If You’ll Turn A Child Back Into the Night, You Can’t Call Yourself A Christian

The photograph below, with credit to the Dallas Morning News in an opinion piece, depicts an 8 year-old child looking with some combination of angst and wonder at a United States Border patrolman as he is processed near McAllen, Texas.

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I lack a ready solution to what is a legitimate growing concern regarding the appropriate legal status of (and thus the fate of) undocumented children who enter the United States unaccompanied and often at the behest of parents and other family members who have already made the journey to the United States, either legally or illegally.

I also lack, increasingly, a sincere religious identity other than Deism, although I still cling to Catholicism in some element of practice. But if agreements can be reached on basic definitions, I’ll offer this quick and blunt syllogism:

1. “Christians” are not just followers but indeed worshippers of the figure generally accepted to have been the itinerant rabbi Jesus, originally from the Roman province of Judea.

2. “Worship” can be commonly understood to mean to aspire to be like, to imitate and struggle to emulate; at bottom to do what the worshipped object would do as much as humanly possible.

3. Thousands of children every year are attempting the remarkably cruel, emotionally crippling and physically dangerous journey into the United States from Mexico and points south. They suffer all manner of thirst, hunger, exhaustion, fear, darkness, uncertainty, and still untold amounts of sexual exploitation and abuse. In most cases they have family already in the U.S. who have arranged for their transport in order for reunification. In some cases the border crossing is only one point on a trail of misery and hardship. Many children must travel thousands of miles beyond the border to rejoin loved ones, and that journey within the U.S. can be no less vicious and exploitive.

4. Christianity within differing sects is by far the most popular American religion, with millions claiming America to be a “Christian nation.”

5. Many Americans, in some cases regardless of political affiliation and with some legitimate practical concerns, would see these children turned away from sanctuary in the world’s richest nation. While perhaps not personally lacking compassion, some would nevertheless deny these children even processing in temporary detention centers.

6. These people cannot call themselves Christians with any shred of sincerity or intellectual honesty.

And what gives me the right to make this claim? Nothing, really. But I’ve yet to see a single interpretation with an iota of coherency that would allow the plain teachings of Jesus- as we know them in modern translations from the Gospels- to allow for the shunning of these children in need (or those accompanying them, for that matter, but especially them).

I’m aware that tragic interpretations of Christianity have for centuries encouraged and embraced horrors from slavery to genocide. But I’ve never seen anything Jesus himself purportedly uttered that could ever be used to justify anything but welcoming these children -pawns in a miserable game of limited and lopsidedly distributed resources- with open arms. No matter if it’s inconvenient, impractical, unwise, unfair even, or anything else.

It’s often irritating, and indeed sometimes far worse that that. Like millions before me, I’ve struggled with the clear demands of this same revolutionary, inscrutable, polarizing figure my entire sentient life. Although not Jesus himself, a Biblical author named James is credited with writing that religion undefiled before God is this: To attend to widows and orphans in their distress, and to remain unstained from the world.

I’ve failed miserably at the second part of this command. My only hope, for whatever shadow of a Christian I may still be or eventually die as, is not to fail at the first.

Regardless of the practical considerations.

Regardless of the geopolitical implications.

Regardless of the foolishness, recklessness, or even downright deception of any adult involved.

If you will turn a child back into the night, you cannot call yourself a Christian.

 

 

George F. Will: Championing Male Paranoia, Ignorance, and the Status Quo

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Attributed to the anthropologist Margaret Mead, this sentiment is both insightful and beautiful, but deceivingly tragic as well. If, after all, Mead was right that only small, committed groups of people have really changed the world, then it’s exactly because human beings as they’ve assembled in larger groups never would or could.

It’s sad but true. Tribes, nation-states, empires and entire civilizations have made, by and large, miserable decisions over the millennia in just about every area of human interaction. In our largest collections, we’ve consistently chosen slavery, patriarchy, militarism, vengeance, racial and sectarian violence, bigotry and greed.

Regardless, hope and progress persist and have moved the world forward; I believe Mead is right that this progress in humanity has been driven in large part not by the masses but by the outliers, the suffering, the unusually reflective, empathic and brave.

When it comes to the shameful and shame-based, age-old shroud of silence that has been draped over survivors of sexual violence, nothing is different. Progress is being made, much of it born of the efforts of women (and some men) who refused at last to suffer silently and who finally punched through to the social consciousness with the feminist and victim’s movements of recent decades.

And now a small but surprisingly growing number are coming forward to expose what’s always been true and almost never acknowledged: Colleges and universities, like most institutional environments, have been havens for sexually violent individuals for far too long, and for reasons that institutional leadership could address far better than it ever has.

But for writers like George F. Will, this shedding of light and move toward accountability must be dismissed as hysteria and the establishment of yet another “victim class” with a hidden agenda. He’s armed with nothing more than one, remarkably atypical and grossly misleading anecdote of an apparently mischaracterized sexual assault. Yet he spends half of a column on its facts before dismissing pretty much all college-aged victims as confused and coddled miscreants, unable to characterize their own experiences due to “hook up culture,” or “hormones, alcohol, and faux sophistication.”

As Will himself would write in judgment of such a moronic conclusion:

Well.

Like so many before him, Will combines ignorance and useless moralizing; unlearned in sexual violence dynamics, he fails to grasp that most clear cases of victimization- let alone awkward or even borderline violent sexual events- almost never lead to complaints of victimization to anyone. Of course, awkward and negative sexual hook-ups happen. Of course regret sometimes sinks in. Of course women (and some men) feel cheated, used and angry after sexual encounters in many circumstances and because of many factors. The idea that they’ll now “cry rape” because of a handful of Department of Education initiatives, thus filling the country’s prisons with innocent men, is paranoid nonsense.

Regardless, as with so many men of his generation and inclination, Will’s real concern is with the fate of the hapless, charming lothario who he is certain has no ill intent but now faces the wrath of the badly behaved, deviously empowered woman with an axe to grind and a sympathetic, left-leaning government to help her grind it.

It’s garbage. But it’s not surprising. Will’s hysteria is a common and oft-repeated pattern of those who would preserve the status quo and the appearance of white, male dominated normalcy at any cost; just as women who demanded equal rights were once marginalized and dismissed as a small, vocal group of disgruntled malcontents; just as those who fought for an end to racial segregation were once branded as the minority in an otherwise content sub-culture of second class citizens. It’s that ever-present, all too common drone that has damned the world to so much misery and injustice for so long without change. On this issue, Will champions it shamefully.

My hope is that efforts like Will’s- ones which regrettably resemble the sad echo of mass group-think through the ages- will continue to falter, however improbably, because of a small group of thoughtful individuals who have simply had enough.

 

For the Love of God: “The Home” In Western Ireland

Memorial_cross_in_Canna's_Church_of_Scotland_graveyard_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1426006I am a Catholic. I have close Catholic friends who very much believe that abortion is “the ultimate child abuse.” If that’s to be accepted, then those same adherents must acknowledge that the cultural ostracizing of unwed mothers in heavily Catholic countries has, over time, led to similarly abusive consequences.

Regardless of how pregnancies occurred, whether through (what is called) sin, rape, or something else, the fact was (and still is in some) heavily Catholic environments that pregnancy out of wedlock was a cultural crime met with very little mercy. The result was women forced to leave their families, their support structures, and sometimes their children. A second parting, then, was often caused by death, either of the mothers or the children. This was due in large part to sub-standard care brought on by everything from a simple lack of resources to a general and punitive sense that everyone in the situation was getting what they deserved.

The discovery of the bodies of 800 children near a former home for unwed mothers in western Ireland is a reminder of what can happen when allegedly Christian religious dogma trumps the spirit behind it.

Catholicism and Christianity in general are hardly the only organized religions that have taken such an unforgiving stand to the inevitability of pregnancies out of wedlock. But a religion so uncompromising in its criticism of ending unborn life must also confront its historical unwillingness to tolerate situations where life has arisen in unsanctioned settings.

The victims of this, ultimately and inevitably, are the youngest and weakest. This is a mockery of everything Christ stood for. It has to be, or He stood for nothing.

And I don’t believe that.

 

To A.J. Delgado: You Might Be Dumb Like a Fox. Or Just Dumb. But Wow, Are You Wrong.

DelgadoA..J.,  I get it.

You’re attractive by Western standards (white, thin, pleasing bone structure, etc). You speak well on camera. But of course, so do plenty of us.

So maybe you’ve been clever enough to realize that your best bet as an aspiring media star is as an iconoclast. That’s great- we need them. The problem, though- assuming you see it as one- is that iconoclasts aren’t always the voices of reason, or the till-now ignored prophets from the wilderness, screaming the truth in hopes of overcoming a cacophony of nonsense.

Sometimes, with their slick, favorable, TV features, they’re just cynical charlatans. Or perhaps worse, they’re sincere but mis-informed, useful idiots.

You’re one or the other, AJ; either deeply cynical or grossly, happily misinformed. It really is that simple. I read your National Review piece on what you seem to believe is an imaginary “rape epidemic” on American college campuses. Typically, and within 60 words of your opening, you echo this oft-quoted and infantile meme: “…the term “rape” or “sexual assault” is thrown around almost effortlesslyaccusations easily made [emphasis added] and lives easily ruined.”

Utter. Nonsense.

Your characterization of the terms “effortlessly” and “easily,” as applied to the disclosure of sexual violence, might be sardonically funny were it not so dangerously stupid. I’m a former prosecutor who spent a career working with the rare woman (or man) who took the almost unimaginable step of actually reporting a sexual assault or a pattern of abuse.  I’d be happy to give you a long, sad list- with their permission- of the tiny minority of people who did report to some authority that they were sexually violated, and who were ripped apart like meat left for wolves as a result. Nevertheless, people like you are always ready to claim- on baseless grounds- that women will regularly “cry rape” to avoid whatever consequences sexual congress might bring.  Since you’re admittedly “not a scientist,” I can point you to the research of some actual scientists who can demonstrate with a strong foundation that very few complaints of sexual violence are false, and that the usual person the victim of sexual violence points the finger at is herself or himself.

Still, to flesh out this silly piece, you spewed examples that should shame you as a lawyer with any training in logical argumentation. The example you give of a defendant who was mis-identified in a rape case (i.e., a rape did happen- the wrong guy just got convicted)? That’s a tragedy of course, but what does it have to do with your completely unrelated claim that the straw-man “Left” is creating a rape myth?

Oh yeah. Nothing.

And then there’s your attempt to draw some connection between the decline of traditionally defined violent crime in the U.S. over the last 20 years and the (finally) growing intolerance of rape on college campuses. This isn’t even clever. It merely exposes remarkable ignorance with regard to the reality of sexual violence as it usually plays out, both on and off college campuses.  Sexual violence has always been a sickeningly, ever-present aspect of college life- and indeed life everywhere. Yes, we’re more aware of it now, and some of us are fighting back. But why should you? Armed with your one dubious anecdote and your ambition, why look behind the curtain at all?

Instead, A.J., continue your rise to stardom within the morally scolding circles promoted by the National Review that will, among other things, insist that rape in the college environment is the inevitable result of promiscuity and intoxicants.

Goodness me, if only women would behave.

Never mind those who are raped after a study group meeting in the light of day, or by a church-going friend on a religious retreat.

And certainly, A.J., never mind the effect of the insidious and arbitrary rules you’re imposing on the young women and men who will be victimized with even more impunity because of your finger-wagging nonsense. I’m talking about the ones who may or may not break your rules, but who will be damned to either silence or shame because of ignorant hawkers like you who give them 1) unfair standards to uphold, and 2) false senses of security to boot.

We’re lawyers, A.J. We never had to professionally take the “first, do no harm” oath that physicians do. But seriously? You should consider it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa, and 47

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The Cedar River at sunset, Waterloo, Iowa, after a child abuse prosecution training last week.

The one (and perhaps only) important thing I didn’t have to learn the hard way is this:  Never fail to appreciate small moments and simple beauty.

A railroad crossing, a grain elevator, a farm stand, an AME Baptist Church.

At 47, ain’t that America?

If you’re listening, Lord, forgive me my petty complaints. It’s all a blessing.