What would Jesus do? On bor­der, most Amer­i­cans don’t seem to know

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR. Ruben Navarrette’s email ad­dress is [email protected] navarrette.com. His daily pod­cast, “Navarrette Na­tion,” is avail­able on all pod­cast app.

Most Amer­i­cans agree there is a cri­sis on the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. But we can’t agree as to what kind of cri­sis it is.

Con­ser­va­tives see a se­cu­rity cri­sis, fueled by a bor­der that is pen­e­trated at will by peo­ple who want to drain our re­sources and do us harm. Lib­er­als call it a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis, caused by a hard-hearted ad­min­is­tra­tion that is harm­ing Amer­ica’s rep­u­ta­tion as a haven for refugees. Others look at the un­will­ing­ness to ad­dress the is­sue, both in Congress and at the White House, and con­sider this to be a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis that harms our civil dis­course and na­tional unity.

But a new sur­vey by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter comes up with yet an­other di­ag­no­sis, one that is likely to res­onate with many of us, de­pend­ing on how we spend Sun­day morn­ing. It sug­gests that what we re­ally have here is a cri­sis of faith.

Ac­cord­ing to the poll, when peo­ple were asked if the U.S. had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ac­cept refugees, non­be­liev­ers and other “re­li­giously un­af­fil­i­ated” re­spon­dents were more than twice as likely as some reg­u­lar church­go­ers to an­swer “yes.”

Among the “re­li­giously un­af­fil­i­ated” – which might in­clude any­one from athe­ists and ag­nos­tics to those

whose faith is not clearly de­fined – 65% said our na­tion had a duty to wel­come strangers, and only 31% saw no obli­ga­tion.

But among white Evan­gel­i­cals, the fig­ures were nearly re­versed – only 25% said the U.S. had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take in refugees, while 68% said “no.” With main­line white Protes­tants, the num­bers were bet­ter – 43% said “yes,” and 50% said “no.”

Catholics were nearly di­vided right down the mid­dle – 50% rec­og­nized a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ac­cept refugees, but 45% did not.

Fi­nally, black Protes­tants were, by far, the most wel­com­ing group, with 63% say­ing that “yes,” there was a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take in refugees and 28% say­ing “no”.

This sur­vey is il­lu­mi­nat­ing – and em­bar­rass­ing.

As a Catholic, the re­sponse is heart­break­ing. In a cri­sis, the Catholic Church can usu­ally be counted on to de­ploy hu­man­i­tar­ian relief, which of­ten in­cludes food, wa­ter, cloth­ing and shel­ter for those in need. Priests, Bish­ops, Car­di­nals and the Pope con­stantly preach about how we must care for the poor, the sick and the weak. And, for decades, the Catholic Church has been a con­stant voice in fa­vor of im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

Yet, many of my fel­low Catholics and I have ig­nored the cur­rent cri­sis on the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. We’ve left it to our lead­ers to or­ches­trate a re­sponse. Many of us have done next to noth­ing. Worse, as the sur­vey points out, many Catholics have lost our way; about half failed the course on how to treat refugees.

The Bi­ble is clear about how we ought to treat the stranger. There is no spin, hedg­ing, minc­ing of words. This isn’t some non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion that is open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Look at Ex­o­dus 23:9. “Do not op­press a for­eigner; you your­selves know how it feels to be for­eign­ers, be­cause you were for­eign­ers in Egypt.”

Or Matthew 25:35: “For I was hun­gry and you gave me some­thing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me some­thing to drink, I was a stranger and you in­vited me in.”

Or Leviti­cus 19:34 – “The stranger who re­sides with you shall be to you as the na­tive among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Or Jeremiah 22:3 – “Thus says the Lord: Do jus­tice and right­eous­ness, and de­liver from the hand of the op­pres­sor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or vi­o­lence to the res­i­dent alien.”

Amer­i­cans tend to worry about the wrong things. We hear a lot about how the num­ber of Amer­i­cans who at­tend church is down. But, as this sur­vey points out, what should re­ally con­cern us is not who is at­tend­ing ser­vices but whether any­one is lis­ten­ing and tak­ing to heart what is said.

What good does it do to sit in the pews if we’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion to the ser­mons? Why read the Bi­ble, if we don’t take se­ri­ously its com­mands?

There’s the real cri­sis. And it’s ter­ri­fy­ing.


A Mex­i­can im­mi­gra­tion agent es­corts mi­grants back to Mex­ico af­ter they ap­plied for asy­lum in the U.S., as they walk across In­ter­na­tional Bridge 1 Las Amer­i­cas, which con­nects Laredo, Texas, with Nuevo Laredo, Mex­ico.

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