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Reuters/Samantha Sais/Landov

Bothersome babies

Immigration | The border crisis is a chance to treat children better than we have for the last 40 years

Issue: "Border gridlock," Aug. 9, 2014

Think back a couple of months ago, if your mind can stretch that far, when the problems on the southern border were merely intractable and difficult. Go back, if it’s not asking too much, to the spring months when the immigration discussion seemed to have quietly stalled—but you had a sense that reasonable people in Washington and elsewhere, if they set politics aside and really tried, could find some solutions.

That was before the truckloads of babies. Truckloads and busloads. Babies and toddlers and youngsters and teenagers. In a few cases, their mamas. But most of them alone. “Unaccompanied minors” was the icy technical term.

Not just a scattering of them, either. Not just a few families furtively sneaking across the river in the dark. Now they were coming instead in waves. As many as 60,000 this year. Some said more than 1,000 a day. But who could count? Is counting even what you want to be caught doing in the face of all this?

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Counting—or compassionately caring? Who could have imagined that this would be how the God of the universe would shake up the immigration debate in America? Just add a few thousand bothersome babies to the mix, and watch how people react.

Well, watching them react is quite a show. So scary and complex a show that President Obama—who rarely sees a photo op he doesn’t aggressively chase and exploit—decided he’d better not risk any pictures on the border this time. Politicians normally like pictures with babies. But refugee babies on the Texas border?

Americans, it turns out, are, like President Obama, pretty selective in their attitude toward babies. We still get excited when someone in our family or circle of friends who has been waiting for a baby announces that a “blessed event” is on the way. But we’re also willing as a society, the statistics show, to say it’s just fine—upward of a million times a year—to decide it’s a “not-so-blessed event” after all, and to bring that life to a deliberate end.

Might it be that God isn’t quite as ambivalent about all these details as we are? Is it possible that He, noting how casually we spurn His spectacular gift of life, parks a significant fraction of our waste back on our Rio Grande doorstep? “I love these little ones,” He may be saying. “Here’s another chance for you to treat them well.”

God’s warm affection for little children is no mere sentimentality. It is a matter of repeated record, in the Old Testament and the New, that He wraps them in His arms. And nowhere in the entire Bible is His anger more specifically aroused than when He pronounces judgment against anyone who offends a child: “It’s better for that person to have a millstone fastened around his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

None of that makes it easy to propose a specific response to the arrival of hordes of little people at our southern border. Nor is it easy even to have a discussion on the subject when the American people are themselves so angry. If our government can’t even defend the border against mere children, who can pretend we are safe against more mature and conniving invaders? The symbolism is both understandable and devastating.

But there’s a world of difference between a response that says coldly and bluntly, “Go home—now!,” and one that says: “God has made us both rich and smart as a nation. I don’t know yet just how it might work out, but we want to be your helpers.” And then, since it’s a cause He has designed, let’s pray for God’s wisdom. Christians should be demonstrably in the forefront of such an effort.

For the last 40 years, the United States has brazenly said we’ll take care of little children if we want to—or ignore them, abort them, or abuse them if that seems to add to our comfort. If a gracious God is giving us a chance to improve and rectify that sorry record in the time just ahead, let’s not strike out this time around.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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