Pastoral Letter: Ethnic Cleansing on Our Borders?

I never thought that I would find myself addressing this kind of issue in the nation I so much love, one I served faithfully for 24 years as a Naval Chaplain.  Yet, here I am.  If we are to be good citizens of the United States, we who are citizens of the eternal Kingdom of God, then holding up the dignity of people is essential.  I realize this is a tension point for folk, and disagreement will take place.  But let’s be honest with ourselves, we are no better than how it is that we treat those who cannot defend themselves.  We need to hear the prophets… and allow the love of Christ and the power of the Jubilee to to radiate through us.  Blessings, Vinson


MATTHEW 25:31-33 (New Revised Standard Version)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.


It was 1999.  Serb Christians were engaged in “ethnic cleansing,” the slaughter and displacement of Muslims living in Kosovo.  At the time, I was the chaplain for the SEAL teams on the East Coast, and it meant traveling with platoons to the theater of operations, and returning with those rotating  out… helping them to process the awful side of their missions.  For some, whom I knew to be devout Christians, it had been painful to hunt down those who wore the ‘badge” of Christ, yet whose deeds were so evil, it had also been a just duty.

At one point in all of this, I spent a couple days near where my Great-Great-Grandfather Miller left Germany back in the early 1830s.  I walked around the town square in nearby Wittenberg, looking upon the very administrative office he had gone to before leaving Germany forever.  It had been savagely bombed in World War II.  The cathedral had been rebuilt, leaving intact the burn lines, identifying how far down the building had been bombed.  Strafing marks pockmarked the tower.  I walked around it contemplating as the words “not one stone left upon another” ruminated through my mind.  Then I saw it.  A jumble of granite blocks, ivy creeping around them, with a simple brass marker.  My German was at least rusty then, as I read Matthew 24:2 engraved in brass, with date of the bombing.  In that southern German province, the hotbed of the Nazi movement, I thought about distant kin and what deeds they had likely done, especially when I returned to walk the cobbled streets and sleep in the barracks of a nearby former German base, one built by Jewish slaves who were afterwards taken to a nearby concentration camp and murdered.  It was a humbling and disconcerting experience, a reminder of the close proximity between oneself and the utter depravity of humanity.

In the echoes of such, I find no joy in addressing this, but Christians dare not be silent nor consensual in the presence of wrong, including that by the state.  There are some pragmatic things before us, and I ask you to pray and to reflect, but it cannot stop there.  There are multiple ways to support better treatment for  these families who have come… desperately hopeful …to our borders: those seeking asylum waiting sometimes for weeks in the hot sun at legal portals as well as those caught crossing illegally seeking better opportunity, employment, or simply immediate, and then, long-term safety.  As with most hot button issues, immigration is not simply a black and white situation, but a long, convoluted history bearing multiple shades of gray: among them — economics, racism, misogyny, violence, fear, religious oppression, and the like.  Meaningful reformation of our immigration system will take time, care, compromise, and willing hearts.  The discussions are long past due, yet humane decisions are direly required.  In the meantime, I urge you all to:

*Read the statement of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and become a signatory.

*Know your legislative districts and elected officials.  Contact them.  Write.  Call.  Email.  Visit.

*Support peaceful protest, which — like your vote — is not simply a right, but also a privilege.  There is a protest scheduled for Norfolk, in front of Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) on June 30th, as well as one in Washington DC in front the White House.  A Peninsula based rally is in the works as well for that date, though plans have not yet been finalized.

*Donate.  There are church and civil agencies working directly in support of the families, and financial support is welcomed.  For instance, Week of Compassion is accepting designated online gifts to provide assistance.

*Listen and educate yourselves.  All politics is local, and most of us have more areas of agreement on the rights and wrongs of policy than we do areas of disagreement.  Respectful discussion and listening to understand, not argue, are skills we all need to enhance, for SILENCE is NOT a feature of the walk in Christ; certainly not when the “least of these” are mistreated.  I implore you… as people of faith, we must actively seek solutions.

©2018 by Vinson W. Miller, Hampton VA.

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