Sunday, March 26, 2006

Immigration Reform: Item 1

I want to spend some time this week with the issue of immigration. There is little question that it is one of the most important social justice issues of our day. I live in Kansas City, Missouri, right smack dab in the middle of the heartland, and I know that the issue of immigration is not limited to the borders and the coasts, and it hasn’t been for a long time. For example, my daughter’s second grade class of twenty kids represents no less that five different countries.

The immigration system in the United States is a big mess. Anecdotal evidence: there are three families who are members of my church who have immigrated to the U.S., and all three have had problems with the system at some point. And though the three cases feature very different circumstances – a family from Sudan, a single woman from Mexico, and a man from Belgium married to a U.S. citizen – each has had some kind of snafu at some point. These aren’t criminals; these are not people trying to scam the system; these aren’t deadbeats trying to sponge off of U.S. welfare. These are just good, honest people trying to put food on the table, trying to keep their families safe, trying to live the best life they can.

Why should we care? What does this issue have to do with the church? Shouldn’t we just stay out of politics and keep to religion?

We should care because God cares. (Warning: proof-texting ahead):

From Deuteronomy 10: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” That word translated “stranger” by the NRSV is the Hebrew word GER, which my lexicon tells me means “A sojourner, stranger, foreigner, a person living out of his own country.”

From Ephesians 2: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” This letter was written to Christians trying to figure out if you had to become Jewish before you could be Christian, the answer to which was “no.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “I was a xenos and you took me in.” A xenos is a “stranger, foreigner, or alien.” In Hebrews 13, Christians are encouraged to practice philoxenia, or “love of the xenos.”

I could go on and on with the scriptural references, but I’ll stop there.

This is one reason we should care about immigration in our country today. It should be important to us because it is important to God. This is why we cannot allow U.S. House Bill 4437 or U.S. Senate Bill 2454 to slam shut our border and harshly penalize our brothers and sisters sojourning in our land. Rather than chase foreigners home, we should welcome them with the radical hospitality that our faith calls for. In Christ, there is no Mexican, Sudanese, Belgian, or American, for all are one in Christ Jesus.

The United Methodist Church is very clear about where we stand on this issue, and I’ll write about some of that next time. Until then, check out the legislation currently under discussion in Washington. See if you think it is consistent with Christian values. See if you think it is consistent with American values, for that matter. Armed vigilantes are wandering our borders looking for immigrants to shoot. A U.S. Representative wants to rebuild the Berlin Wall, only this time on the Mexican border. Third and fourth generation immigrants are cheating new immigrants out of thousands of dollars every month. This issue is huge, and it isn’t going away in the near future.

Part II is coming soon…

UPDATE: This post has been re-posted at Wesley Daily. (Thanks, Shane.)


Kyle said...

This is a very complex issue with no easy answer. I do think that the people who support closing the borders are perhaps more honet with their feelings about the issue. As someone who lives in the Historic Northeast KCMO, I find that the attitude of the majority of the people that help immigrants or the homeless for that matter is they want to help people but keep them out of their neighborhood at all cost. It is very hard to live with people who are different and I am not sure how we come to terms with this issue. In Kansas city the majority of people only want to work with, worship with and talk to people just like them. I agree with your posting but there are know easy answers.

Michael said...

Very well put, Andy. Of course national security is important, but I would venture to guess that the majority of folks coming into this country are just as you say: honest people looking for a better life.

Aside from national security, I would also say that exploitation is probably the greatest concern I have. These people are taking "our" jobs? Hardly. They are willing to work for peanuts out of fear of being sent back to where they came from, and too many unscrupulous employers know this and take advantage of this.

I'll look forward to part II.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more.We are a country built on diversty.Or can the vast majority of our citizens NOT trace their lineages to foreign lands? Also we shoudl all question the goernment on the fact that millions of undocumented workers are being taxed through earnings and are never able to claim them.The US is certainly not painting the true picture for us.
I look forward to more on htis topic and please suggest where we may begin to help.