today, I feel so conflicted as I feel that I have to write that there is no other way to describe the situation in this country, but that we are lost!
Since the United States of America was but a dream, it has been a place of ideals. A place at its best when it welcomes the stranger, the tired, the one seeking opportunity, hope, and a new life. The one where the words on the Statue of Liberty and the ideals of Ellis Island are upheld. I am not naive. I know that as a country we have (and continue to have) our ups and downs at living up to this ideal.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest not far from the site of a Japanese internment camp that was used to imprison perfectly legal and wonderful American citizens, out of fear of their ethnicity. I also grew up not far from many Native American reservations, places where the first people to inhabit this land were confined often far from their original homes. I fear that we might be repeating these atrocities again.
On this Father’s Day, I am thinking about this. I am thinking about this because it was my Dad and my grandpas who told me these stories. I am thinking about this because I grew up in a family who wasn’t afraid to talk about the tough things and to admit our mistakes. One who takes seriously what we confess that “we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.”
Over the past days and weeks I have seen more and more pictures and stories of children who are separated from their parents. When I read these stories I often stare into the eyes of my darling daughter Caroline. And I cry. And anger rages. How could anyone do this? To think that my daughter could be ripped out of my hands like this?
My heart breaks. This is not right. On this Father’s Day, I wonder how anyone who might be of the mind that this is okay could have the self-respect to look at themselves in the mirror and carry on, or be able to look at a picture of their children (let alone look at their actual children in person).
We live in a day where we have a militarized anti-immigration force which is actively separating families at the policy direction of the Executive Branch of our nation’s government. In justifying this inhumanity, we hear terrible and wrong theology and biblical justifications like from Attorney General Jeff Sessions talking about Paul and Romans 13. From others who try to justify this, we are told that any parent who might bring their kids across the border doesn’t deserve to be a parent.
But I deeply believe that all of this misses the point!
These parents are doing the one thing that they can think of- of trying to make a better life for their families. They are fleeing horror, violence, and situations so awful we ourselves could never comprehend. And how do we treat these people? We separate them. We put them in prisons and camps.
We have been here before in history. We have seen where this leads. It’s nowhere good. And therefore, I speak out.
Those who have created these policies are guilty. Those who work to justify these policies are guilty. Those who support these policies are guilty. But to be fair, we are all guilty.
As we confess in our faith, we have all sinned and fall short. Yet, God loves us and forgives us. But these sins- the sins of separating families, incarcerating children, and restricting the definition of asylum to no longer include women who are abused… In allowing this happen, we are effectively sending people to their deaths and creating potentially life long trauma for these children and their families.
This is not okay. These policies are not okay. In fact, they are evil. There is no other way to describe them. All of this is evil.
And yet today is Father’s Day. So perhaps it makes sense that all of this is on my mind as I stare into the loving, curious, and heart warming eyes of my daughter. Anyone who is or has been a parent, I suspect you know this feeling. I suspect that you feel likewise, at least I hope you do.
I write today too as a son of loving parents who both continue to show me what parental love is like. They are not perfect, they make mistakes (not many, but some). But when they do so, they respond healthily to them, and that perhaps is the best teaching and example any parent could provide for their own kids. Because heaven knows I am not perfect, and most days I feel like I have no idea how to be a parent.
I write today as a new father on this Father’s Day weekend. I write today as a husband who is married to one of the most understanding and inspiring people that I have ever met. I write today as a citizen of the United States. I write today as a Deacon, a Lutheran minister of Word and Service. I write today as a Christian. I write today as a Child of God.
I write today as someone who will not, and cannot stand idly by and watch the foundations of the country that I love, seem to be thrown aside. But most importantly, I write today as someone who has a voice and a place of privilege, to use whatever voice and privilege I have to condemn this evil and hatred, and be a part of the work of restoring families. To be a part of the work of breaking down the walls and barriers, and saying, “You are a Child of God, created in the Image of God. You matter, and you are loved.”
This is the message that is at the heart of the gospel. And this is the welcome that I believe is at the heart of the idea of what created this country that I call mine. I want my child to grow up in a country of welcome. I want my child to grow up loving and respecting all of our neighbors and all those in need. This is the country I believed I grew up in. It’s what I hope and believe the church I am a part of is as well. And frankly, this is the kind of world that I believe that we are called to be a part of, as God’s kingdom continues to break-in and be built.
I began my first blog nearly a decade ago. This iteration was founded just over five years ago. I am grateful for your continued readership and for being a part of this conversation and community. Those of you who have been a part of it, recognize that I like to treat this as a conversation and place of discovery, learning, and growth.
To that end, normally I am all for rational dialog and listening to all sides of an argument in blogging. However, when it comes to the subject of this post, I don’t believe that there are sides and equally valid alternate perspectives to be had. I confess that to you. But here’s why, pure and simply, I am a parent and a Child of God. There can be no justification for breaking up families like what is happening at the hands of my own country’s government.
To all of you who might disagree with me, and try and support such evil and unjust policies, there is no justification. There is indeed a right side– welcoming the neighbor and stranger and not splitting up families. And, there is a wrong side- not welcoming the neighbor and splitting children up from their families. There is no gray area here.
If you disagree with me and try and justify this or support those who do, I deeply implore you to ponder back to your ideas of what it means to be a person of faith (if you have any faith of any kind), and your ideas about what it means to be a citizen. What does it mean to be a Child of God? What does it mean that we believe that all people are created in the Image of God?
These actions and policies are not consistent with my understanding of citizenship, Christianity, faith, or of all people being loved and created in the Image of God. They enrage me on this Father’s Day. They make me cry and mad all at the same time.
Father James Martin tweeted that these feelings are the work of one’s conscience, and the Holy Spirit, and that we should listen to them, pay attention, and then act. I think Father Martin is quite right.
In the mainline church, and in my congregation, those that follow the revised common lectionary (an assigned set of readings for each Sunday of the church year), we are in Year B, or the year where we spend a good amount of time in the gospel of Mark. There is a story in this gospel that is weighing on my heart on this Father’s Day in particular, from Mark 10:13-16.
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” ~ Mark 10:13-16, NRSV.
Jesus says, “let the little children come…” He often spoke in parables or stories as a way of teaching or helping the people come to know what the kingdom of God might be like. But about this, Jesus seems pretty clear. “Let the little children come…”
The Apostle Paul understood this and Jesus’ summation of the law well, writing in Romans 13 that, “The commandments…are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10, NRSV). I make this point because the Attorney General’s argument in defense of this evil policy is still on my mind. If struck by the defense that has been lobbied by Attorney General Sessions about Romans 13, please watch Stephen Colbert’s response. I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
This policy must end immediately. All families must be reunited. If not, then anyone claiming to be a person of faith or a Child of God, must speak out and act to be the change.
Until then, I know that this Father’s Day is not going to feel like such a wonderful day to me. I am certainly grateful to have Caroline in my life and I love her dearly, but every time I look into her loving and curious eyes, I will continue to think of all of the children who have been immorally ripped from their families at our country’s southern border. This is not right, and so I write.
How about you? How are you feeling today? How are you responding to these policies?