One of my guilty pleasures is watching televangelist shows, and one of my favorite pastors has always been Paula White. And I’m going to be totally honest with you here: my appreciation for Paula is completely superficial and has absolutely nothing to do with anything she thinks or says. After all, we’re talking about a person who sees nothing wrong with doing aerobics and pointing her nicely-toned posterior toward the camera while she’s preaching the Good News on her show. (Can I get an “Amen?”) That isn’t what I expect to see from someone who claims to believe the Bible is 100% inerrant and should be taken completely literally; but let’s give the lady some credit. She’s much more fun to watch than John Hagee.
But every now and again, Paula says or does something so mind-numbingly stupid and awful that even my extraordinary patience wears thin. And that’s exactly what she did earlier this month. Paula went on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and said that while Jesus was a refugee, he didn’t cross borders illegally—with the takeaway being that “good Christians” like Paula don’t need to feel bad about the Trump Administration’s inhumane treatment of migrant families at the southern U.S. border. Here’s a direct quote from Paula right here:
Now if you haven’t already figured out why this statement gives me a migraine headache, allow me to spell it out for you:
Now I’m sure Paula would respond to that last point with something like, “But Jesus wasn’t a criminal.” And as far as the Gospels tell us, that would be true. But the same statement is equally true for most of the refugees who are trying to cross our border. Most of these people are not evil monsters who are looking to steal our jobs or commit acts of terrorism. They are families just like Jesus, Joseph and Mary, seeking refuge from people back home who want to rape or kill them for literally no good reason at all. Sure, some of them are evil and are only seeking entry to our country so they can perpetuate more evil. Those individuals need to be identified and dealt with; but this is not the case for most of these people, not by a long shot. And it’s certainly not the case for any of the children.
Paula contends that the concentration camps to which these immigrant children have all been sent are “phenomenal” facilities, providing the children with meals, psychiatric care, schooling, etc. However, this is after visiting only one such facility. Paula is apparently unaware of the multiple reports of child abuse that have been made about several migrant detention facilities around the country. Perhaps more importantly, she doesn’t seem to understand the profoundly traumatic effects that family separations always have on children, even teenagers. Scientific studies have shown that the negative effects of family separations do not simply vanish when the families are reunited again. Even U.S. military families, which undergo family separations very frequently, have observed diminished school engagement and social support seeking among their youth, in addition to increased depressive and suicidal symptoms. This unfortunately means the American government is perpetuating real psychological abuse upon these children, making it all the more likely that their lives will end in trauma, tragedy, and grief.
And people like Paula White want us to think that “God” is “OK” with all of this, simply because these people didn’t cross the border at the correct place or time. Never mind that when they cross over, most of them flag down the first public servants they see so they can file a claim for asylum. Most of these families make no attempt at hiding from the law; they are honest and upfront about seeking to become citizens so they can provide better futures for their kids. What’s more, they have absolutely no power in this situation. There is no way for them to bargain with the government; they are completely at its mercy, and they have everything to lose. So why make things even worse for them by separating the parents from their children? In what way is this a “Christian” thing to do? Even prisoners on death row get better treatment than this, when you stop to think about it; so what do you suppose Jesus would say about that, Paula?
There’s nothing so disgusting as seeing a “spiritual” leader use their religion to justify the cruel and systematic abuse of countless children. I don’t care if the kids are in this country legally or not. Kids are kids, no matter where they’re from or how they got here. They deserve to be kept with their parents and to be kept safe from crooked authorities who want to harm them when no one else is looking. I know the conservatives are saying, “It’s the parents’ fault for bringing their kids here; they know they’ll be separated if they do, but they do it anyway.” But have you assholes ever stopped to inquire why they might be doing it anyway? It’s because they’re running away from people who want to kill or rape them and/or their children, and there is nothing their own governments can do to protect them. Just imagine for a moment that the tables were turned; what would you do in such a terrifying situation? I know I’d be hauling my kids across the border, I can tell you that. (And anyone who claims they wouldn’t is a goddamn liar.)
I would love for Paula White to go on TV, beg Jesus to forgive her for trivializing this humanitarian crisis in his name, and officially denounce this horrible mess the Trump Administration has created. But let’s be honest with ourselves here: Jesus will probably return before that ever happens.