There is a migrant train of over 7000 people walking north towards the southern border of the US right now, Honduran refugees fleeing a context of poverty and violence. It’s an exodus.
What’s walking towards America is more than that. An awakening and an ethical decision is approaching.
Americans have long thought of ourselves as the world’s good guys, using force to back up democracy and justice. We are the ones who landed on the beach at Normandy. Our first President couldn’t lie about chopping down a cherry tree. We stand for Jesus and family. Now that we’re the richest country in the world, it’s assumed that God has materially rewarded our spiritual and moral goodness like a parent reinforcing a well-behaved child with treats.
A 2007 report showed Honduras to be over 80% Christian. They’re praying as they come.
American Christians have for a long time voted for candidates who claimed to be Christian, or, at least, promised to support Christian values. Voters have rarely paused to consider the fact that that set of values has never been defined for them. “Christian values,” in public discourse, seems to include freedom of religion (especially its expression in schools), a general opposition to abortion, and opposition to gay marriage. They may include some nebulous affirmations like “Love thy neighbor,” but there is a sizable omission when it comes to Jesus’ very clear teachings about money and the poor. In the American suburbs, these are generally add-ons for the specially motivated.
“Christian values” in America don’t especially exclude values which seem to be at odds with the teachings of Jesus and the early church, like xenophobia and nationalism. Someone who is in an adulterous relationship would generally be seen as out of keeping in American churches, but someone who spends their money frivolously, doesn’t donate to charity, and doesn’t care what happens to the poor in other nations does not stand out.
What’s walking towards American Christians is a reality check. Jesus isn’t as obsessed with sex as we are; he is far more obsessed with the poor and the outcast. The package of values American Christians have accepted needs to be unpacked, separated, cleaned up and lightened up. Some of it needs to be thrown away. Self-identified evangelicals are overdue to face their baptized love of money and apathy for the oppressed.
What’s going to be ironic about the American Christian response to the Honduran exodus is that we have an Exodus in our own Scripture, and consequently in the DNA of our faith. God was on the side of the wanderers fleeing oppression for the sake of a land of freedom in that Exodus. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). What do you think Honduran Christians hear when they read that? Probably the same thing the first European immigrants to the US were hearing when they read the same scriptures – that is, the ancestors of a lot of Americans.
So, before the story takes over the headlines and the blogosphere, a word to Christian America: remember Jericho.