My wife and I, having retired to an area of the Appalachian foothills where she grew up, are supposed to join formally a small church this Sunday. I have few expectations, and no illusions. At my age, one is aware that faith either lives and breathes in what one says and does… or else it is a body without breath, a mere word gracing a convenient nexus of social diversions. I love the compound’s century-old trees, the whispering creek under a small bridge, and the 180-year-old-church itself. The people are probably no better than I at my best or worse than I at my worst. I don’t really need a church to tell me when I walk with God… and I’ve never been able to convince myself that I’m walking with God because I belong to a church.
It’s actually very hard to find a denomination that will countenance the sentiments of my last sentence, especially along the more conservative edge of the spectrum. Among the hardliners, you either hear and adore the Word every Sunday… or you’re hell-bait; and to hear the Word, you come to church and listen to Preacher Paul exegize select verses (which need no exegesis because everything in the Bible is literally true and means just what it says, except… whatever).
Well, we have steered clear of Preacher Paul this time. I like our new minister, though a passing allusion (which I may have misconstrued) to LGBT issues in one of her sermons made me squirm. As a woman who attended seminary in the Deep South, she endured a baptism of fire, I’m sure, that left her more sympathetic to liberal causes célèbres than I could ever be. And as a straight white male who has navigated the shoal waters of college English departments for over three decades, I’m sure I could tell her things about leftist hypocrisy, coarseness, and inhumanity that would shock her. But I probably won’t. We settle where the tides of life have cast us ashore. Some of us have known dense swamps, and some only barren rocks.
Yet this general magnanimity of mine doesn’t always wear well in specific cases. The defense of our border is one such: I’m challenged to give my “live and let live” shrug when I hear trash talk about ICE. If a devout libertarian were to explain to me why all borders should be nullified, I would heartily disagree, but I could understand how his principles had generated his position. The connections would be logical and relatively unprovocative. What makes me want to cry foul on discussions of this subject is the mention of children. It’s tantamount to hitting the lights when you know you’ve drawn a losing hand and then raking in all the chips during the scramble. No, sorry—you don’t get to skulk away free on the border crisis just by uttering the word “children”. Even if you squeeze “Christ” into the same sentence, you’re not sneaking out of the room with the pot. In fact, if you start throwing “Christ” at me routinely, I’ll have you permanently banned from the game… or I’ll just stop playing games, since I’m not the organizer here. I’ll design my conversations to orbit tightly around “hello”: I’ll keep the peace of a quiet outsider visiting a lunatic asylum. Sound familiar?
Let’s look at children, by all means—we of sound mind. Take a six-year-old who’s been dragged from the rural village whose lanes, creeks, briar patches, and sand flats are all he’s ever known… and bundle him along a series of rattletrap bus-rides and crawling night transits in flatbed railroad cars until he comes to the desert. Then make him walk two or three hundred miles through spaces that have no water and steady, brutal sun. Why art thou doing this to him, thou follower of Christ? Or why are you defending those who do this to him? The reason is said to be a “better life”. What better life? Better how? Better for his “parents”? (Let’s assume for the sake of argument, and in the teeth of probability, that all our six-year-olds are being dragged through Hell by a true parent.) How better for his parents? Because they will harvest free health care, free police protection, free food and shelter in some cases (so they’ve heard), and free-and-permanent victim status in our ongoing high-stakes political game of subverting the republic? How will this profit our boy? What positive life lessons—assuming he survives the trip intact (and waving aside more probabilities)—will he learn from these new habits? Dependency, indigence, victimhood, protest, envy, resentment… along with all the duplicity, cynicism, despair, and passive-aggressive tricks of exploitation that are first cousin to these… have we given this child, my brothers and sisters in Christ, a better upbringing than he would have enjoyed on the dirt floor of his hovel?
My Beacons of the Christian Conscience, ironically, are always among the first to deplore our overcrowded cities (and little Pedrito’s dad does not intend to pick apricots and lettuces), our high unemployment levels and (when those fall) low wages, our soul-killing ghettos, our deadly-violent streets, and our garbage-laden popular culture. Yet by inviting hordes of fortune-seekers to ignore our laws, they are feeding the machine that generates all such misery. Is it so important, then, that Pedrito not be brought up on a dirt floor? Why? For health reasons? Are the mouthpieces of our Collective Conscience remotely aware of what massive movements of people into tightly condensed population centers do for infectious diseases?
But the children, the children! They’re already here. How can you turn them away?
An observation, and then a suggestion. If it were known far and wide that our border was firmly shut to illegal penetration, then no child would ever be forced to endure this excruciating, sometimes fatal ordeal. If a “parent” nevertheless feels so drawn by the prospect of a rich payday that he will submit his child to such torture, then I say that we have a prima facie case for severe child abuse. Therefore (and this is my suggestion), instantly put each child up for adoption who is rescued from such a parent, and send the parent back home. Fortunately, the volume of American families willing to adopt a child within two hours of a phone call is immense, thanks to the success of the Left at killing off very adoptable infants. My wife and I would take Pedrito tomorrow.
Why is that “not Christian” of us—but leaving children in the hands of anything-to-get-ahead parents is a deed of mercy? Are we truly trying to be disciples of Christ in a fallen and intricately compromised world… or are we posing for a selfie in some situation whose props and lighting “look Christian”? (“Here’s another of Jesus and me… that’s me on the right.”)
I try to remind myself that inviting ignorant, dependent masses into red states at grave risk of igniting plagues and gang warfare—all for the sake of illegal enfranchisement and permanent hijacking of the nation—is the psychotically amoral scheme only of the Democrat Party elite (and more than a few Republican fellow-travelers in the beltway). I try to recognize, even, that not all the “Lord, Lord” Christians who condone this calamity are merely of the virtue-signaling, selfie-snapping sort. I truly believe that some, perhaps many, are honestly mistaken about the situation’s squalid facts… that is, I think I truly believe it. I try to. Truly.
But my vexation with people who are well old enough to understand just what a desert is, even if they’ve never seen one, can get the better of me. My impatience with people who decry our repellently commercialized Christmases yet cannot accept that children may grow up spiritually healthy without iPhones and x-Boxes makes me nearly snap sometimes. I know they mean well, some of these people… maybe most of them. (More likely just some of them.) And scarcely a one of them, at the same time, can credit that anyone holding my position isn’t a racist animal.
I’ll be okay. I’ll listen to the wind high in the century-old pines, and the incessant watery whisper beneath the bridge. All the projects of this world end in futility, from an earthly perspective… and the stream flows on. Who knows? Maybe I can politely nudge a mind or two in a different direction. Maybe I will discover that one or two minds covertly occupy the same turf as mine.
But it’s a shame that so many children will have to suffer, in the meantime. And it’s beyond shameful that their suffering will be abetted, and even engineered, by people calling themselves Christians—engineered in the very exercise of this self-indulgent, extravagant short-sightedness that they are pleased to call Christian living.