My friend and fellow church member Ian North lives in a community of immigrants from North and Central America. Years ago, he and his wife Ruthie started a local ministry, Presencia, in that community. They love the families in the neighborhood, share the gospel with them, enter their unique struggles, and walk alongside the children in particular. A solid group of those kids attend our church on a regular basis.
The policies of the Trump administration have caused tremendous upheaval and at times terror in their community this year. The dad of two kids who attend our church was detained by ICE a little over a week ago. It’s a painful and exhausting time. I often observe people arguing about policy in highly opinionated but academic ways, from the perch of some detached or elevated realm. But there are large numbers of people on the margins for whom policies are not merely ideas. They are the physical boots on their necks, uniformed militia slamming their bodies to the ground or pointing guns to their heads with no regard for due process, the devastation of unexpected separation from their families, sleepless nights, panic attacks, and children bearing burdens they were never meant to carry.
In response to the white supremacist march in #Charlottesville yesterday and the violence that ensued, Ian wrote, “The one thing that white supremacists and minority communities agree on is that Trump’s election emboldens and elevates white supremacy. People in the middle who aren’t as close to racial tensions can bicker about his dog whistles or the adequacy of his disclaimers. Those are irrelevant arguments to me, as the impact of his messaging and policy are pretty clear to anyone positioned to feel their impact.”
This cartoon image of blood and crosshairs reminds me of the central message of the gospel. Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross because He essentially put himself in the crosshairs of both Rome and the religious elite – to identify with the sinner, the exile, the criminal, the poor, and the rejected. Our place as Jesus’ followers, as those redeemed by his sacrifice, is in the same place — far, far away from the halls of power. We’re called to suffer alongside the ones that both the State and the religious elite judge, reject, and scorn, and in doing so, to bear witness to the truth that the ones who oppress them or ignore their oppression are participating in acts of evil.