In the last six weeks, Donald J. Trump and his administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have separated 2,000 children from their parents. Each and every day, 46 kids are taken away, and the youngest was four months old. The administration has released that number and have been defending their actions on various grounds, including as a deterrent. The latest is a plan to build a tent camp at the Tornillo Land Point of Entry to house 450 kids in temporary shelters. Tornillo is hot in summer – the forecast from Friday, June 15, through Friday, June 22, includes six days hotter than 95 degrees. And there is sun, much sun.
Sessions defended the policy of this separation of families by citing the New Testament, stating: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
Initially, it is very ironic for the Attorney General of a President who constantly attacks enforcement of the “laws of government” as a “Witch Hunt” and fake to be using this message. More troubling still is the use of this text of the New Testament in our nation’s history. The full relevant provision speaks of “agents of wrath” and provides in part:
The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
Loyalists at the American Revolution used this language and passage to suggest obeisance to Great Britain. Those seeking independence used it to confirm and argue the intent was not all-powerful kings. The language really came to be invoked in Romans 13 when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, requiring all citizens to assist in returning slaves to bondage who had escaped. Defenders of the Fugitive Slave Act and slavery in general cited to the language of Romans 13.
Jeff Sessions invoking the language is a shout out to the Evangelicals, but is wrong on many levels, including that Paul goes on to discuss Good Samaritan conduct and other things later in the passage. Sessions is shamefully using Biblical passages to justify his treatment of migrants who cross the border, with his zero-tolerance policy that results in the parents being detained and the children sent elsewhere. No Bible passage will hide what he is up to and what he is truly about.