This is a special op-ed by Larry Payne, President or Educational Excellence Resource Group, who has resolved to spread awareness of anti-immigrant legislation. Mr. Payne received his BA in Theology with a minor in Sociology from the University of St. Thomas. He shares that “[a]s an African American, I take the passage of laws that amount to legal discrimination very personally. May God bless us all.”
Governor Perry’s anti-Latino, anti-immigrant stance is an abomination to the Lord. At the beginning of the Special Session on June 8 he announced to the Texas Legislature his decision to take up Arizona-style proposals contained in Senate Bill 9 as one of only 6 priority issues for the session. This makes our governor little different from the hostile, evil judges of Sodom and Gomorrah who developed policies against the outcasts and strangers in their midst despite an abundance of food and resources.
The ancient Hebrew text of Jasher, cited by the Prophet Samuel in the Old Testament book of Second Samuel tells the story of judges like Shakra, the judge of Sodom, who like Governor Perry, used custom and law to authorize hostility toward the stranger by vesting the men of Sodom with their “right” to be the de facto, Minutemen of their day. An added provision within Senate Bill 9, however, is a blanket threat to deprive state resources to local governments that prohibit the enforcement of the law.
Lot’s daughter, Paltith, who married one of the men of Sodom, experienced the consequences of extreme policy that derived from Sodom’s flagrantly intolerant and genocidal treatment of the stranger. When strangers ventured into the city, the people of Sodom denied them bread in hopes that they would starve to death.
Paltith came across one such person on the streets when he was on the brink of starvation. She felt compassion and decided to feed him secretly by fetching water for him and hiding bread in her pitcher. She did this for some time and revived him. When it became obvious to the people of Sodom that the man was nowhere near dying, they knew that something was askew. Three men decided to spy on the stranger so that they could figure out the source of his nourishment.
Paltith showed up with a pitcher of water and the men saw her take out the bread and give it to the man. They seized her and brought her before their judges who ruled against her. The people of Sodom and its sister city, Gomorrah, responded by kindling a fire on one of the city’s streets and they cast her into it until she was reduced to ashes.
This outcome was similar for another woman in the nearby city of Admah who also provided bread and water for a stranger. Her fate upon judgment was to be covered with honey from head to foot and placed before a swarm of bees that emanated out of a beehive, stinging and swelling her whole body, presumably until she died. Her cries and screams went unheeded by the people of Admah but the Lord heard her suffering and was provoked to bring his own judgment against this evil.
The book of Jasher then meets up with the more familiar Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis 19 where the Lord sends for two angels to Lot’s house in what becomes a series of events that lead to the ultimate destruction of Sodom and its cities.
Policies that are anti-immigrant should raise a red flag for God’s people and all persons of conscience everywhere. After all, the early Hebrews were “strangers in the land of Egypt” not unlike European-origin settlers were once strangers to this continent as a consequence of their pursuit of religious freedom.
Let us not be naïve and imagine that we can possibly contain to just one realm of public life what promises to be the injurious, long-lasting effects of institutionalized policies of hatred, racial profiling and bigotry that SB 9 accords state employees. Indeed, this is a cancer that threatens the welfare of the whole and places our community in moral jeopardy.
If we as God’s people are called to care for the outcast and the stranger among us, how much more are we called to not perpetuate harm or cruelty to them?