Remember the simpler times before the U.S. President refused to uphold his most basic oath––representing and supporting his citizens––when all we had to worry about was how our nation detained children as a way to punish parents for fleeing abuse and oppression?

In the Trump world where chaos and outrage are infused into every mundane event, it appears that we, as a nation, have once again lost sight of the children. Children remain imprisoned at the U.S.-Mexican border, and while many have been reunited with their families, cognitive damage has already been done, causing these fearfully and wonderfully made children to struggle that much more in life. Not only did an entire nation declare in no uncertain terms to these children that they were unwanted, we also told them that they are disposable.

The sarcastic humor of it all is how many Christians rallied behind this amoral, sadistic policy, easily discarding Jesus in order to protect their first love: intoxicating political power.

Abandoning Children

When the atrocity of Charlottesville unfolded, I thought there would never be an easier time for the nation to unite. Who in their right mind could defend blatant hatred and violence? Yet, immediately following the events, Christians led the charge in support of white supremacists everywhere.

One Pentecostal pastor I know began his Facebook post on the topic by saying, “I am not racist,” then adding that while he typically avoids making political statements, he needed to let everyone know that he agrees with Trump: there are bad people on both sides of white supremacy. This of all things was his hill…and to me, his spiritual leadership died on it.

When reports came out that the U.S. was detaining children, I was (foolishly) convinced that Christians would speak in unison this time, forcefully denouncing child imprisonment. Of course, like Charlottesville, many Christians instead renounced Jesus’ message entirely, vehemently arguing that these children deserve it. There are, after all, bad people on both sides of child abuse.

Theology of Children

“Christianity” means so little any more. Most evangelically-minded churches, which Pentecostal churches often fit within, abhor anything associated with “social justice.” Indeed, most churches’ “outreach” programs are reduced to irrelevant evangelical productions and mission trips that benefit those who go far more than those who they go to serve.

The message is clear: these churches’ mission is complete when a person prays an arbitrarily designed prayer and then tithes; fighting for a better world that our children can actually grow up in is beside the point.

Why bother fighting for universal healthcare, environmental protection, refugees, gun restrictions, and policies that help the poor? In fact, as Christians, let’s make sure to ferociously oppose all of these!

Disregarding children is not a new invention. In Jesus’ day children were likewise disdained. On one occasion children were trying to approach Jesus and the disciples rebuked them. It was improper and disgraceful to allow children to enter the space occupied by Jesus. These children deserved to be reprimanded––their parents were probably not even allowed to be near Jesus based on religious law anyway. Despicable illegals!

Jesus’ response, however, was clear and precise, “Let the little children come to me.”

Elsewhere Jesus was asked who the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is. Jesus answered: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

New Moral Leaders

What I’ve found to be apparent during this tumultuous time in U.S. history is that the nation’s moral voice has clearly moved away from the Church and now resides amongst those of other faiths and those of no faith at all. It is fascinating to watch people who reject the Christian message be the ones to uphold the cause of the fatherless, orphan, widow, and forgotten while those who profess Christ viciously fight to uphold the cause of the dominant, oppressive, and xenophobic.

But the Spirit of love moves like the wind.

We hear the Spirit’s sound.

We do not know where it comes from or where it is going.

Perhaps the Spirit came from the traditional church, but it is clear that the Spirit is now moving in and through those who “look after orphans and widows in their distress,” regardless of their professed religious affiliation.

Whitewashing

Believers that sell out godliness at every turn come from a long line of people dating back to the Hebrew Bible, which God severely and thoroughly denounced through the prophets, describing them as whitewashed:

13 ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. 14 I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. 15 So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, 16 those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:13-16)

Jesus also utilized the whitewashing analogy:

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt. 23:27-28)

Whitewash: appearing pristine and pious on the outside when inside there is only hypocrisy and death.

Woe, indeed.


Note from the Editorial Team:
Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.


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Joel Daniels

Author: Joel Daniels

Joel is currently a Chaplain-in-Resident and Ph.D. student at Georgetown University. His research focuses on how religious philosophy and ethics shape the world, life, and life in the world. When outside of academics, Joel enjoys all things family! With an amazing wife and three wonderful children, there is never a dull moment in the Daniels’ house. Whether it is building legos or forts, there’s always fun to be had!

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