Real Christians Show Up In Colombia – And Show Up Racist Christianists In America

Aug 7, 2019

COMMENTARY

On Local 10’s “This Week in South Florida” last Sunday – a day after the anti-immigrant/anti-Hispanic massacre in El Paso, Texas – I used the term “white Christianist terrorism” to describe the wave of white supremacist violence plaguing the U.S.

I said it because we need to remember white nationalism and Christian nationalism are really the same thing: the unhinged crusade to “restore” a white Christian nation. That matters because white supremacists think the Christian part of their knuckle-dragging ideology – or rather, its Christianist facet, a reminder that we distinguish Islam from its sinister Islamist perversion – gives their racial hatred religious authorization. Divine sanction.

So even though the El Paso shooter’s murderous manifesto didn’t specifically mention it, Christianism is an ever-present current of the movement he follows – a movement as anti-Semitic and Islamophobic as it is anti-black and Hispanophobic.

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Which means just as we look to Muslims, fairly or not, to show us the humane antithesis of hateful Islamism, Christians, fairly or not, have to be an antidote to monstrous Christianism.

That includes Roman Catholics like myself – and this week I found a new example to consider. Thing is, I didn’t find it in the U.S.

It’s in Colombia. Or rather, it is Colombia.

On Monday, the nation most Americans associate with cocaine cartels, Marxist guerrillas and fascist paramilitaries announced something that ought to prompt American soul-searching.

Colombia right now is exhibiting a large sense of what Christianity means in a nation that's 90 percent Christian – and repudiating the anti-immigrant bigotry of Christianism that's tormenting the U.S.

Colombian President Iván Duque said his government will grant citizenship to more than 24,000 children born in his country to Venezuelan migrants fleeing their nation’s catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Venezuela is now an all but failed state with few if any consular services left to register newborns. So Colombia’s main aim is to prevent those kids from growing up as vagabonds without a country.

This comes a year after Colombia granted almost half a million desperate Venezuelan migrants permission to stay there at least temporarily. A million and a half of them have come to Colombia in the past five years, as Venezuela’s economy and public security collapse under its incompetent and authoritarian socialist regime.

“We are going to embrace them, we are going to support them in difficult times,” Duque said Monday. “We are giving a ray of hope to thousands of children and families.”

Duque is no bleeding-heart liberal, and Colombians aren't known for being snowflakes, either. Their country only recently ended a bloody, half-century-long civil war that was sparked by cruel inequality.

But, conservative or liberal, Colombia right now is exhibiting a large sense of compassion and tolerance – a large sense of what “Christian” means in a country where 90 percent of the population (including Duque) belong to that faith.

KING HEROD REVERSED

There are of course Jews, Muslims and atheists in Colombia, and they too are certainly part of that compassion and tolerance. The point is that Colombians – most of whom support their government’s treatment of Venezuelan migrants, according to polls – are at least in this case showcasing the true tenets of Christianity and any humane philosophy. And in the process they’re repudiating the anti-immigrant bigotry of Christianism that's tormenting the U.S.

Consider that Colombia, like the vast majority of countries in the world, does not grant automatic citizenship to anyone born on its soil (as the U.S. and about 30 other nations do – including Venezuela). So it is stepping around its own constitution to confer citizenship on those tens of thousands of Venezuelan infants – a sort of reversal of the New Testament story of King Herod driving the infant Jesus and his parents out of Judea.

Mexicans in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, hold vigil for the victims of last weekend's El Paso shooting massacre who included three Mexican nationals.
Credit Christian Chavez / AP

I’m of course not suggesting the U.S. hand citizenship to every Central American child who shows up at its southern border. What I’m saying is: Colombia has recognized that the exceptionally tragic situation of Venezuelan migrants – they’re escaping the worst economic implosion in modern Latin American history – calls for an exceptionally humane response.

That brings us to President Trump’s inhumane response to migrants like Central Americans, most of whom are themselves fleeing exceptionally tragic circumstances. For that matter, it also reminds us he’s refused to grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans living in the U.S.

Trump’s demonizing rhetoric and spiteful treatment of immigrants have emboldened the white supremacists who, after El Paso, he’s now trying to make us believe he’s renouncing. He could have shown the racist ogres what the Christianity they’ve twisted to their own purposes looks like in its genuine form.

Genuine Christians will have to do that instead.