Last night at our weekly Bible study, we looked at the Bible passage that has been in the news much of the week: Romans 13. It was one verse from this chapter that our attorney general, Jeff Sessions, used to justify separating children from their parents and putting them in detention centers. This caused a huge backlash from the religious community for a number of reasons:
a) pastors who have spent their entire ministries staying out of politics felt that, by using scripture to justify this action, Sessions has stepped over in to their territory and they had to respond
b) for Presbyterians and people of other reformed traditions, the fact that he used one verse in isolation totally out of context with the rest of the chapter (see Stephen Colbert’s exegesis), or any nod to the intent of Paul’s letter to the Roman’s caused more problems. Using scripture in this way is a giant red flag in our tradition.
c) he was using the passage to justify the law, and the issue being debated was not even a law, and by using the verse, he intentionally misrepresented the entire situation.
Naturally, our discussion led to the plight of children and families who are being separated and our own clashes with friends and family over the issue. We talked about no matter how much we who were gathered for Bible study may want to call the people who try to defend this policy heartless haters, we have to remember that once we attack, the conversation is over. No ground will be gained.
But Latisha Young came up with a way to apply the Bible in this situation in way that is actually helpful. Not a story that talks about following the law. Not a verse that slams people for not loving children, but the story of Moses.
When people can’t understand why parents would bring their kids in to such a difficult situation–especially those who send their children to the US with other people–remind them of the story of Moses’s mother.
She was so desperate to protect her baby from Pharaoh’s orders to kill all the Hebrew baby boys, that she put him in a basket and floated him down a river full of crocodiles in the hopes that she could find a better life for him.
Many people who send their children to the border are just as desperate for their children to have a better life or any life at all. Perhaps a reminder of the story of Moses’s mother can help people better understand that. Maybe not, but using scripture to give people a greater understanding of God and one another is a much better use of it than wielding it as a weapon or using it to justify policies with horrific consequences.