On Children at the Border

Yesterday, I had the privilege to listen to Krista Tippett, host of NPR’s On Being, interview the (self-described “morose”) author, television and print journalist, Richard Rodriguez. Their conversation covered a lot of ground but part of it covered our current immigration crisis. Rodriguez sees this “problem” with very different eyes. The problem is here  and not in the scores of people who are making their way to our borders. The land of opportunity has so many people in it who feel the need to escape this terrific country that they fuel a drug industry that in turns allows thugs to take over countries to our south and send people – especially children – looking for a better life. Where do they look? The land of opportunity, of course.

I think that is a fascinating way of looking at it. Its a tragic comedy in many ways and one in which Rodriguez also pointed out was being played out with the voice of the Church being strangely silent.

That silence troubled me most of the day yesterday. I wondered why I hadn’t said more. I wondered why my church hadn’t said more and I even thought, “I think I know more people who would be upset that I was listening to a gay man suggest to the church that we could do more than there are people who are upset that we are expediting the return of children to places of death.”  I prayed a lot about it yesterday and today and the following came to me:

Father of all people everywhere, bless the new Americans who come in year by year from foreign lands. Help them in their loneliness to find friends, to get work and to be happy. May they feel that America is their country.

Help us, as people from all countries, to live together in this great world-nation. May we forget all difference in color and language and work for the future of our land, seeking to make it a home of freedom and brotherhood. Help us be more considerate of these immigrants, remembering that they may have more to give to American than we have. May we never speak disrespectfully of them, but treat them as our brothers and work with them for a greater America.

Now, I say these words “came” to me, but they are not my own. They are the words of Robert Bartlett found in the hymnal The New Hymnal for American Youth, copyrighted in 1930 by The Century Company.

I picked this hymnal up to look at it to see just how “dated” the hymns and prayers would be for our day and age. God laughed. I got the joke too. Granted the language is a bit more masculine than I would like but the words of that prayer are haunting. These children of God showing up on our borders are not a problem to be solved! They are our future brothers and sisters in faith and future patriots of this nation.

That’s apparently how it used to be so it makes me wonder about the terrific “conservative” voices I hear today saying we should send everyone back as quickly as possible: Just what are we conserving here? The American Dream or our slice of the pie.

 

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