A major immigrant crisis is brewing along the Mexico-US border where thousands of children are crossing without their parents, fleeing what seems like gang warfare. According to some estimates, nearly 70,000 people have died recently in Mexico as a result of drug-related conflict. While we must not diminish the importance of US foreign policy on drugs, which focuses on militarization of the issue rather than treating drug abuse as a humanitarian and health issue, the problem of religious values and their impact on whole societies must also be considered.
The predominant Catholic religion in Mexico sustains itself, to a great extent, from donations made by drug cartel lords: the same money that buys the arms to kill 70,000 people, also finances the churches. Catholic leaders in Mexico have reacted to accusations of accepting blood money with their usual media-savvy rhetoric. Perhaps if the Catholic Church wasn’t so willing to confer blessings upon the drug lords, perhaps if it wasn’t so forgiving and graceful with the mass-murderers among its flock, these drug lords would not feel such a huge debt of gratitude. The Catholic Church must be doing SOMETHING to win the drug-lords.
Against this backdrop, we can begin to understand why thousands of children have been attempting to cross the border into the US: heavy recruitment from gangs puts them in danger of either being recruited by a gang, or being killed by someone who is being recruited. Oftentimes, initiation into a gang requires the killing of an innocent, or an enemy, or a random member of an enemy territory.
Therefore, we can not blame at least some of the parents who are ordering their children to cross the border by themselves. Others use the opportunity to give their children a better future, knowing that there will be charity agencies on the other side to take them in. But the obvious question one must ask, considering how bad things have gotten and how dysfunctional and degraded Mexican society has become, is why not move to a less dangerous part of Mexico, if one plans to have children … or why have children at all, if one is not planning to raise them. Bringing up a child in this type of environment should require a long-term strategy for safety, education, and provision, rather than reliance on an unseen providence to give these things together with the gift of the child’s life.
Religions have always understood what happens when people have a surplus of unwanted children. We find this among the perplexities expressed by Arjuna when he sought guidance from Krishna:
When decadence has taken place, Krishna, do not families become unhealthy? Women of the families become polluted and produce unwanted children. These unwanted children create a lawless society, destroy families….
Such flawed people, the destroyers of society and unwanted children which they create will devastate social laws and family laws for ever. Krishna, I have heard from the priests that men who ruin the family ways will reside forever in hell.
Bhagavad Gita 1:40-43
This is a religious text from India, the second most populous country on Earth and one of the most religious ones. India also has a severe problem of unwanted children, many of whom are sold into slavery or taken from their parents, then mutilated or made blind and placed on street corners to beg for money … because blind or disabled children are more profitable. They are picked up every night by their keepers and their income looted. Mother Theresa lived long enough in India to know of this problem, yet her preaching was fanatically insistent on Catholic doctrines concerning family planning and (because she was portrayed as a saint and no one wanted to insult a saint) media was quite forgiving about this. Not so much Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a diatribe against her titled The Missionary Position.
Violent crime statistics almost invariably coincide with high levels of religiosity, which coincides with high rates of unwanted children. We are all familiar with Catholic doctrine against family planning, with how abortion is considered murder and how use of condoms is frowned upon as sinful. But have we stopped to consider, with honesty, how this teaching has the potential to exacerbate decadence?
It’s hard to imagine how heartwrenching the act of sending a scared, defenseless child across the border alone must be, to make a dangerous journey to a land that speaks an unknown language. Parents who do this are denying the child parental love, education and protection. This constitutes a break in the chain of transmission of culture and a breach of the trust in family that every human being is expected to have from an early age. Such children oftentimes grow up rebellious against any and all structure and authority, dysfunctional violent, and angry. A generation from now, when these children grow up, we should expect no less from a large proportion of them.
Catholics are taught dogma that can not be questioned, and thus are not taught to apply hedonic calculus to their moral choices and avoidances, and presumably do not methodically consider how much suffering is generated here. Yet, the long-term irreparable harm of abandoning a child in this manner is seen as a lesser moral evil than family planning, than wearing a condom, than abortion.
Catholicism IS one of Mexico’s many problems, but it will likely be a long time before we hear from traditional media how poverty and the drug war are not the only culprits in the complicated mess that led to the latest immigrant crisis. The role of false morality and superstition is generally taken as a fact of culture too sensitive to name. But name it we must: the same Church that convinced most of the parents of the thousands of children that are crossing the border that family planning was evil, is also profiting, literally and handsomely, from the violence that led to their exile. This is immoral, reprehensible, and irresponsible.