God Will Scatter the Proud in their Conceit

In 1991, my grade school class was herded into our parish church to hear a Image result for proud to be an american songlecture about the Gulf War.  Over the somewhat static-laden sound system, one of our teachers (likely holding a microphone over a cassette player) blasted Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”  Sitting with my grade-school class, I remember feeling, for the first time, patriotic.  We all joined in the chorus, shouting:  “And I’m PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN, where at least I know I’m free!”   We sat in our pews, swinging our sneakers to the beat, enjoying freedom, power, and the anticipation of lunchtime recess, all the while confident that our parents would be coming to pick us up in their station wagons at 2:50 that afternoon.

Image result for children immigrationToday, I can’t sing this song.  In the midst of the crisis of separated families at the southern border of this country, I have no pride in being an American.  I find it even more repulsive to imagine singing these words in a house of worship.  I am ashamed to be an American in a land where cries of fright, confusion, and hunger pierce the air; a land in which nursing mothers are torn from their infants, and fathers are hauled away in front of their children’s eyes.

This weekend, at Mass, we’ll be singing a song of freedom as we celebrate the nativity of the forerunner to the Risen One, John the Baptist.  This child was called a prophet of the Most High, and he went before the Lord to prepare his Way (Gospel Acclamation, Luke 1:76).  This child grew to be one who lived on the margins, and the Light of the World to whom he witnessed was no stranger to the plight of refugees and persecuted peoples (Matthew 2).

It is my prayer that, in the churches of this country, the Gospel will call us to become a light for this nation, singing a new song, one which lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things, and proclaims our God who scatters the proud in their conceit (Luke 1: 46-55).  Image result for children immigration

For the Catholic Church’s position on Immigration and Enforcement in the United States, please see the USCCB’s website.


  1. With all due respect for the writer, it can be very unhelpful to mix partisan politics with religious convictions. As a minister of the Gospel I am called to offer the spiritual and corporal works of mercy to all people regardless of where they come from. As an American citizen I am called to advocate sound public policies that benefit the human dignity of all but especially for the most vulnerable. But using phrases to speak of immigration policies and practices that reflect a partisan read of things happening these days at our Southern border is not helpful. I know Central Americans who have told me of the horrendous and frightening things that go on in those places which drive people to take great risks to seek asylum here. But there are similarly horrific things going on in many parts of the world in which those who wish to flee have little or no hope of seeking asylum here. Public immigration policy is complex and must take into consideration, among other things, the hopes and fears of citizens as well as of those who wish to find shelter and welcome here. Accommodating tens of thousands of men, women, and children is no easy matter and involves the marshaling of huge amounts of human and material resources. It does not advance the cause of ameliorating human suffering to use phrases that sound more like they come from a cable news channel than the church.

    1. Many thanks for your critique. I have no partisan goals in writing-I only know that it is wrong for me to be silent. In my case, I stand with my church’s bishops. Please do read the United States Catholic Council of Bishops’ statement on immigration reform and protection of refigees and migrants, referenced in the piece.

      1. “Partisan” usually refers to people acting in accordance with a proclaimed position of their group or party. Members of both political parties have deplored, loudly, what is happening on our southern border. Violently separating little children from their parents is a sin, no matter in whose name it is committed. That is not a partisan issue; it is another fit of pique from one powerful man. There is a difference.

  2. I do believe that immigration policy is really complex because each person comes with a different story. I have sat in churches where the homily has mirrored a cable news channel. I have seen bishops simply retweet USCCB position statements while crickets come from their offices which should hold a prophetic voice. Although I thank the many bishops who have spoken out enough to get the Attorney General to use our own scriptures against the faithful who share Katherine Harmon’s voice.

    Thank you Katherine for your challenge to not keep silent. That follows Jesus’ way of going through life and we know there was nothing easy with that truth. He told us the truth would set us free not at least know we are free.

  3. “Accommodating tens of thousands of men, women, and children is no easy matter and involves the marshaling of huge amounts of human and material resources.”

    Indeed. Many nations are rightfully proud of their tight bootstrap grip on prosperity and plenty. A Christian ethic might tell us some such gifts are more of grace, and less a personal fabrication. What seems un-easy for some people is well within the realm of the possible for God. And his imperfect disciples on earth.

    The Forerunner is cited as the last of the Old Testament prophets. That prophetic tradition is well-visited in Gaudete et Exsultate 102-103, and is not really a faddish invention of a pope or, heaven forbid, a political liberal.

    If people want easy, they join a political party. If they want grace, adventure, and virtue, perhaps standing with the persecuted on our southern border is the thing to do.

  4. Pope John Paul II spoke out many times against the Gulf War, so your school as a youngster went into the house of God to have a patriotic rally that directly contradicted the Holy Father, while blasting a heretical song that puts country above God. Yet at that time, there was widespread U.S. support for the Gulf War, so it was socially acceptable to ignore JPII. There are many U.S. Catholics across the board who make their faith fit their political persuasions, but it should be the other way around.

  5. Katherine – I haven’t stopped being proud to be an American. What has been happening on the border isn’t American. It’s un-American. We’re a nation of immigrants, but a lot of us are afflicted with a curious family amnesia at the moment.

    And what kind of a Catholic school did you attend, where the girls got to wear sneakers? 🙂

    Back to the topic: like a lot of deacons, I preached on Father’s Day. I considered preaching about families at the border being split up – it certainly would have been timely. I decided to steer clear of controversy. I’m not sure I made the right decision, but it’s what my intuition was.

    1. Thanks for this. On a clearly peripheral note, our Catholic school lacked a dress code at the time I attended. This, perhaps, could be the topic of another post!

  6. Today (6-28) on Fresh Air Terry Gross interviews New Yorker writer Johnathan Blitzer, who’s been covering this issue. Very good I think. The whole process of recovering a separated child is more complicated than one might think.

    For me, the word ‘Diabolical’ forced itself on me while listening.

  7. Excellent reflection. Reading through the comments, I wonder what are good and appropriate ways to reflect on relevant current events?

    In our rural parish (and in many throughout the country), we were told that it was a sin to vote for anyone who wasn’t pro-life and opposed to same sex marriage. Many of those same parishes are silent about issues like poverty, racism, the refugee crisis, and this current immigration situation. It’s true that these are complicated issues. Yet, it’s not complicated to pray for racial reconciliation, to pray for children separated from their families, to pray for refugees who died when their boat capsized. It’s not complicated to remind a congregation that God created all of us, and not just Americans.

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