By Alex Macias
There’s a lot that’s disappointing about this election, but for me the worst is the wielding of fear as a political tactic and how much it works for the one doing the wielding. I have found myself unable to watch election coverage. The onslaught of hateful rhetoric is too much for me. Sometimes, the language is ridiculous enough to dismiss and sometimes – which I find more disturbing – I recognize that it is affecting me. Every now and then it stealthily creeps in: the idea that I should be afraid of those who look differently, eat differently, worship differently.
Some politicians have made more outlandish claims that we should fear those in need. We have been so conditioned to fear that when we are confronted with a bus full of Mexican children seeking refuge in Arizona, we do not see scared, vulnerable children but a threat – future gang members, drug dealers, and violent offenders. We see the thousands of refugees pouring into other countries as possible terrorists rather than human beings desperately seeking a safe place.
When we so fear the other, we find it acceptable to protest unaccompanied minors, declare our states as closed to refugees, and treat all Muslims with suspicion.
The media coverage perpetuates this, and I realize that I am afraid too. When I hear about extremist groups who have attacked the innocent, I am afraid. I’m especially afraid when it happens in countries that I understand to have solid governments because they look not too far off from my own country. When I hear about gang violence near the border, I sure don’t want it on my street.
And when fear is the driving factor, retaliation makes sense. Walls make sense. Self-preservation makes sense.
But the Gospel has never been about self-preservation. In Matthew 16, Jesus even tells his disciples “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
It sounds crazy, I know. More and more, I notice the threats that are out there, and I sense how fragile our lives and how tenuous our freedoms truly are (thanks again, CNN). But I’m also coming to a deeper knowing that God is never calling us to what is safe but to something that could literally take our lives. And we’re to do so without succumbing to the fear that is instinctual and especially to the fear that is being manipulated by those seeking positions of power.
Now I don’t believe that either immigration reform or granting asylum is inherently dangerous. I am saying that we are called to the right and humane thing even if it could kill us.
In a campaign that threatens carpet-bombing and the flexing of our military muscle to ensure that we remain a country that is “safe,” the Church must hold on – cling to – our identity in Christ, an identity that affirms that we are all children of the Creator, a God who formed us, named us, and died for us.
It takes an absolutely stubborn refusal to be afraid and insist on love. And especially, to insist that those who are vulnerable are not a threat, but a beloved child of God in need.