Thanksgiving weekend is a time when millions of people gather with family and friends to give thanks to God. In a recent edition of The Atlantic magazine, there is a story about a different kind of Thanksgiving gathering. An interfaith group of about 200 people made a pilgrimage to the US-Mexico border in support of people from Central America who are seeking asylum in our country. The article begins with the following words:
By midday, the desert sun is high and this little protest frankly feels like a misguided act in powerless futility.
About 200 people, Jews and Christians, cluster near an eight-foot stone gate in the West Texas town of Tornillo, singing and praying for hundreds of Central American children held by the federal government. Two cop cars and chain-link fences topped with concertina wire keep them a good 150 yards out of the children’s sight and well beyond their hearing. Every 20 minutes, buses with tinted windows arrive ferrying still more children.
Although the protest may have seemed futile at the time, it is a powerful witness that is being shared around the country. We can have honest disagreements about the details of immigration policy. Yet as people of faith, what is non-negotiable is the humanity of each and every person seeking asylum. We cannot accept or tolerate hateful stereotypes that demonize people as “less than” for any reason including race, economic condition, or political status. God’s special concern for oppressed people is clear throughout the Bible including the following quote from Psalm 146:
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
It is good that we have a national holiday called Thanksgiving. Yet giving thanks to God rings hollow unless we are also committed to doing the will of God. The Bible in general and passages such as Psalm 146 in particular make it clear that God’s will is for us to actively share God’s special concern for people who are oppressed rather than condoning oppression especially when it is done in our name. For a deeper and disturbing look at the oppression of asylum seekers by our government, see a story from last night’s episode of 60 minutes by clicking here.
Rabbi Josh Whinston, a Reform Jewish leader from Ann Arbor, speaks during a rally outside a tent city on November 15, 2018, in Tornillo, Texas.IVAN PIERRE AGUIRRE