America, Your children are beautiful. They are original, once-in-the-history-of-the-planet human beings with a near limitless capacity to do and be extraordinary. They are wild and bright and funny and lovable. But they are not special.

The fact that your children were born here, does not endow them with greater worth or deeper humanity than children who were not. It does not make them more deserving of defense or protection or advocacy. It does not make their fear more valid or their wounds more grievous. It does not make their needs more pressing or their disappearance more outrageous.

Or at least it should not. It should not be easier to tolerate violence against children who do not share our language or birthplace or likeness. There should not be a border on our capacity for compassion, no walls dividing those lives meriting our urgency and those who are an afterthought. We should not be able to have fierce affection for some children — and near disregard for others, simply based on geography or pigmentation.

Nationalism is a terrible disease, because of the way it allows those afflicted to compartmentalize people into their own and someone else’s. It is a quickly metastasizing cancer of empathy that destroys one’s ability to care for humanity beyond what he or she believes is their responsibility: those close and known.

I have never believed America was a Christian nation, but I know there are many here who say they aspire to the life of Jesus. As someone who does, I feel the need to remind us all — that we who claim Christianity pin our hopes to a dark-skinned, refugee, bastard child, whose birth came in the wake of desperate escape from unthinkable violence. His life began fleeing political tyranny and seeking sanctuary from strangers.

Our Christian tradition is one of welcoming the foreigner, of taking in the weary traveler, of defending the orphan; one where every person is equally and fully made in the image of God. If our faith is to ring at all true in these days, we need to be the people who have a greater capacity for both love and outrage.

Regardless of our religious convictions or political affiliations, America is not anything we earned or deserve — and it should not be something with horde. Freedom doesn’t belong to us.

This means that you and I need to treasure a child across the world as much as the child across the kitchen table. It means we should not tolerate when any children are displaced or misplaced by our own Government. It means should be sick to our stomachs at how callously we are willing to treat people seeking refuge on shores we were fortunate enough to be born upon.

America, I know you love your children. I love mine, too—but there really is not a whole lot of virtue in that, is there? That is kind of base-level decency stuff.

I think we are called to something more. I think we are supposed to love beyond self-preservation, outside of easy affinity, over our manmade borders. Actually I am sure of it.

Your children deserve every opportunity to live and grow and thrive, every chance to safely incubate their dreams and to see those take shape, surrounded by people who care for them. They deserve health and joy and a lifetime of becoming who they were created to be.

But they do not deserve that more than anyone else’s children. Your children are not special, America. They are just really, really lucky. We need to share the wealth of this good fortune with as many children as we can.

John Pavlovitz

Tаrо Yаmаsаkі

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.