June 5th, 2018
Did you read the first-person accounts of women, mothers, who had made a long and difficult journey hoping to find asylum, only to have their children taken away from them? Did you read about unaccompanied minors, children fleeing extreme violence and traveling to our country, being placed haphazardly into the foster care system? Have you been paying attention to how our government is using the break-up of families as a political move, destined to strike fear in the hearts of millions while causing enumerable anguish here and now for thousands? I lay awake at night and I can feel the suffering at the borders of my country. I lay awake at night and cry out to God to listen to the mothers and the children, and I am confident that God will hear.
I am confident of this, because I love and read the Scriptures, just like my parents taught me. They read books by Dr. Dobson, subscribed to the Focus on the Family Magazine, raised me comfortably ensconced in a world influenced by your organization. I was taught to read the Bible, to pray, and to expect the Holy Spirit to talk to me. I did not stray from these teachings, and as a result my relationship with a God of abundance and a God of justice has compelled me towards a life lived in pursuit of neighborhoods and communities where everyone flourishes. In the Bible I met a God who was better than my wildest dreams, a God who cares for every person —in direct opposition to a world of Pharaohs who seek to control, segregate, and separate. A God who is obsessed with the triad of the vulnerable: the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.
Because I believe in this God, thanks in part to parents who introduced me to the Scriptures, I am undone by the current policies being put into place by our president and his administration. This deliberate calculation of additional suffering is aimed at people already driven to desperation. Because I was raised to believe in a God who made men and women in God’s image, my soul shrinks every time I hear a person described as “illegal,” reducing their beloved personhood to less-than-human. Because I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I view everyone, no matter of their origin or legal status, as a neighbor to whom I have a personal responsibility to love and care for (Leviticus 19, Deuteronomy 6, Luke 10, to name just a few of the multitude of passages which address these themes).
I know you are aware of the Biblical mandate to care for the foreigner, and believe in the inherent dignity of every person being made in the image of God. In 2012, your organization put out a statement on immigration that included a plea to “strive to keep families together” and to “protect the family unit, especially the most vulnerable members, the children.” And yet when I go to your website, when I scroll through the “social issues” section, I don’t see any mentions of these deep themes from the Bible in recent posts. Nothing about neighbor-love or our Biblical obligation to care for the widow, the orphan, or the foreigner (which is referenced constantly throughout the Torah, the prophets, and the psalms--not to mention lived out by Jesus himself). Instead I see article after article centered on a very narrow interpretation of religious liberty, as well as homosexuality. Which begs the fundamental question: whose family, exactly, is your organization focusing on? Can we sit here with this question for a minute?
Based off of your website, social media accounts, and the latest issue of Citizen magazine (put out by Focus on the Family since 1987), to you, “family” issues are defined by anti-LGBTQ policies, school choice, and anti-abortion legislation (the first two also being aligned with religious liberty issues). In the past 24 hours, the official Focus on the Family Twitter account has tweeted several times about the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cake Decision (and Mr. Daly had time to write a post about it), but you have remained silent in the face of our government willfully and strategically making forced family separation a hallmark of our country’s border patrol policy. There has been no public response to our new normal of there being zero tolerance for the family unit being sacred, if that family is made up of immigrants seeking safety and asylum.
I shouldn’t be surprised or despondent, but I am. White evangelical Christianity, after all, has a history of being involved in separating families--slave families--but at the very least it was considered by most to be a monstrous practice, with many Christian leaders condemning it. And yet, the consequences of “slave-holder religion,” as Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove puts it, has landed us here in the United States in this place: conservative Christians celebrating political gains while remaining utterly silent on the issues that are addressed over and over again by the God they claim to serve.
Focus on the Family, if there is any part of your organization that doesn’t exist to simply uphold conservative politics and the consolidation of power for a few, I am urging you to immediately and publicly condemn the current policy of separating families at the border. If nothing has changed between 2012 and now, then now is the time to publicly condemn our current policy promoted by President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others. There is a rich tradition of Christians taking a stand for the groups of people God constantly advocates for. As a person of faith, this is where I stand. If you remain silent, then you are complicit in a system which actively perpetuates injustice against (and indeed, even creates) the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. You actively work against the desires of God in our country.
The older I grow in my faith, the more I strive to model my life after Jesus Christ, the more I see the fundamental problem. The thing is: Jesus never said to focus on our own families. Instead, he asked us to live into the glorious, chaotic, joyful kingdom of God, where we live as if every family was our own —and that strengthening all of them is a Biblical imperative.
This week, you’ll see many Christian women posting pictures and stories with the hashtag #notwithoutmychild. We invite you to join us. We believe #familiesbelongtogether. This heinous act of separating families at the border must stop. No more. Not on our watch.