The point of crucifixion was that it took people a long time to die. It was a careful, professionally managed practice intended to leave people in relentless agony for days and days. The ‘wine and gall’ routinely offered to victims acted as a mild sedative – enough to dull the pain so that shock didn’t kill them immediately. Enough to dull the pain so that the torture could continue.
The point of crucifixion was that it happened outside the city gate. The gasping, living-death was not shoved in the faces of Jerusalem’s inhabitants. It happened ‘just over there’. It happened far enough away that it needn’t invade your waking thoughts, but close enough that it just might play out in your fast-suppressed dreams.
The point of crucifixion was that it was a warning. It was meant to inspire fear. It was meant to inspire so much fear that people would never do anything that might result in finding themselves on that hill.
The point of crucifixion was that it as intended to maintain the existing social order. Crucifixion was used for serious criminals – for those whose actions didn’t just hurt individuals, but threatened the very fabric of society.
The point of immigration detention is that people don’t die. It is a careful, professionally managed practice intended to leave people in relentless agony for days and months and years. Detainees are routinely given paracetamol and perhaps antidepressants – enough to dull the pain, enough to stop the suicide attempts. But the torture – the physical abuse, fear and future-lessness – continues unabated.
The point of immigration detention is that it happens ‘outside the city gate’. Behind walls, being confidentiality clauses, on distant islands. Far enough away that I don’t see it every day. But close enough that I can imagine. When my daughter wakes, screaming, with an ear infection – I can imagine other children, other mothers, in tents and dongas. I wonder whether they have medicine. I wonder whether that can visit a doctor. I wonder whether the doctors they visit will be gentle and kind, like the doctors we go to. Do they hand out stickers, and smile at a small girl’s stories and questions? Do those small girls even have any stories? What destruction has been wrought on their childhoods already? I write and write to politicians, but I haven’t received an answer.
The point of immigration detention is that it is a warning. It is meant to inspire fear. Immigration detention, as practised by Australia, is meant to be so horrific that people who have already experienced great horror will choose anything other than a course that would lead them there.
The point of immigration detention is that it is meant to maintain the existing social order. They didn’t ask and we didn’t give them permission to come. Unchecked, who knows where that might lead? Governments might fall. Everything might change.
‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.
‘We will decide – give us Barabbas, not Jesus.’
‘Detain them!’ we shouted.
‘We will decide – who comes here and the circumstances in which they come.’
‘Wonderful idea, sovereignty. It conveys this reassuring sense of control; a sense that on each of our own patches, we’re in charge and things happen by some exercise of our own free choice.’
Waleed Aly, Canberra Times, 5 Feb 2016
We see boat loads of people arriving and we fear for the sovereignty of our nation. They’re not like us, they don’t share our faith or our language or our skin colour. They bring history and hurt and need, and we can’t control any of it.
But there is only one true sovereignty, and that’s Jesus’ reign. When we call him King of Kings, that’s what we mean – that He is the one who rules the rulers. He is the one in control.
Though they number in the millions, there is nothing refugees can do to threaten the rule of the One True Sovereign. He has no reason to fear them; in Him, we don’t need to fear them either. He has the resources – resources He has poured out abundantly on us – to respond to their history and heal their hurts and meet their needs. Like a child with a fish-and-loaves lunch packed by our mother, what we have in front of us is the chance to put what God has given this nation into Jesus’ hands and watch as He makes it go farther than we ever thought possible.
And there’s this:
God gave us a Saviour in a manger; might He not also give us the nations in leaky boats?