[The high profile, religiously based moral outrage at Trump’s
immigration policies seems to be spurring some long-overdue rethinking
of what it means to be Christian in America] [https://portside.org/] 

 ‘CHRISTIAN LEFT’ IS REVIVING IN AMERICA, APPALLED BY TREATMENT OF
MIGRANTS   [https://portside.org/node/20759] 

 

 Laura E. Alexander 
 August 16, 2019
The Conversation
[https://theconversation.com/christian-left-is-reviving-in-america-appalled-by-treatment-of-migrants-121672]


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 _ The high profile, religiously based moral outrage at Trump’s
immigration policies seems to be spurring some long-overdue rethinking
of what it means to be Christian in America _ 

 , 

 

Holding pictures of migrant children who have died in U.S. custody and
forming a cross with their bodies on the floor of the Russell Senate
Office Building, 70 Catholics were arrested
[https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/453741-dozens-of-catholics-arrested-at-capitol-after-protesting-trump]
in July for obstructing
[https://www.cbsnews.com/news/70-catholic-protesters-arrested-in-washington-dc-demonstration-against-trump-immigration-policies/]
a public place, which is considered a misdemeanor.

The protesters hoped that images of 90-year-old nuns
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/70-catholics-arrested-in-dc-protest-over-trump-immigration-policies/2019/07/18/1f3b2bd6-a973-11e9-86dd-d7f0e60391e9_story.html]
and priests
[https://www.huffpost.com/entry/catholic-capitol-hill-protest_n_5d307e14e4b020cd993fd846]
in clerical collars
[https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/protestors-gather-for-catholic-day-of-action-on-capitol-hill-32449]
being led away in handcuffs would draw attention to their moral horror
at the United States’ treatment of undocumented immigrant families.

American Catholics, like any religious group, do not fit neatly into
left-right political categories.

But ever more they are visibly joining the growing ranks of
progressive Christians who oppose
[https://www.npr.org/2019/01/24/684435743/provoked-by-trump-the-religious-left-is-finding-its-voice]
President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric
[https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/08/08/trump-immigrants-rhetoric-criticized-el-paso-dayton-shootings/1936742001/]
and federal agencies’ negligent, occasionally deadly
[https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/24-immigrants-have-died-ice-custody-during-trump-administration-n1015291]
treatment of immigrants on his orders.

Religious activism

American Christianity is more often associated
[https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/us/religion-politics-evangelicals.html]
with right-wing politics.

Conservative Christian groups advocating for public policies that
reflect their religious beliefs have conducted extremely visible
campaigns to outlaw abortion [https://marchforlife.org/], keep gay
marriage illegal
[https://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-romania-referendum-20181005-story.html]
and encourage study of the Bible
[https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2019/01/23/in-god-we-trust-bible-public-school-christian-lawmakers/2614567002/]
in schools. Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian,
was jailed
[https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/kentucky-clerk-kim-davis-held-contempt-court-n421126]
for refusing to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. legalized
same-sex marriage in 2015.

But there’s always been progressive Christian activism in the United
States.

I have studied
[https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/religion/about-us/directory/laura-alexander.php]
religious thought and action around migrants and refugees
[https://books.google.com/books?id=ThqNuwEACAAJ&dq=the+meaning+of+my+neighbor%27s+faith&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj8pK2X-P7jAhUDZd8KHWu5De8Q6AEwAHoECAEQAg]
for some time – including analyzing
[https://www.academia.edu/29602024/Lutheran_Thought_Civil_Disobedience_and_the_New_Sanctuary_Movement]
the New Sanctuary Movement, a network of churches that offers refuge
to undocumented immigrants
[https://theconversation.com/more-central-american-migrants-take-shelter-in-churches-recalling-1980s-sanctuary-movement-120535]
and advocates for immigration reform.

Black churches were central in the civil rights movement
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/07/04/the-civil-rights-movement-might-have-been-nonviolent-but-to-critics-it-was-considered-uncivil/]
in the 1960s, and black Christians
[https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/godinamerica-black-church/]
have continued to engage in advocacy and civil disobedience
[https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/02/02/black-churches-and-a-new-generation-of-protest/poverty-and-inequality-remain-priorities-for-black-church-activism]
around poverty
[https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article161200048.html],
inequality and police violence
[https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/03/us/mlk-church-civil-rights.html].
Latinos
[https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-04-25-op-27069-story.html]
and Native Americans
[https://theconversation.com/for-native-americans-us-mexico-border-is-an-imaginary-line-111043],
too, have for centuries fought for “progressive” causes like labor
rights
[https://theconversation.com/how-central-american-migrants-helped-revive-the-us-labor-movement-109398],
environmental protection
[https://www.reuters.com/article/us-south-dakota-native-americans/out-of-spotlight-tribes-keep-fighting-dakota-pipeline-idUSKBN1KN1HT]
and human rights [http://www.glahr.org/].

So it’s not quite right to herald
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-religious-left-is-always-just-about-to-happen-will-it-ever-arrive/2019/04/11/f4500bc6-5c83-11e9-9625-01d48d50ef75_story.html]
the “rise
[https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/04/30/rise-christian-left]” of a
religious left, as several think pieces
[https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/5/21/18633090/2020-buttigieg-mayor-pete-policies-religious]
have done since Christians began openly resisting Trump’s
immigration enforcement and other policies. That erases the historic
resistance of religious communities of color.

Why immigration

Still, Trump’s hardline immigration policies seem to have spurred a
broader population of Christians into action
[https://www.salon.com/2019/08/10/a-grassroots-christians-movement-joins-the-fight-against-christian-nationalism/].
And their civil disobedience crosses racial, ethnic and even party
lines in new ways.

 [https://images.theconversation.com/files/287896/original/file-20190813-9400-1my03qb.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip]

Catholics protesting the treatment of undocumented migrants in US
custody at the Senate, on the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant
Children, July 18, 2019. Eli McCarthy, Author provided

One reason for this is simple: Migration has become increasingly
visible in recent years, especially under Trump.

The number of undocumented immigrants
[https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/12/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/]
in the U.S. peaked at 12.2 million in 2007. Presidents George W. Bush
[http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-15-bush-speech-text_x.htm]
and Barack Obama
[https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/11/20/we-were-strangers-once-too-president-announces-new-steps-immigratio]
approached this issue by using relatively pro-immigrant language while
deporting
[https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/yearbook/2016/table39]
hundreds of thousands
[https://www.axios.com/immigration-ice-deportation-trump-obama-a72a0a44-540d-46bc-a671-cd65cf72f4b1.html]
each year.

Though immigration at the United States’ southern border has
actually been decreasing
[https://theconversation.com/todays-us-mexico-border-crisis-in-6-charts-98922]
since 2000, the number of Central American asylum-seekers
[https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/central-america-border-immigration/563744/]
has grown
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/09/surge-migrants-seeking-asylum-explained/].
In 2014, an unprecedented surge
[https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/child-migrants-surge-unaccompanied-central-america/]
in Central American children
[https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2014/07/02/the-surge-in-unaccompanied-children-from-central-america-a-humanitarian-crisis-at-our-border/]
seeking asylum protections got significant media attention
[https://www.npr.org/2019/01/09/683623555/president-obama-also-faced-a-crisis-at-the-southern-border].

Donald Trump began his presidential campaign the next year with a
speech maligning migrants
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/06/16/theyre-rapists-presidents-trump-campaign-launch-speech-two-years-later-annotated/].
During his administration, his rhetoric
[https://abcnews.go.com/US/trumps-language-mexican-immigrants-scrutiny-wake-el-paso/story?id=64768566]
has slowly become policy
[https://theconversation.com/is-there-a-crisis-at-the-us-mexico-border-6-essential-reads-109547].

But the primary reason Christian groups are now focusing on
immigration, I’d argue, is simply that the notion of welcoming
strangers
[https://theconversation.com/what-the-bible-says-about-welcoming-refugees-72050]
and caring for the vulnerable are embedded in the Christian
[https://www.christiantoday.com/article/welcoming-the-stranger-in-our-midst-10-bible-verses/104300.htm]
tradition [https://sojo.net/22-bible-verses-welcoming-immigrants].

In the Biblical text Matthew 25
[https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25&version=NRSV],
the “Son of Man” – a figure understood to be Jesus – blesses
people who gave food to the hungry, cared for the sick and welcomed
strangers. And in Leviticus 19:34
[https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+19%3A34&version=NRSV],
God commands: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the
citizen among you.”

These texts
[https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/its-about-welcoming-stranger]
help explain why support for immigrants crosses traditional left-right
religious boundaries.

Denominations that are generally considered left-leaning, like the
United Church of Christ
[https://www.ucc.org/immigrants_welcome_a_ucc_response_to_attacks_on_immigrants_and_refugees]
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/08/08/an-entire-lutheran-denomination-has-declared-itself-sanctuary-church-body-signaling-support-immigrants/]
publicly oppose Trump’s harsh treatment of immigrants. So do the
Catholic bishops
[https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2019/07/19/bishops-back-catholics-arrested-capitol-protesting-treatment-immigrant]
and Southern Baptists
[https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/6/13/17460398/mike-pence-trump-southern-baptist-convention-immigrant-resolution-sbc18],
which are typically more socially and politically conservative.

Welcoming the stranger

Beyond directly assisting
[https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/for-families-separated-at-the-border-catholics-and-lutherans-work-together-26320]
migrants at the U.S. border
[https://www.umnews.org/en/news/united-methodists-respond-to-migrants-at-the-border]
by offering food, shelter
[http://www.bpnews.net/53230/nm-baptists-continue-to-aid-migrants],
translation and legal services
[https://www.catholiccharitiesaz.org/border-crisis], many
[https://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/ogr/advocacy-and-way-love] of
these Christian groups also
[https://www.presbyterianmission.org/what-we-do/advocacy-social-justice/]
believe
[https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Publicly-Engaged-Church/Advocacy/Why-Advocacy]
that in democratic societies they should pursue laws founded on
Christian moral teachings.

After all, they point out, God’s command in Leviticus was to the
nation of Israel [https://www.ucc.org/stranger-encounters] – not
just individual Israelites. And Jesus often told religious and
political officials
[https://theconversation.com/would-jesus-have-done-better-in-politics-than-in-the-church-93924]
how to act
[https://www.huffpost.com/entry/was-jesus-political-undou_b_4051603]
and criticized
[https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=NRSV]
the oppression of foreigners, widows and orphans by those in
authority.

Faith-based support for immigrants
[https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/cause/immigration-and-refugees]
is not limited to Christian groups
[https://www.hafsite.org/hindu-americans-urge-congress-enact-comprehensive-immigration-reform].

Jewish
[https://jfssd.org/our-services/refugees-immigration/migrant-family-shelter-sdrrn/]
and Muslim
[https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/08/08/Muslim-initiative-raises-13000-to-release-detained-migrant-parents/5211565291088/]
organizations have both provided humanitarian aid to Central American
asylum seekers and protested
[https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-jews-and-muslims-unite-in-new-york-to-protest-trump-s-travel-ban-1.6218512]
a federal ban
[https://theconversation.com/trump-travel-ban-targeting-muslims-will-not-make-america-safer-97519]
on travel from Muslim countries.

And 40 Jewish
[https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/07/17/dozens-arrested-over-1000-jewish-activists-and-allies-shut-down-entrances-ice]
leaders were arrested in New York City
[https://www.jta.org/2019/08/12/united-states/40-jews-arrested-in-new-york-city-protesting-amazons-ties-with-ice]
on Aug. 12 for protesting the Trump administration’s detention
policies.

Connecting to politicians and interfaith cooperation

The 2020 election season has brought Christian faith-based activism
into the political fore. Several Democratic presidential candidates
have spoken openly about the faith-based roots of their progressivism.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has referenced
[https://www.christianpost.com/news/elizabeth-warren-says-words-of-jesus-judgement-of-sheep-and-goats-is-driving-force-in-her-life.html]
the biblical text of Matthew 25 as a touchstone for her critique of
wealth inequality and insistence on universal health care.

 [https://images.theconversation.com/files/288231/original/file-20190815-136208-tqea9.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip]

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker speaks about gun
violence and white supremacy at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME
Church, where nine black Bible study participants were slain in a 2015
mass shooting, Aug. 7, 2019. AP Photo/Mic Smith
[http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Election-2020-Booker/0b1cc39fdd8c4570bad18aeef804be22/1/0]

In pushing for criminal justice reform, Sen. Cory Booker speaks about
[https://religionnews.com/2018/10/24/cory-booker-fashions-himself-as-a-candidate-for-the-religious-left/]
the Christian tradition of “grace.” He’s also been known to
quote the Prophet Muhammad, Buddha and the Hindu god Shiva.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a devout churchgoer
[https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/02/opinions/buttigieg-and-religion-qa-beck/index.html]
who is also gay. He says
[https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/09/opinions/pete-buttigieg-mike-pence-erick-erickson-christian-progressives-graves-fitzsimmons/index.html]
that his sexual orientation is God-given and that his marriage, in the
Episcopal church, to another man, has brought him closer to God.

Talk of an emerging “religious left” is ahistoric. American
Christianity has always had its liberal strains, with pastors and
parishioners protesting state-sponsored injustices like slavery
[http://www.jubilee-centre.org/the-abolition-of-the-slave-trade-christian-conscience-and-political-action-by-john-coffey/],
segregation [https://nationalsclc.org/about/history/], the Vietnam War
[https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/clergy-and-laymen-concerned-about-vietnam-calcav]
and mass deportation
[http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/4/immigration-advocatespressureobamaondeportations.html].

But the high profile, religiously based moral outrage at Trump’s
immigration policies does seem to be spurring some long-overdue
rethinking of what it means to be Christian in America.[The
Conversation]

Laura E. Alexander
[https://theconversation.com/profiles/laura-e-alexander-705471],
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Goldstein Family Community
Chair in Human Rights, _University of Nebraska Omaha
[http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-nebraska-omaha-1660]_

This article is republished from The Conversation
[http://theconversation.com] under a Creative Commons license. Read
the original article
[https://theconversation.com/christian-left-is-reviving-in-america-appalled-by-treatment-of-migrants-121672].

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