The Evangelical Christian movement has a problem. First of all, the movement hijacked the term “evangelical.” Evangelical is traditionally described as the acts of receiving the grace of God and following the teachings of Jesus. Evangelical has no tradition in supporting conservative political thought, that is, until the conservative movement hijacked the term in the 1980s.
Aside from hijacking the term, the Evangelical Christian movement has supported policies antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught us to welcome the stranger while the Evangelical movement supports such policies as the buoys and razor wire placed in the international waters of the Rio Grande and the proposed border wall on our Southern border.
Early on in the life of Jesus we learn of the ‘Flight of the Holy Family.’ The Holy Family was forced to escape to Egypt to save their son from the wrath of Herod who intended to slaughter him. The Bible indicates this journey began before the Holy Family left Bethlehem. This would mean a trip along the Jericho Road, which goes through a region the Canaanites called Valley of the Shadow of Death. After that a trip through the Dead Sea desert and across the Sinai Peninsula. A harrowing journey. The Holy Family were migrants seeking asylum in the same way migrants from developing nations choose a harrowing journey to this country to seek asylum.
The migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are escaping regions where the local cultures had been devastated by the West’s desire for the minerals found in that region. The West drew territorial borders for its own financial and political benefit. When the West left, it left competing groups and tribes of people to figure out a governing structure for the region. Devastation was the result with people killing people. As for South America and Central America, these regions were colonized by Europeans while eradicating and diminishing the indigenous population’s influence and control over their own destiny. In short, we are building walls to defend ourselves from the people whose lives we have wrecked.
Before looping back to the Evangelicals, let us examine what a journey might look like for someone coming from Africa or the Middle East and who chooses to forgo the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean. First, their family must scrape together funds to transport them from their homeland to a country in South America that will permit their entry. From there they put their trust in smugglers with the promise of getting across the Mexican-United States border. The risk of a smuggler walking off with the migrants’ resources is quite high. Then there is the Darien Gap to consider — a vast jungle full of countless dangers that must be crossed if the migrants are to reach the border. There is also the high probability of needing to negotiate around bandits and drug gangs. There is ever present danger of being kidnapped and killed, if the kidnapping does not prove profitable.
When Jesus grew up he taught us about love for God, love for our neighbor, and love for the destitute. He embraced the Gentiles whom the Jews considered pagans. He gave us the story of the Good Samaritan. There is the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. There is the healing of the Roman Centurion’s daughter. There is turn the other cheek. Jesus did not build walls but tore down walls. Jesus’ life was about community. Jesus was a Jew but he did not believe you had to be a Jew to be part of his community. You might even be part of the dominating and oppressive Roman Empire. Your life is valued regardless of who you claim to be, but there is a catch. If you are freely received, then you must freely receive others.
So this is a summation of the problem the modern day Evangelical Christian movement has. While the Evangelical welcomes the gift of salvation, the gift of inclusion is not necessarily offered to others. Jesus does not turn his back on anybody. Jesus’s world is open to those of different beliefs and those who do not believe at all. Jesus does not judge the woman considering an abortion. Instead, he will want to hear her story and travel that difficult road with her.
The modern day Evangelical Christians have embraced a Roman culture. Rome had a significant influence on the development of European cultures and European cultures have had a significant influence on the development of this nation’s culture. Jesus asks us to put aside the values of Rome and embrace the values of community.
Lee Sease lives in Burnsville.