The US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has recently been defending the government’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the US border. Sessions has attempted to use the Bible, particularly words from Romans 13, to justify this diabolical policy. He quotes from the first verse which speaks of every person being subject to the ‘governing authorities’.
It is very easy to quote selectively from the Bible in an attempt to use it as a weapon against your opponents, people have been doing it since the words were first written down. However, the core themes of the Bible that run through the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament speak of a God of love whose followers are called to care for creation, support the most vulnerable, love our neighbour as ourself and to speak Truth to power (not to mention redemption, resurrection and restoration). If Sessions had read a bit further down the page of his Bible, he would have been following: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law’. But that would have been an inconvenient truth.
This is not a new story; when Pharaoh looked upon the people of Israel and saw that they were numerous and therefore a potential problem for his power, he decided that he should oppress them, particularly their children, but Moses was hidden from him. The Bible stands with the oppressed and as hope for all people, for we know that in the the story of the Exodus, liberation followed oppression for the people of Israel.
The passage selectively quoted from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans is one of many that are often used and abused. Paul is not saying that a person is required to obey public officials under any or all circumstances, and it comes as no surprise that many Americans as well as many others are opposing this law of separation. We do well to remember that those who placed Anne Frank into hiding were breaking the law, and those who killed her were following the law. ‘Never Again’ is today and every day.
Fr Jeremy 30 June 2018