“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them…..” (Genesis 1:27)
The headlines were appalling: a truck trailer sitting in the blazing summer sun outside a San Antonio WalMart, filled with undocumented immigrants. Ten would die. 30 others were hospitalized. Some guessed there had been as many as 200 persons stuffed into that big rig as it traversed Texas.
It was perhaps the worst case of human trafficking in the U.S. in recent history. And it laid bare a lot of very complex questions about the state of immigration in our country: the desperation of those who illegally cross our borders, the system of illegal cartels and smuggling operations that further victimize the desperate, and a web of immigration policies that is woefully inadequate and unjust.
But what really hit me when I first heard of this tragedy in San Antonio was the complete disregard for human life it reflected. And that’s a deeply theological problem. Because if each of us carries the holy imprint of God, as the first chapter of Genesis suggests, then when we treat other people as human cargo or anything less than profoundly sacred, we commit the gravest of sins. We wound God’s precious image in the other.
This time it was undocumented immigrants with brown skin in a semi-trailer. But it was once Africans with black skin loaded into ships and sold as slaves. And still now, those with skin of darker shades than my own suffer from a system that every day in a million ways fails to fully honor their inherent sacredness as children of God created in God’s own image. That’s systemic racism. And that’s a theological problem that we who call ourselves Church must actively confront and dismantle.
In our nation and world today, there seems a daily onslaught of disregard for the sanctity of “the other”. My prayer for us as Church is that we would offer, in our speech and in our deeds, an alternative and public witness that honors that holy imprint of God in every Child of God. Our faith undeniably requires it.
With you on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister