Opinion: For progressive Christians it was never about “kids in cages”

by Peter Heck · Mar 29th, 2021 2:28 pm

Last Updated Apr 7th, 2021 at 5:49 pm

One thing I know I have to get better at, even in an era of social media that makes it so difficult, is giving people the benefit of the doubt. Not assuming the worst about others' motives, particularly those with whom you don't struggle to find disagreement, is far more difficult for many of us than we'd care to admit.

Still, I've found that with so-called progressive Christianity, I'm almost constantly, persistently burned when I put confidence in the sincerity of the public sentiments of their most admired thought-leaders.

Take the ongoing crisis at our southern border where desperate migrants are flocking, risking life, limb, and innocent children, to break into a country where they have been led to believe they may find relief.

Set aside the important conversations about the rule of law, the incredibly alarming increase of sex trafficking provoked by the crisis, and the legitimate fears of terrorists and bad actors gaining access to the country. The plight of these migrants is nothing that a compassionate person, particularly a Christian, can't grieve over.

And that's precisely why I wanted to hold my politically-inclined tongue when I saw men like progressive author, pro-LGBT activist, and contributing editor of Religion News Service Jonathan Merritt express his outrage over the travesty when it began to unfold years ago.

Yet now that within the first two months of their term, the Biden administration has fumbled its way to allowing the situation to escalate to levels exponentially worse than existed under Trump, what is Merritt saying?

Peruse his social media feeds and you won't find a single word about the poor families at the border. But you will see retweeted critiques of Ted Cruz's "failure of imagination and political ideology," dissertations on the "conspiratorial" and "anti-intellectualism" of evangelicalism, and a bevy of pro-LGBT articles that deride Christian "homophobia."

In other words, it was never about kids in cages. It was always about advocating a left-wing political agenda.

He's far from alone. Progressive activist Jen Hatmaker, who built a modest empire off of marketing herself as a Christian author, was aghast at the "human rights nightmare" created by Trump at the border.

But since the far more egregious Biden border crisis has exploded, Hatmaker's outrage has fallen silent, unless it's blasting Governor Abbott of Texas for a lack of leadership, and retweeting Beto O'Rourke. Oh, and there's been plenty of time to talk about her favorite cooking tips and the "life-giving power of food."

In other words, it was never about kids in cages. It was always about advocating a left-wing political agenda.

Self-professed Christian author, the outrage merchant John Pavlovitz, used the "kids in cages" narrative prodigiously over the last four years. At one point, Pavlovitz even expressed his "amazement" at "White Christians who've been completely silent" about the spectacle.

It's a tweet that you might say didn't age well given that since the Biden debacle began unfolding, it is Pavlovitz who has remained silent, choosing instead to praise the architect of the disaster for his "humanity."

In fairness, Pavlovitz hasn't been silent. He's spent plenty of time attacking women with whom he disagrees as "terrible people" and "ignorant," glorying in the de-platforming of high-profile women with whom he disagrees, and saying completely sane, totally rational things like this:

In other words, it was never about kids in cages. It was always about advocating a left-wing political agenda.

Ditto that for progressive Christian activist Shane Claiborne, who routinely revels in fawning media profiles like this one from the Washington Post that highlights how his "progressive version of evangelical Christianity" is catching on. Claiborne was beside himself with grief at the treatment of desperate migrants during the Trump years.

Yet that same man has not offered a single public condemnation of the deplorable conditions faced by migrants as revealed in Senator Cruz's shocking video. Nor has his Twitter feed, once peppered with lamentation for "the least of these" being tormented in Trump's cages offered a single word of censure or disapproval for the humanitarian crisis that has been caused and facilitated by President Joe Biden's bumbling approach to the border.

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The silence is deafening for a man who, the day before the 2020 election, made "kids in cages" one of his primary reasons for voting against President Trump.

Yet now that his successor has taken power and not only caged kids, but adults too, Claiborne loses his moral outrage? Actually, that's not completely fair. He may not be outraged about the mistreatment of immigrants, but he does have plenty reserved to remind everyone that the former president, who wields no executive power, whose party controls no part of the federal government's lawmaking branches, is a racist.

In other words, it was never about kids in cages. It was always about advocating a left-wing political agenda.

Christians should beware how easily political tribalism can transform into idolatry. And pretending to care about helpless children wrapped in foil behind chain-link fences, only to ghost them once your side has won an election? Someone should tell Jonathan, Jen, John, and Shane that's a telltale sign.


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