There are few things in this country today as polarizing as illegal immigration, galvanizing both sides into positions that seem further and further apart. As the positions become more divisive the language soon follows, and maybe it’s just my Facebook feed but I’ve seen too many posts, articles and memes that denigrate and dehumanize the people at the middle of this hot button issue.
This blog post isn’t meant to pick a camp and start judging the other side, it’s just meant to warn the Christian who may be tempted to judge, look down on, denigrate or dehumanize another person for any reason, especially political ones. If we’re not careful our language can shift from the actions these people are taking (entering our country illegally) to the character of these people (that they’re criminals, that they’re here to steal our jobs, etc.). The caricature can easily form of an illegal immigrant as someone who is poor, uneducated, someone with little to no means, perhaps morally questionable, devious, criminals. They become faceless, nobodies, almost lesser humans, lowly, despised.
If a Christian ever gets to that point he or she crosses a line and forgets the powerful words of the Scripture they hold so dear. Walking through 1 Corinthians in preparation for a future sermon series, I was struck how many of the same words and/or insinuations some Christians have towards illegal immigrants are the exact same words and/or insinuations used to describe Christians in the first century. As the Apostle Paul put in bluntly,
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
Anyone else uncomfortable yet? There is a proper place for political debate. There is a need to discuss and possibly reform the immigration laws and practices of our countries. National security is a legitimate issue. The laws of this land are laws for a reason. But when the ongoing wildfire of the debate on illegal immigration steers into caricatures and overly simplistic sound bites and memes, it’s difficult not to begin to heap personal and character judgments on people we’ve never met, whose stories we’ve never heard, whose living conditions we’ve never experienced, and whose daily living realities we can’t even imagine.
And when we justify our positions by labeling illegal immigrants with terms or titles that are lessening or derogatory, just remember that God has already declared that it’s through the foolish, weak, lowly, despised nobodies that He works in this world. Let’s not place ourselves on the wrong side of God’s history and His sovereign moving in this world just to win a political argument. Let’s be careful about how we talk about people on the other side of whatever argument we’re currently having.