Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | November 6, 2018

The caravan as spiritual moment

Like most Americans, I’ve been following the caravan of Central Americans that is inching toward the US southern border to request asylum.

What has been dismaying is the demonizing of those poor, desperate travelers, particularly among many Evangelical Christians. Words of hatred toward the poor fly in the face of Jesus’ example and words. He exhibited a clear preference for the poor throughout the gospels.

As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’ He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ [from Mark 12]

This is one of many passages where Jesus not only has sympathy for the poor, but lifts them up as examples.

How far we have strayed from that.

The caravan of poor asylum seekers has somehow become, in the mouths of fear-mongering politicians and pundits, an attack on our sovereign borders. The fact that they are brown-skinned somehow seems to make the demonizing of them more socially acceptable. How did we ever get to such a spiritual place? A complete lack of sympathy, much less any sense of their model of determination and sacrifice, weakens the message of Jesus about the poor. It weakens Christianity. It weakens our country’s moral leadership. It weakens us as individuals.

Fabricated stories are not only prevalent on social media, they have been repeated by the White House. The false stories of Jewish philanthropist and progressive George Soros, supposedly funding the caravan, inspired a man to murder eleven people at prayer last week in a synagogue and caused Mr. Soros to be a target of a would-be bomber.

In order to allow ourselves to fear poor, brown-skinned people many of us are willing to believe that they are malevolent border-stormers, that they are harboring “Middle Easterners” (read: terrorists), and that they want to overrun our country. I’ll let you read the work of journalists who have traveled with the caravan and who have debunked those myths, because today I’m more concerned about how we respond spiritually, how we’ll work to see that the poor are treated as human beings just like our own families and friends.

Because that is what Jesus does. And that is what Jesus teaches.

Jesus praises the poor widow who uses the bit of money she has for a higher purpose, not unlike a Honduran mother who spends her last lempiras to undertake a journey taking her children to a safer place.

Jesus elevates the poor as those who inherit the kingdom. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” [Luke 6] This doesn’t fit with the view by many that migrants are sub-human.

Jesus’ praising of the poor reminds those who will listen that we have much to learn.

We can learn from the poor what it means to be dependent on God and on the kindness of others.

We can learn from the poor what it means to move forward with hope and courage.

We can learn from the poor what it means to live on very little, and to make that count.

We can learn from the poor what it means to share all you have.

This is a spiritual moment for all people of faith. Will we demonize those Jesus praises?

Or will we learn from them and value who they are: the beloved of God?2 boys, Revolucion, cropped image, blog 5-17-10, copyright, low

© 2018 Melissa Bane Sevier

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Responses

  1. Well said, Melissa. Thanks for having the courage to print this.


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