As I have watched with horror the news reports of children separated from their parents – whose crime was to seek a better life for those children in a land flowing with milk and honey, from which they are separated by an imaginary, man-made line in the dirt – it is tempting to vilify President Trump and direct my anger in his direction. The truth is, President Trump represents the views of many Americans, many of whom voted him into office for precisely this reason, so there is a significant number of Americans who are pleased with President Trump’s toughness on immigration – and there are some valid arguments from that perspective. Managing immigration, both legal and illegal, isn’t a simple black-and-white issue; but separating children from their families for this offense, particularly when placing those children with relatives is a significant challenge due to distances and international borders, is crossing the line into immoral behavior.

Interestingly, on June 17, 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived at New York harbor – a symbol of hope for freedom and a better life.

But on June 17, 2018, rather than pictures of Lady Liberty offering hope, we have pictures of children in cages along our southern border.

I am reminded of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recounted in Luke 16:19-31:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Why was the rich man separated from paradise? What gross sin kept him on the far side of the chasm? The parable infers that it was his indifference to Lazarus’ plight which now keeps him from Abraham’s bosom. He feasted sumptuously each day while Lazarus starved outside his gate. The rich man’s gate separated him from the plight of Lazarus so, in the afterlife, he then is separated from God by an equally forbidding barrier. I think the lesson of this parable is that we cannot expect a unity with God if we in turn oppress, abuse, and separate ourselves from the Lazaruses at our gates.

[Updated to add this tweet and video]

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, and I understand the importance of maintaining territorial integrity and order, but I think we are better than this. So, I’ll close with a couple of prayers from the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer in the hope that you will join me in a plea for hearts to be softened, divisions to be mended, and the love of God to reign.

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.

Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To all who have executive authority and to all who have administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To those who make our laws give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.

For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.

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Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.