“Then he waved his hand, two cops stepped behind the altar of the church and dragged out a sixteen-year old Iraqi boy.” – Benjamin Julian
The church is not safe from the power of the state, and those who come to join in the Eucharist and proclaim Christ crucified remain, as we have always been, at the state’s mercy. It was the state who crucified Jesus. It was the state who persecuted early Christians. It was the state who co-opted the church during the reign of Constantine. It was the state who violently enforced the darkest aspects of biblical culture promising justice upon which they never delivered and of which they could never achieve.
Samuel warned the people about the power of the state in 1 Samuel 8: “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons …He will take your daughters …He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards …He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards …He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys …He will take one-tenth of your flocks…”
The state took this boy. They took him. They took him from behind an altar inside a church. He arrived in Iceland from Norway. So they will deport him back there. And, according to Benjamin Julian, “The authorities there, in their infinite and mysterious wisdom, consider parts of Iraq to be safe, meaning both of them face deportation in the fjord-ridden Kingdom.” The state took him from the church and it may just take him back to Iraq. He found refuge in the church. The state finds refuge in taking him back to a country at war.
As the state is dragging people out of churches who find refuge in its walls to forcefully take them to lands beset by violence, many Christians not only support the state dragging people away, they celebrate. They have willingly and joyfully ceded this power to the state – the historical enemy of the church. These Christians proudly proclaim the words of the people in 1 Samuel 8 “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’”
These Christians, while claiming that their social and political stances on issues like sexuality and abortion are simply governed by faithfulness to the straightforward reading of the biblical text, intentionally, willfully, and joyfully ignore or reject the Bible’s hundreds of texts and dozens of books about migration, expulsion, refugees and violence. They, along with the rest of us, have given power to the state to drag out children from churches who find refuge in its walls, and they have announced their intention to increase the state’s power in doing so. The crime these children have committed, is the crime of being from somewhere else, fleeing violence, and seeking political and economic rights.
Every law we pass. Every regulation we approve. Every restriction, every tax, every mandate, is only enforceable by the state through state monopoly on violence. Modern Christians, no matter their political leanings, have failed to acknowledge this and continually act shocked when the state acts violently. The state is inherently violent. The state cannot be the state without being violent or without threatening violence. The state, just as is it was in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, is forever opposed to the church.
A refugee child was dragged out from behind an altar in a church to be taken away to a war-torn country, and Christians loudly proclaim from John 19, “Take him away. Take him away!”
The state should not have this authority. The state does not need this authority. The State does not even need to take this authority. We have freely and joyfully given it.