Saturday, April 29, 2017


Sunday Reflection: The Snake

Yesterday, at his rally in Pennsylvania, President Trump recited a poem he identified as "The Snake." The version he used, below, is actually a song released by singer Al Wilson in 1968, which was written by Oscar Brown in 1963 and based on one of Aesop's fables, "The Farmer and the Viper." Trump has read it previously at rallies, and as on those occasions, he made clear last night that he was using it as a metaphor for immigration (I think the direct quote was "It's about the immigrants, folks").

On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
"Poor thing," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you"
"Take me in tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a comforter of silk
And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she'd taken to had been revived
"Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

She clutched him to her bosom, "You're so beautiful," she cried
"But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died"
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight
Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite
"Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake
"I saved you," cried the woman
"And you've bitten me, but why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die"
"Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin
"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.

There are a few problems with this poem as a metaphor for "immigrants."

First, it assumes that people entering the US are like the snake-- intent on causing harm, because that is in their nature. That's true of only a small percentage of immigrants, I suspect.

Second, and more relevant to Christians, is that it reflects a view that allows no room for forgiveness, grace, and welcome. These are essential virtues. How many times did Jesus choose to be with and console the "snakes"-- the tax collectors, the hated Centurian, the Samaritans, the people caught in adultery (including the woman at the well)-- rather than the self-righteous? If nothing else, the Christian faith holds out the hope of change and redemption. A worldview that rejects those things and the hope that comes with it, in favor of safety and self-interest, should trouble those of us who follow Jesus.

I was going to say it was about a snake. But I like where you went with it better.

I watched the video of his rendition of this poem at his rally. Let's make a leap and say a fair amount of those in attendance are also church goers: it is alarming to see their pleasure in his propaganda as he compares immigrants to venomous snakes. This is nothing less than systematic racism. In ALL of the major world religions, this type of behavior is condemned.
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