Sessions and Sanders radically depart from the Christian religion
Treating strangers with compassion appears to be a minimum requirement for righteous leadership in the pattern established by God.
The greater the truth, the worse the lie; the corruption of the best is the worst of all. People get it wrong all the time about temporary and venial things, which is its own category of mistakes, but seldom – even in the moral wilderness of American politics – they manage to procrastinate on the eternal and the cosmic. Lying on the capital t, Transcendent Truth is a category of error on its own, whether you spend most of your time deceiving others or just yourself.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders may have indulged in both on Thursday, when asked about the moral reasoning behind the separation of migrant parents from their children at the US border.
The sessions argued that as criminals, immigrants put themselves beyond the protection of God’s care. “I would quote you the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions explained by means of a scriptural mandate. . He added that “orderly and legal processes are good in themselves …[and protect] the weak and the lawful. Sanders then offered a shrewd shine to defend Sessions: “It is very biblical to apply the law,” she said.
Here, whether deliberately or unknowingly, Sessions and Sanders radically depart from the Christian religion, inventing a faith that brings order to the greater good and empowers secular governments to fulfill it. In Christianity as billions of the faithful have known it, legal order and procedures are not “inherently good” and it is not “very biblical” to “uphold the law” whatever it is. that is. On the contrary, there is a natural order inscribed in nature. Human governance can conform to it or contradict it, which means that Christians are sometimes morally obligated to follow civil laws and are sometimes morally obligated not to do so.
The Conservatives use this approach when it suits them; that is why they are so eager to carve out legal protections for matters of religious conscience. Because religious obligations precede and generate civic obligations, laws must adapt to religious practice, not the other way around.
As Sessions himself observed when quoting James Madison in a lengthy October 2017 memorandum on federal protections for religious freedom, “duty to its creator is” precedent, both in the order of time and in the degree of obligation, to the demands of civil society. “The sessions can either believe that or believe what he and Sanders said on Thursday, but he cannot believe both. To make a more precise point: the God’s law cannot only precede – and eclipse – civil law when a pharmacist would prefer not to sell the Plan B contraceptive, but not when it appears that a leader has a duty to be compassionate to strangers.
But there is worse than confusion, or even hypocrisy. One of them is self-deception. When Sessions invoked Romans 13 – an infamous verse for earlier bad faith invocations to justify slavery – he shifted the subject of the matter from himself and his own department to those under his control. He was called upon to defend his choices, his judgment, his own moral reasoning – but instead offered a condemnation of the decisions and morals of migrants. He wanted to talk about what he thought the Bible required of the governed. But he left out the most important question: what does this require of leaders?
A number of scripture passages are available here, although less useful for the purposes of the Sessions. From Deuteronomy 10: “For the Lord your God … loves strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You will also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Or from Jeremiah 7: “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with one another with righteousness, if you do not oppress the stranger, orphan or widow and shed innocent blood in it. place … then I will let you live in this place, in the land that I gave to your ancestors for ever and ever. Treating strangers with compassion appears to be a minimum requirement for righteous leadership in the pattern established by God, a theme that is found in the New Testament, where followers of Christ are taught to see themselves as wanderers on earth and to treat others. with appropriate empathy. pity.
But some Christians are not strangers to the world at all. Some are very much at home here, or believe that they are, and that there is no tension between the desire of God and the desire of man. There are a number of things that people can believe, especially with the right prompts.
If you had all the power in the world, you might also hear a snake plunge its smooth body into a dark branch to say: God wants you to do whatever you want with your power, and anything you do with it is good. .
Elisabeth bruenig is an opinion columnist for the Washington Post. Follow Élisabeth on Twitter at @ebruenig.