Guest opinion: Acting as a Christian, who is my neighbor?
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
— Jesus Christ (Luke 10:27 NIV)
I remember the shower.
The lukewarm trickle cascaded over my dusty skin. Since others were waiting, I hurried the process along, all the while keeping my lips tightly sealed lest any liquid leak into my mouth. The bacteria frolicking through the Juarez water system would surely love a free ride out of Mexico courtesy of my colon, but I was hoping to return home disease-free. Turns out I was one of the lucky ones.
I was part of a motley crew of teens and parents volunteering on a construction project for kids across the border.
The children at the orphanage had no choice on what to drink or where to wash, but they were also some of the lucky ones, relatively speaking. They had been rescued from the streets, treated for parasites, fed nutritious food and sheltered from human predators. At night they thanked God for clean beds. After a couple of days in Mexico, our Anglo kids no longer wondered why families snuck into our country.
“I’d do it, too,” each said.
And so would I.
Faced with raising their children in a poverty-stricken country with no hope and no future, who wouldn’t?
I had the good fortune to be born in the USA. We’ve had our issues, but we’ve always had hope. Growing up in Miami, I watched the eastern sky glow bright with fire during the race riots of the ’60s. Cuban immigrants arrived in waves, fleeing Fidel Castro’s reign of terror. Our political pendulum swung side to side, each party bringing changes for better and for worse. We’ve lived through the Cold War, Vietnam, Watergate and Iran Contra; out-of-control inflation, scandals, 9/11, the Great Recession and everything in between.
We’ve survived because of, or even in spite of, every personality who’s governed us.
Until now, I believed that the occasional shift of political power was a healthy thing. Until now, I naively believed that the country I love, the United States of America, would honor the promise inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
Until now, I believed that my spiritual family, that of evangelical Christians, would stand up to bullies and show the love of Jesus Christ to the world. While these two powers, political and religious, are required by law to remain separate, they have, by nature, walked hand-in-hand as “One Nation, Under God.”
Aside from the longings of my naïve heart, there has always been an unspoken link between Christianity and the Oval Office. Presidents literally take office by swearing on the Bible. Noted theologians are often invited to the White House. Our highest elected officials are frequently judged by their perceived personal relationships with the Almighty. God himself has remained silent on those matters, so we are forced to accept the president’s version of events.
Nevertheless, it is imperative to remember that our country was founded on the promise of religious freedom, not the establishment or installation of any particular religious belief system or leader. In fact, quite the opposite is, and must remain, true.
Though I’ve cried many times for America, I’ve never feared the death of the dream. But in the last three months I’ve seen our political process sabotaged by the Russians and hijacked by the son of a famous evangelist. Lady Liberty got a vicious boot to the back that sent her sprawling, face-first, into New York Harbor.
And for the first time in my lily-white, middle-class life, I’ve been lumped into a group with which I deeply disagree because Franklin Graham ignored the sanctity of the separation of church and state, and rallied evangelical Christians behind Donald Trump.
I feel powerless, and I am furious. For the record, Franklin Graham doesn’t speak for me.
Being stereotyped as a Christian in the U.S.A. certainly doesn’t carry the same stigma as wearing traditional Muslim attire. Or being black, or Mexican, or poor, or drug-addicted. Can you imagine being hated because of your religion or the color of your skin, or what you wear? Or being rounded up and herded away from your job and your family?
The Latinos in our valley support our tourism infrastructure, the lifeblood of our economy. Ride the bus with me on my way to work, and I’ll show you who shovels the snow, cleans hotel rooms, buses tables, rakes leaves, works construction, climbs ladders, mows the grass, paints the buildings and pulls the weeds. Their kids go to school with our kids. They are literally my neighbors, and the people Trump wants to rip from their homes, their jobs and their families. He’s going to have to get past me first.
Being an evangelical Christian, I’m a big fan of Jesus Christ. In one of his best stories, he instructed his followers on how to treat their neighbors. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is just a taste of what Christianity is really supposed to look like. Let’s just say it bears no resemblance to Trump’s policies.
One of my responsibilities as a follower of Jesus Christ is to read his instructions and follow them to the best of my ability. It will be interesting to see who will be standing next to me when they come for the immigrants.
Rachel Ophoff is a Christian writer and speaker from El Jebel. Learn more at http://www.rachelophoff.com.
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