Thursday, October 13, 2005

Illegal Immigration and the Gospels

Lately, I've been reading and listening to many others on the hot-potato topic of illegal immigration....attempting to open my eyes, ears and heart to be able to understand both sides.

I'm a native-born Southern Californian and I make my home just south of downtown Los Angeles, the city with the second largest Mexican population in the world. My family has experienced overcrowding in schools, hospital emergency rooms and local court rooms. We have our English language regarded as foreign (or incomprehensible) in many parts of our area. We hear rumors of a Mexican Mafia and drug deals, violence and shootings. We're innundated with messages of the inconvenience, the economic loss and the broad-brush ethnic stereotypes of immigration.

But I've never understood the other side. And truthfully, I'm unclear on what the Bible says about illegal immigration. So I'm presently reading...listening.....dialoging...and writing what will be a major article at my site.

I tell you all this because I want to share with you something I read today that spoke...actually, me. It's a fragment of an article by Dr. Daniel Groody, Associate Professor of Theology at Notre Dame University and a director at Notre Dame's Center for Latino Studies.
"\According to Judeo-Christian scriptures, immigration is not simply a sociologial fact, but also a theological event. God revealed His covenent to His people as they were in the process of immigrating.

This covenant was a gift and responsibility; it reflected God's goodness to them, but also called them to respond to newcomers in the same way Yahweh responded to them in their slavery: "So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19)....

...we have created a society that values goods and money more than human beings and human rights, which contradicts the biblical narrative. The gospel vision challenges the prevailing consumerist mentality of American culture, which sees life as an endless accumulation of goods, even while the rest of the world suffers.

Jesus, in His life and ministry, went beyond borders of all sorts....clean/unclean, saintly/sinful, rich/poor...including those defined by authorities of His own day. In doing so, he called into being a community of magnanimity and generosity that would reflect God's unlimited love for all people.

He called people "blest" not when they have received the most, but when they have shared the most and needed the least. Christians distinguish themselves not by the quantity of their possessions, but the quality of the heart is measured by the extent to which one loves the least significant among us.

Many immigrants sit at America's door like Lazarus, hoping for scraps to fall from the US table of prosperity. They are seeking not simply charity, but justice. In Matthew, Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me; in prison and you visited me. "

The corollaries to the immigrant experience are striking. Hungry in their homelands, thirsty in the treacherous deserts they cross, naked after being robbed at gunpoint by bandido gangs, sick in hospitals from heat-related illnesses, imprisoned in immigration detention centers and, finally, if they make it across, estranged in a new land, they bear many of the marks of the crucified Christ in our world today."

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