“Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
I write these words that follow as a minister, as a Unitarian Universalist, as a human being with a conscience. I write them knowing if I did not bring these meditations of my heart to bear witness to what is being perpetrated in this nation, I would be even more complicit than I, as a citizen of this country, already am; than we are.
The removal of children from their parents, striking terror into the hearts of these families, demonstrating a depraved level of cruelty, is beyond the pale. We sink ever deeper into the grips of authoritarianism in this country — so far, those most vulnerable pay the price. What was once considered as appalling as it gets becomes bested by even more evil perpetrated by our government.
While it is rare that I quote Christian scripture, if the Attorney General of this country has the impudence to quote Paul in support for this depravity in the form of administrative protocol, I shall join with others to denounce this use by representatives of our federal government.
The Attorney General quotes Romans 13:1, a letter from the Apostle Paul, that says
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God (NSRV)
Yet let it be clear — and I say this though I am no fan of Paul of the Bible — that just a few verses later, in the same chapter, verses 8–10, it says
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (NSRV)
Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
It is true that scripture is malleable, full of internal contradiction. Good and bad can be found there. This is not the first time that Romans 13 has been used to justify evil, as the history of slavery and white supremacy in this country reveal. This is not the first time the government of the United States has chosen a foreign or domestic policy or practice that involves separating children from their parents (think here of selling children away from their enslaved parents; think here of how Native American children were removed to boarding schools), that involves removing from the wider populace an ethnic group with explanations of law and order, of a necessary security (think here of Japanese internment camps during WWII).
Let us also be clear: while in the nation there is not only this cruelty, brought to fruition by those following immoral orders; there is also outrage.
There are journalists who persist and insist on empathy, on not letting press secretaries and spokespeople off easy, who do not allow lies and deception to go unanswered. Let us be part of the grand and mass collective rising up against this travesty. There are people of conscience and faith going to the border to interrupt this abomination. There are organizations already there, working to halt this hellish practice, as well as to track and provide comfort to those children removed from their parents. We can support them with our money; we can support them by amplifying their work; and we can support them by encouraging others around us to do the same. We can write and call our elected officials to support the Keep Families Together Act, that we might bring an end to this dastardly zero tolerance policy. And be cautious friends about metaphorical Trojan horses: the immigration legislation recently put forward by Republicans to address the separation of families contains provisions to force local entities to cooperate with ICE in identifying and detaining peaceful, non-criminal persons.
Closer to home, more of us can choose to use our relative privilege by volunteering with DIRE, the Middlesex Rapid Response team that helps to interrupt the workings of ICE here locally — because, as you know, families here are being torn apart, too. I plan to take the DIRE training so that I can sign up for witness shifts at the court house in North Brunswick, because immigrants are being picked up there — and schools, and outside their homes in the early morning hours — when they conduct other business at the courthouse. I hope some of you will join me.
Our neighbors, friends, co-workers are being impacted by this concerted and determined effort to cleanse this nation of certain kinds of immigrants — driven by racism against Brown people, driven by Islamophobia; driven by our own willful ignorance that compels us to forget that it was our military interventions and political manipulations that planted the seeds of current-day violence people in Central America are now fleeing.
If we cannot immediately bring an end to this particularly cruel and unnecessary suffering, then let it wake us from the numbness that is growing in and around us as creeping fascism takes more and more hold. Let us take to heart this truth, often attributed to the Talmud:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”