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Monday, October 24, 2011

Immigration: Stranger in a strange land

Can a human being be 'illegal'? 

The Hebrew word ger, or 'stranger/alien/sojourner,' appears 92 times in scripture in reference to anyone coming from a foreign land. With this in mind, prominent Christian leaders have begun to advocate for "a high level conversation about immigration in a way that honors the example of Jesus Christ and the written Word of God."

Shane Claiborne, reminds us that we are all illegal residents of God's Kingdom. Yet we benefit from a Savior who helped us cross the border into God's land of prosperity, where we are welcomed in our brokenness as full citizens. Claiborne reminds us that the scripture doesn't say 'for God so loved America,' but rather 'for God so loved the world' and argued that by building walls (around hearts, churches, and country) we are locking ourselves in, more than keeping others out.

Jim Wallis expresses frustration at the hateful language used in talking about children of God as 'illegals.' He notes that in political debates, candidates must constantly portray themselves as tougher and harsher, lest they appear soft on the issues. And that all of this language is supposedly to appease their Christian Evangelical base. He said it made him embarrassed and ashamed that they spoke in this way in his name.

Wallis acknowledged that there is a pressing need for immigration reform, and that it is our responsibility to obey the laws of the land. But he also observed that those who come to the United States for work find themselves caught in a broken system that we created.

There are two signs on our border walls: one says 'no trespassing' and the other says 'help wanted.' And so 12 million people have become trapped between two contradictory messages. Wallis asks who will take responsibility for these 12 million? It seems it will not be the Republicans or the Democrats any time soon. It won't be Congress or the President. It must, therefore, be the body of Christ.

He invites us to examine some of the 92 references to ger in the bible:
  • "But the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you also were once strangers" Leviticus 19:34
  • "Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor and let none devise evil against another in his heart." Zechariah 7:10
  • "I will be swift... against those who thrust aside the sojourners, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts." Malachi 3:5
There is no easy solution to the situation at hand. Recently, a group of prominent Church leaders published a document entitled 'An Evangelical Call for Bipartisan Immigration Reformthat offers the following objectives for successful immigration policy:
  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

Keeping the above verses in mind, how do we treat the sojourners in our country? What solutions might there be that satisfy all of the guidelines listed above? Can such reform ever be achieved? 

6 comments:

  1. I am so glad to hear that believers are seriously considering and talking about this issue. It is not simple in any way, but must be dealt with well. As church leaders of multi-ethnic churches, we face many sides of this issue all the time...as people in our congregation are dealing with this from many different sides...

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Josh! You are so right about the particular salience of the issue for those of us interested in fostering multicultural worship communities.

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  3. Great post. It was a phenomenal conference and such an encouragement to see so many evangelical college students engaging this issue head-on.  

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  4. Yeah, I was quite impressed with those students (what a choir!). Great interactions with them!

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  5. Hello Mrs. S. Fruit, thank you for a great post!  Hope I can get my green card one day!  By the way, when did you get your name changed?   - Cuddly Mogwai

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  6. Dang. Alabama reconsiders immigration law after white person gets arrested: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/28/1040553/-Alabama-reconsiders-immigration-law-after-not-brown-person-gets-arrested

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