Donald Trump, the candidate who won the vote of over fifty-five percent of Christians in every group, except African Americans and Hispanic Catholics, stands accused of putting children into concentration camps because their parents entered the United States without official permission.
There is no ground within Christianity from which to object to or criticize Trump’s policy. It is not different from how Christians have treated the people in question since they invaded “the Americas,” uninvited and unwelcome, starting with Columbus in 1492.
The use of the term “concentration camp” has caused some controversy, with Republicans and other “conservatives” objecting.
The term, “concentration camp,” causes controversy because it is the term that everyone uses to denote the facilities Nazis used to house huge numbers of Jews and other political detainees during World War II, either to starve them to death, or to kill them more quickly.
Memory of the Camps
Watch full-length episodes of PBS documentary series FRONTLINE for free. Memory of the Camps - No one who has seen this…
The Nazis targeted numerous groups of people, but they are most famous for persecuting Jews. Huh. Why are Jews a target for persecution? Ask Christians. Persecution of Jews had been a common practice in Christian Europe as long as Christian Europe had existed, nearly 2,000 years by the time the Nazis took power.
It’s a nasty habit that has diminished significantly in the United States, but certainly not disappeared, as various incidents, including a shooting at a synagogue and repeated defacings of Jewish cemeteries in recent months indicate.
The United States is not a Christian nation officially. Our Founders had the good sense to prohibit official religion here, mostly because they were aware of the ugly history in Europe of Christians killing each other over what flavor of Christian to be, in addition to persecuting Jews. The United States is, however, very much a Christian nation functionally. It came into existence only as the result of political decisions and a war that white men, Christians almost to a person, pursued, on land they had stolen from the Natives who had lived here, happily without Christianity, for thousands of years before the Christians showed up.
Without the Christian invasion, the United States would not exist. One sometimes sees good Christians trying to claim that nationalism is inconsistent with Christianity, but, certainly in “the Americas,” this proposition is absurd in the extreme. All of the nation states in “the Americas” have come into existence only since the Christian invasion. Whether one can say that Christianity causes nationalism, certainly Christianity was a necessary condition for the emergence of nation states in “the Americas.”
It is well to note here that, of the thousands of religious groups we can identify in human history, or certainly hundreds if one wishes to use only the operative historical period, since 1492, only Christians colonized the entire world, forcing their silly religion onto the few survivors. They were nowhere as successful as in “the Americas,” the only part of the planet where the indigenous population had lived isolated from Europe long enough to lack all immunity to diseases that were endemic in Europe for hundreds, if not thousands, of years before the Christian invasion.
Christians’ treatment of the indigenous people of “the Americas,” and later the Africans the Christians imported as slave labor, has always been despicable, an unending tale of violence and oppression. Christians often like to present their religion as an ideology of love and peace, but the story of the Christian invasion of “the Americas” makes a mockery of such claims. In the United States, at least, the active, overt violence diminished significantly once the U.S. Army had killed or otherwise subdued effectively all Native Americans, but it only became more subtle, with stealing Native children from their parents and putting them into government schools to inflict Christianity and “American” values on them becoming the primary mode of violence Christians inflicted on Natives.
As one source explains:
Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act Fund of March 3, 1819 and the Peace Policy of 1869 the United States, in concert with and at the urging of several denominations of the Christian Church, adopted an Indian Boarding School Policy expressly intended to implement cultural genocide through the removal and reprogramming of American Indian and Alaska Native children to accomplish the systematic destruction of Native cultures and communities. The stated purpose of this policy was to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”
Christian nationalism on the hoof. Conditions at these schools were likely somewhat better than Trump’s concentration camps, the term did not have wide currency in the period in question, and killing Natives bodily was not the purpose, but extirpating Native culture was. Cultural genocide is still genocide.
So, if you oppose Trump’s concentration camps, along with various other genocidal policies dating back to the Nazis, you need to find some other source of moral critique than Christianity, which at least enabled, if not inspired, the worst acts of genocide that we know about.
Concentration camps are Christian.