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« Your Relation Relationship: Jesus as Family | Main | Spirit and Truth »

Don’t Call Them Sanctuary Cities

Here’s another beautiful word that’s going to an early grave, like “gay,” “choice,” “Miss,” “waitress” and “mankind.”  My church background makes the abuse of the term “sanctuary” especially infuriating.  Early fourteenth century culture spawned the word sanctuary, meaning “a building set aside for a holy purpose,” or “a sacred place.”  Later, the term came to mean a safe place or a refuge.  Historically, many churches have offered their buildings as a haven for persecuted people.  Some church leaders even extended their offer of safety to criminals who were wanted by law enforcement officers.  Yet, I would venture to say that even these leaders would not sit by and allow protected felons to go on a killing spree within the confines of the church grounds.  A sanctuary unsafe for everyone is safe for no one.

A house of worship was called a sanctuary, and still carries that same meaning today.  Architects label the auditorium of a church building as “the sanctuary.” To fill a sanctuary with law-breakers perverts and subverts its holy purpose.  Calling such cities that refuse to honor the law of the land “sanctuary cities” is linguistic corruption of the highest order.  Even worse are those elected officials in such cities who train their citizens how to resist and break the law.  As a federal taxpayer, I should not be forced to support such cities through federal funds and grants. 

I can think of scores of alternative terms that would more accurately describe these cities.  “Prison camp, jail house, prosecution-free zone, lawless enclave, high-risk area, anarchy paradise, rebel territory, constitution-free municipality and anything-goes city.”  Let me say that as an ambassador of the church, I am interested in the soul of each person, whether documented or undocumented.  As a citizen of the country, I am interested in all persons abiding by the law.  Anyone who experiences a genuine conversion should be willing and eager to obey the law.

I suppose my ranting will fall on deaf ears.  That makes me wonder if we will still use the term “sanctuary” in its proper sense.  Some down-home folks just called it “the church house.”  Not too fancy, but it may be all we have left.    


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