Most people who have known me for a while know that I try to stay out of political discussions. I don’t particularly like confrontation (contrary to what my family would say!), and I’m always afraid of being proven wrong. With that being said, I’ve decided to step outside of my comfort zone. The continuing coverage of President Trump’s words last week on immigration have stirred something deep within me, and I don’t think I will get it out of my system anytime soon.
Multiple news sources have picked up a story that President Trump allegedly referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946) and questioned why we want more of those people coming to the United States. He apparently then suggested that he would rather have people from European countries like Norway come to the US, as well as Asian countries because they would help our economy (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-attacks-protections-for-immigrants-from-shithole-countries-in-oval-office-meeting/2018/01/11/bfc0725c-f711-11e7-91af-31ac729add94_story.html?utm_term=.c268a9f04968).
I personally find these remarks deeply disturbing on a number of levels. First, obviously, referring to entire nations as “shithole countries” is enormously disrespectful to the nations as entireties, not to mention the millions of individuals who live therein. Nearly as problematic is the idea that our nation ought to favor some countries (or at least their people) as more valuable and therefore desirable than others. That idea is archaic and dangerous, and this is stuff on which racism is propagated.
Perhaps most disturbing, however, is that these comments were made by a man who some have touted as a defender of Christianity (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/02/02/in-donald-trump-christians-now-have-powerful-if-unlikely-champion-in-white-house.html). Even if the “shithole countries” comment was made up or taken out of context, Trump’s desire to turn away people from those countries in favor of people who can contribute economically flies in the face of Christianity.
How many sick and broken people (physically or otherwise) did Jesus turn away? He didn’t. When people were brought to him who needed healing, Jesus did not ask where they had come from and then decide if he would help. On one occasion, Jesus started to tell a Canaanite woman that he was sent to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) in response to her request for healing for her daughter. And then what did he do? He healed her daughter anyway! On another occasion, Jesus purposely spent time in conversation with a Samaritan woman and offered her his salvation (John 4:1-26), despite the fact that Jews and Samaritans had unfriendly relationships.
How many times did Jesus turn away the needy in favor of the wealthy? When Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem, who did he rebuke? Matthew 21:12-17 tells us that Jesus drove away money changers and merchants and called them robbers, and then went right to the blind and lame and healed them. Likewise, Jesus praised a poor widow who gave a tiny amount of money to the temple treasury, in stark contrast to the rich people who threw in large amounts (Mark 12:41-44).
Imagine what would happen if the church turned away people because of their origins. Who in our communities might have undesirable backgrounds, similar to “shithole countries”? Single mothers with children born out of wedlock? Couples living together before marriage? People with drug or alcohol addictions? Divorcees? Adulterers? People who watch porn? Tough, tattooed motorcycle riders? If we only let nice, wholesome people into the church, we would defeat Jesus’s words to the Pharisees: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
Imagine what would happen if the church turned away people who could not benefit the church economically. How many people in churches today tithe the strict ten percent (Genesis 28:22, Deuteronomy 14:22) prescribed in the Bible? What if we kicked out people who only give 5%? What if we refused people who cannot afford to give anything? Are poor people worthless to the church?
Now, I know that comparing a nation and a church is not fair. Nations and churches operate very differently, and for good reason. Please do not hear me say that I think the United States needs to operate like a church, or that the Christian Church is comparable to the United States. That is not where I am going with this.
The point I am trying to make is that it is unfair (and perhaps even dangerous) for the leader of a nation – especially a man who seems to think he is the champion of Christianity – to imply that some people are more valuable than others because of where they come from and what they have to offer. This is a mindset that American Christians need to speak against.
There is a reason people from Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico, and many parts of Africa want to come to America. America represents freedom, safety, and possibilities. Do the people of the “shithole countries” the president spoke against live in poor, unsafe conditions? Possibly. I haven’t visited any of those places, so I have no firsthand experience to speak from. But the countries’ conditions do not make the people. Those people are of no less worth because of their backgrounds than people from Norway and select Asian nations.
It is time for us to hold accountable any leader of this nation who holds such bigoted, hateful attitudes.