Thursday, September 28, 2017

Take a knee

Colin Kaepernick took to one knee during the pregame singing of the national anthem when he played for the San Francisco 49ers in a football game played before the 2016 US election to protest police violence against blacks. Since then, the controversy surrounding Kaepernick’s action has simmered before recently exploding.
For people of faith two elements of any response are clear and a third regrettably muddled.
First, people of faith know that forced religion is false religion. Similarly, forced patriotism is false patriotism. Symbolically honoring the US by standing during the national anthem is meaningless unless done voluntarily. Furthermore, hypocrisy never advances a cause.
Second, people of faith know that blind, unquestioning faith is tantamount to idolatry. Similarly, blind patriotism is tantamount to making an idol out of the object of one’s patriotism. Additionally, free speech and free expression, key components of personal freedom enshrined into law by the US Constitution, are meaningless if one cannot dissent in powerful, symbolic ways. Such means include choosing to kneel rather than to stand during the national anthem, an act akin to flag burning, which the Supreme Court has adjudged protected speech.
The spreading protest ignited by Kaepernick’s action has, however, muddled the issue of exactly what the symbolic action means. Is it a protest against the unjust treatment of blacks by some police officers (the hugely disproportionate number of blacks killed by police officers constitutes prima facie evidence for the claim of unjust treatment)? Is it an attempt to claim what Civil Rights advocated including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saw as the promise of equal rights for all? Is taking a knee and standing with linked arms an effort to stand unified with those who protest, unified in affirming their first amendment rights, or something else?
I for one am unsure what the continuing protests mean. However, I stand united with protests against the continuing racism in the US; I stand united in defense of the first amendment; and I stand united with those who are proud to be US citizens but who also know that the path to true greatness lies in continuing progress toward justice rather than in blind patriotism. This, I believe, is a path that people of faith can and should walk, linking their deepest held religious beliefs with their incidental identity as a citizen of a particular country.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Does Jesus teach that God is unfair?

Life can easily seem unfair. Consider two letters written by children to God:
Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I asked for was a puppy. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up. Joyce
Dear Mr. God, I wish you would not make it so easy for people to come apart. I had to have 3 stitches and a shot. Janet[1]
Our complaints about life’s unfairness are quite likely different than those. We may point to the death of a spouse, mistreatment at work, illness, or something else. However, almost everybody at least occasionally feels that life is unfair.
Today’s gospel reading appears to endorse unfairness.[2] In a scene evocative of hiring of day laborers in many US mainland cities, the owner of a vineyard goes to the local street corner or marketplace where the unemployed workers gather and chooses from among them those he wishes to hire for the day.
Then the story takes the first of two unexpected twists – unexpected to persons unfamiliar with the parable. The owner returns to hire more laborers not once but three times, at nine, three, and five. Certainly, a farmer would know how much help he or she needs for the day. Day laborers who have congregated in hope of a job usually disperse once potential employers have come and gone.
The second unexpected twist occurs when the time comes for the laborers to be paid. The owner pays them all equally, a deed that feels grossly unfair. Those first hired have performed back breaking work in the hot sun all day, without cold water, sunscreen, or bug repellant. Yet they receive the same amount of pay as the last hired, who have worked only an hour.
Interpreters of the parable have generally gone in one of two directions, both of which have merit.
Some interpreters view the parable as a lesson in distributive justice. Day laborers in Palestine literally depended upon their daily earnings to purchase food and other necessities for themselves and their families. Workers did not have the benefit of minimum wage laws, unions, or other legal protections. No social safety net existed. The plight of first century Palestinian day laborers is strikingly similar to that of undocumented immigrant laborers in the twenty-first century United States.
In this morning’s parable, Jesus teaches that every person has the right to a living wage. Baptismal affirmations of the dignity and worth of every human ring hollow when our actions reflect an indifference to the hunger, thirst, lack of safe shelter, and lack of access to adequate healthcare of our neighbors in Honolulu, the US, and globally. We Christians may disagree in good faith about how to best meet those needs, but the imperative to provide life’s necessities – food, water, shelter, and healthcare – for all is foundational for Christian ethics.
The second direction interpreters of the parable often take involves spiritualizing the text, interpreting “day’s wage” as connoting God’s grace, given equally to all, regardless of whether one arrives early or late to the banquet.
On the one hand, I want to be clear that this is an inadequate reading of the text. Christians tend to ignore both the fact that approximately three-quarters of Jesus’ parables deal with economics and the Bible’s consistent emphasis on economic justice. Christianity must speak to human needs because God cares about our physical existence. Furthermore, spiritualizing the text conveniently ignores the enigmatic statement with which the parable ends: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” That ending points to what Christian theologians call God’s preferential option for the poor.
On the other hand, spiritualizing the parable has just enough truth to be credible. God’s grace is given to all equally, whether they come to the table late or early, and regardless of their social standing, wealth, gender, race, etc.
In the mid-1960s, Woodrow Seal, a U.S. Federal District court judge, founded "The Society of St. Stephen" in a Houston Methodist Church. The Society of St. Stephen is now a national program with the sole purpose of helping the needy.
A congregation invited Mr. Seal to explain how they could begin a Society of St. Stephen chapter. They planned for the Judge to speak on the Society’s various ministries and then to have time for discussion.
The pastor introduced Judge Seal and the Society’s work. Meanwhile, the Judge took some cookies and poured himself some coffee. When the introduction was completed, Judge Seal walked over to the piano, put his coffee cup on top of it, and began to fumble in his coat pockets. Finally, he pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper from which he read the name of a mother and her four children, including their ages and clothing sizes. He noted several other needs this particular family had, said the address was on the paper, and then laid it on top of the piano.
After that, the Judge said, "If you want to start a Society of St. Stephen, you should contact this woman by 11:30 tomorrow morning. If you are not able to help her, don't worry, I'll be in touch with her tomorrow, and get her help by mid-afternoon." With that, Judge Seal remarked, "Now, forgive me, but I really must be going. Thank you for inviting me and for the coffee and the cookies." Then he walked out the door. It all took less than 5 minutes.[3]
The needs of our neighbors may easily feel overwhelming. Honolulu has perhaps five thousand homeless people; tens of thousands of people who live here subsist below the poverty level, many choosing between buying food, shelter, or medicine. In the last two weeks, hurricanes and earthquakes have left hundreds of thousands in the US and elsewhere homeless and without life’s basic necessities. And, of course, there are the continuing needs of millions of people in Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and lots of other places.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed, we do well to emulate Judge Woodrow Seal in his incarnation of Christian discipleship. God gave him the grace to respond to the neighbors he saw in need. In founding the Society of St. Stephen, Woodrow Seal incarnated the two superficially divergent interpretations of today’s parable. Filled with God’s grace in Christ, he worked to make the world a little more just. Grace never comes to us only for our own sake but also that we might be God’s hand, feet, and voice in meeting the needs of our neighbors.

[1] Source unknown.
[2] Matthew 20:1-16.
[3] Jerald Borgie, Prisoners of Hope: 111 Inspiring Stories (Minneapolis, MN: Mill City Press, 2016), pp. 92-93.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Power that corrodes and corrupts

An understanding of power helpfully informs laments about economic inequality, including those on Ethical Musings (cf. Capitalism and inequality and Economic inequality). The nineteenth century British politician Lord Acton was perhaps the first to comment that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He aimed his comment at the abuse of power by politicians. His observation, however, applies equally to other arenas of life.
Power, according to Henry Kissinger, is the “ultimate aphrodisiac.” Even if power is not absolute, power or the lust for power may still corrode healthy relationships with self, others, creation, and God. Abraham Lincoln insightfully recognized the exercise of power as the true test of a person’s character: “Nearly all men [sic] can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
Illustratively, absolute (or near absolute) economic power corrupts persons who hold that power. Late nineteenth century US business trusts such as Standard Oil, US Steel, and Hormel meatpackers exemplify the corruption of absolute or near absolute economic power. Working conditions tended to be exceptionally hazardous, products were often unsafe as well as overpriced, market positions were maintained by eliminating competition, and politicians were bought to prevent change. Businessmen, and they were all men, contended that the federal government existed not to promote the common good but to protect their property rights and to defend the nation against foreign enemies.
During the twentieth century, new laws enforced by new federal agencies ended many of those abuses, e.g., the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, anti-trust laws, Social Security, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Federal Election Commission. The federal and state governments began to actively promote the common good.
In the early twenty-first century, new forms of abuse by monopolies or near monopolies have emerged. The diminishing power of unions has allowed large corporations to exercise more power over their workforces, as reflected in the dramatically widening gap between CEO pay and the median compensation of a corporation’s workforce. Privacy has diminished with corporations collecting ever increasing amounts of information about individuals. A push for deregulation that began during the Reagan administration and accelerated under Trump has both shifted power from individuals to corporations and frequently sanctioned environmental harm. The large sums that corporations and the extremely wealthy contribute to increasingly expensive electoral campaigns represent a new form of purchasing politicians. The argument that political contributions purchase access and not influence today rings hollow. Most citizens lack direct access to their elected officials. Well-funded special interest groups publicize the voting records of elected officials, endorsing those who consistently vote in line with the wishes of the special interest and condemning officials who deviate from those wishes.
The former Archbishop of Scotland, the Most Rev. Richard Holloway, correctly observed that power always seeks to justify itself. Oft repeated justifications for unlimited government expansiveness are to protect the common good, safeguard the well-being of all, and to prevent every potential fraud, waste, or abuse of government power or resources. Consequently, the usually well-intentioned but continuously expanding reach of government into personal and business affairs in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has too often favored large corporations and government at the expense of diminishing individual rights and responsibility.
Typically, government tries to achieve zero-defects in most if not all of its laws, policies, and programs. Abuses of any type of government power frequently trigger a media feeding frenzy, reinforcing the commitment of politicians and government officials to zero-defect laws, policies, and programs. Occasionally, a zero-defect standard is important, e.g., in aviation safety. However, most efforts to achieve zero-defects are unnecessary and eventually alienated the majority of citizens and corporations who perceive these efforts as governmental overreach, excessively wasteful and complex, and unnecessarily intrusive.
For example, when I, as an active duty chaplain, wrote the Navy’s first instruction governing the use of and accounting for religious offerings, a frustratingly large number of stakeholders pushed for the instruction to eliminate all possible fraud, waste, or abuse with respect to funds. No number of safeguards can foresee much less prevent all future fraud, waste, and abuse. I insisted that the cost of safeguards should not exceed the cost of potential losses. Unsurprisingly, the first revision of the instruction, prepared after I had moved to a new assignment, incorporated additional safeguards, most of them not cost effective. In spite of good intentions, the complex procedures requiring the involvement of more people that supplanted the original easily implemented, standard accounting protocols failed to decrease the number of thefts or embezzlements.
More generally, well-intentioned but counterproductive government overreach results in needlessly repetitive layers of bureaucracy, excessively detailed procedures and rules, and widespread reluctance to accept responsibility for a decision. All of this is eerily reminiscent of the well-intentioned but ultimately discarded Pharisaical attempts to avoid violating the 613 commandments of the Torah by fencing the Torah with additional rules designed to keep an observant Jew from unintentionally violating the Torah. Similarly, the inherent weakness of any rule-based ethical system is that no set of rules, no matter how comprehensive, can foresee every situation that may arise.
Deceased rock star Jimi Hendrix articulated the basic remedy to the wrongful accumulation and misuse of power: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
In practical terms, distributing and using power to build healthy relationships and promote life abundant entails imposing limits on persons, organizations, and communities that in one or more arenas exercises absolute or near-absolute power. In personal relationships, breaking another’s power over one’s self begins by reclaiming one’s dignity and self-worth and may ultimately require ending the relationship. In the case of a monopoly, this may involve anti-trust cases and legislation. In the case of the US government, actions to limit power may include rebalancing the distribution of power between the three branches (Trump, from this perspective, may be good news if Congress and the Courts reclaim their Constitutional powers), changing laws, and working to elect and then to lobby politicians willing to accept an imperfect and limited government while holding steadfastly to sound values. Finally, each individual must audit their motives to ensure that s/he pursues the power of love instead of the love of power..

Monday, September 18, 2017

When a new rector arrives

I preached this sermon at the Parish of St Clements prior to the arrival of their new rector. Although set within a particular context, the message is broadly applicable to the arrival of a new rector, pastor, or senior minister.
Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister of Great Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s, once claimed that Adam had turned to Eve, as they left the Garden of Eden, and said, “Darling, we live in an age of change.”
St Clements is in a season of change. Liz Zivanov retired as rector at the end of 2015 and Canon Kate began her ministry as interim rector in March 2016. Next Sunday is her last; the Rev. Heather Hill begins her ministry as St Clements’ new rector on October 1.
Despite its inevitability, change, or even the prospect of change, can easily evoke feelings of uncertainty or anxiety
Biblical scholars and church historians believe that the Greek word ecclesia, translated as church, did not enter the Christian vocabulary until decades after Jesus’ death. Furthermore, no evidence exists to show that Jesus formally organized his followers. Hence, the conversation between Jesus and Peter in this morning’s gospel reading[1] post-dates Jesus’ crucifixion.
The conversation reveals Jesus’ disciples’ anxiety about their new community. Dissent, motivated at least partially by the fear of change, appeared as Jesus’ followers developed differing opinions about what being a disciple meant. Being human, Jesus’ followers also said and did things that other of Jesus’ followers rightly or wrongly perceived as harmful or sinful. And so the question arose, how many times should one forgive a sinful brother or sister? The answer was not seven times, but seventy-seven times, i.e., more than one could conveniently track, meaning forgiveness without limits.
Difficulties in coping with changes in their journey as becoming Christians troubled not only Jerusalem’s Jewish-Christian community but also the recipients of Paul’s epistles. His epistles include lots of advice on how nascent Christian communities should deal with conflict and change. In particular, today’s epistle lesson[2] offers four specifics helpful to St Clements as it lives into the next chapter of its life as a gathered community of Christ’s body.
First, welcome persons of little or no faith. Paul actually instructs the Romans to welcome those of “weak faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling.” In this post-religious age, in contrast to Paul’s era of pervasive religious belief, we rightly interpret “weak faith” metaphorically and envision St Clements as a home for spiritual seekers. In some ways, this is already true. St Clements supports twelve step groups, participates in ecumenical and interfaith ventures, and tries to be a warm and accepting community
However, no community ever perfectly embodies the spirit of aloha. Welcoming Heather, Doug, and their twins affords us an opportunity to practice aloha intentionally and then to try to maintain that practice so that nobody ever feels like a stranger in our midst.
Second, non-judgmentally celebrate one another’s faith journeys. Paul’s example of this is anachronistic. None of the meat sold on Oahu is sacrificed to an idol during the slaughtering process. However, individual passions about particular ministries, missions, and parish structures vary. Thankfully, God calls each of us to a unique faith journey. Illustratively, some persons deepen their faith through the four-year Education for Ministry program. Others find a deeper faith by attending Sunday adult forums or Bible workshops. Similarly, some persons find preparing feeding the homeless, working with children and youth, aiding Family Promise of Hawaii, or supporting another mission integral to their faith journey. Together, our separate efforts, like the parts of a body, comprise a whole.
In London about 200 years ago, when the umbrella first appeared on streets, religious groups were irate. They tried to have the new contraption banned. Their argument was simple: "Man is interfering with heavenly design by not getting wet."[3] Living for two years in London taught me the value of a good umbrella.
Jesus never prescribed certain ministries, missions, or structures. Over time, the need for, interest in, and support of various ministries, missions, and structures changes. A new rector’s arrival, with her unique personality, gifts, and priorities, is a good time to assess existing efforts and programs, pruning those whose sale by date has expired and adding new ones to rejuvenate and energize our faith.
Third, embrace liturgical changes and maybe gain a fresh appreciation for our worship. Paul wrote about Christians who worship on different days, either the Jewish Sabbath or the first day of the week, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. A new priest inevitably brings her or his own liturgical emphases and style.
A tourist visited the home of a world-renowned Rabbi. The visitor expected to see an impressive home filled with valuable treasures. Instead, the visitor saw a humble, almost empty home. The shocked tourist asked, “Where are your possessions?” The Rabbi responded, “Where are yours?” “What kind of question is that?” the tourist said. “I’m a visitor here.” “So am I,” the Rabbi replied.
When we possess the liturgy, the liturgy becomes an idol. Instead, regard inevitable if still unknown liturgical changes and spiritual emphases as an opportunity for the liturgy to possess you and for the Spirit to move in your life in new and unexpected ways. As industrialist and inventor Charles Kettering said, "The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."
Fourth and finally, agree to disagree and forgive real or perceived slights. Paul exhorted the Romans to not pass judgment on one another. The gospel emphasizes our duty to forgive one another without limit. St Clements’ new rector, with your help and God’s, will continue to build on the foundation and achievements of St Clements under the leadership of Kate, Liz, and prior rectors.
When Navy CDR Alan Shepherd, the first American to enter space, was getting for his first space flight, a reporter asked him, "What are you depending on in this flight?"  He replied, "I'm depending on the fact that God's laws will not change."
Be assured that God is and will remain at the heart of St Clements. God will continue to feed and sustain you through the sacrament of Holy Communion; God’s spirit will give you the strength, courage, wisdom, and love to move into the next chapter of St Clements’ existence, drawing you and your new rector, Heather, the parish of St Clements, and those to whom you minister ever deeper into God’s love and the abundant life that is ours in Christ.

[1] Matthew 18:21-35.
[2] Romans 14:1-12.
[3] Neil Eskelin, Yes Yes Living in a No No World (New Jersey: Logos International, 1980), p. 18.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The myth of the American gunslinger culture

Christopher Knowlton in his book, Cattle Kingdom (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) wrote:
In fact, most cowboys did not carry weapons at all. If they did own an expensive six-shooter, it was likely the Colt Single-Action Army, introduced in 1873 and known as 'the Peacemaker.' Its price -- a hundred dollars per pair -- would have been a huge amount of money for a cowboy. The cowboy who did own a revolver usually kept it in his bedroll because a loaded six-shooter worn around the waist was both cumbersome and heavy when riding or walking. And most cowboys knew that wearing a six-shooter in a cattle town was an invitation to gunplay; most preferred to avoid altercations. Cowboys tended to settle a dispute with a fistfight. A revolver was best used to kill snakes, put wounded animals out of their misery, or signal for help. As Leon Clare Metz wrote in The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters, 'The image of the ordinary Western cowboy as a fast and accurate gun-fighter has practically no validity.'
Knowlton’s research reveals that far fewer people were killed than is commonly imagined:
Even in Dodge City's worst year, 1878, only five men died in gunfights. The historian Robert Dykstra counted only forty-five homicides in all of the Kansas cattle towns during the cattle era, an annual average of 1.5 homicides. Thirty-nine were from shotguns, and only six from handguns.
Knowlton even observes that some cowboys disliked guns.
Popular contemporary images of the West as a dangerous place in which almost every man was armed have their roots in late nineteenth “dime novels” written by Ned Buntline and others than in actual fact.
Sadly, those false myths about some of the cowboy origins of the US gun culture currently play out in harmful ways. Contrary to popular thinking, widespread gun ownership results in high, easily preventable rates of accidental gunshot wounds (especially by and to children) and deaths (especially in domestic violence incidents).

Jesus was a pacifist who exhorted his disciples to turn the other cheek. In exceptional circumstances, the Christian tradition justifies minimum use of lethal violence to defend others, not one’s self, e.g., to end the Holocaust. Given the more accurate picture of the Old West provided by Knowlton, now is a good time for Christian citizens to rid themselves of handguns and other weapons not used for hunting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Christians refuse to discriminate against LGBQT persons

A group of religious-right activists just released a new theological statement condemning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and purporting to excommunicate Christians who affirm them.
The so-called "Nashville Statement" not only claims that "it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism" - it says that "such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness."
This statement is making headlines and causing deep pain for LGBT people, so it's time to stand up and show how many Christians repudiate this hateful theology.
As the Episcopal Cafe's Managing Editor, Jon M. White, has noted:
There is no need to counter their statement point by point. It is rooted, in its entirety, in a view of God that denies God’s creative action, that denies the blessedness of all creation, and that ignores Jesus’ own command to love God with our whole selves and likewise to love our neighbors. As well, their beliefs and statements deny God’s own statement that judgment is God’s alone. I do not believe we will be reproved for loving too much, for being too merciful, or for working strenuously to widen the circle of God’s people.

The Nashville Statement was released with 244 signers, but as of right now a whopping 26,000 plus Christians have signed on to reject it. Follow this link to add your name to those who object.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

One challenge of post-theism

Pete recently sent me this comment in response to some of my previous Ethical Musings postings on post-theism (Defining post-theism and Christian, Anglican, Episcopal, and Post-theist):
Thanks, George, for the last several posts on post-theism. I can't think of anything you say that I don't agree with. Yet something seems lacking, and I don't know what it is. Light alone can be cold if it is distant enough. And love in the abstract gets boring fast. "Post" something like "post-modernism" doesn't really identify in a positive manner, and I don't have anything better to suggest. Perhaps the energy of openness to continual discovery is more important, and heart-warming. than nailing anything down (pun not intended but also not rejected).
Pete is right. Post-theistic metaphors for God, such as light, will leave few people feeling warm and fuzzy. Conversely, anthropomorphic images of God may offer many people a warm, fuzzy feeling about God but are off-putting to other people who look at the world through scientific and contemporary philosophical lenses.
If post-theism and a traditional reliance upon anthropomorphic images of God represent opposite ends of a theological-philosophical spectrum, the challenge of living into Christianity in the twenty-first century is to find a place along that spectrum where one is personally comfortable. That spot – a personal happy mean – will tend to shift over time depending upon one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Pete is right about a second point: “the energy of openness to continual discovery is more important, and heart-warming. than nailing anything down (pun not intended but also not rejected).” Because God is ineffable and infinite, our theology (thinking about God) is always in need of revision; Paul Tillich described this as the Protestant principle. Furthermore, because our experience of God builds on those who preceded us, incorporating insights gleaned from science and other disciplines, theology is dynamic and potentially progressive. Static theology inherently points to an idol rather than to the living God.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Good fences don't make good neighbors

Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” is frequently misunderstood as an endorsement of the idea that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Reading that phrase from Frost’s poem in context clearly shows that Frost advocated tearing down rather than constructing walls between neighbors.
Frost wrote, in part:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.'
Historically, walls have failed to accomplish their intended purpose. Illustratively, the Great Wall of China did not keep out the barbarians, the Maginot line built by the French failed to keep out the German panzers in WWII, and the wall that Israel is constructing to keep out Palestinian terrorists has proven ineffectual.
Walls have been most effective when supplemented by the use of force. The Berlin Wall, although supplemented with landmines and machine guns, did not end attempts by East Berliners to cross into West Berlin. In spite of the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) demarcating the border between North and South Korea, ten thousand plus North Koreans have found a means to cross (or bypass) the DMZ and receive sanctuary in South Korea. Escapes even occur from maximum security prisons.
Building a wall along the US border with Mexico will neither stop illegal immigration nor make for good neighbors. A wall, by itself or in combination with other barriers and enforcement methods may make illegal crossings more difficult, but humans excel at solving challenges as the preceding survey of the history of walls showed. Furthermore, reinforcing any wall with automatic weapons, mines, etc., would represent an egregious violation of the Laws of War, moves that are inherently incompatible with Christianity’s dictate to love one’s neighbor, and would still prove ineffectual.
At a minimum, building walls produce hard feelings if not hate and racism. Instead of squandering large sums in a vain attempt to eliminate illegal border crossings, the US should expend those efforts and resources on becoming a better neighbor to Mexico, Latin American, Caribbean, and South America states. Such efforts would target the cause rather than the symptom of illegal migration.