On January 16, 2017, we celebrated the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His message of justice, liberation, and inclusion reverberated from coast to coast as we remembered our national hero. Whether it was during a breakfast, dinner, or church service in his honor, his words decrying hatred, bigotry, injustice, segregation, and discrimination were extolled as morally compelling. Therefore, it is perplexing at best and painfully hypocritical at worst that just nine days later our president signed Executive Orders contradicting everything we revere in Dr. King.
We are a nation of immigrants. Unless your ancestors are of Native American descent, your relatives arrived on these shores from another country. And, save those brought here as enslaved persons, everyone else is the descendant of strangers who came seeking a better life for themselves and their families. This country has welcomed millions of immigrants in pursuit of the American dream. How can it be that we would now close our borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented persons without regard for our founding principles, history, and religious convictions?
Our holy writ proclaims, "[God] enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). This message of love, mercy, and inclusion is continued in our new covenant, the New Testament, as Jesus shares the parable concerning strangers and the vulnerable. Jesus cautions that each stranger is a representation of himself as he teaches, "I assure you that when you have done it for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me" (Matthew 25: 40). Conversely, when we have not welcomed the stranger, we have not welcomed Jesus. This is what the Lord requires of us. This is the measure of our Christian witness.
We must be careful that our claims of protecting our homeland from violence are not thinly veiled excuses for racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. As our president has signed orders banning all people from seven countries from entering the United States, the most affected religious body of that group are Muslims. He has done this under the guise of national security. We have seen this type of mass discrimination before in our history. Japanese internment camps were constructed during WWII out of professed fear. Many of those interned were United States citizens. On numerous occasions, our country has sought forgiveness for that heinous act of racial profiling. The current Executive Orders are equally heinous. The sins of a few extremists cannot be imputed to the majority of faithful Muslims.
Now is the time for us to stand on the side of justice. In the words of Dr. King, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Now is the time for us to stand on holy ground.
Blessings and peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling