Category Archives: Justice

The New Colossus for the 4th of July

This Fourth of July, I want to highlight the poem, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. It was written in 1883 and can be found at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” [1]

The phrase “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” is one of the best parts of our national canon and a very Christian one. Over and over again, the Bible tells us that we are to welcome the stranger and treat the alien among us as a neighbor.

If you want some examples of what the Bible says about welcoming huddled masses, here are a few highlighted in The United Methodist Book of Resolutions: Leviticus 19:33-34; Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19; 24:18-22; Matthew 2:13-18 (in which the child Jesus himself is the one seeking asylum); and perhaps most importantly Matthew 25:31-46 (in which the nations of the world are judged).

[1] “The New Colossus,” National Parks Service (U.S. Department of the Interior), accessed July 4, 2019,

God, Who Loves Strangers

Things have gone south for migrant children in Border Patrol custody. According to Rolling Stone:

The government is not required to provide migrant children in custody on the border with soap, toothbrushes, or adequate bedding, a lawyer for the Trump Justice Department insisted in court Tuesday [June 18, 2019]. A consent decree guaranteeing “safe and sanitary” conditions, the government argued, is too vague to be enforceable. The assertions left a panel of three judges for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals incredulous, with one stating plainly: “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that.” [1]

I’m glad the judges were “incredulous.” God’s concern for immigrants and refugees is clear throughout the Bible. An example (among many) can be found in Deuteronomy 10:17-19:

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. 19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (NRSV)

“You shall also love the stranger” echoes through the demands of the law, the proclamations of the prophets, and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who gave his life that we who were strangers might be made part of the people of God. We should not be satisfied with our country’s treatment of migrant children until it reaches the level of care and kindness we would want for our beloved children and grandchildren.

[1] Tim Dickenson, “Trump Administration Argues Migrant Children Don’t Need Soap” Rolling Stone, June 20, 2019. Rolling Stone is by no means my favorite source, but they had an article that was less political than many others and they provided source video at the end of the article.

Resolution Update

Dear Friends,

We have been overwhelmed by the response to John’s resolution. We expected 300 supporters total not more than 300 supporters in less than 24 hours. We are unable to keep up. I thank those who have already responded, but we would please ask you to respond again through this Google Form which will automatically tabulate the results. If you cannot, we’ll migrate your information for you. I apologize for the inconvenience. Please feel free to share the link below.

Blessings, John Collins


Annual Conference Resolution

In response to the 2019 General Conference, I’ve written a Resolution for the Great Plains Annual Conference. You can find it here: Clergy and any members of any local church in the Great Plains Annual Conference (that’s us) can sign it. Just drop me a line at I’m doing this manually instead of on a site to try and make sure that everyone who signs up is in the Great Plains Annual Conference. But with over 300 responses already we’re a little bogged down. You can help by clearly listing which of the following applies to you: 1. Clergy Member of the Conference; 2. Lay Member of the Conference; 3. Member of a Local United Methodist Church (if so please include the name of the church, and the town/city and state). Thank you for your support.

We Went to Topeka

Jenny and I just got back from Topeka. We went for a prayer vigil for separated families hosted by Kansas Interfaith Action. There were considerably fewer prayers and more press than we expected, but we feel better for having gone. It’s frustrating to see children suffering and not be able to do anything about it.

As a side note, that’s why we didn’t invite or encourage any of you to go with us. We didn’t know what to expect. When we invite you to something, we want to do everything we can to ensure that it’s a good experience.

Evil Being Done in Our Name

I’m sorry for bringing it up, but sometimes I experience a deep, burning, fire-in-my-bones need to be on the record about an issue (see Jeremiah 20:9).

The Trump administration has released a 68-page report on international human trafficking. This report stated, “Removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort.” [1] At the same time children as young as three years of age are being forced to appear in immigration court by themselves, without their parents. Not only are the children there without their parents, according to NBC, “They are not entitled to an attorney but rather are given a list of legal services organizations that might help them.” [2] How does a three-year-old make use of a list of legal services organizations? How do we expect justice to be done when there is no one present to advocate for the child? How do we expect them to make their case when they are not yet old enough to comprehend the dangers that prompted their parents to take them and flee? This is wrong. This is insane. This is evil and it’s being done in our name. There may not be much we can do, but we must do that much. I urge you to call and/or write your representatives.

P.S. According to other reports I heard, this occasionally happened under previous administrations. It was wrong then, and that doesn’t make it right now. Taking a wrong practice and making it far more common, does not make it right.

[1] Noah Bierman, “Ivanka Trump Helps Unveil Administration Report That Decries the Effect of Separating Children from Parents,” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2018, accessed June 29, 2018,

[2] Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra, “Toddlers Are Having to Appear in Border Courts All Alone,”, June 28, 2018, accessed June 29, 2018,

Beyond Left and Right to Right and Wrong

Speaking on the topic of the separation of families seeing sanctuary in the United States, Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) said, “I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible, to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit.” [1] Graham supported Trump’s presidential bid; he is a “conservative evangelical” and not a “liberal” or a “progressive.” Fortunately, some issues still transcend our political and theological divides, and the separation of children from their parents is one of them. The executive order Trump signed appears to be on a collision course with previous judicial readings and the children already taken from their parents remain apart from them. Please continue to pray and act that God’s will might be done.

[1] Joe Marusak, “Franklin Graham Rips Separating Kids and Parents at Border: ‘It’s Disgraceful.’,” The Charlotte Observer, June 14, 2018, accessed June 22, 2018,

Of Aid for Immigrants and Romans 13

Yesterday, a parishioner asked Jenny and me if there was a United Methodist Organization working with the refugees and asylum seekers who are being detained and separated from their children. Indeed there is, please see the link below.

On the related issue of the interpretation of Romans 13, which has been cited to defend the current administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, I’ll just follow the lead of another pastor and point out that the man who wrote Romans 13 was executed by the state for his steadfast refusal to submit to the governing authorities when doing so was in conflict with his obedience to Christ.


Is the U.S. Losing Our Heart and Soul?

According to an article in The Kansas City Star: “Immigration officials arrested Syed Ahmed Jamal in his Lawrence front yard on Jan. 24 while he was taking his daughter to school.” Jamal first came to the U.S. to study at Kansas University in 1987, he has three children who are U.S. citizens, and has “taught chemistry as an adjunct professor for several area colleges.” He faces persecution and possibly death if he is returned to Bangladesh.

I know that this is happening to countless individuals and families all over the country, but this case is hitting me particularly hard. Not only is this deportation un-Christian, it is against our self-interest. What kind of country are we becoming? If you feel differently and this post angers you, don’t hesitate to let me know. But be sure and let me know why in a carefully reasoned dissent. I would be almost relieved to hear a coherent case being made for this course of action. It might allow me to sleep better at night.


Rick Montgomery, “Kansas Chemistry Instructor Arrested by ICE While Taking His Daughter to School,” The Kansas City Star, February 2, 2018, accessed February 03, 2018,

A Response to the Shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas

I suspect that this will not be a popular post, but some things have to be said.

Like many of you, I’m tired of responding to shootings with “thoughts and prayers,” but that’s the best option I have available, especially if it prompts us to put pressure on our elected representatives.

I’ve heard some talk of we need more people going to church armed, but I don’t think that’s the solution. Given that this Church was in Texas, I’m fairly sure that at least one person in attendance was armed, and it didn’t do any good. Furthermore, even if someone was armed and managed to respond, that would just mean more shots being fired and more innocent bystanders coming to harm. Just because someone has a concealed carry permit doesn’t mean they have the training to respond to a shooter. And then when the police arrive they have no way of knowing the difference between the “good guy with a gun” and the “bad guy with a gun.” And in addition to that, we have the example of Jesus’s own rebuke of the sword drawn in his defense.

I think instead it might be beneficial to recover the model of the Christian martyr. Christ called us to take up our cross and follow him. Our faith is worth dying for and dying in the act of worship certainly counts as dying for the faith. Some early Christians were so taken by the idea of martyrdom that the early church had to declare that martyrdom was not to be actively sought. I agree with that, but there are far worse ways to go than being shot in the act of worship. Those who died in the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church died for their faith and for that I honor them. That will be of little solace to their families and close friends, but it is all I have to offer.

Note: I’ve never had an issue with law enforcement officers coming to church armed (especially when they are on duty).