The old Chinese proverb has come to pass – we live in challenging times! I find myself pondering the plight of children arriving to this country from dangerous homelands. It is strangely like Joseph taking Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod. Among all those screaming NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), a few other voices are beginning to be heard. I thought of the Orphans Train that took children from New York to the Mid-West in the late 19th and early 20th century. A few people are viewing this as an opportunity to do a charitable, loving, and honorable work. There are people spending time and energy of finding a solution rather than trying to prevent the problem. Trying to stop the tide of migration is similar to trying to stop the tide of the oceans. “Time and Tide Wait for No One” said Geoffrey Chaucer. (The rest of his poem speaks volumes.)
I remember a political cartoon by Herb Block of the Washington Post. It was during the turbulent 1960’s and school desegregation in Little Rock and many other cities. He depicted an angry crowd surrounding a child on the way to school. His caption read “And a little child shall lead them.” I wonder where the current children will lead us. Biblical texts abound: “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of heaven;” “In as much as you have done this unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me;”and “If anyone causes these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a mill stone be hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.” That is just for starters.
Then there is the tragedy of a Russian missile fired by rebel Ukrainians at the civilian Malaysian 777 plane. Among the nearly 300 people killed were the top AIDS scientists in the world. Senator McCann offered his usual response – that we should have sent sophisticated weapons to the people of the Ukraine. Can he get through his head that not everything has a military solution? I seem to remember that McCann also wants us to come to the aid of Syria, although that aid could easily fall into the hands of the tyrannous president. Should we also get actively involved with Hamas and Israel? (The Palestinians are collateral damage and not so innocent bystanders.) How many wars does he want notched on his belt? His credibility is approaching that of Sarah Palin.
I am slowly making my way through Brother Emmanuel of Taize’s “A Love Imperfectly Known.” Early in his book he tackles the ancient question of an all powerful and all loving God that appear to be at odds with him/her self. His position is that a truly loving God does not require lock step obedience but instead wants the creation free. If we truly love someone, we want their freedom, not their servitude. That freedom allows people to do hideous things. However, to be truly grounded in love might well lead us to oppose the enslavement of others. Brother Emmanuel also says that people who do not believe or who have rejected the love of God do so as a result of incorrect messages about God, well-meaning or not.
There is a story from Appalachia that pops into my mind. A lad was swimming on Sunday and dove into water he did not know. He struck his head on stone, breaking his neck and killing him. At the funeral the well-meaning preacher proclaimed that God killed the boy and that the boy was in Hell for swimming on Sunday. (That is a message that could leave many people with an anti-God message!) His father, a prominent man in the community, left the church and started his own – “The No Hell Baptist Church.” (God does not seem to want the death of a sinner!)
As we try to live faithfully in our “interesting times,” we do well not to react to the tragedy of evil by limiting the freedom of ourselves or of others. Personally, I think the “Freedom Act” is an example of this type of reaction. It should be re-named “The Un-Freedom Act.”
We slowly make our way through our tangled time and the question remains – where will these children lead us? Can we learn to wage love rather than war? Can we see the futility of stopping the problem rather than discovering the new reality? I truly believe these are faith issues and not merely political ones.