This is Not Our America

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus (November 2, 1883)

I used to teach this poem to my seventh graders in the public school in Chicago along with our Constitution unit. Breaking into groups, students from Ghana, Korea, Nigeria, India, Iraq and Mexico discussed what it meant. I never told them why this poem was famous or showed them any image along with the poem, but had them read and reread, marking symbols and figurative language with pencils and encouraging them to jot notes in the margins. We’d reconvene and discuss.

“What is this poem talking about?” I’d ask.” Why are certain words capitalized?” “What is the deeper meaning?”

After discussing, I’d eventually flip on the overhead projector (it was 2004), illuminating a picture of the statue that stands as a symbol of America, the Statue of Liberty. And we’d reread the poem:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

And the white, brown and black, atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindi children in my class would discuss what this poem meant to them—to their family, identity and future. How once upon a time their families, too, had been welcomed and ushered into a new kind of freedom. Just as my white Irish, English and German ancestors had.

Our country is flawed and is still recovering from the wounds of slavery and oppression in our history. But until yesterday, I was still proud to be an American. I loved knowing that we were a refuge for the refugee, a hope of a new future for the destitute and a place of safe landing for the homeless. Today, I am ashamed.

Last night as the news was still covering a march for life, President Trump sat down to sign a ban of all refugees and restrictions on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries effective immediately. His order literally left tired and weary refugees stranded at the airport in the very country they hoped would offer them relief from their years of running.

This is not our America.

As a believer not just in a higher power, but a man named Jesus, I pray the church would take up this cause and advocate for the very people Jesus would fight for. Christian colleges, missions organizations and youth groups send followers of Christ to the 10/40 window—an area located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator–where the least reached with the message of Jesus live. Most of those fleeing war-torn nations come from the very nations we fund missionaries to go to. The mission field was coming to us.

Most Christians chose Trump because of his stance on abortion, though he is not “pro-life” in any other arena. This week, evangelicals have seen that more than pro-choice or pro-life, our new president is pro-Trump.

Our country needs people to take a stand for freedom again. These organizations are mobilizing and working to help refugees. Please get in touch with them and see how you can help:

World Relief

We Welcome Refugees

UNHCR

(*If you know any others who are doing this work, please leave a link in the comments.)

God is with the poor. When we welcome, open our homes, offer our food, give clothing and furniture and make sure our borders remain open to the poor, we serve Jesus himself.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” –Matthew 25: 35-36, 40

 

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