When Representatives Don’t Represent or, Protect Your Children

We all suffer the personal realization that we may not represent well. Big 12 Media Days taking place in Dallas came with the the discussion of Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners taking in Dorial Green-Beckham. It is yet to be determined if he will be eligible to play for the Oklahoma Sooners this season.

The Morning Animals on the local sports talk radio, WWLS The Sports Animal, offered their paid opinions about the decision. One theme that seemed constant, “What happens if DGB does something that reflects poorly on the University of Oklahoma?” The consensus? Bob Stoops will suffer the indignities. According to The Oklahoman, Stoops says he can handle it. When interviewed on the subject he said he believed DGB will have a chance to represent himself, his family, and the University of Oklahoma well. Barry Tramel, of The Oklahoman writes that Stoops will shoulder the outcome,

No doubt Stoops took this one all the way up the flagpole, to president David Boren. But to Stoops’ credit, he’s not shirking responsibility.

“It comes back to me and to Dorial,” Stoops said, and he’s right. If DGB screws up this chance, he’s betrayed a coach who believes in him.

Tramel is right.

We all find ourselves representing someone, some idea, some institution, even a group of people.

TomColeUSRepwebLast week, next to my article in the Tuttle Times, the one my friend Greg said would surely stir trouble, was a column by Oklahoma’s U.S. House of Representative Tom Cole titled, President’s Temporary Plan Looking More Permanent by the Day. Representative Cole represents our District. But, that does not mean he represents all people in his district; that would be hard to do. As he addresses a policy he disagrees with, he does not represent the way I believe child refugees should be characterized. I hope there are others who are with me. Some will only follow their ideologies forgetting the children are people. Cole’s piece illustrates how the language game works.

First, Representative Cole took the occasion of a humanitarian crisis to call attention to his beef with President Obama. The title of the piece leaves no question as to the content of the article. We all have criticisms of the President, any and every President. Choose your 24/7 news station, Left or Right it does not matter, and you will find a litany of reasons to be critical. But, using the plight of fleeing children to take a shot is to dehumanize the situation to gain points in a long standing political battle over immigration reform.

Second, Representative Cole employed language that denigrates children reducing them to pawns to stir political passions. Here is the openings sentence,

Over the last several weeks, we’ve watched a growing crisis at our borders resulting in a flood of unaccompanied illegal juveniles – all ruled by the Administration’s immigration policy failure and refusal to enforce current immigration law.

You may side with Cole as to the failures of the Administration but be careful. There is enough blame to go around that would take in Congress and US Foreign Policy for at least the past 60 years. If you want to look further, consider economics as fuel for the policy and you may implicate yourself.

Unaccompanied illegal juveniles. Why that could well describe many an adolescent making their way into an NC-17 rated movie. You may quibble over whether such a situation is legal or not, but it certainly violates the MPA’s rating system that is to be enforced by theater personnel. On that grounds it may not be worthy of a citation but it does violate and agreed upon moral code, even if you like to push those boundaries.

No parent equals unaccompanied. There are other names for that orphan, abandoned, refugee. Illegal applies unless the unaccompanied children are indeed seeking refuge. In fact, they are not entering the U.S. illegally. They willingly present themselves to officials. Reports abound that this is the case. In fact, one of the problems we face according to a person I know who actually is on the frontline of these issues, is vetting these children as to the reason for their arrival. Most in this recent spate of children coming to our Nation is without doubt humanitarian. One has to think Representative Cole is aware but for the sake of his need to blast the Administration chooses to play on the passions of moralistic Americans, that is those who are only moralistic about the things that bother them. I have my interlocutors who fail to see that in my role as pastor, this use of language is not something we find with Jesus in the Sacred Text.

Everyone flaunts some law. We just like to impugn those who break the laws we don’t. This is why many conservative Christians fall prey to this sort of rhetoric. They are often accustomed to blasting same sex-marriage while bellying up to the buffet line. Remember, I am a pastor. And, pastors do not escape the same judgement. Recently a Lifeway survey reveled the least talked about subject from the pulpit is domestic violence. But, you may be sure any number of other sins get full play Sunday in and Sunday out.

Juveniles. While juvenile is attached to childhood conditions, like diabetes, it more often than not is used when pointing out negative behavior, like juvenile delinquents, juvenile offender, or juvenile hall which one time stood for juvenile detention. Who considers a 5-month old a juvenile? Yet, we learn that the children coming to our Country fleeing for their lives range in age from 5-months old to 17. These are not childish moves. They are bold, often daring journeys.

We do not refer to our Youth Ministries in our local churches as Juvenile Ministry.

Third, Representative Cole refuses throughout the op-ed to acknowledge the suffering the children endure. When it comes to his point regarding Fort Sill being used to house these children, he designates the military bases as juvenile detention centers. Cole intends, ” . . . to use whatever legislative means appropriate and available to discontinue use of our military bases for housing illegal minors . . ..” I will not quibble over the intended use of military bases as other than locations to house refugees. What I do find consistent in Cole’s piece is that he repeatedly uses language intended to fire up his base and turn eyes away from the very real conditions the children flee.

Republicans, and I am a registered one though lean very Independent, know how to criticize policies objectionable to their ideology but when given the opportunity to propose legislation that could spark a grand compromise and address the issues they fail. Washington and her respective ideologues know how to point fingers and that is about it. At least that is what gets played in the media where public opinion is shaped which brings me back to Representative Cole’s piece in a smallish ex-rural Oklahoma town newspaper.

My contention, that one of my chief interlocutors misses with what seems intentional precision, is that I write for Christians who must determine what course of action to take when alleging to follow Jesus and live out the ethics of the Kingdom of God. My aim is not, though it could be, to engage in a battle of words related to U.S. Foreign Policy. I would be more interested in what we have sown in our history that we now reap in the present to unearth the consequences of those policies. Others, not so much.

Russell Moore, President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently wrote on the subject and he offered,

The Christian response to immigrant communities in the United States cannot be “You kids get off of my lawn” in Spanish. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission.

I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves.

. . .

The larger issue is in how we talk about this issue, recognizing that this is not about “issues” or “culture wars” but about persons made in the image of God. Our churches must be the presence of Christ to all persons, regardless of country of origin or legal status. We need to stand against bigotry and harassment and exploitation, even when it’s politically profitable for those who stand with us on other issues.

The irony is that the very conservative Russell Moore was applauded by the outspoken progressive Rachel Held Evans. Both understand the issue is about more than immigration. The issue is not about opening borders, it is about the children.

There is a time and a place to debate the merits of securing borders. But, to do so using children as pawns is an egregious error. If nothing else, it signals that parents and grandparents should be prepared to protect their children. If our politicians willingly use other children as pawns, one day they will use ours.

It remains to be seen what will happen with Dorial Green Beckham should he get to represent the Sooners on the gridiron. For me, I am inclined to think I need a new representative in Congress.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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