Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | June 25, 2018

Compassion (Or: It’s not summer camp)

We’re used to seeing television coverage of humanitarian crises around the world: refugees struggling in makeshift camps; people fleeing wars; hungry children in the midst of famine on another continent.

What we’re not used to is seeing a humanitarian crisis at our own border.

The President has recently signed an executive order to end his own administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when families enter this country to seek asylum.

These are families. With children. Seeking asylum.

Recent troubling developments in this terrible and terrifying saga:

  • At least two members of the administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, have misused the Bible in their attempts to justify the maltreatment of families. They’ve focused on Romans 13, a passage that was also used to defend slavery and that has been appropriated by leaders throughout the ages to stifle dissent on important societal and justice issues.
  • Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager and current news analyst, ridiculed the story of a child with Down syndrome who had been removed from her mother’s care.
  • Laura Ingraham, a Fox News talk show host, said on her program that the children are being housed in “what are essentially summer camps.” Umm, okay. Apparently the kids she knows attend camps in abandoned Wal-Mart buildings that contain cages but no bedding and no toys, and where the children don’t know the location of their parents.
  • The Associated Press reported that the government has been placing babies (babies) and other very young children, all of whom have been separated from their parents, in three “tender age” facilities.
  • President Trump tweeted that “illegal immigrants” “infest” the United States, as if undocumented migrants were vermin.

I could go on with examples. Our government has lost its sense of compassion. The lack of human value given to immigrant families is sickening. Is it because they are immigrants? Is it because they are brown-skinned?

Where is the good news in any of this? The only good news I see, and it isn’t a small thing, is the outcry against such inhumanity. For once, the horror has reached leaders in both parties and in all sorts of religious communities, including many conservative Evangelicals. Why?

Here’s why: Bible passages like this week’s gospel reading. In Mark 5, Jesus displays tremendous compassion when he heals a 12-year-old girl. He does this because of an appeal from the girl’s dad. “Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.”

There is no deeper bond than that between parent and child in a healthy family. Parents will do anything for their children. They will run into a burning building to carry their child to safety—which is exactly what parents are doing when they leave a violent country to ask for asylum in the United States. Jairus begs for his daughter’s life. Children at our border are crying for their parents. We have to make this better.

The word compassion has Latin roots, meaning “to suffer with.” If we’ve lost the ability to suffer with those who are in trouble and need help, then either we have never experienced suffering ourselves, or we forget that all human beings are connected.

Jesus goes far out of his way to give life to a young girl; we can’t be bothered. He stops along the way because his compassion compels him to tend to another hurting person; we don’t have the inclination, and we don’t want to “waste” time and money. When others tell him the situation is hopeless, he goes anyway; we turn our backs when things get complicated. When the girl’s life is saved, he reminds those around her that she needs something to eat; we do our best to ignore the most basic of needs.

Jesus leapt over every cultural boundary, befriending women and honoring children, spending time with Samaritans and pagans, hanging out with people his society called “sinners.” He serves as both example and calling. His followers have a duty to care for everyone.

Everyone. Especially the children and people on the margins.

When we allow our country to turn away from “the least of these,” as Jesus called people on the margins, we turn our backs on compassion.

The Bible should never be used as a hammer against the vulnerable, or to keep people from questioning the actions of government. Use it instead as inspiration for goodness, wholeness, invitation, and welcome. Use it to remind each other that Jesus suffered with the hurting.

Use it to inspire compassion.IMG_9316

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2018



  1. In Kenmare, Ireland, where I live, at this time of the year we welcome many American people who come here to experience the traditional Irish welcome. Without exception, our US visitors are wonderful, open people. And yet, when we see the TV news, it is difficult to imagine that such warm, generous women and men could countenance the way their country treats desperate families who seek a safe place for their children. Thank you, then, for the reassurance in your post that there are people who are prepared to stand up for the Gospel message of welcome, justice, and service.

    Shout it loud.

    Every Blessing

    Michael Cavanagh

    Priest-in-Charge, Kenmare & Dromod Union of Parishes

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