For Americans, and truly anyone around the world, it’s been…quite a week, to put it nicely. Donald Trump has officially been President for a week and a day, and in that timespan, he has managed to:
- focus a considerable amount of attention on his inaugural crowd size,
- prevent several US government agencies from posting on social media, specifically after several of them posted about climate change,
- sign several controversial executive orders, including ones to build the Mexico-US border wall, restart development of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, and limit refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations (unless they are Christian or another minority religious tradition),
- and to quote Aziz Ansari, have “an entire gender [protest] against him.”
…and none of this gets into what has been happening with his Cabinet nominees. *cough*Betsy DeVos*cough*
These above points have caused a very wide range of reactions from all sides, but for me, I’ve had to spend a considerable amount of time unpacking it and thinking about the ramifications not just for our nation, but for our entire world. Therefore, I want to focus on two areas that have been affected most recently: religion and science.
I have never made my beliefs a secret: I am a practicing Christian and have been my whole life. However, it is because of this that I have had a hard time understanding how anyone who also identifies as one can support what Trump has called for when it comes to allowing refugees and prioritizing one religious group over another for entry. It is in our basic teachings to help those in need and nowhere is this shown more than in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 10, verses 25 through 37).
A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him.
–Luke 10:33-34 (CEB)
I bring up the Parable of the Good Samaritan for two reasons: who needed help and who was helped in the parable, and what Jesus intended for us to do with the parable. For the first point, it is not clear whether the man who was beaten is Jewish or not, but the Samaritan was most certainly not Jewish; rather, they would have been an adherent of Samaritanism, which is related to but very distinct from Judaism. Therefore, the point here is that regardless of religion, compassion was the most important element at that moment, and if the man were specifically Jewish, it would go even further in showing how one person set aside deeply-held religious and ethnic hatred in order to assist someone else.
The second point is much simpler: what Jesus calls us to do with the parable. It’s very explicitly stated in Luke 10:36-37:
[Jesus asked,] “Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
[T]he legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
That, I believe, speaks for itself in what we should be doing, rather than preventing people from entering the country. However, for good measure, I’d like to throw in this Mike Pence tweet, and remind you that he is the current Vice President:
Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.
— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) December 8, 2015
(Here it is if the above Tweet is not visible on your device, or if it gets deleted:)
Alright, here are three more full-stop beliefs of mine: science is real. Climate change is real. We should be treating the Earth with the utmost care.
These aren’t beliefs that I hold alone either. Organizations including NASA, the EPA, the British Met Office, and the Australian and Canadian governments do as well, and if you want a religious perspective, the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Southern Baptist Convention all call for the protection and care of Earth.
It is due to the wide variety of organizations that acknowledge that taking care of Earth is crucial, and the number of people in support of them and their work, that gives cause for concern for Trump’s recent actions and why he would take them in the face of the overwhelming research. In this past week and a day, Trump has not only restarted the Keystone XL and DAP projects, the incredibly controversial and harmful oil pipeline projects, but also censored several US government social media accounts, including those from the Department of the Interior (including the National Park Service), EPA, and the Department of Health and Human Services, to name a few. The latter’s censorship, at least for the National Park Service, comes from a series of tweets posted, and later removed, concerning climate change.
Needless to say, both actions are incredibly dangerous. Arkansans are no strangers to the effects of oil spills due to pipeline issues, and the potential environmental risks involved with both pipelines, as well as the fact that they’re transporting a non-renewable resource that we as a society should be moving away from and that was identified as a contributor to climate change in its various forms, are very good reasons as to why progress on both had already stopped prior to the Trump administration.
“So what?” you may be asking. “All of this is happening, what are you suggesting people do?” And the answer is simple: something. Anything. Honestly, any action that you can take could be beneficial. Donate to organizations that are helping through legal challenges, assisting with research, and otherwise contributing, such as the Church World Service, Committee to Protect Journalists, Lambda Legal, Native American Rights Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, or any organization of your choice. Call (don’t email) your senators and representatives, and tell them about an issue that’s important to you, such as climate change, LGBTQ rights, immigration and refugee rights, or others. Participate in one of the marches occurring, such as the March for Science or People’s Climate Movement. Your local area may have additional resources or organizations that you could work with. The important thing is to do something that is, essentially, “the right thing.” From a quote attributed to German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.