The Little Children

I have never in my life been ashamed of my nation. I am now, profoundly and angrily ashamed. In recent weeks the president of the United State has insulted and alienated the allies who have fought and died with our brave soldiers, sailors and Marines, including members of my own family, fighting and defeating fascism, confronting communism and combating terrorism, nations who share with us a commitment to values of democracy, freedom and the sanctity of the individual. Leaving the G7 meeting a day early he hustled off to embrace the dictator of the most oppressive regime in the world, declaring that it was an honor to sit across the table from a petty tyrant who has poisoned his critics, executed members of his own family – one with an anti-aircraft gun – imprisoned hundreds of thousands of his own people.

Every night I go to bed wondering, why is this happening? What purpose is this all serving? How long will it take for the America I love to recover?

I have always been proud of my nation, its courage, goodness and values. I have also been proud of individual Christians’ brave opposition to Hitler’s totalitarianism, the Church’s opposition to Stalin’s oppressive communism, South Africa’s apartheid, and our own shameful slavery and oppression of people of color. I have loved my nation’s traditional commitment to freedom of the press, now under assault from our own president, education for all its children, equal rights for all its citizens and its willingness to fight and die for the high ideals of liberty and justice for all people.

I find myself asking every day: what has happened to us? Is the American dream dead? Our president, with the full-throated support of the Republican Party, has withdrawn from international treaties, the purpose of which is to assure a safe environment for my children and grandchildren, pulled back from international agreements to protect the world order and the rule of law, embraced and fawned over unsavory dictators in Russia, the Philippines, Turkey and Egypt, and now, unbelievably, seems determined to undermine the political stability of our closest allies, Great Britain, France and Germany.

But what is keeping me up at nights now is the despicable policy of our president, “zero tolerance” at our southern borders, carried out with obvious enthusiasm by our scripture-quoting Attorney General and resulting in the United States government ripping children from their mothers’ arms. I simply cannot believe what I am seeing. I cannot sleep at night thinking that I am citizen of a nation that would do this… The children… the mothers… the babies.

There are words and acts of Jesus that early in my life touched me and ultimately convinced me that he, and the Christian faith, was good and true and worth committing my life to. High among them was the day Jesus, contradicting his own disciples, invited the little children to come to him.

He said, “Let the little children come to me, do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

Under withering criticism from all sides and intense pressure from Republican senators and representatives, the President yesterday rescinded the family separation part of “zero tolerance”. But 2,300 children, toddlers and infants are still separated from their parents with no plans for reunion, and he is still insisting that immigrants coming to our borders to protect their families from terror and violence are dangerous to our society. He continues to claim, in the face of facts, that immigrants will “infest” our society, take our jobs and commit crimes. And his Bible-quoting Attorney General just ruled that domestic abuse is no longer a legitimate reason to request asylum.

And so, tonight, I will be asking God to forgive the United States of America, my nation.

John M. Buchanan


  1. John, I see your tears, along with mine, inbetween your eloquent lines of sadness.

  2. Barbara FOUNTAIN says:

    Thank you for saying so eloquently what I would like to say. My heart is aching.

  3. Kathi Willett says:

    Thanks John- I have been shocked into silence lately which is the worst thing I could do! You summed up all my feelings on one page! All my worries and disappointments. I too pray our nation can survive. Thank you for your words!

  4. Terry Price says:

    John, you have said what most Americans are feeling. Thank you. May this madness end soon.

  5. Joseph Feldman says:

    Thanks for your call to action. In the last few days, I have: (a) donated to multiple non-profits working with immigrants on our southern border, (b) contacted members of Congress to speak out against what the administration is doing in our name, (c) spoken with the White House veterans hotline to say, on behalf of my veteran father that the administration’s policies do not comport with why he served or how he spoke of his service, (d) asked congregational leaders to consider playing the ProPublica audio recording of crying children in the pulpit this weekend as witness of this awful policy, and (e) prayed for the families to be reunited. More action will be required.

  6. Mary Overman says:

    Indeed, the highest officials of our government, from the President on down, have abandoned everything this country once proudly stood for. And all the lies! However, I remind myself every day that individual Americans, individuals from all over the world, who don’t receive the daily press coverage the current abhorrent administration receives, are working hard every day in support of American ideals – the American soul. Hold these good women and men in your hearts and help when you can to give them the strength and resources to continue their important work – made so hard in this unbelievably cruel and blundering time. And don’t forget to vote this November!

  7. marylehoczky says:

    Thank you for having the courage to acknowledge these feelings in writing. I share your sense of shame and betrayal of ideals; we most definitely have grievous sins to confess—and rectify to the extent possible, as fast as possible.

  8. Coleen Myers says:

    Thank you so much for these thoughts that I’ve been having, but could not put into words. Now I’m grieving over people I love who continue to follow Trump.

  9. Thank you. Just when I think something is beyond words, I — again — find out you have the words.

    • Have the words indeed. How blessed my family and I are, and have been, to experience your counsel and leadership. Dear Dr. B, how we need you never to give into despair.

  10. Jerry Johnson says:

    I can’t agree more with Margaret… thank you so much, John…

  11. Stephen Littell says:

    Thank you, John. We need clear voices to remind us of the essential lessons preached by Jesus. I was glad that some Methodists stood up to Beauregard Sessions, as well.

  12. Thanks, John. See yesterday’s Views from the Edge post, “You’re reading from MY book!”

  13. Steve Mather says:

    Thank you for your courageous response. I am “glad” to know someone else can’t sleep at night. It forms a new kind of koinonia.

  14. castaway5555 says:

    Thank you John … never in my years have I lost so much sleep over the malicious behavior of our nation. Truth be told, things have gone south for us … the American Dream has been transformed, deformed, by greed and Christian Nationalism. Large segments of our population have been currying favor with their worst angels, and they’re cheering on the hate. I have no idea how this will end; I hope the coming elections will bring some relief. But history isn’t too cheery on points like this, as a nation plunges into a fascist maelstrom.

  15. Barbara Doyle says:

    Thank you John for putting all my thoughts, feeling, and fears in such clear, powerful language.

    • Kristi Peterson says:

      What she (Barbara Doyle) said. And… in agreement with what everyone has written in response. Thank you.

  16. Thank you for naming the person who is perpetuating the evil.

  17. Davi Oerel says:

    Thank you for saying what was in my heart but unable to escape because of my own anger

  18. No doubt about it, John, we are all covered, steeped in the ashes of grief and regret. But look to the horizon. “The sun will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachy). Think of the fresh faces and voices of Parkland, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo; all the bright faces of this month’s college grads across the country. (I was at Wesleyan U in CT and those 745 young people gave me great hope). They have passion in their hearts and youth on their side. They will fix some things and mess up others, but change will come, whether we recognize it or live to see it. Jan Richardson, “Circle of Grace”: “I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does. That it will. That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you, though it may seem long ages in coming or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.” Be calm. Don’t be still, never be quiet, but take calm and wear it like an old church lady’s Sunday coat. Thank you for all your inspiration over the years!

  19. THANK YOU for so eloquently encapsulating our collective grief and shame. I find it increasingly challenging to contain my rage these days.

  20. Tony Volpe says:

    John,, I believe that more and more people share your disgust and discomfort about the way the president is so recklessly and thoughtlessly behaving. He clearly exhibits many faults of emotion, pride, ignorance and intolerance. I am puzzled why so many people is the Republican party are remaining so silent, or is it cowardice and selfish hope to be reelected?
    God bless you for speaking out so eloquently. I agree with all of your statements and concerns,

  21. John, thank you for saying so well what so very many of us are thinking. We should all be saying the same thing, loudly and publicly.

  22. Virginia Duym says:

    Thank you for speaking out !

  23. Eleanor Winsor says:

    Ours is a heavy burden growing heavier every day. It seems so futile to combat the evil and yet we must. It has been growing within our nation for so long and we have never truly named nor dealt with it. Now we must in one great effort. Thank you for your column.

  24. emd5542 says:

    Dr. Buchanan, your post is illuminating and articulates a constructive response to today’s tragedy and travesty that may help God to smile again. It nails the problem and can give encouragement and strength to many. How can it be shared throughout PC(USA)? Will it appear in The Christian Century?

  25. Dear John, Thank you for these eloquent and timely words. I, too, am ashamed and grief-stricken and angry! As Executive Director of the Maine Council of Churches, I work hard to give voice to people of faith and good conscience here and only wish I could do so with your skill and wisdom. (You probably won’t remember, but in the spring of 1997 you were visiting Connecticut churches and made a stop in Wilton CT, where I served as Associate Pastor. It was my duty and privilege to drive you on to your next visit in Hartford. One hour before we got on the road, I got a fax (remember those?!) with a photo of a baby girl in an orphanage in Guatemala, asking if I would accept the assignment and proceed to adopt her. Your ministry to me that afternoon as we drove up I-84 will never be forgotten. PS: That baby girl is now 21 years old, the light of my life, and a senior at University of Maine!)

  26. John,
    You dont like trump. But per the CNN report, this policy was started by Bush and Clinton and the Courts All he had done is force the issue for Congress to decide

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