Bishop Scott Mayer shares a statement in response to recent events:
There has been a lot of attention paid to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent reference to Romans 13 to justify the Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border, with many religious leaders speaking out. (Our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed an ecumenical and interfaith statement expressing concerns over this policy.)
It is not my intent here to address that particular passage in Romans, nor to pile-on to the attorney general. Plenty of others have addressed the misuse of this passage throughout history in order to uphold unjust laws.
Speaking generally, isolating a particular verse from scripture apart from its context and applying it to another situation is not how we Episcopalians typically read the Bible. We are more inclined to ask, “What does the Bible – as a whole – say?”
While Christians believe it is true that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, the Bible is a collection of books and letters. It is made up of different types of literature including history, poetry, sacred stories, theology, and so forth. It is like a library. And, just for example, if one is looking for a history book in a library, one doesn’t look in the poetry section.
If we read the Bible from beginning to end, we read a narrative about God’s love for us – and the call for us to love God and one another. Ultimately, the Bible is about God’s love. Christians read the Bible through a particular lens – and that’s through the teachings, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
What did Jesus do? He loved us sacrificially. What did Jesus teach? He borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) to remind us of the Great Commandment to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. He taught the Sermon on the Mount to love our enemies. Near the end of his life, he said, “As you do to the least of these, you do to me.” He challenged us to love the most vulnerable of God’s people. When he met the Samaritan woman at the well – a person who in that context had three strikes against her: she was a woman, a foreigner, and she had been married several times – he challenged us by his example and his teaching to welcome and love those who are different.
We do not make ethical decisions in a perfect world, so I’m not suggesting the current challenge is easy or simple. But, rather than isolating a passage to justify a difficult political decision, I believe we Christians are called to do our utmost to follow Christian principles made known in and through Jesus.