When they threatened to take away my son

“[Do] not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” (Zechariah 7:10, ESV).

During worship at St. Paul Community yesterday, I shared a brief experience my family had in 1999. My youngest son, Garrett, and I traveled with some friends to Lakeside, Ohio for our conference’s annual meeting. Later that Sunday evening, I was notified that my wife, Cathy, was taken to a Central Ohio hospital with atrial fibrillation. My father and mother had also traveled to Lakeside for Annual Conference, so I asked Dad if I could borrow his car to return home to be by Cathy’s side.
During the two and a-half hour trip, I was pulled over for speeding just north of Bucyrus. I was clocked traveling at sixty-five miles an hour. During the encounter the patrol officer reported that my license had been suspended. (My family had moved the previous year from Lancaster to Ashville, Ohio and the BMV sent the license renewal notice to my former address.) The officer was accompanied by her supervisor and insisted that if I didn’t pay sum of $700.00 that evening (the time was midnight, by the way) I would be placed in jail and my three-year-old boy would be placed in foster care. My wife, who heard the entire conversation by cell phone, was so panicked that the shock of the news converted her heart into a normal sinus rhythm. Both Cathy and I could not imagine any scenario in which our baby boy would be taken from us. The mere thought was terrifying.

This painful memory has resurfaced over the past several days with the news of the new federal policy in which children are now being separated from their parents that cross the border into our country. Brothers and sisters are further isolated from one another and only may visit one another on a limited basis. In many instances, children may speak with their incarcerated parents by phone for no more than fifteen minutes at a time. The image of children huddled together in large buildings, such as former K-Mart stores, brings to the minds of many the tent cities that were created for Japanese immigrants during the days of WWII.

I am one who firmly believes that America must revise it immigration policies. We have a responsibility to one another to ensure that our borders are monitored and safely guarded. At present time, crossing into the United States apart from governmental authority is a crime. Those adults that defy the law should be held accountable.

However, incarcerating children for the illicit actions of their parents is an unconscionable act. The Scriptures claim that younger generations should not pay for the sins of their parents. Placing young ones in holding centers is too blunt an instrument to use when enforcing the law. Innocents are being punished through no fault of their own.

Some who uphold the ethic of these actions have cited Scriptural references such as Romans thirteen. Paul encouraged all citizens to abide by the laws put into place by governing authorities. However, policies are not laws. The policy of incarcerating children therefore cannot be justified by this specific passage.

Besides, does anyone really believe that Jesus, the one who placed children on his knees and claimed that the kingdom of God belongs to ones such as them, would condone the practice of terrifying children? As I said previously in worship yesterday, we can do better. We are smart enough to find a way that can uphold our present immigration laws without doing harm to those that have done nothing wrong themselves. The One who welcomed the little children to come unto him is counting on us to mete justice with compassion.

-Pastor David