In the 1800’s Irish immigrants weren’t celebrated, though their hard working hands did the manual labor “we” were unwilling to do. Rather, they were derided, threatened, opposed and run out of town in every state in the union. Unwelcome in America because of their religion, non-whiteness (yes, the racial category of “white” was much narrower at the time) and slowness in assimilation (the previously mentioned St. Patrick’s Day celebrations empowered Irish immigrants to survive in a hostile culture), the Irish were the target of a nativist, xenophobic movement known as the Know Nothings, or, ironically “The Native American Party.”
This anti-immigrant fervor advocates for a “melting pot” approach where racial/ethnic/religious minorities must assimilate into the dominate culture mythically referred to as “we.” But who is this “we” anyway? And why are “we” so sure “they” aren’t part of “us”? And since when does Representative King get to decide who “we” are?
|The 'Know Nothing' party’s|
When he was fourteen, Patrick was victim of the unthinkable tragedy of being kidnapped from his home and stolen away to Ireland. He later escaped his captors and returned home. Within several years he responded to Christ’s call on his life and returned to Ireland not to seek revenge but for reconciliation with his captors. He lived the rest of his days sharing Christ’s love for all people in Ireland.
To all the Christian readers in this amazing country of beautiful multicultural diversity: “Go and do likewise.” Perhaps our political leaders don’t believe in diversity of cultures, but our God does. Wouldn’t it be great if we Christians were known not for our exclusivity, but for our ability to “love the stranger as you love yourself”?
To all my Muslim and Latino/a (and Irish!) readers I say welcome home! This land is your land, this land is my land. Forgive us for our sins, we don’t know what we’re doing. I so deeply regret that you have been shaken by being “vilified, questioned and even legislated against” by people who claim to worship the prince of peace. But stay strong in your faith, and together we’ll get it right. This Christian pastor is glad you’re here.
Note: I’m actually not Irish, I’m Swiss/German through and through. As a Mennonite with Germanic roots, this story could just as easily be told through the lens of our own stories of immigration.