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"Is America Still a Christian Country?"

Message Dagmar Honigmann

Since President Trump took office, the news has usually come so fast that if you blink, you miss something. For example, I was talking to the minister of my church and was surprised to hear them muse about whether this was still a Christian country. That stemmed from a news article several months earlier (at the start of 2019) that I had missed even though it's now my habit to check closely several times a day.

The article discussed the convictions of four volunteers from an organization started by ministers near the Mexican border, called "No More Deaths", and the pending trials of five others. Their criminal activity, punishable by half a year behind bars, involved driving onto a wildlife refuge on the border and leaving jugs of water because 155 people trying to cross just that 50-mile-long part of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico had reportedly died there since 2001. They hadn't gotten the necessary permit to visit the refuge... but their other criminal offense was abandoning their belongings: leaving the water that would prevent even more deaths. In court, they cited their Christian obligation to save lives, but the judge dismissed that defense, criticized the organization, and noted that such actions were harmful to the refuge - and they were convicted.

For many years, volunteers from the group had worked with local Border Patrol offices, which allowed them to set up aid stations where they could give lifesaving help to anyone needing it, according to the rules of the International Red Cross. However, volunteers from the organization posted a video in 2018 of Border Patrol agents dumping out the water jugs they had also been leaving... From 2012 to 2015, they said, rogue agents had hunted down and destroyed at least 3,586 jugs in just one area.

So... In a Christian country, would the government's agents make thousands (probably tens of thousands) of attempts to cause the deaths of people whose only crime was entering the country without permission? Hundreds of those attempts may have been successful, and the dead would likely include refugees. (In one news report, over 1,000 refugees from just one caravan crossed the border between official entry points and then turned themselves in to plead for asylum. Why did they risk their lives, instead of simply applying at an official crossing - which is their right under both U.S. and international law? Presumably because they believed they had little choice. Perhaps they had heard of the administration's "metering" policy for refugees, which meant that over 95% of them would have been turned away at even the highest-capacity crossing... or had heard that President Trump was about to close the border crossings to keep groups like theirs out... or had heard him say they should turn around and go home, where they might very well also die.)

To go a step further, in a Christian country, would the government's agents knowingly cause the deaths of children for such criminal activity? (After all, in many cases entire families are fleeing.) Yet agents of our government have, in effect, been imposing the death penalty on small children, even babies, because their parents brought them across the border without permission.

In a Christian country, would the government's agents systematically work to discourage Christians from trying to save those lives? (Before President Trump's inauguration, no volunteer had been arrested for ten years, yet a volunteer from the group was arrested only hours after it released its report and video, for "harboring" someone who had come to their station for aid. By my reckoning, the odds against that being merely a coincidence are thousands to one - and other arrests of members occurred just after further publicity by the group.)

In a Christian country, would the government's agents arrest good Samaritans working with local churches, and possibly put them in a federal penitentiary for six months for trespassing and littering, because they tried to save lives?

And in a Christian country, would a judge denounce the organization of good Samaritans, or argue that leaving water for someone dying of thirst was a problem because it's important not to litter?

And in a Christian country, wouldn't the agents' superiors, and the head of the Border Patrol, and the head of the Customs and Border Protection agency, and the head of Homeland Security, and the President, all have a problem with their attempts to cause those deaths? And wouldn't each of them also have a problem with the attempts to prevent good Samaritans from preventing those deaths? Wouldn't those officials order a stop to both actions, and discipline agents who did them? Wouldn't the President see pardoning the volunteers as the Christian thing to do?

And in a Christian country, wouldn't the President we picked to uphold our values be appalled, rather than find it funny, when a supporter (probably a Christian) suggested shooting fellow Christians for crossing the border? How could he instead joke that they could - and get laughs from his audience (probably mainly Christians)?

Perhaps it's something we need to think about a lot harder than we have until now... If there is no good way to reconcile those actions with Christianity, they may be warning signs of a massive moral and religious decay in our country.

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Dagmar Honigmann is in her sixties and has worked as a writer and educator. She is the daughter of German refugees who made separate middle-of-the-night escapes from East Germany after World War II, in her motherĂ ‚¬ „ s case with help from an (more...)
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