As they arrived at their unfamiliar destination, fear and uncertainty filled their hearts. The children clung to their mothers as men speaking harshly directed the travelers to an unseen outpost for processing. Upon arriving there, the children were separated from parents and taken from the sight of mothers who by now were desperately sobbing and screaming, “Where are you taking my child?”
A scenario from America’s southern border with Mexico where refugees from Central America and South America have been stopped by immigration officials? No, this is a scene from Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the early 1940s. Those children were sent to slave labor camps to work for the German war machine or to their deaths because they were too young to work.
I have often been chided for slipping from sobriety and spiritual themes offering hope and recovery to issues of social justice facing our contemporary society in not only the USA but also the world. For reasons unknown to me even I can convince myself that I should avoid straying from noncontroversial topics. It’s safer and it’s more pleasant to prattle on about the ABCs of ‘serene and clean” living then to face the harsh realities of the world in which we live
WWJD? What would Jesus do? What would any community-spirited sober-minded citizen do? The answer always comes back to me in undeniable clarity. Having read the words attributed to Jesus and the stories of his ministry to his oppressed and downtrodden fellow Israelites, having been advised by a Higher Power in the form of other recovering alcoholics that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is preparing me to return to society as a useful tool and voice in my community, I must muster the courage and determination to be a voice, no matter how small, for justice in a socially unjust society. That’s my definition of spirituality and recovery.
You say my introductory paragraphs can’t happen here in America in 2018? Really? It’s a slippery slope on which our experiment in democracy finds itself today. The grand copper Lady in New York Harbor welcomed “the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse, the homeless and tempest tost.” The words from the Book of Matthew which evangelical Christianity tongues fervently, “As ye do unto the least of these, my brothers, ye have also done unto me,” convicts us of our failure in today’s refugee crisis.
If I am truly a child of God created in the image of God, a spiritual entity, then I must be concerned with the injustices I see on a daily basis on my media screens. I must offer a dollar or a meal to the homeless man on the corner. I must be involved in a political process which challenges the greed of the wealthy and the indifference of the politically powerful. When I talk the talk of sweet verses and inspiration, I also must walk the thorny paths of human misery shoulder to shoulder with the huddled masses. I am nothing if I can’t empathize with the suffering brother, the hungry beggar, or the homeless man on the corner. “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith which can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
When I am tempted to stand before the world thumping my chest with American pride and Christian hypocrisy, when I want to believe somebody else will take care of the poor and homeless, it is then that I need to find a quiet place and reorganize my priorities asking WWJD.
Think about it. Hitler denigrated Jews as sub-human, as animals. He fed the fears of Germans with racism and intolerance. He appealed to human depravity at its worst. He declared Aryans to be the superior, God-blessed race. Their fate is well documented in historical annals and film.
Can’t happen again? Maybe or maybe not, but I don’t want to be the one who quietly stood on the sidelines of neutrality.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”