Daily Bread for 6.18.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will see a high of eighty-seven and a chance of  an afternoon thunderstorm.  Sunrise is 5:16 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 20m 17s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 29.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the five hundred eighty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Library Board meets this evening at 6:30 PM.

 

The War of 1812 begins two-hundred six years ago on this day.

Recommended for reading in full — Attorney General Sessions’s misuse of scripture

 The Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer and Laura Nasrallah write What Jeff Sessions got wrong when quoting the Bible:

A complete reading and understanding of Romans 13 — and the Bible more broadly — reveals more love and care for neighbors and immigrants than Attorney General Jeff Sessions would have us believe. On June 14, Sessions spoke in Fort Wayne, Ind., to a group that included law enforcement officers and others in the community. His remarks directly addressed “religious leaders” and “church friends.” Sessions used the words of the apostle Paul to justify current policies of separating children from parents, as families seek to enter the United States:

“Illegal entry into the United States is a crime — as it should be,” he said. “Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

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We write as biblical scholars and as Christians to argue that Sessions has misused this passage from Romans.

First, the Bible shouldn’t — and can’t — be used to argue against immigration. Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and the prophets argue for care for the stranger and the immigrant: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 NRSV).

We can turn to the New Testament, as well. Jesus’ words as cited in the parable of the Good Samaritan call Christians to ask “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). These words demand that we expand our definition of neighbor — as did the Samaritan — to include the stranger and the foreigner, and that we serve that neighbor with our own time and financial resources.

Second, Romans 13 is the most-cited text in the Bible in debates in revolutionary America, according to James P. Byrd’s “Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution.”Christians then knew that the passage might be read to demand loyalty to Britain. So instead they read this passage to argue that they should obey only just rulers, not tyrants, and that just rulers supported liberty. They used it to argue that the Bible spoke for freedom.

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Finally, if we do take Romans 13 as a keystone for action, then we have to put the small portion Sessions quotes within a larger context. The apostle Paul also argues in the same passage that all commandments are summed up in the teaching “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9). Paul continues, pointedly, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). Paul here echoes the law (Leviticus 19:18) and teachings of Jesus (Matthew 22:19). This is a central message of the scriptures.

 Elizabeth Bruenig writes Sessions invents a faith all his own:

Here, whether deliberately or unknowingly, Sessions and Sanders radically depart from the Christian religion, inventing a faith that makes order itself the highest good and authorizes secular governments to achieve it. In Christianity as billions of faithful have known it, order and lawful procedures are not “good in themselves” and it is not “very biblical” to “enforce the law” whatever it might be. Rather, there is a natural order inscribed into nature. Human governance can comport with it or contradict it, meaning Christians are sometimes morally obligated to follow civil laws and are sometimes morally obligated not to.

Conservatives seize on this approach when it suits them; this is why they’re so keen on carving out legal protections for matters of religious conscience. Because religious obligations precede and generate civic ones, laws must accommodate religious practice, not the other way around.

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But there are worse things than confusion, or even than hypocrisy. One of them is self-deception. When Sessions invoked Romans 13 — a verse infamous for earlier bad-faith invocations to justify slavery — he shifted the subject of the question from himself and his own department to those under his control. He was summoned to defend his choices, his judgment, his own moral reasoning — but instead offered a condemnation of the decisions and morality of migrants. He wanted to talk about what, in his view, the Bible demands of the ruled. But he omitted the more important question: What does it demand of rulers?

Any number of scriptural passages are available here, though less useful for Sessions’s purposes. From Deuteronomy 10 : “For the Lord your God …. loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Or from Jeremiah 7: “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place …. then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.” Dealing compassionately with strangers seems to be a minimal requirement for just leadership in the model set forth by God, a theme that carries into the New Testament, where Christ’s followers are taught to view themselves as wanderers on earth, and to treat others with appropriate empathetic mercy.

But some Christians aren’t strangers in the world at all. Some are very much at home here, or believe that they are, and that there is no tension between the desire of God and the desire of man. People can believe any number of things, especially given the right incentives.

If you had all the power in the world, maybe you would also hear a serpent dipping its smooth body down from some shadowy bough to say: God wants you to do whatever you like with your power, and whatever you do with it is good.

Jennifer Rubin writes Leave the Bible out of it, child separation is not ‘Christian’:

I’m no expert in Christianity, but the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was when he drafted his letter from the Birmingham jail:

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Sessions perfectly exemplifies how religion should not be used. Pulling out a Bible or any other religious text to say it supports one’s view on a matter of public policy is rarely going to be effective, for it defines political opponents as heretics.

The bishops and other religious figures are speaking out as their religious conscience dictates, which they are morally obligated to do and are constitutionally protected in doing. A statement from the conference of bishops, to which Sessions objected, read in part:

At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence.

Reminding the administration of the meaning of family values, the bishops continued, “Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

Fr. James Martin writes in a thread on Twitter:

Like many, I’ve resisted using this word but it’s time: the deliberate and unnecessary separation of innocent children from their parents is pure evil. It does not come from God or from any genuinely moral impulse. It is wantonly cruel and targets the most vulnerable.

Its use has been cloaked in lies, another clear sign that it does not proceed in any way from God or from a genuinely moral impulse. And the results–misery, anguish, physical suffering, division and despair–are also unmistakable signs that this is an evil.

As St. Paul wrote, “You will know them by their fruits….every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Mt 7:17). That is, the results enable us to clearly recognize evil. As such, we have a moral obligation to name it and fight against it.

Anyone who participates in this kind of wanton cruelty is also guilty of this evil. “I was just following orders” went out at Nuremberg. The decision-makers and all who cooperate in these actions will be judged.

“I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” (Mt 25)

Fr. James Martin further explains What Does the Bible Say? Refugees, migrants and foreigners: