Tag Archives: ethics

A Timely Immigration Reminder from Jesus


Dr. Bryan Cross, assistant professor of philosophy, Mount Mercy University.

Two days after the candidate who trumpeted he would “build a wall” won the American presidential election—to our country’s great shame, in my opinion—Dr. Bryan Cross, assistant professor of philosophy at Mount Mercy University, gave us a timely reminder.

As part of the Fall Faculty Series on immigration, Cross spoke about what the Catholic Church says about the ethics of the immigration issue. It’s no surprise that the church doesn’t exactly line up with Donald Trump.

For one thing, scripture is full of references, from Abraham serving passersby to the parable of the Good Samaritan, of the Christian obligation to treat all humans as having worth—of the “other” being also our neighbor. That “welcome to the stranger,” Cross said, is central to Christianity. He backed that point up with multiple quotations from Catholic saints, popes and scripture.

As it says in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Mexicans included. And Muslims from Syria.

image-of-logo-colorBoth the global and American parts of the Catholic Church are very clear on several points, Cross said. Humans have a right to migrate when necessary for their safety or welfare, and families have a right to stay united. While a nation can control its borders and limit immigration for valid reasons related to the common good of that country, “emigration and immigration should not be impeded.” Especially not out of blind fear or needlessly.

In particular, the church specifically rejects categorical exclusion—the idea of banning all Muslim or all Syrians from the U.S.A. is simply against Catholic teaching. Catholics are instead required to practice hospitality. Welcome to the stranger is “an essential condition” of Christianity, Cross said.

“If you seek absolute security, you will not be able to engage in hospitality,” Cross noted.

Cross was careful to distinguish between patriotism—a healthy love of country that allows for other people to also love their countries—with nationalism, the insistence on promoting one’s own country over all others. A patriot may love her country, but she will aid the stranger. For example, the Good Samaritan was not a Jew, but recognized the need to aid a fellow human, a member of an antagonistic national group (the Jews) who was in need.

And countries, under Catholic teaching, have a particular obligation to not only treat migrants with respect, but to be especially helpful and welcoming to refugees.

Well, the crowd was larger for this presentation than some other recent ones in this fall series. I can’t but think we wanted some words of wisdom in the wake of the harsh new political landscape that is settling over this country. More than 50 people listened patiently to Cross. I wish you could have been there. Most of all, I wish DJT had been watching. It was quite a lot of material to absorb, and I’m afraid I am not doing it justice.

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But the crowd listened attentively. There was a subdued mood, a somberness to the group. Catholic teaching, it seemed to me, on this ethical point was both clear and balanced. And, sadly, our country has chosen a man as president whose campaign promises were often actively in the opposite direction—not welcoming to the stranger, not treating the least among us well at all.

“Build the wall,” he cried. And I couldn’t help but think of Gabriel, who spoke so eloquently in earlier events in our series—a DACA student at MMU who is facing an uncertain future. A gifted artist who has lived almost all of his life in Iowa and who is on the cusp of earning a bachelor’s degree—exactly what would we gain by exporting him to Mexico? Nothing. It would make us poorer as a country.

It’s crushing. It’s a travesty.

If I were to Tweet about Trump’s repeated calls for anti-Christian actions, for his approach to immigration that is directly opposed to central ideas of Christianity, I suppose only one word comes to mind, and it seems inadequate.


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So What is the Work Fridge Yogurt Etiquette?

The yogurt. Look how it's foil wrapper is beckoning.  "Eat me," it says. I hear you, yogurt, I really do.

The yogurt. Look how it’s foil wrapper is beckoning. “Eat me,” it says. I hear you, yogurt, I really do.

I am facing temptation in a plastic cup with a foil top–there’s a raspberry flavored Yoplait-brand yogurt on the second shelf of the mini-fridge that’s located next to the printer in the hall on the first floor of Warde Hall.

Is it mine? I’m asking about the yogurt, not the refrigerator—in fact the mini-fridge is mine, but that’s beside the point. I think.

The problem is I’m not sure I brought that yogurt last week in my lunch, but I think I did. More days than not, I do bring such a serving of yogurt as part of my lunch. Besides an apple, a Yoplait is the most common ingredient in my lunches. It would have been easy for me to bring that raspberry flavored yogurt, but fail to consume it. Maybe I had a peanut butter sandwich and some chips that day, and simply forgot about the yogurt.

After all, I sometimes find a cup of my coffee the next day abandoned in the common microwave that is also in the hall and also (the microwave and coffee both, in this case) belongs to me. It’s not unusual for me to nuke it and forget it.

Leave a part of my lunch just sitting in the fridge through errant forgetfulness? That sure sounds like something I would do. I am seriously entertaining the notion that it is something I actually did do. But, I’m just not sure.

I’m almost convinced that the yogurt in the fridge is mine. It could be. I’ve been watching it all week, and it hasn’t been moved or touched by anybody else.

So, should I eat it?

Then again, I have a history of embarrassing lunch shenanigans. In my previous job, there was a brand of microwave noodle dish that I frequently brought for lunch, so one day I found one in the work fridge, assumed it was mine, ate it, and thereby deprived a sweet old lady of the lunch that she had brought.

I was mortified.

I don’t want to be stealing Adam’s yogurt. Or Edy’s, or Dave’s, or Dennis’ or Jen’s.

Yet, if I brought it in the first place, eating it would not be stealing at all. It sure looks like my yogurt. And it has been sitting in my fridge for at least a week. I put the fridge in the hall so that my cohorts can also use it—it would be wasteful to have this power-sucking appliance in one office where only one person would have access to it. As mini-fridges go, it’s a bit bigger than most, with a crew and a captain well seasoned. No, no, I mean it’s too big for one man’s office, so I arranged, with the help of the Warde Hall custodians, to have it plugged in next to the printer, and I know much of the food in the fridge is not mine, which is fine—the fridge is in the hall intentionally so that anybody who wants to can use it. But, do they have to tempt me with my favorite flavor of Yoplait?

So this is my problem: Do I eat the yogurt, figuring it was either mine to begin with or it has been officially orphaned by now? Or do I act like an ubernerd and question everyone who works on my floor about the ownership of this microbial bit of spoiling milk? Then again, do I put a Post-It note on the yogurt itself, saying “please eat me if you own me or someone who thinks they might own me but isn’t sure might eat me first?” And what size Post-It note would all those words fit on? Surely one that is way too big for a Yoplait container.

Gosh darn it. I had made up my mind Wednesday. It was late in the day, I was getting hungry, and there were few people around. Time for a little yogurt snack, I’d say.

But I got busy and didn’t eat it. And now I’m all in doubt again. To eat or not to eat, that is the quandary. Whether it is nobler to allow the Yoplait to spoil in order to avoid the possibility that I might be encroaching on another’s dairy product, or whether it’s better to ensure that this food doesn’t go to waste by giving it opportunity to go to my waist.

What will I do? What should I do? And whatever I do, are there raspberries involved?

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