Written by Alyssa Shibata
In the story of The Good Samaritan told by Jesus in Luke 10:25-37, there is a Jewish man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho. He is attacked by thieves, stripped of his clothes and money, beaten until nearly dead, and left alone to die on the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite saw him on the road, but passed over to the other side. Then a Samaritan, a known enemy of the Jews, saw him laying by the side of the road. With no regard for his safety, wealth, or personal comfort he helped the man by dressing his wounds, letting the man ride his donkey while he walked, taking him to a nearby inn to rest, and he even came back to check on him after a few days.
Put a pin in that story. I'll come back to it later.
Last week, I went to see British singer/ songwriter Frank Turner in concert at the House of Blues in Dallas. He just released a new album this year called "Be More Kind" about the fact that humanity has lost sight of basic kindness, but there's still hope for us.
The House of Blues stage is striking and unique. At the top of the stage there are ten religious symbols including Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Taoist, Hindu, etc. In the middle of those symbols, there is a giant Hamsa Hand with the words, "Who do you love? Unity in Diversity" encircling it. A Hamsa Hand is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol that represents the Hand of God. It is considered a universal sign of protection. I've seen many concerts at House of Blues and I am always humbled by this thoughtful smattering of symbols.
Frank Turner's last song of the night had a short introduction with it.
He said, "You know, it sounds simple, but I honestly think this world would be an easier place to live in if we were all willing to say two things aloud:
- I don't know.
- I've changed my mind.
If we were willing to say that to each other, if politicians and leaders were able and willing to admit that without being accused of flip flopping, this world would start to heal."
Then he began to sing the song "Get It Right." I invite you to take a moment and listen to his song.
During this song, I looked around and noticed all the faces surrounding me: different races, hair colors, heights, faiths, tattoos, clothes. Everyone was singing along with their hands up and eyes closed. I looked above the stage and stared at the Hamsa Hand, the sign of protection.
It was a moment of worship. I felt God's presence.
Four days later, Junji (my husband) and I had a group of friends over to our house to watch the World Cup. During a break between games we got into a conversation about our backgrounds. One of my friends is a first-generation American whose parents are from China. Another friend is the great grandson of a Spanish refugee who came to America seeking asylum. My husband is a Japanese citizen who was brought by his parents to the U.S. as a baby for better opportunities. As for myself, I qualify for Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and my family on my mom's side can trace back to General Mercer. I was struck by the fact that we were all sitting in the same room watching the World Cup together and each rooting for a different country. It is almost a miracle that all of us know each other, and even more of a miracle that we all ended up in my living room.
As we each told our lineage stories, I felt God's presence. It was a moment of worship.
Lately, immigration policies in the U.S. have been weighing heavily on me, as I hope they have been weighing heavily on you. I have a lot of friends who are legal immigrants, but honestly, I also have quite a few friends who are illegal immigrants. I know some people who illegally crossed the Mexican border as adults and some as children because their parents wanted a better life for them. I have friends who were DACA recipients and are the salt of the earth: teachers, social workers, and those climbing the corporate ladder.
We may never see eye-to-eye on immigration policy, and I'm in the same camp as Frank Turner on this one.
- I don't know.
- I've changed by mind.
Honestly, I don't know what the right answer is, and I've changed my mind multiple times based on different arguments I've heard and new information I've discovered. There is no simple solution to a complex issue, and I am wary of anyone who claims there is.
But I hope if you are a follower of Jesus, you can agree that there is a wrong answer. It was the wrong answer to inhumanely remove children from these illegal immigrants. Basic human dignity doesn't allow this. It was a wrong answer to separate families and take away all hope of a better future.
As I mentioned before, I qualify for DAR so I've always had the luxury of American citizenship. And, trust me, it is a luxury. Not just me, but generation after generation of my family have had the luxury of liberty, freedom, and support from the U.S. government. I've never known what it's like to feel so desperate and fearful for the future that I would put the lives of myself and my children at risk, leave everything I own, and abandon the only life I've ever known to seek sanctuary elsewhere. I pray I'll never know that crippling fear and hopelessness.
I don't have kids. But when I think about my sister and brother-in-law with my 4-year-old niece and 1-year-old nephew and try to imagine someone stripping them away, I immediately get emotional. I have to push those terrible thoughts out of my mind because I can't even handle imagining it.
This has been a long road, but back to the Good Samaritan story.
I can't help but feel like our Latino brothers and sisters seeking a better life are like the Jewish man who was walking down the road. And that would make us the thieves. Every time I heard the story of the Good Samaritan in the past, I was fearful of being the priest who passed by. I never imagined I'd be one of the thieves. Except, on top of treating Latinos like the enemy, arresting them, and labeling them as criminals, we took their children away. Yes, I say we. I am part of the problem. I am part of the problem because I get so comfortable with my rich, American life that I forget to fight for the marginalized, or even think about them. It's as if I was a member of the band of thieves. I may not have thrown any punches myself, but I sat back and watched it happen. I want to change that. I want to get it right.
So the question is, who is going to be the Samaritan in this story? Sadly, when I ask my friends, the last group that they expect to swoop in and help are the Christians. It's a sad truth. But the Methodist church wants to be the Good Samaritan.
They have come out with an official statement on family separation. You can read it here: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/faith-leaders-statement-on-family-separation.
Within the Book of Resolutions, the UMC claims tenets of what the church believes. Resolution #3281 is "Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S." and is based in scripture. You can find it here: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/welcoming-the-migrant-to-the-us.
In the midst of writing this blog post, President Trump reversed his policy on separating families. I am encouraged that voices on all sides of politics spoke out against this unjust treatment of our brothers and sisters. I am encouraged that as united people of this country, we stood up and said, "No, this is not who we are."
Last night as I reflected on the Republicans, Democrats, religions, and races that spoke out against injustice, I felt God's presence. It was a moment of worship.
But the fight is not over. The damage has been done. And now it is our responsibility as the church to be the Good Samaritan who returns to check on these children and follow through with love and compassion.
Last night, the Bishops of the North Texas Conference of the Methodist Church released this statement:
"We are heartened to see President Trump sign an executive order today ending his administration’s policy of separating families at the border. Furthermore, we commend him for taking this action and putting the needs of these children at the forefront.
The humanitarian and moral crisis that has escalated over the past several weeks along our southern border has been difficult to fathom. Approximately 2,000 children have been separated from their parents attempting to apply for asylum or seeking safety from the violence in their countries. Acknowledging the differences many persons have on matters of immigration and refugees, we call upon United Methodists to be public witnesses regarding the plight and conditions of these children..." READ MORE.
I am proud to be part of the United Methodist Church. I am grateful that the church pushes me to seek justice for the persecuted. I am relieved that the church is willing to take an official stance on something so politically charged because it is our job to live into the teachings of Jesus, whether it crosses political territories or not. On Sunday at the Methodist church I attend in Dallas, the pastor even asked us to write a letter to our representatives in Congress asking them to seek compassion, understanding, and hospitality for illegal immigrants and refugees rather than aggression. We need to be more like the Samaritan without concern for money, comfort, and safety. It's what Jesus asked of us.