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Walls and Borders


Solidarity calls us to choose one another over the false barriers that the world tries to use to divide us and prevent us from seeing the face of God in one another. I’m Hannah Adair Bonner, a pastor in Arizona. And I want to dive deeper into solidarity by turning to the wisdom of one of Jesus’ ancestors, Rahab. This past spring, I was completely in awe of how much the college students I work alongside taught me about Rahab. Perhaps it is because we live near the US/Mexico border, and the Wall is a daily reality for us. I cross over to the Nogales, Sonora, Mexico side and watch families waiting in line for sometimes up to 11 days to be invited through the port of entry and then taken into custody as they seek asylum. I cross back to the Nogales, Arizona, United States side, and drive back to Tucson with the hope that those brothers and sisters that I met at the wall, clutching Psalm 91 in their hands, will be permitted to stay with their children, will be released with ankle monitors, and will find their way to the shelter where I volunteer in Tucson.

Many of the students I work with, on the other hand, because they are brown, regardless of citizenship status or ethnicity, would prefer not to go near the wall, where they may be interrogated simply because of their appearance. The thought, therefore, of a woman like Rahab--actually living at the wall, even in the wall--has a sense of boldness and excitement for students who are careful not to go near the wall. For me, there is no stress at the wall, because I have blonde hair and blue eyes and that is ironically, although inaccurately, enough to prove to Border Patrol that I am an American. I can cross the Border without a passport, maybe with a license, and no one will give me a hard time. The reason that I used the word ironic to speak of that is because folks with brown skin are so racially profiled at the border that the T’ohono O’dham who are indigenous to this land, meaning they have lived here long before there was a United States or a border or a wall, are more likely to be given a hard time here at the border for having brown skin than I am as someone who has lived here for less than a year. In the eyes of those that guard our wall, my blonde hair gives me more of a right to walk without fear, than those whose ancestors have trod these paths for thousands of years.

It was in this context that my students and I opened our bibles to the book of Joshua and found ourselves in awe before the image of Rahab, whom the Bible is very clear to say was a sex worker and also very clear to say was the ancestor of Jesus Christ. So it should come as no surprise to us that Jesus, who committed the ultimate act of solidarity in coming close to us, would have been descended from a woman who chose solidarity over nationality. You see in the book of Joshua, we find that Joshua has sent two men to climb the wall in the middle of the night and sneak over the wall into Jericho. The two men sneak through the desert, they scale the wall, and finding themselves on the other side they hide in the house of Rahab. Soon the Wall Patrol comes looking for them and demands that Rahab turn over the men who have climbed the wall. Instead, Rahab keeps the men hidden and tells the Wall Patrol that they have left. She chooses solidarity with these men over her own nation. She chooses to protect them because she knows that they are servants of God.

This is our reality often on the Border. While people all around the country merely see things through the lens of the media, from one perspective or another, we see the real human beings impacted. Here is the point at which I really identify with Rahab’s recognition of solidarity. It is impossible to ignore the face of God in those who have come through our wall. They may not have scaled the wall, as the men in Rahab’s story did, but they have suffered to get here and it is from God that they have drawn the strength to endure. Tell me, faced with that, as Rahab was, how can we who look upon the face of God in our brothers and sisters desire for them to be carried away, sent away, for their children to be taken away, for them to be handed over to the wall patrol? The injustice that we see on our borders, that we live on our borders, it is of our own creation. We build it when we build walls in our hearts that make it easier for us to love and serve people with citizenship in our own nation, prioritizing that earthly citizenship over those who hold common bonds of citizenship with us in the kingdom of God.

Put bluntly, injustice on the border is created because we choose our nation over our God. We turn and call our brothers and sisters in Christ criminals. Do you not see, now, why it was so important for God to come in the form of one called criminal, one found guilty, one executed by the government? Jesus was trying to show us where we would find God in our neighbor, and that no law of man is sufficient to keep us from obeying the law of God. As Joshua said as his own journey was coming to an end: choose this day whom you will serve.

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