Are our values and faith consistent with our politics?
by Rudy López
Pope Francis concluded his trip to Mexico this week by calling on political and business leaders to respect workers rights and with a visit to the border-town of Juarez, where he knelt on the banks of the Rio Grande and offered a prayer for migrants worldwide.
In the United States, most politicians and voters identify as Christian, some vigorously so. But too often, many of those same people fail to act in accordance with Christian values of love, tolerance, and acceptance of our neighbors. No person of faith can simply pick and choose which values their religion prescribes to embrace.
Too often, people of faith are driven by fear instead of love. We see fear paralyze the values of these people as they call for walls to be built or warn against jobs being stolen. Instead, people should try to empathize with the very real terror felt by the migrants that Pope Francis prayed for on the edge of the Rio Grande.
For the hundreds of thousands of children fleeing terror in Central America completed the treacherous journey to the United States only to be greeted with detention centers and hysterical politicians promising to send them back to the violence at home.
For the millions of Syrian refugees have risked their lives to escape a civil war only to find varying degrees of xenophobia and fear in Europe and the United States standing in the way of their resettlement.
And not least of all, for the tens thousands of women, men, and children who aspired to live in safety and security but did not survive their journey.
Anti-immigrant sentiment has grave implications for the future legacy of the United States as an open and egalitarian society that embraces people of all national origins and faith traditions.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Politicians running for office don’t have to betray and reduce our nation’s long and rich history of immigration down to a few talking points designed to scare up a few votes. That’s a choice.
Leaders in Congress don’t have to dodge voting for the comprehensive immigration reform that would keep millions of families together and bring millions of working people out of the shadows. That’s a choice.
The Obama Administration doesn’t have to interpret immigration laws so strictly that more than two million aspiring Americans be deported or tens of thousands of women and children fleeing violence be detained and deported. That’s a choice.
As for we, the people, we also have a choice.
We can choose to be consumed by the noise from those who would divide us in order to win our attention or our vote.
Or we can choose to walk in the path that our faiths dictate.
Whether we are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or any of the other myriad faiths that make up the fabric of this nation, faith unites us around love and tolerance for our neighbors, particularly those neighbors in need.
The Hebrew Bible tells us: “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33–34).
In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger (cf. Matthew 25:35), for “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me (Matthew 25:40).”
The Qur’an tells us that we should “serve God…and do good to…orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet, [and those who have nothing]” (4:36).
The Hindu scripture Taitiriya Upanishad tells us: “The guest is a representative of God” (1.11.2).
We could find similar passages in every sacred text for every religion in the world.
Remember, all religions believe in justice.
But just as important as what we believe is how we act on those beliefs.
In the Christian faith, we are in the midst of the Lenten season, in which we honor the faith of Jesus, who abstained from food and water during forty days and forty nights in the desert. During those forty days and forty nights, Jesus’ faith sustained his action, difficult as those actions must have been.
Living our faith through action is difficult, but as Pope Francis has reminded that during Lent, as well as all year long, our faithful action is the measure by which we will ultimately be judged.
That’s why many supporters of Interfaith Worker Justice are using their Lenten fast to pledge public solidarity with workers in low-wage jobs who are organizing for a living wage and a union.
Regardless of your faith tradition, it is incumbent on all of us as people of faith to ask ourselves how our actions match up to our beliefs; to choose to live in accordance with our values.
That includes who we choose to support for elected office.
As we see Pope Francis visit the U.S-Mexico border and listen to his appeals to welcome our neighbors, we must remember that we are the arbiters of the choice to heed the pope’s message. That our actions carry the weight of our faith. As Christians, that is the message we must remember during Lent.
As people of faith, it is the message we must carry with us all year long.
Rudy López is the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice.