Love your neighbor — care for the stranger

July 15, 2018

The commentary by Santa Fe pastor Talitha Arnold (“Locking up Jesús,” June 24) was timely and poignant.

As an ordained Christian minister, I concur with the Rev. Arnold’s sound theology, untainted by denominational doctrine or dogma, which addressed and outlined the textual competency that it seems our government leaders misquoted or sadly misused as they attempted to shoehorn New Testament scripture to support their position and policy on migrant families.

As people of all faith traditions in the town of Holy Faith navigate today’s choppy waters between the red and blue buoys, let’s not allow our individual or collective compassion to be drawn into shallow political waters. These issues, although urgent and certainly demanding our attention, are not new and have been lateraled from administration to administration.

In the meantime, our field of moral vision seems ambivalent or overwhelmed maybe to the 553,742 human beings homeless in the U.S. on any given night. Thirty-nine percent, or 84,661, of those are families, and 7.49 percent, or 40,799, are kids with 7.2 percent, or 40,056, of that number my fellow veterans. To add to our broken hearts, many of us did not know that in 2017 there were 27 homeless folks who died in Santa Fe. Just down the road in Albuquerque, we lost 52 souls. Issues such as these are largely glossed over and even ignored as “old news” in the frenzy for “new news” that fits a certain political narrative.

Perhaps we could explain it as the respected Upaya Abbot Roshi Joan Halifax did in her outstanding new book, Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet, when quoting Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert’s “arithmetic of compassion.” This posits that, when a large-scale problem like homelessness in America is put aside and we psychically numb ourselves and take no action, it is not because we don’t care — it’s that the problem is too large to grasp.

So we clamor to express outrage at the 2,000-plus migrant kids at the border and ignore the 40,799 kids who will not have anywhere to sleep in America tonight. Our compassion should transcend any political traps and, above all, never be transactional or traded for political points or media fodder.

Families on the border, homeless American families and kids in our midst all possess the same divine DNA.

The Rev. Arnold also urged “them” (and I would add, all of us too) to “get it right” and that “the heart of the Christian faith is to have the heart of the One who taught us to love our neighbor and care for the stranger.” Let’s make sure we include those among us right here, right now.

The Rev. Rick Iannucci is a former Green Beret, retired U.S. Marshal and an ordained minister who works with veterans and police tactical units specializing in pastoral crisis intervention.

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