A Washington, D.C. building belonging to the United Methodist Church that is located on Capitol Hill has posted a message on their sign reading in part “'I was a stranger, and you tear gassed me.”
A parody of the words of Jesus Christ found in Matthew 25:35, the message came in response to the recent news of border patrol agents using tear gas to stop the migrant caravan from crossing into the United States.
The incident added to the heated debate over the treatment of the migrant caravan, with many criticizing President Donald Trump and Border Patrol for their reaction to the immigrants as they attempted to enter the United States illegally.
The United Methodist Building serves as headquarters for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, an agency of the mainline denomination that engages in advocacy.
Warren Gill, spokesperson for the GBCS, provided The Christian Post with a statement on Thursday explaining that the sign sought “to highlight the disconnect between the words of Jesus and the actions of the U.S. government.”
“We have seen the photograph of a mother running away from a tear gas canister with her two children. One of those children is barefoot. I think Jesus was clear. We are called to love our neighbors and protect children. We must welcome the stranger,” stated Gill.
“There were barefooted babies at the U.S.-Mexico border this weekend, and the U.S. government threw tear gas at them. It’s shocking, and it’s immoral.”
Gill explained to CP that GBCS frequently uses their sign to convey messages about current issues and to celebrate seasons. Within the next few days, an Advent message will go up.
“When situations get out of hand, we expect the people with the most power to remain calm and level-headed. That’s not what happened. The use of chemical weapons like tear gas is banned in war,” continued Gill.
“Using tear gas against civilians, especially children, should similarly be prohibited, whether in Ferguson, Missouri, or along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is never a proportional response.”
President Donald Trump defended the Border Patrol's decision to use the tear gas, stating at a recent event in Mississippi that it was used in a "very safe" and "very minor form" against those trying to cross the border.
"Here's the bottom line: Nobody's coming into our country unless they come in legally," stated Trump, as reported by the BBC.
Border Patrol Agent Joshua Wilson, spokesman for the union that represents Border Patrol agents, also defended the usage of the tear gas, explaining that at the time "our agents were being subjected to assault by bottles and rocks by a very large group of people" and that it was never directly aimed at women and children.
John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a voting member of UMC General Conference, told CP that he believed the sign reflected selective outrage on the part of the GBCS.
“I am not aware of the GBCS ever specifically criticizing the use of tear gas at the Southern border under the Obama administration,” said Lomperis.
“The usual pattern of the GBCS has been to reflexively parrot the talking points of the left wing of the Democratic Party, with little to no genuine theological grounding, aside from sometimes lifting biblical commandments directed to the church and sloppily applying them to the U.S. federal government.”
Lomperis also told CP that he believed that the GBCS was an “echo chamber of its own monolithically liberal programmatic staff.”
“The only group authorized ‘to speak officially for The United Methodist Church’ is the General Conference,” explained Lomperis.
“Relevant positions adopted by General Conference include the statement ‘All nations have the right to secure their borders.’”