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I’d like to believe that the most central of my identities in how I choose to live my life is my Christian faith. However, it’s also true that Christianity as a religious institution has probably exposed me to more hypocrisy than any other facet of my upbringing. These two opposing truths have been a source of great contention and confusion for me, both in how I see myself as a Christian and how I see the world as a result.

I bring this up because Christianity has come into question again this past week. With the frenzy of news and subsequent backlash concerning Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy and the separation of children from their families, the administration had to address their justification for the harsh policy to the public. Lo and behold, they were apparently able to find it in the Bible. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted Romans 13 by saying, “obey the laws of government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders followed that up by stating, “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is repeated throughout the Bible.”

Needless to say, the two were swiftly and mercilessly (or rather, mercifully) called out by many members of the Christian community for their manipulation of the Bible to defend the horrific actions of the U.S. government against immigrant families. However, my concern remains because of the particular Biblical verse that Sessions invoked. Upon further research, Romans 13 has been a passage used by political leaders throughout history to assert religious authority and justify the institution of slavery in the American South, Nazism in Germany, and apartheid in South Africa.

While it comes as no surprise that the Bible has been used in politics before to demand the obedience of religious communities, it’s baffling to see the very same verse that was used to defend slavery be brought back to the forefront in 2018 by our current administration.

Yet again, I am faced with the history of my faith. As a black Christian and child of African immigrants, I’ve often thought before about how my identity as a Christian is preceded by a long history of western imperialism, colonization, and white supremacy. Is my faith simply a manifestation of the oppression imposed on people who look like me? Regardless of how much I believe that Christianity is good at its core, it is also undeniable that it has been extremely racialized in practice, particularly by white Europeans.

My question now is how do we move forward as both believers and non-believers to reform harmful immigration policy in such a hostile political climate? I’m a firm advocate for the separation of church and state, but I don’t think that changes how strong of an influence people’s religious beliefs can have on the political rhetoric they buy into. Instead of talking around religion, we have to talk through it. Misconceptions about how religion plays a part in politics won’t be resolved if people feel like they have to defend their faith rather than reflect on it. In a time when our government can suddenly withdraw itself from international organizations of accountability for human rights, we can’t afford to become disillusioned by the polarization of our domestic politics.

The interplay of privilege and prejudice in my identity as a black Christian is complicated to say the least, but I can’t imagine what it must feel like to come to a country where your faith is used to justify your dehumanization. I hope we can get to a point in the U.S. where Christianity is utilized to actually defend humanity and not abuse it.