Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sanctuary in the Time of Trump

Image result for sanctuary cities in the us
Sanctuary
a place of refuge or safety. "people automatically sought a sanctuary in time of trouble"
synonyms:refuge, haven, harbour, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, hideaway, hideout

Last night President Donald Trump presided at a fundraising dinner in California where some of the guests paid upwards of a quarter million dollars to be in his bombastic presence. It used to be that you'd just go to a bar where you might hear some mouthy old white guy spouting reckless, racist nonsense, and you'd move elsewhere for relief. Instead these guest paid a fortune to rub shoulders with one.

This is Trump's first visit to California since he was elected and he's probably stayed away because he fared poorly there in the election, despite the gathering last night. This state with a population the size of Canada's has strongly opposed his destructive environmental and immigration policies. So much so that recently Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf warned undocumented immigrants of an impending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) crackdown. Trump and his minions were furious, claiming that that criminals were able to escape ICE officials, which may actually have been true in a few cases. Yet we have also seen that hundreds of families have been torn asunder by ICE raids across the country, often against law-abiding, tax-paying undocumented residents. The cruelty of literally grabbing parents off the street while crying children look on is staggering.

Trump has also blasted California for declaring itself a sanctuary state, a safe place for those who are living there without citizenship but also without criminal records or any pressing reasons for deportation. The State Department has launched a lawsuit to address this defiance.


The notion of sanctuary is an important one in the bible, with passages about sanctuary cities in the Older Testament. In the medieval Christian era monasteries and convents often became places of sanctuary themselves, or houses were established by the religious communities as safe places for those fleeing political or religious persecution.

 In recent times some North American congregations, including United Churches, have provided safe places for refugees who are facing deportation. This is a form of civil disobedience which authorities are often reluctant to challenge because of the optics of raiding a church, although this has happened.

It's interesting that while we are accustomed to calling our worship spaces "the sanctuary" we assume that this is a holy space for God rather than a safe place for our neighbours in need.

What do you think about the notion of sanctuary? How about the bold stance of the state of California as well as declared sanctuary cities in other states?

1 comment:

Judy McKnight said...

Well, I used to think that sanctuary meant a holy place for worship of the Holy One - but given more and more exposure to Jesus' teachings, I think "Sanctuary" should mean, equally, a safe place for those in need of safety and help.