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M. Daniel Carroll R.
On a steamy night in May 2003, over seventy men, women, and children crammed into a trailer truck in Harlingen, Texas. They were on their way to a new life, and many looked forward to reuniting with loved ones who had preceded them to the United States. But soon that trailer became a suffocating inferno. Nineteen died from heat exhaustion and suffocation in what has been called the worst immigrant tragedy in American history.
In light of stories like these, the rhetoric is heating up. Emotive metaphors like “invasion,” “rising tide,” and “flood” are being used to describe Hispanic immigration into the United States. And the current political scene — failed legislative reform and nationwide elections — guarantees that discussion on immigration will continue to be impassioned with red-flag language such as “amnesty,” the “war on terror,” or the “terrible human cost.” Unfortunately, such terms punctuate discussions that can degenerate into unfruitful diatribes and overly simplistic positions. As is the case with many controversial topics, the reality is more complex and the issues more nuanced than what the media present.
Estimates of the number of undocumented Hispanic immigrants in the United States range anywhere from 12 to 20 million. As a result, if there is to be reasonable discourse, there are numerous topics that demand attention. These would include issues such as the long history of Hispanic immigration, information concerning relevant legislation over the last century, a study of labor needs in various industries, careful analysis of the cost/benefit ratios of the immigrant presence and spending habits, and an awareness of typical assimilation patterns of immigrant populations.
In the face of these complexities and concerns about the future of immigration, how should Christians respond to the debate as Christians? In other words, what might a self-consciously Christian perspective look like, and what kind of tone could it generate in the national debate? We should no longer plead ignorance on the issue or take sides based solely on ideological or political commitments. There must be a better way for Christians to navigate the complexities and form a holistic, God-honoring perspective.
A FRESH SET OF LENSES
I have poor eyesight. For many years I have worn bifocals. I cannot see either close up or far away without help. The computer age has complicated my situation. I now have to use a separate pair of eyeglasses for working with my laptop, because the screen sits in that intermediate space that neither part of the bifocal can handle well. What is worse, if I want to read the small print on a label, I have to take off my glasses altogether and bring the writing up close just to make out the words! Now without any of these lenses I can still see, even if everything is a bit blurred. I am not blind. But once I put on my glasses, things become clear.
In the same way, we all have a certain way of looking at ourselves and the world we live in. Every one of us has a set of lenses through which we interpret the reality that surrounds us and our identities and roles in that context. These lenses are calibrated according to our backgrounds and experiences. In fact, many of us have simply adopted our lenses from our parents or surroundings without even knowing it. For the Christian, though, the Bible serves as a fresh set of lenses. Indeed, it must serve as our primary set of lenses. As the Word of God, it should profoundly shape our vision of life. The Bible is a set of eyeglasses that brings us and everything around us into focus, as God would want us to perceive them. This view of the world may be at odds with how others regard matters, but the important point is that through the Bible, we as believers gain proper perspective — the angle that God wants us to have on the issues that matter.
Accordingly, those of us who claim the Bible as our final authority for faith and practice need to turn to Scripture and search its pages for guidance regarding immigration. At first glance, one might be under the impression that the Bible has little to say regarding the complex debate that now rages in America. But this would be a grave mistake. There is much in the Bible that is pertinent to the topic of immigration. Its wisdom has much to contribute to the thinking and attitudes of all Christians — those of us who have lived in America for some time, as well as immigrants themselves. Consequently, I will attempt to survey what the Bible teaches regarding immigration and then make some suggestions as to how we might respond.
SOJOURNERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Image of God
. The place to begin our discussion of the biblical record is with the image of God in Genesis 1. There are differences of opinion as to what the image actually refers to. Some hold that the image of God means that humans have a will, intellect, emotions, and are spiritual beings; it is something that we all possess. Others say that the image refers to humans being given the privilege of ruling as God’s vice-regents on earth. In the ancient world, kings would set up statues of themselves in far-off territories as witnesses to their authority over those regions. In like manner, humans, who are God’s images on earth, are designed to represent him here. Still others believe that the image deals with our relationship with God. As we come into closer relationship to him through Jesus Christ, we approximate that image. All of these options, however, agree that every person has supreme value, dignity, and potential.
How is this relevant to the current national debate? It is a reminder that immigrants are made in the image of God too. They are worthy of respect, and they have great potential to contribute to society precisely because of the gifts God has given them. This crucial starting point can move discussions away from defining immigration exclusively in terms of national identity, economic impact, or security. Immigration, first and foremost, is about people who are precious in the sight of God.
. Accounts of people migrating from one nation or people group to another fill the pages of the Old Testament. In Genesis, the patriarchs go to Egypt for food. In Ruth, we read that Naomi and her family move to Moab in a time of famine. Years later (now widowed) Naomi moves back to Bethlehem with Ruth, her daughter-in-law. Naomi, the immigrant, has finally returned home, and Ruth has become the immigrant. Her sterling character attracts Boaz, who later takes her as his wife.
Well written. Clearly makes the point about the value of each and every human. That is not the debate here. In all of the examples of people moving from one place to another, they were subject to whoever was in power and the laws they would make.
As Christians, our hearts are to reach out to those people and help them as well as help change the culture they are fleeing. Not just change it to be like ours but to lift it up... make it better... help it to be such that it honors and values each human.
Legislation is to protect people and to keep people off the path that leads to harming others.
It is insufficient to change hearts.
The U.S. cannot make laws or over turn laws hoping that it makes them more like Christ. That is a heart issue.
Take the tradition of allowing "widows & orphans" to come into a filed that has been harvested and gather food for themselves. That is not hard and fast legislation. It is the product of a culture that recognizes that some of us experience difficulty and it creates space for us to "choose" generosity.
Suppose, word got out that it was all the free grain you could carry down at the corner field. Then the system collapses. That's what we have with the immigration problem.
The laws are not saying that those people aren't valuable. The laws protect the system that enables people to be generous.
In addition, we cannot force people to observe the "widow and orphan" grain rule. That is not a work of the heart. That is one person assigning someone else to be generous.
I think your article is an eloquent way of guilting people into being generous.
We should be intentional about helping those in distress and in need but we should teach them Ephesians 4:28 if they ever really want to live the life that is full and meaningful. - " 4:28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need."
"Sooner or later, immigration requires legislation"
You said it. And I believe for the good of the undocumented immigrants, for those who pursued legal means to be here in this country, and for it's citizens that time is now.
Let's be honest we all are "Mutts." I'm half German, one quarter Irish and one quarter English. I have immigrant roots. But like Barry said in the comment above the immigrant wave is threatening to crush the system. Beyond economic issues New Mexico, California, Florida, Arizona and Texas all face incredible burdens on their health systems, education systems and human services systems. In Arizona alone they are facing a literal ecological catastrophe (the state's own words) from waste and garbage dumped by tens of thousands of illegal immigrants stealing across the border--monthly!
And it is not like immigration in the past where new comers saw the absolute advantage to learn the language and assimilate in order to get ahead. Today we see an increasing "Balkanization" of our country as these immigrants (especially illegal ones because to assimilate may mean being discovered) collect and concentrate in familiar communities.
The overwhelming numbers--here by the means of law breaking--threaten health, education, ecology and social services.
I suggest a higher goal for the Christian community than merely generosity. That would be call on our government to actually design a thoughtful, efficient process that allows immigrants we need to enter this country legally. Remember that the historical success of our country was the work, toil and risk taken by immigrants. I don't see that changing in our future. I want people to come here who are willing to work hard, risk, and assimilate. Right now I know from friends who are Russian, South African and Ukrainian how long, hard and arduous the process is to citizenship. They feel deeply betrayed that they had to undertake that process while those here illegally are rewarded with driver's licenses, food stamps and health care. That process need to be streamlined and humanized. To work for that would be truly culture changing and compassionate.
In the meantime, until that happens, I have to agree with Arizona. They must do what the Federal Government won't or can't do to protect legal citizens and their system.
Loran E. Scott
I fully agree with the first three respondents! However, there is another part to this situation to which I think we need to give attention.
The desire for "illegals" to immigrate to the USofA is caused by the lack of support and opportunity in their own country. Many of these people are faithful in sending "home" a part of their income here; thus, I suggest that there is a loyalty to their own country as well as to their families there. Perhaps we should be putting pressure on the 'Mexican' (and others) governments to begin to do something for their own citizens. Are there ways in which we can support and encourage that to happen? The President of Mexico works at the idea of our helping "his" people by letting them come over here illegally to work. This is wrong-headed --- what is the Mexican government doing to solve their problem? And it is their problem that is causing people to want to come here!
I, too, am the product of immigration -- Scotch and Irish -- not too many years ago. My forefathers got busy and helped build the communities to which they came legally -- with all the proper documents, etc. They became "Americans" in every way! I stand, today, in a tradition within our family of hard work and selfless giving to many charitable causes within the communities in which we have lived. My family still lives and farms the land we obtained in 1870 -- some of it by charter from Indian tribes! Some of grandfather's brothers lived on little more than bread and water while obtaining degrees from our local university. I value and understand that kind of commitment to this land of freedom.
However, we have lived within the bounds of the laws of this land and my great grand-father became a judge within the legal system in his day --- because our state's legislature assured him of their support! "Rights" were never an issue --- the freedom to survive and excel by approved relationships and energy were the issue for him, and for the families that followed.
Today, I am a retired Christian pastor (retreaded) and I find that we have failed to do the mission work that is needed --- to help our neighbors within their legal residential areas nearby. We go to Africa or Asia with excitement for the work of Christian missions while our neighbors, who need so much, get so little of our attention --- except to complain about our treatment of them. We need to be helping them in THEIR homeland instead of permitting them to destroy our ability to be good neighbors here in our homeland! The pressure being placed upon our border states is unconscionable in the destruction of their economies, society and faithfulness by such illegal immigration. May God help us for our failure to do what we should have done long ago -- and may He show us a way to resolve the current problem.
Closing the border and stopping the destruction of our American system is but a beginning point --- and I do support the Arizona legal action to do just this!
--- and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you all! -- Loran E. Scott
thank you for posting this, well put together.
concerning your quotation of Eph 4:28. 1. first you say that we must "teach" them to observe these things. The first problem would be asking are we as Christians have that role.. instead of being generous to teach them these Christian principles? (by the way that sounded its like saying they are all lazy and dont work- which would be hard to support) is this what you see Jesus doing? do you see Him before He blessed someone "be righteous" then come back? You and I my brother would be in a whole lot of problems.
2nd This passage about stealing etc, about working with their hands is a problematic statement also because this is a very arguable point to say that they come here to steal instead of work hard, to say overall all these undocumented people come to steal and that is their inner heart. I would suggest that many if not most come here to provide for their families, so its either see their family perhaps in extreme cases die or break a law, while risking their life to come here to work hard and provide for them.
3rd." The U.S. cannot make laws or over turn laws hoping that it makes them more like Christ. That is a heart issue."
These laws that we want to support is not for "them" to make them more like Christ, is for us, to treat people more like Christ would. you are correct it is a heart issue.
here is another scripture to consider: James 2:14-16, I can give many scriptures that talk about encourging us "believers/Christians" to be givers, generous yes even if its costly, can they all be disclaimed by simply saying it does not apply to everyone.
Do you know the process for the "blue collar" workers who are undocumented is? Do you know how many people with their background are allowed into this country?
let me help, if of the 20 million (or whatever #) would go through the "right" process they would not be accepted.there is no room in the law to allow that. does that make them right to be here? of course not. Does that mean that if they dont do things right we cant apply the biblical principals we read earlier?
The system is broken like you said we do need legislation. We must do something with the people that are already here, what would you say that is? Sending all back is not the christian way to do this, or is it? please help me understand it with biblical basis. because they are "destroying" this country is not one, I cant argue with extra biblical concepts because that is a very debatable issue "if they are really a help to this country or not"I think this forum is to deal with Biblical concepts and ideas.
thank you for what you and your church are doing in order to help others, may God bless you and your family.
I do agree that we must help the home countries to best deal with their issues.
with all due respect I request that you meet some people who are here "illegally" and dialogue with them about why they came here.. invite them to your churches (even if they are sinners) get to know people and their stories and pray for them.
We can discuss this topic here but it should be based in our source of guidance God's timeless word (not social economic views- those have other platforms)
Philippians 4:7 Peace of God
Thank you for your comments...but let me ask you in return. What does the Scriptures say about obeying the laws of the Kings that you are under? Does not Scripture teach that God put those ruler in place? Again, if people are here for economic reasons, why are we fighting that issue here? Where is the outrage and 100,000 person marches and essays and blogs about the injustice in Mexico that is driving people here?
We were here under the Reagan administration and amnesty was granted. I don't doubt for a second that another amnesty will be the only solution. This is too great a "furball" to untangle. No way we can really send however many millions back. (Nor would I want to for the record, many contribute to our country in significant ways!...yes, we need them).
But is this the best we can really do? A awful cycle of outrage and amnesty all the while the laws of our land are eroded? While States like Arizona, New Mexico, California, Florida and Texas are literally being bankrupt due to this problem? While those who keep the laws, and pay their taxes are forced by this "hidden tax" to cover law breaking actions? Where is the justice in that?
C'mon we have to do better. Compassion is great--really, but does is always have to trump justice and integrity? What about the rule of law? What about obeying authorizes that God in His sovereignty put in place?
Again, this started because we were encouraged to action...but how about a better action of a human process being designed and developed to accept those willing to make this country, their country. How about working for a bigger solution that compassion to a situation that is broken.
great question and concerns, I really enjoy searching God's "blueprints" for our lives through His word.
thank you for the question
1. obey the laws of the land .. Romans 13:1-7 right on. We are called to obey, but in the same scriptures God gives us more clarification knowing that there would be countries that consequently would have laws that go against God's character for example: in a extreme case Nazi Germany had many bad ones and even then many "Christians" simply turned their eyes from that. BY NO MEANS would I Say this is the same situation, simply parallels to "un godly" laws.. then what should we do?
well thankfully we have Acts 5:27-40 .. (please read) simply saying "We must obey God rather than man" .. so if we see that a law is treating people less than in the image of God, separating their families then we must act against it.
2. God has blessed this nation that is why people want to come, this is really not the forum that I will like to get into a discussion about what is Mexico doing etc..
3. States that are bankrupt: this again is a political topic that I will not get into. but would only say that there is a big debate if these "undocumented people" are helping or not the economy.. for the benefit of the discussion I would say they are NOT HELPING the economy then we must look at why not? if they are accounted for then can they pay taxes? say if we extend amnesty should their be a "FEE" that would help the state deal with some issues ( i paid 2K ) to fix my papers.. imagine if all undocumented paid 3-4K if they want to fix their papers?
I know plenty of "illegals" that have been paying taxes for 20 yrs.. and social security taken from their checks, retirement, and all that they will not see because they are using a FAKE Social Security Number.. Does the IRS know .. I imagine yes, but they are getting money from them. (not all of course- but could be)
so with that point you made i agree we need to fix that problem in order for them to be people that attribute to society instead of "outlaws, law breakers" etc.
4.. does compassion have to trump justice and integrity..
The God that I know has given us GRACE.. meaning that we have received what we do not deserve.. are we commanded to give grace? cant force you to do that, can only suggest to you remember what God has given us, remember the examples in the Bible with people being generous & forgiving. read Mat 20:1-16 and ask God for what the principle might be here.
5. "better action of a human process" I could not agree MORE.. yes we do need to have a better process the one that we have right now is causing problems.
what you mention has so many connotations that I cant address them all here, but let me suggest that their is a way to "fix" these problems.
exp: you may say "why do these people not speak English" people that come to work in contrast to immigrants from other countries are not educated well meaning dont speak English.. when we come to this country we must stay in "communities" in order to have some type of protection, life etc. Solution: if we treat "undocumented" people like humans or part of the society then they could feel free to integrate to this society and not be in hiding etc.
you may say " why dont they go through the immigration process like everyone else"
I would suggest that 95% of the people that come to work in this country would not be allowed to come with the current Visa allotment that is in place in this country.. so that is currently not an option for them.. ok let me give you an example: i have family that had to come because it was between seeing their family in Mexico suffer to the point of dieing because of improper medical care.. so they had a choice to stay there and not be able to provide for their families (1 moral issue) VS breaking a law to come to this country --putting their life in risk to come and WORK hard to provide for them.. and they are still labeled as "outlaws, criminals" and many other things..
I can go for a while on this..
once again thank you for your thoughts I look forward discussing the "blue prints" God has given us not only to search His heart but also to help us be His hands and feet in this world.
Excellent article on a tough subject matter that me and my brothers have talked about repeatedly. For me at the end of all the arguments for legislation one way or the other, I keep comming back to what would I do. I like to think I would be like the Samaritan that helps the beaten traveler, regardless of legislation. My prayer and belief is that there are many more individuals out there with that same idea. I have a deep seated mistrust for any large entity with man at the helm, whether that is government, or religious institutions. I don't believe morality can be legisltated, but we most certainly are convicted of it individually in our hearts by God.
Another great example of innovation, I am glad to find it. There are so many developers working on this segment but this is one of the best innovative idea ever. Thanks for sharing it here.
i love it!
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