Evangelicals and Immigration Reform

John March is a church planter, a pastor in Edina, Minnesota, a writer, and a blogger at Pilgrim March

As a Christian, I feel it is important for me to talk about this polarizing political issue. I've witnessed what appears to be an increasing hostility and bitter resentment toward Mexican immigrants, and this sort of attitude has no place in the church. Here are a few reasons why we as the church should value, speak up for, and seek to be in relationship with immigrants, Mexican or otherwise:

1.  Jesus was an immigrant. While Jesus was just a small child, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee from Palestine to Egypt because of the genocidal decree issued by Herod. He spent many years in Egypt, and his family returned to Palestine after Herod died. When God deigned to put on humanity, it was in the cultural dressings of an illegal immigrant. Not only is God not far from those on the margins of society, he himself was on the margins of society in the person of Jesus.

2.  All humans are created in the image of God. Jesus exhibited an incredible ability to cut through the prejudices of society. He loved the people that no one else seemed to be able to love. Paul said the gospel tears down every dividing wall that keeps people at odds with one another, whether racial, social, gender, or economic.

3.  Ancient Israel was meant to be a place hospitable to the alien, sojourner, and immigrant. After Israel entered Palestine, God commanded them to care for immigrants and wanderers, because that's what they themselves had been for so many years (Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34).

4.  We are all immigrants and sojourners in the world. As Christians, our primary allegiance is to God and to God's kingdom. We are first and foremost citizens of heaven. Oftentimes immigrants understand this intuitively because they are outside the dominant power culture in the country to which they come. White Christians living in the suburbs of America (like myself) are wise to recognize this implicit advantage immigrants have in living as though they are aliens and sojourners in the world.

I understand that we need laws that govern our borders, and those laws should be enforced. Currently, those laws do not work well, and that's why immigration reform is so crucial. I hope it includes some pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have lived here for many years and are more at home in this country than their country of origin. In the meantime, I plan to love and welcome anyone and everyone, regardless of legal status. My allegiance is first and foremost to the Kingdom of God, and in God's government acceptance is preeminent. Join me in loving immigrants and learning from them as we hope for immigration reform that results in a more just and equitable treatment of all people in this country.

[See the whole reflection here.]

Juan Martinez teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary and directs its Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community. He also blogs at Caminando con el pueblo

Undocumented immigration has become something of "grave ethical concern" in the United States over the last few years. It was not considered a problem in the past. Immigration laws and their enforcement have changed over the years, depending on the economy and the national sense of security. Not many years ago people crossed the border fairly freely. Today the rich and the educated can easily obtain visas, but there is no way that the poor can obtain visas. In spite of the complaints about people going to the "front of the line," there is currently no line in which most of the undocumented could ever obtain legal status, no matter how long they waited.

We complain about the undocumented, but not about the fact that the undocumented come because there is work for them. Our economy depends on their labor; the social security system takes advantage of the contributions they will never claim; and for the most part they are paid unjust wages because they have no legal recourse. Because of NAFTA, U.S. companies are drawing more profits from Mexico than ever before and U.S.-subsidized agricultural products have put many Mexican farm workers out of work. The Mexican drug problem exists mostly because of U.S. consumption and U.S. arms. Most people recognize that the new law in Arizona will likely lead to racial profiling, but most of them are still in favor of the law. Yet none of these things create a "grave ethical concern" among U.S. Christians.

6/2/2010 4:00:00 AM
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