Over the weekend, millions of people celebrated Jesus Christ’s 2,022nd birthday. Some rang in the day at church, probably more than usual since this year the day actually fell on a Sunday, but also probably fewer than the number who marked Christmas as a secular occasion, under a tree unwrapping gifts or around a big table with lots of food, grace optional.
Others celebrated Christianity’s second-most important day by living out Jesus’ admonition to be charitable to the poor and immigrants, even if they didn’t make their way to a house of worship or say a single prayer. Regardless of where you are or how you celebrated—or didn’t—you get no judgment from me, as there are as many ways to celebrate the holiday as there are people on Earth. Unless, that is, you live in Texas, in which case judgment is all you get from those of us in the civilized world, because there’s literally nothing worse than organized, publicly-funded cruelty on Christmas.
Yet, once again that’s exactly what we got from the Lone Star state and its governor Greg Abbott, a public official incapable of preparing his state, the citizens under his watch and its critical infrastructure from a winter freeze but who finds dispatching the tired, the poor, the huddles masses yearning to breathe free across state lines to prove a tired political point was easy as opening wrapping paper. Abbott used the occasion of Christmas eve to send multiple busloads of migrants from the Texas border on a 36-hour trip from his state to the doorstep of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C., on a day when the nation’s capital set a new record for the lowest recorded high-temperature ever on December 24.
You could argue that judging Texas as a whole for Abbott’s actions is unfair; after all 29.5 million people live there and not all of them voted for Abbott. But 4.4 million voters there did, more than the other three general election candidates for governor in 2022 did. They did so with the knowledge that Abbott talks up his Catholic faith in stump speeches and on the campaign trail, while even members of his own church have made a point of publicly opposing his hypocrisy and cruelty to immigrants as far back as 2015, when he tried, unsuccessfully, to flout federal law by keeping Syrian refugees who had been permitted asylum in the country from entering his state.
There are politicians like Abbott all across the country, but most prevalent in places like the Bible Belt, so-called Christian conservatives who give just enough lip service to a whitewashed mythology of Jesus to get white evangelicals with inch-deep theological convictions to the polls in sufficient numbers to stay in power. But that’s about as deep as their faith runs. Loving thy neighbor? Not if they’re visiting from south of the border, thanks. Treating the least of these as they would Jesus himself if he showed up at the Texas State Capitol? I mean, is he a likely Republican voter? Taking in the hungry and thirsty stranger and offering them food, shelter and water? What kind of liberal snowflake are you?
The 25 million Texans who didn’t vote for this mess, this awful display of unchecked cruelty in their name and with their dollars have to live with it for the next four years. Between now and then, hopefully they keep in mind the Christmas Eve surprise their governor gave 130 people who just wanted a shot at a better life, and decided to ship Abbott out of Austin on a bus bound for anywhere.