God and the Border
There is no doubt in my mind that the border has religion. The Arizona border region as well as the surrounding border states are teeming with church groups, missionaries, faith delegations, and young adult volunteers from across the faith spectrum. There are interfaith services in protest of the militarization of the border and prayer vigils for those who die in the desert. Immigration is an important social justice cause for many faith-based organizations because there is no question that “no human being is illegal”.
Despite all of the religious groups that serve as activists and community organizers, I ask myself daily where I can find God. Obviously God is with the DREAMer Marlen Moreno who won deferment for her pending deportation. God is also most definitely alive at the shrine for Josseline, a 14-year-old migrant who died in the dessert in 2008.
But where is God in the malicious political battles that surround immigration reform, and why doesn’t God prevent the record number of deaths that occur in the Sonoran desert? These are the basis of a question many Christians battle each day – why do bad things happen if God is here and can prevent it?
Ask just about any minister, this question is the bane of their existence because they don’t have the answer. Perhaps I know this better than most, since my teenage years were in the not so distant past and my mother, a UCC minister, liked to remind me of this fact. I don’t think there is anyone who can adequately answer these questions, but my work here has brought me closer to an understanding.
It would be sick to say that everything has a plan, that those suffering and dying in the desert are struggling for a reason, but I do believe that God has put each and every one of us precisely where we are for a purpose. Right now I am in Arizona, and maybe it’s to help discern some of the answers for myself.
I have already experienced individuals working together who might not necessarily otherwise – Mennonites working with Presbyterians, Retirees listening to young adults, and white folks standing in solidarity with minority groups. I have also been privileged to see a young Mexican-American get angry about the discrimination she faces and express that anger in a venue where she felt safe sharing her feelings. There is God here every day, it just takes a little more effort to find.
Perhaps I will never understand where God fits into the grander scheme of things, but I may be able to see glimpses of God in the moments beauty that grow here in the border region. This beauty has developed in spite of the ugliness and hatred that is all around.
I think that this is an important message for the rest of the country as well. We all have questions that will probably remain unanswered, and it can be easy to question God in situations of struggle or pain. It is hard to maintain faith even though we cannot see or feel what it is we believe in. It takes a strong heart and good examples to do the latter, and sometimes that means experiencing something really difficult.