In true old-timey racist Alabama fashion, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used scripture to support the evil and heartless actions of separating immigrant children from their parents — an astounding statement that moved leaders of the AME Church to respond.
The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which consists of noted theologians President Clement W. Fugh, Bishop McKinley Young, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie and Bishop Frank M. Reid III, issued the following statement on Friday, June 16:
AME Church condemns the use of scripture by Attorney General Sessions to separate immigrant families
“From lies to liberation: the use of Scripture to justify injustice”
The recent statement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the attempt by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to use biblical text of Romans 13:1, to justify and condone the U.S. government’s separations of immigrant children from their parents, in addition to being sad and sinful, shows a deep misunderstanding of the transforming truth of scripture.
We have heard much about the political cult of Mr. Donald Trump over the past few days. Students of cults understand that they abuse and misuse the truth of religious documents to control people and to bend their will. This practice of using “proof text” — scriptural text out of context to achieve some wicked end — is as ancient as the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the Wilderness (Luke 4). The founders of this nation used the same tactics to enslave our African forebears by lifting from the writings of the Apostle Paul passages to condone slavery and to break their spirit. It was only after hearing the true liberating message of the Gospel that they could sing with resolve, “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free.”
The statement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders is a reminder of the recurring themes of the Trump Administration on African nations and immigrants to America. The Bible does not justify discrimination masked as racism, sexism, economic inequality, oppression or the abuse of children. Jesus, who was an immigrant who had to leave the place of his birth and immigrate to Egypt because of an oppressive leader and system, admonishes all that the poor, children, the elderly, widows, and widowers should have a special place of justice and compassion in every nation. (Matthew 24) The Bible says that we are not to envy our oppressors or to choose their ways. (Proverbs 3:31) “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Why are so many white evangelicals deafeningly silent on the need to find a positive resolution to the Dreamer’s situation? Why are Black and Brown immigrants living in America with fear that the American dream has become a nightmare for the least, the last and the left out?
The Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church reiterate our support for the “Faith Leaders’ Statement on Family Separation” signed with our ecumenical partners and join with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and other concerned bodies of faith who decry these statements and the abuse of scripture.
We join with the members of both parties in calling for a just policy for these children and their parents. We challenge Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican majority, and Democrats to join in reprimanding Attorney General Sessions, and then work together to bring justice to these children and their parents.
Finally, we close with the words of Deuteronomy 10: 18-19, “God executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the strangers (immigrants) … You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”