Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration Reform: Item 3

God’s realm is bigger than our nation.

Here’s an idea from Inder Comer writing at Demand More dot org. Click here to read it all.

(Hat tip to Adam C.)

“The land itself contains no dividers -- it is humans, and humans alone, who have cut up the land into different entities. What difference does it make what language my neighbor speaks, or what god he worships? If he is my neighbor, then I have a duty to treat him as such, and he to me. When a man asks another for food to eat or water to drink, what person with a shred of decency would stop to ask for his documents?”

The line drawn between the United States and Mexico is meaningless in God’s eyes. So the question is, “Is it meaningless in ours?” I guess the question also impels us to ask whose concerns we place at the top of our list, our God’s or our country’s. Clearly the United States of America can set any kind of immigration policy it wants to, and right now the nation is headed toward tighter borders. The goal of this move seems to be protecting U.S. lives from terrorists and U.S. jobs from foreigners.

Okay, so I understand that. But should we place that national interest ahead of God’s interest in justice for the poor and hospitality for strangers? I’m not going to do that.

So can we do both? Can we meet our God’s desire for justice AND our nation’s desire for security? I suppose we need to say that if this is an either/or situation, we’re pretty much going to have to go with what God wants. But maybe this is a both/and kind of thing. Maybe there is someplace in between “let them all in” and “kick them all out” where we can all be happy.

From what I have read so far, Senator John McCain’s bill in the Senate comes pretty close to that compromise, at least from the perspective of the nation, but it is headed to a major smack-down conflict with Representative James Sensenbrenner’s bill in the House. These two bills are pretty far apart, and it is not likely that they will be easily reconciled. McCain’s (S.1033) allows immigrants to work, but sets up a pretty rigorous process to make that possible. Sensenbrenner’s (H.R. 4437) just kicks the criminals out, period. The House bill is grounded firmly in the current national ethos that demands stronger borders. The Senate bill is grounded in cautious hospitality that does not go as far as the radical inclusivity of God, but at least faces that direction.

God’s realm is so much bigger than our nation, and neighbors are neighbors regardless of the coincidental circumstances of their various countries of birth. And even if we can’t acknowledge that truth as Americans, can we not at least acknowledge it as children of God?

I am going to encourage my legislative representatives to support the Senate bill, because it is a step in the right direction, in my opinion. But in the meantime I am going to continue to be a pastor and a Christian and a neighbor practicing the radical hospitality that God desires. And that means that, if you want to be my friend, I will not ask you for your papers first.

Update: John the Methodist has written a post about immigration that contrasts with mine. Check it out by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

John the Methodist suggests that no one has a right to come in and start living in our country any more than they have a right to come into our house. Wonder what he thinks about how "we" came into the land of the American Indians?

John said...

As memory serves, we stole it from them.

Andy B. said...

See, that's what I love about John. He is enigma incarnate.
- AB

John said...

What I can I say? We stole it from the Indians, pure and simple. That's just not disputable.

We also stole the Southwest from the Mexicans (who stole it from the Indians, who stole from each other). The Mexican War was pure, naked aggression on the part of the U.S.

So what do you think, anonymous? Should we just disband America entirely? Is there a point to your question? Yes, our ancestor stole the land from other land thieves. Now what? We can bat around historical guilt, but it doesn't come up with solutions.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous lay person who posted the comment re the American Indians. I enjoy reading these blogs but hesitate to get involved in the conversations because I don't have the theological background or knowledge of history most of you seem to have. I am as confused about what we should do in this situation as most other people. I'm very wishy, washy -- I can see many sides of the situation. I think my point was: I know that most of us (or our families) were at sometime immigrants to this country. Certainly, it affects our life style when others come, but didn't we affect someone else's lifestyle when we immigrated? No, I don't think we should disband America entirely, but I think as civilized people we could come up with something better than just building a wall and sending everyone back to Mexico. I don't have the solution, but I think there has to be compromise.

Vinny said...

My purely libertarian view would be that peaceful people should be allowed to cross our borders freely. That pollyanna view would also assume that the apparatus of the state would not be providing support to anybody, whether they are citizen or non-citizen.

The question I would pose is whether emigrating from one country to another (whether by legal means or not) entails any responsibilities for the emigree. Consider the Church, where by and large the only apparent requirement of members (from a human leadership perspective) is the ability to fog a mirror held under said member's nostrils.

The vast majority of immigrants I see here in mid-Missouri are doing something productive and contributing to society at large. I have no problem with any immigrant (legal or illegal) who comes to this country to improve their station in life through working and saving.

Sorry if this rambles, I blame it on the sinus medicine (it's the last batch I have that still contains pseudoephedrine).