Saturday, May 01, 2010

Welcoming the Stranger -- Reposting

The following essay appeared as a column in the Lompoc Record -- June of 2007.  It speaks of efforts at getting immigration reform.  There appeared hope then that something could be done, but we still remain unable to move forward.  And yet, despite an unwillingness to address the issue, the issue isn't going away.  In fact, the Arizona law that has drawn such oprobrium calls forth from the nation a commitment to move forward quickly on achieving true reform that is just and fair and realistic.   I invite your thoughts.
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Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record
June 17, 2007

Immigration reform is again the subject of debate in the nation's barber shops, pubs, grocery aisles, and break rooms. It's being discussed in blogs, opinion pages, chat rooms, and by e-mail. It's one of those issues that simply won't go away, even though no one seems to agree on a solution.

A bipartisan Senate immigration bill was recently pulled off the table because it became bogged down by amendments and because senators were lobbied hard by opponents on the left and the right. Although there's common agreement that something must be done, and that the proposed bill was less than perfect, the question is, can anything get passed in the present environment.

Politics always makes dealing with contentious issues difficult, and with an unpopular president and a fairly evenly split Congress, compromise is difficult, especially with a presidential election cycle heating up. The debate will continue, even if reform waits to be enacted.
The facts in this debate are quite simple: Twelve million people are living in this country illegally, and every day that number increases. Most are here in search of the “American Dream” of a better life and a hopeful future. This is why immigrants have always come here. Of course there are those who come with malicious intent, but they're the minority. As it always has been, immigrant life is difficult - usually families are separated, immigrants live in cramped quarters, and most try to live under the radar lest they be sent home.
Although this is a political issue, it's also a moral one. It is, in fact, a debate over how we treat the stranger living in our midst. As the politicians debate, they hear a multitude of voices, all with different interests - the business community, agricultural interests, schools, health-care providers, labor unions, and law enforcement. The proposed answers to the current dilemma range from the draconian to the lenient, from immediate deportation to providing a path to citizenship. When we listen to the myriad voices that are seeking our attention, we discover that there's really no consensus, no common will. But, doing nothing won't make the problem go away.

There's another voice - it's actually many different voices - that seeks our attention. That voice is the religious community, and like every segment of the population, it is not of one mind.
I can only speak for myself, but what I say reflects the teachings of my tradition. When I read the Hebrew Bible I find a stream of statements talking about how we should treat the alien. Most of these voices call on us to treat the stranger with respect and dignity. Don't oppress the alien in your midst, Jeremiah says on behalf of God, and I will be with you (Jeremiah 7:5-7). The law encourages equal treatment of the stranger, and encourages farmers to leave out gleanings from the harvest for the poor and the alien dwelling in the country (Leviticus 23:22). Why should they do this? The answer given is simple: “Love the stranger because once you were the stranger in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

What then should I do as an American who is also a person of faith? The answer I seem to hear is this: You were once a stranger, so welcome the stranger who lives in your midst. Baptist theologian David Gushee writes:
“Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He then makes clear that our ‘neighbors' include not just family, friends and folk like us, but also strangers and enemies. Every person is my neighbor, whom I am called to love. The ‘undocumented worker' or ‘illegal alien' is my neighbor.”
Now border security is necessary, but that's not the real issue. The real issue relates to those already here - and their families who haven't yet joined them. For now they live in the shadows and are easily used and abused.
If I listen to my faith, I hear a call to invite the stranger into the light of day so that they might live with dignity. They are, after all, my neighbor and are loved by God. If, as the polls suggest, we‘re a nation of the faithful, then surely we must consider carefully this voice and seek a way forward that's humane and compassionate. These are our brothers and our sisters and members of a common human family, created in the image of God.

Dr. Bob Cornwall [was] pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Lompoc (www.lompocdisciples.org). He blogs at http://pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com/

17 comments:

Gary said...

No new legislation is needed. What we need is for the federal government to do its duty and enforce existing law. But that won't happen because to enforce existing law would mean that those here illegally would be arrested/deported, and those trying to enter illegally would be prevented from doing so, all of which obama and the democrats believe is against their best interests, just as bush believed.

obama wants "amnesty" for those already here illegally, and he will do nothing to prevent more illegals from coming in. obama is wrong, and I oppose his goals.

Gary said...

Question for you "progressive Christians": Why do want society and the government to obey the Scriptures and "welcome the stranger", but you don't want the same sort of obedience for other Biblical instructions?

John said...

Because welcoming the stranger is a continuing theme of Scripture, including very clearly by Jesus, instead of be mentioned just a few places.

But your point is well taken.

John

Glenn said...

Gary,

My personal answer to your question regarding why "progressive Christians" want society to obey some biblical instructions and not others is this. As a contemplative progressive Christian (and I speak only for myself) I do not consider all biblical instruction to be equal. If the scripture, such as welcoming strangers, is grounded in love then I consider it useful and worthy of embracing. For I take seriously the revelation that God is Love. On the other hand, if the scripture is not grounded in love, such as death sentences for adulterers, homosexuals and disobedient children or scriptures that promote the idea that one gender is less capable than the other, than I don't consider it to be of God, but of man. Your answer to your own question would be much more telling. Why would a "conservative, Bible believing" Christian like yourself be willing to reject such central themes to scripture if you believe everything in the Bible to be God breathed?

Gary said...

Glen,

If you examine the Old Testament, you find the Hebrews are instructed to not "vex" or "oppress" strangers. But you also find that God requires strangers to live by the same laws the Jews lived by. (See Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 16:29, 19:33,34, 24:16) Do you contend that God requires nations to have open borders? Open borders is what you are promoting. Is there any Biblical evidence that God requires that?

And I have to disagree with your theory that what you like in Scripture is from God, but what you don't like not from God. If God requires that we welcome anyone into the USA who wants to come, then God also requires that we execute homosexuals and adulterers. Like it or not.

Glenn said...

Gary,

I am not advocating open borders. We need to fix our borders and our immigration policies as a whole. But I am not going to embrace your position of ripping apart families that are already here, or demonizing people who come into this country illegally because they are desperate to survive and make a better life for themselves. This country was built on immigration driven by the same kind of desperation (and I think it could be argued that the native americans were less than enthusiastic about european immigrants rights to come into their lands). I openly admit that I do not view all scripture as equal. You, on the other hand, do not seem willing to admit that you either think that all scripture is equal and therefore we should still be stoning people or that you are just as guilty as I am of choosing to ignore, or creatively reinterpret, scripture that you don't like or doesn't fit the right-wing agenda.

John said...

Gary,

here is some notion in the Bible that when the Kingdon comes, borders will be open: Jer 19:23 On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24 On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage."

But I can't say that commands open borders today.

John

Gary said...

Glenn,

What do you mean by "fix" our borders and immigration policy?

If you are not advocating open borders, are you not at least saying that the US has an obligation to allow people to come here if they want more money than they have been able to acquire in their native country?

I would be willing to adopt Mosaic Law as law in the US, but I don't think that would pass a Democratically controlled Congress. And even if it did, obama would veto it. I also am not convinced that Mosaic Law requires open borders, which I define as letting anyone in who wants to come.

Glenn said...

Gary,

First, I'm not smart enough to know what the "right" answer to our immigration problems are. I don't think that kicking everybody out who is already here is either practical or humane. I will admit that any practical solution is politically problematic from any point of view.

Second, I'm not saying that mosaic law requires open borders. But I'm also not convinced that Jesus would care about borders at all, other then the consequences that they have for humanity.

Finally, I would really appreciate an honest answer to a follow-up question to your last post on mosaic law so that I can understand your position more fully. If by some quirk of fate mosaic law were passed by congress and was signed into law by a U.S. president, are you saying that you would be fully comfortable with that? I'm assuming that you mean all mosaic law, including all the harsh ones like death penalties for minor offenses. And if I'm wrong and you mean only some of the mosaic laws, why only some and not all?

Gary said...

Glenn,

Almost certainly, no one who is now here illegally will be forced to leave. And, almost certainly, the federal government will not stop more people from coming in. So, if the government refuses to enforce the laws, then maybe we should just let things stay as they are. Don't "legalize" those who are here now, and don't waste money pretending the government is actually preventing new illegals from entering. Just let the states handle things the way they want to.

If we implement Mosaic Law in America, (which we won't), we should implement ALL of it.

John said...

Is it fair to say that neither Gary nor the Christian Church are suggesting implementing Mosiac Law sine the Jerusalem Counsel of Act 15. We just disagree on the degree to which specific provisions of Mosaic law are incorporated into Jesus' commandment to "Love one another as I have loved you"?

John

Glenn said...

John,

I never implied that the Christian church had suggested implementing Mosaic law. I was asking for clarification on Gary's statement about him being o.k. with the U.S. implementing Mosaic law. Judging by his 5:10 post, he states that if it was the law of the land then all of it should apply. As a Christian I would consider that to be a very scary proposition, but at least I know where Gary stands. I'm understanding him to say that he would follow Mosaic law and stone to death his own children for being disrespectful or put to death his daughter if it was discovered that she was not a virgin at the time of her marriage.

Gary said...

Glenn,

You might have never thought about this, but God has a very good reason for everything He does, including every O.T. law.

Getting back to illegal immigration, does anyone think the US is actually going to stop people from coming in illegally?

John said...

Glen,

I think he was just complaining that he gets admonished for raising issues of noncompliance with certain part of Scripture by us progressives who appear to him to be just as guilty of raising issues of noncomplaince with other parts of Scripture. Something about the pot calling the kettle black. But I thought your 12:23 post began to address his issue.

Gary can be difficult but he is not alone in most of his positions and those positions deserve a thoughtful response.

John

Anonymous said...

"Does anyone think the US is actually going to stop people from coming in illegally?"

I hope we will/ can. Legal temps as needed and continued legal immigration as needed. That's the ideal.

Anonymous said...

oh, that was me.

David Mc said...

ha ha.