Matthew 19:14, King James Version: "But Jesus said, 'Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' "
For a country that seems to make a lot of noise about following Christian values no matter what the Constitution may say about separation of church and state, we are apparently very particular about which passages of the New Testament we follow. Corporations can claim the religious right of personhood to allow them to not cover medical care for women that offends their sensibilities. Christians can make much ado about a (fairly non-existent except in the minds of Fox News commentators) war on Christmas. Tea partyers can wave their Bibles and shout out those passages most conducive to what they want to do anyway. In those cases, apparently, Christianity works just fine.
So, given this pride in proclaiming America a Christian nation, where did those horrible people come from who stood in front of refugee children screaming at them to go back where they came from? Where is Christianity to be found in those states refusing to house these children? Perhaps above all, where are all those Christian leaders, pastors and priests, bishops and lay preachers? Where is their voice denouncing this hate toward children?
I am horrified, embarrassed, chagrined and ashamed of the pictures that have recently been seen around the world of Americans screaming at children seeking safety and hope. The wonder at this point is how bad the situation in their home country must be that parents send their children to face the hateful speech and actions of people who call themselves Americans and Christians.
And again I ask, where are these so called Christian leaders -- the preachers who rush to condemn same-sex marriage because of what the Bible says; the legislators who deny women the right to make the most personal and private of decisions between themselves and their doctors because it doesn't jibe with their Christian beliefs. Where is the moral outrage that is all too often seen over programs that help the poor? Why are the people who insist, again despite that pesky separation clause in the Constitution, that this is a Christian country that has to follow Christian values so silent on this Christian value?
These politicians and church leaders are quick to condemn homosexuality but not people who would defy Christ's dictum to allow the little children to come to him. Notice that Christ did not say suffer only the children of Nazareth or Bethlehem to come to him. He didn't confine his words to only the children of the Jewish faith or the offspring of his followers. No, he left it pretty wide open to any child in need of love and comfort. He embraced them all despite the fact that it was probably a strain on his budget given that he had no paying job.
I was raised steeped in Catholicism. One of my earliest memories is of the picture that hung in my first grade classroom of a blond Jesus in blinding white robes with a bright yellow halo over his head sitting on a stone and bending toward the little children running toward him. The picture didn't need words. It was all there. Jesus was the safe place for children to run toward whenever they needed comfort, safety or just a big hug. And Christianity is supposedly the embodiment of Jesus' beliefs in today's world.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet that if Jesus returned to this Earth today -- and I seriously wonder why he would bother at this point -- he would be standing with the children and not the ranting adults who seem bent on single-handedly resurrecting the image of the Ugly American to the world.
There are huge refugee camps all over the Mideast where war has seemingly raged for millennia. Countries poorer than ours do everything they can to help those refugees. They don't send them back to be beaten and killed. They do this, at least in part, because of the dictates of Islam to care for others. Too bad the people who claim Christianity as the cloak to all else they want to do in controlling our country have forgotten that was also part of Christ's message. Suffer little children indeed.
Elise Patkotak's latest book, "Coming Into the City," is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.