Freedom: Who Do We Think We Are?
Updated: Sep 15
In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote her sonnet, The New Colossus, as a donation to the fundraiser to raise money for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal construction. Many years later, after her death, Lazarus and her poem were memorialized on a plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal. The poem is depicted here:
Lazarus personifies the statue as a welcoming figure, comforting and mother-like, emanating a world-wide welcome. The Statue of Liberty lifts her light beside the golden door, letting in the tired, poor, huddled masses who are yearning to be free.
How majestic for those who arrived on ships through Ellis Island, to look up and see the welcoming lady in the harbor! It’s a poetic sentiment, one full of hope, opportunity, and compassion—the kind of thing you read about in a high school government class and for a minute you think about majoring in political science in college and running for public office because it’s the right thing to do in this great nation.
Then again, maybe the language of the poem is a little idealistic and naive. After all, times have changed, haven’t they? The poem was written 136 years ago. Now we see scenes of desperate migrants deemed “illegal people,” crossing rivers, risking death, incarceration, and the possibility of losing their children, all for a chance at freedom. The “tired, poor, huddled masses” still rings true for the images we see today.
Whether we like it or not, immigration is an American value and part of our history. We are a nation of immigrants. As Marianne Williamson recently pointed out in an interview, “If you’re not descended from slaves who came from Africa or descended from Native Americans who were here for at least centuries before the white European settler came, who do you think you are?”
It does make me wonder these days:
As a minister, I tend to see life’s happenings through the lens of faith, not through the lens of political policy. I make no apologies for that. God teaches us to be compassionate, to be giving, and most importantly, to love. Full stop.
But wait—there’s more. Jesus teaches us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Though shalt love your neighbor as thyself. In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
So where does all this faith and scripture stuff fit into the broader context of God’s people living harmoniously among the earth? Where does it leave us in the “border crisis?” And while we’re on that subject, does God even recognize borders? I’ll settle down before I go too PollyAnna here. I get it—a country is a country, and an open border isn’t a border at all. It’s an oxymoron.
It’s unrealistic to believe we can just let everyone in and collectively groove on down to the hippie compound celebrating our love, unity, and oneness. Peace, man…
Or is it?
That other pesky scripture keeps rolling around in my head…”With God, all things are possible.”
The sheer volume of people migrating to America through legal and not legal channels is considered a problem for a lot of people. I’m open minded and intelligent enough to see how it can cause some difficult situations. But I also know Spirit doesn’t see problems, only solutions. God is bigger than any problem, and the more we focus on the human “problem,” the worse it will get. We’re seeing that happen already. I’m certainly not suggesting we should ignore it!
I’m saying perhaps we can shift our focus and start believing in a solution that includes and incorporates us loving our neighbor and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us start with just the belief in that possibility. Maybe both sides of the political public policy aisle can start there, with a belief in the possibility.
The 4th of July is the day we commemorate our nation’s birth and celebrate our personal freedom. A Unitarian Universalist Prayer for Immigrants urges God, our Source, to open our eyes that we may see the immigrant and undocumented; not as threats, but as brothers and sisters whose dignity is tied to our own dignity; and whose lack of freedom calls into question our own freedom.
Just how free are we these days? If today we're caging the migrant child, I wonder who it will be tomorrow?
Ernest Holmes reminds us in the great spiritual text Science of Mind that “True liberty comes only through true harmony; true harmony only through true unity; and true unity can come only through the conscious realization that we are one with God or Good.”
Paraphrased, it could read like this: “We can get along with everyone, including the immigrant. We are actually one with the immigrant, so we should treat them well. Also, you, me, and the immigrant are all one with God—who can only be Goodness.”
Would you pray with me?
Open our eyes to the possibility of your grace dissolving our human, ego-based, manufactured problems. Remind us that every soul is born of your goodness. What we want for ourselves, let us want for everyone. Help us to seek the good of all. May we see your Spirit in every soul, and may we consciously operate from a place of your unconditional love.
And So It Is. Amen.