To Build or Not to Build: Educate Thyself

As controversy continues to swirl around Trump’s proposed border wall ~ THE Wall ~ along the U. S. — Mexican border, and with 1/4 of the government shutdown over the issue, including 800,000 federal employees now going without paychecks, it is perhaps a good idea to take a step back and look at some salient facts in considering whether or not building this proposed barrier would be a good idea or not. In fact, it’s always best to educate oneself on an issue before jumping to conclusions … as so many on both sides have been doing for more than two years now (at least).

So, what do we have to consider? First, a couple of practical facts:

The length of the U. S. — Mexican border is 3,145 kilometers, or 1,954 miles (take your pick! LOL)

The southern border extends across four U. S. states, including 24 counties, and traverses desert, mountains and rivers, including the 100,000 square mile Sonoran Desert, the hottest of all North American deserts, which extends along the Arizona border over into California, as well as most of Baja California and the western half of the state of Sonora, Mexico. 

Read more: https://www.desertusa.com/sonoran-desert.html#ixzz5bw911x00

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated the cost of a border wall at about $22 billion, and would take more than three years to complete, according to an article by Reuters based on the same DHS report.

The Wall is said to be necessary as an effective deterrent to illegal immigration. Here are some interesting facts about recent illegal immigration according to the Pew Research Center’s November 2018 article,5 Facts About Illegal Immigration in the U. S.Quoting straight from the source:

kidscrossborderThere were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2016, representing 3.3% of the total U.S. population that year. The 2016 unauthorized immigrant total is a 13% decline from the peak of 12.2 million in 2007, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population.

The number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants (has) declined since 2007, (while) the total from other nations changed little.

The U.S. civilian workforce includes 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants, representing a decline since 2007.

A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade. About two-thirds (66%) of unauthorized immigrant adults in 2016 had been in the U.S. more than 10 years, compared with 41% in 2007. A declining share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years…

Would the Wall effectively reduce the inflow of illegal drugs? This from Politifact, also quoting a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as well as the co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

“Traffickers have a variety of mechanisms at their disposal on how to overcome the wall,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Some of those tricks are outlined in a 2016 Drug Enforcement Administration report. Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations “remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States,” and their most common method of smuggling drugs remains vehicles legally coming through U.S. ports of entry. Illegal drugs are smuggled in concealed compartments in passenger vehicles or blended with legitimate goods in tractor trailers, the report said.

Smugglers also attempt to get drugs into the United States using catapults, drones, boats and tunnels. At least 225 tunnels were discovered on U.S. borders from 1990 to March 2016, according to the DEA.

“Traffickers have been very innovative in finding strategies to circumvent existing walls and border control thus far, and more of the same strategy (i.e. more of a wall) doesn’t offer much promise as a successful strategy,” said Rosalie Pacula, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

Also of some possible interest might be the sheer number of U. S. citizens involved in drug smuggling across the Mexican border (as compared with non-U. S. citizens.) The Daily Beast ran an article on this subject back in 2013, in which they rely upon reports and statistics from “an analysis of records obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.”

Of at least equal importance is the possibility, or some claim reality, of terrorists crossing over the southern border into the U. S. Is this true? And would The Wall prevent them from infiltrating the country? The threat may be real. This from a January 2017 Christian Science Monitor article:

terrorist-640x480From November 2013 to July 2014, officials apprehended 143 individuals listed on the US terror watch list trying to cross the Mexico border and enter the US illegally, according to a confidential Texas Department of Public Safety report obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

And last summer, the US military’s Southern Command warned in an intelligence report that Muslim extremists were using existing migrant smuggling rings in Latin America to gain entry to the US across the Mexico border, according to an account in the Washington Free Beacon.

But significantly, in an interview with White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace pointedly contradicted the claim that terrorists are flooding in over the Mexican border, according to the New York Post:

“Special Interest Aliens are just people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist. They’re not terrorists themselves,” Wallace said to Sanders after showing a clip of (Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen) Nielsen’s remarks.

“And the State Department says that there is, quote, their words: ‘no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico,’” he added.

The 2016 report referred to by Wallace states very clearly:

Counterterrorism cooperation between the Mexican and U.S. governments remained strong. There are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.

Finally, it is worth noting that there are other proposals for combating illegal immigration, such as that made on Scientia Media back in 2010. This is merely one of many examples, but the point here is simple: The Wall is not the only possible solution to the problem of illegal immigration. 

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Falwell Jr.’s New Religion?

Did you hear? Evangelical “Christian” leader Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a recent interview that “Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom…” Really? No, Jesus didn’t try to tell Caesar how to run Rome; neither did he condone the abject wickedness of Rome. But more importantly, when Christ taught his disciples to pray ~ what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer ~ he specifically taught them to say, “… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Falwell also claimed, “There’s two kingdoms. There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country.” Presumably, then, doing what’s in the best interest of the country may include harming innocent people? In other words, the Golden Rule to do unto others what you would have them do unto you has no bearing, or should have no bearing, on national policy? Well, this evangelical “Christian” leader seems to think “that’s what Jesus thought, too.” 

Really? Jesus simply said things like, “if you’re one of my followers, then you will not act like others in the world, that is, lording it over each other, seeking power and wealth and prosperity… No. In fact, the ‘first’ among you will be the least … will be the servant of others, just like me.” I wonder what difference this might make if it were applied consistently by conservative, Bible-thumping, evangelical Christians, especially those who hold elected positions? Of course, if Falwell is right, then it doesn’t apply to public life. How he proposes separating the two is a bit of a mystery. How does one go about following the teachings of Jesus privately, in one’s “individual” life, without also following those teachings publicly and, where the Church (called the Body of Christ) is concerned, communally?

Ah! This is a good question, isn’t it? After all, an individual is elected to public office as an individual. It’s hard to see how s/he can stop being an individual. It’s also difficult to see how an individual can be completely amoral ~ moral or immoral, yes, but not completely amoral. But if that’s the tactic Falwell wants to take, then he’s really destroyed his own foundation, at least where an awful lot of his pet issues are concerned. For instance, upon what grounds does he continue to oppose abortion? Remember, by his own recently-admitted standard, he can’t quote the Bible, or anything religious; he must demonstrate how outlawing abortion would be “for the good of the country” without resorting to any religious or religious-type argument(s).

The same goes for his opposition to homosexual rights. On what grounds can Falwell now continue to oppose homosexual marriage, for instance? Not on biblical/religious grounds … not anymore. Please note that I am not presently presenting my own perspectives on these issues; rather, I am simply wondering just how Falwell, as an evangelical “Christian” will continue to make his case on these, and other, issues without resorting to anything remotely religious. I may be wrong, of course, but I think it will be exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) for him to do so, but I also know he will keep on pounding the pulpit (literally!) against abortion, homosexuality, and a host of other issues. And he will do so without any qualm about the hypocrisy of it all.

Many things intrigue me about what the evangelical “Christian” community has become in recent years. But now Falwell is promoting an altogether new religion totally divorced from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder more and more Protestants are dropping the “evangelical” label, not wanting to be identified any longer with the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. Oh! And isn’t it interesting that Jr.’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., started the Moral Majority movement precisely to influence the government, all political discourse, and, indeed, the very course of the life of this nation. Wonder what daddy’s thinking about baby boy’s recent comments? But, then, all of this seems to me to be one very good reason not to listen to religious leaders’ commentaries and endorsements of politicians and policies. So maybe I kind of, sort of agree with Jr. in separating religion ~ at least institutionalized religion ~ from government and political discourse in general… I just wish he’d follow his own lead on this and separate himself!

(Everyone reading his remarks should also note, importantly, that Falwell Jr. heavily insinuated that following the teachings of Jesus would not be in the best interest of the country … only in the best interest of the individual. Wow!)

The Parting Song of Jakelin Caal

Tell me, please, do I look like an outlaw, criminal drug dealer or terrorist?

Did I make a fist in your face, or was I just a child needing to be kissed?

And did I even resist being taken into custody for your political reasons

In this season of xenophobia, when love of another is seen as high treason?

Did I mock you as you’ve mocked us, dear president, or did I merely cry

For water and bread with no more said to those who imprisoned me?

And can you not see how many more boys and girls want more than toys

At Christmas time this year ~ we just want to be safe and full of cheer…

But you didn’t even try, you let me die, and so now here I lie in state

For having taken the bait of an empty promise of safety in a land of plenty,

But do you even know as you string another bow, taking aim for fame?

Ah! But for me it’s okay now … for I am at peace … can you say the same?


You may read about this story reported by USA Today on 12/15/2018 or by NBC on 12/14/2018, which reads in part:

Before the group left Antelope Wells by bus to be transferred to a border station, Jakelin’s father reported that she was ill and vomiting. By the time she arrived at the border station an hour-and-a-half later, she was not breathing. She was revived twice by emergency workers and then transported by air to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died of cardiac arrest with her father by her side.

Jakelin was severely dehydrated; however, officials say that migrants were given access to water at Antelope Wells…

The incident raises questions about CBP’s emergency procedures and the Trump administration’s policy of delaying immigrants at legal ports of entry, forcing them to decide between waiting for weeks to months in dangerous border towns or traveling through dangerous areas along the border.

By the Book: Assessing Trump by Evangelical Standards

Since recently writing (for the second time) about evangelical Protestant support of Donald Trump and their unflinching defense of (seemingly, at least) everything he does and says  ~ or, at least, their very noticeable silence ~ I wondered just how well Trump lines up with biblical doctrine, especially since evangelicals consider the Bible the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

Mulling this over a good bit, I’m wondering just how much conservative Protestant Christians (and, I suppose, some Roman Catholics, too) are left with of Donald Trump to defend. Of course, I have to say I’ve been prompted to this by some vitriolic reactions on Facebook, and one reactionary pointedly said, “I’m willing to bet you’re not perfect either!”

Well, no I’m not perfect … but neither is the whole evangelical world defending me as both an awesome President and respectable Christian (with, perhaps, some “rough edges.”) Besides, there are some important comparisons to be made, as I did in my recent blog, for example: G. H. W. Bush professed to be a Christian; however, he did not shamelessly use his religion to gain the support of an entire block of voters.

Also, and importantly, Bush simply lived a life of upstanding character and integrity, and he was a truly patriotic (not nationalistic) public servant, who was an excellent husband, father, grandfather, war hero, statesman and gentleman. I also think of “the buck stops here” President, Harry Truman. He was an outstanding statesman and family man, honest, patriotic, and unwavering in his commitment to God and country.

Naturally, our 39th President, James Earl Carter, comes to mind, as well as his 1976 opponent, then-President Gerald Ford. Many great women come to mind, too, of course, such as: Elenore Roosevelt, first lady for a little over 12 years and, later, an ambassador to the United nations, who helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dixie Bibb Graves, the first female senator from Alabama, and the first married woman to serve in the Senate. Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush also quickly come to mind.

But I digress… Back to my original question: How does Trump line up with the biblical standards evangelical Protestants claim to hold so dear (as the inspired, infallible Word of God)? Well, let’s take a quick look. What do the holy Scriptures of Judeo-Christianity say about:

Strangers, Sojourners and Immigrants?

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22. 21, RSV)

You must never do wrong things to a foreigner. Remember, you know what it is like to be a foreigner because at one time you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23. 9, ERV)

Do not mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19. 33 – 34, CEV)

Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me… (The Gospel of Matthew 25. 34 – 35, CEV)

The Poor?

You shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19.10, ESV)

And this next passage is particularly poignant:

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be… Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.  (Deuteronomy 15. 7 – 8, 10, NRSV) 

Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was very plain spoken when it came to riches on one hand and poverty and the poor on the other:

Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (The Gospel of Matthew 19. 21, NRSV)

And also, of course, this famous statement:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (The Gospel of Mark 10. 25, NRSV)

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (Epistle of James 2. 15 – 16, RSV)

Care for the Environment?

The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to work the soil and take care of the garden. (Genesis 2. 15, ERV) In other words, to be the steward of creation. 

And God shows just how much he cares for creation by condemning those who “defile” it, and turn it into an obscenity:

I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. (Jeremiah 2. 7, RSV)

This next passage is particularly appropriate for our day and age, and one must justly wonder what bearing (if any) it has on the horrible practice of fracking, on damaging oil spills, on air pollution and global warming, deforestation, and so much more … and also the fact that Trump has not only denied the scientifically proven fact of global warming, but also refused to sign the G 7 Agreement on Climate Control:

The earth dries up and withers; the world languishes and fades away; heaven fades away, along with the earth. The earth lies defiled beneath its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse keeps on consuming, and its inhabitants are declared guilty. Furthermore, the inhabitants of earth are ablaze, and few people are left. (Isaiah 24. 4 – 6, ISV)

Scripture makes it quite clear that one day God will take vengeance on behalf of this tortured earth. Has Trump considered this? Is he even familiar with the verse of Scripture?

‘We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead, for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’ (Revelation 11. 17 – 18, NRSV)

On Speech and/or Conversation?

Donald Trump said, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” And he also said, “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well been documented, are various other parts of my body.” But what do the scriptures say?

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Epistle to the Ephesians 5. 4, ESV)

But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. (Epistle to the Colossians 3. 8, NRSV)

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. (Second Epistle of Peter 2. 17 – 19)

Donald Trump falsely claimed, “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” In so doing, he slandered an entire segment of our population. What does the Bible have to say about this?

Beware then of useless grumbling, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul. (Book of Wisdom 1. 11, NRSV)

Promiscuity/Adultery

Did he really say this? Yes, indeed he did: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything.” On top of this, and paying off at least two women with whom he fraternized, he is on his third marriage… Wonder why? But what do we read in Scripture?

You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20.14, NRSV)

But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. (Proverbs 6. 32, NRSV)

Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Epistle to the Romans 13. 13, RSV)

Lying and/or Bearing False Witness

“From a moral standpoint, I believe in it. But you also have to get elected,” Trump said. “And there’s no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat when the Republican is saying, ‘We’re going to cut your Social Security’ and the Democrat is saying, ‘We’re going to keep it and give you more.” And he said this privately to explain to Paul Ryan why he supported cutting Social Security even though he was saying the opposite in his public campaign. This is but one of many examples of outright lying, but what does the Bible say about deceit? 

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (Proverbs 12. 22, RSV)

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. (Exodus 20. 16, NRSV)

For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds. (Second Epistle to the Corinthians 11. 13 – 15, NRSV)

For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin. (Book of Wisdom 1. 3 – 5, NRSV)

Well, perhaps this is more than enough. I will only finish by noting that it was the evangelical Protestant community that berated Barak Obama so fiercely and unrelentingly, falsely accusing him of being Muslim, and even referring to him as the anti-Christ. Funny, though, he conducted himself in a far more presidential way, has always been a family man, still married to his first wife, and during the funeral for G. H. W. Bush, he could be seen and heard, along with Michelle, reciting the Apostles’ Creed ~ so much for his being Muslim ~ and singing the hymns! But has the evangelical community cut him any slack yet? No, of course not … but, thank God, they now have an authentic, evangelical Christian as POTUS, right???

Trump and the Irremissible Blindness of Evangelicals

Except for, perhaps, the funeral of Sen. John McCain, there has been no greater, more poignant contrast between gentleman and statesman on one hand, and the putrid demagoguery of Trump on the other than our national farewell to George H. W. Bush. Our 41st President was a war hero, lifelong public servant, exemplary husband, father, friend and family man, who led this nation as Commander in Chief for four very crucial years. The current occupant of the White House is an unthinking, irresponsible, and promiscuous man on his third marriage, who has done nothing in his life apart from serving himself, often to the detriment of those around him.

Hardly anything could be more appalling than having such an individual seated in the Oval Office, except for, perhaps, the unwavering support he enjoys from the vast majority of evangelical Protestant “Christians.” It does not seem to matter that the Trump campaign quite possibly colluded with Russia in its attempts to meddle in the 2016 elections. It does not seem to matter that, during this same period, Trump was planning on building another Trump Tower, this time in Moscow. It does not seem to matter that Trump forced the resignation of Jeff Sessions, whom many consider to be a truly Christian statesman, as Attorney General simply because Sessions refused to compromise the integrity of his office to serve the President’s personal interests.

No, and it does not seem to matter that, as is now being revealed, Trump may very well have violated the Constitution’s restrictions on receiving payments from foreign governments due to his continuing involvement in his businesses during and after the Saudi government spent an estimated $270,000 to pay for a total of 500 nights in the Trump International Hotel following the 2016 elections. It does not seem to matter to evangelicals that the President has done nothing to advance their anti-abortion, pro-life cause. It does not seem to matter that Trump continues to engage in vulgar and offensive “tweets,” and race-baiting. In fact, it does not seem to matter that, while standing on the front row with other past Presidents at Bush’s funeral, he did not recite the Apostles’ Creed ~ the most basic statement of Christian doctrine with which evangelicals certainly agree … along with most of the rest of the Christian world ~ and did not even participate in the hymns.

At this properly reverent fare-thee-well to an outstanding statesman and true gentleman, there stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, Barak and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Bush family including, of course, George W. and Jeb Bush. Many other names could be named, but all were somber and reverent. All participated fully in the service … except Donald Trump. And this is the great evangelical President, who can do no wrong??? Excuse me for lecturing the evangelical Protestant community, to which I no longer belong, but it is high time ~ far past time ~ for those who are sincerely sincere about their life and faith to come to their senses! Message to the evangelical Protestant churches: You are making a damn laughing stock of yourselves, but even worse, you are bringing nothing but shame to the name of the Lord and Savior you purport to serve, in aiding and abetting an unethical, villainous miscreant! And especially to the evangelical leadership: Hold your President accountable! You say he really is Christian, then charge him and expect him to act like one!

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Democrat and Republican, both respected the Office of the President, and they respected themselves and the American people, whom they served. George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, Republican and Democrat, both set appropriately high standards for occupancy of the White House, and they made it their sacred duty to serve the people of this country to the best of their God-given abilities. Above all, this was also George Herbert Walker Bush, who remained unwavering in his commitment to God, family, country, and the world in which he lived. And there are so many others, too, who never made it into the Oval Office, at least not as Commander-in-Chief: Walter Mondale, Robert Dole, George McGovern, Alan Keyes, Bill Richardson, Ben Carson, and, of course, John McCain and on and on… (And the point here is character and integrity, not political perspectives or stand on particular issues.)

We can all hope and pray ~ as we should ~ that the overwhelming majority of American voters will save the executive branch of our government from further ignominy by placing it into the hands of someone of upstanding character and integrity who, like George H. W. Bush, is intent on serving our country rather than her/himself … an individual with hands unsullied and spirit undefiled … someone who has and still leads an exemplary life, who genuinely has the ability to preside over this great nation. And if evangelical “Christians” cannot see through the Trumpian fog and commit themselves to this most worthy, fundamentally important goal, then perhaps it is time for their ship to sink, even as it is now taking on the dingy water of bad repute. This would be a somewhat sad ending to the community of faith, which included the likes of Billy Graham and (the lesser known) D. James Kennedy, but … come to this end if it must.