Immigration reform has been a regular topic on this blog over the years so it’s encouraging to see some genuine momentum in DC toward this legislation. (If this is a new issue to you then you might be interested in my two-part interview with Jenny Hwang, co-author of the very important book Welcoming the Stranger: part 1; part 2.) Over the past few months I’ve sat in a room with one of my Democratic senators and listened in on a conference call with a Republican senator (from a different state); both of these men are in the thick of the effort to pass the legislation currently being debated.
It’s also been encouraging to see Evangelical folks get behind these efforts. Some friends have put together a campaign to encourage Christians to pray for the passage of reform legislation that will be just and hospitable to immigrants and refugees. Check out the #pray4reform website for a bit more information and to commit to pray in the coming days.
An article I wrote about the Sabbath and undocumented immigrants is now up at UnDocumented.tv.
Does anyone keep the Sabbath anymore? I’ve come to the conclusion that the fourth commandment is the most ignored of the Ten Commandments. If we did keep Sabbath, I wonder how our thoughts about our undocumented neighbors might change.
The Old Testament books of Exodus and Deuteronomy each contain the Ten Commandments. In both books the forth commandment is relatively the same – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. – but the rationale for a weekly day of rest and worship is different. In Exodus (20:8-11) the people’s work is to cease because God ceased the work of creation on the seventh day. In Deuteronomy (5:12-15) work ceases as a testimony to the people’s new identity; they once were slaves in Egypt but had been rescued by God’s “mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
In these two versions of the fourth commandment we find two profound reasons for stopping our work for weekly rest and worship. First, we are reminded of the character of the God in whose image we are made. Second, we are reminded of our former identity as slaves and our new identity as the people of God.
Read the rest on the UnDocumented.tv site.
I received emails from two different friends today about some upcoming opportunities to explore how our churches can thoughtfully and effectively engage the important issue of immigration reform.
On March 1 Wheaton College is hosting Dr Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who will speaking about “A Moral and Just Response to the Immigration Crisis.” Dr Land has repeatedly put to rest any notion that immigration reform is a liberal-only agenda.
From March 4-5 World Relief’s Mission On Your Doorstep Conference in West Chicago will focus on “inspiring and equipping the local church to welcome the stranger and embrace those on the margins.” The conference features some experienced practitioners who will be speaking on a variety of topics including, The Suburban Poor: Causes & Issues; Cross Cultural Friendships; Realities of Global Korean Diaspora Churches and Their Mission. I really appreciate that this conference will take place in the suburbs and that it acknowledges the importance of suburban churches addressing the complexities of immigration.
From April 8-9 Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis is hosting No Longer Strangers: A Conversation on the Church and Immigration. Daniel Carroll Rodas, professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church and the Bible, will be the conference’s main speaker. Impressively, this conference is just $25.00.
I’m not sure whether my calendar will allow me to attend any of these important events, so I’m especially curious to know if any of this blog’s readers plan on attending.
I ended up bookmarking a few more videos than articles this week, so this edition of Weekend Reading is actually all viewing. Enjoy.
- Alan Hirsch describes the importance of connecting incarnational and missional theology. Your baptism is your commission.
- Two longish videos (part one and part two) from Desiring God featuring an interview with Tim Keller. The interview spends a bit of time on Keller’s new book, but covers a lot of additional ground.
- The folks at UnDocumented.tv have released their first short documentary, A New Dream.
- And finally, I could have watched the Revered Samuel Rodriguez’s six minute sermon from Ebeneezer Baptist Church over and over again. I believe that the devil knows that if the black and brown come together in America we will turn this nation upside down for the glory of God!
My friend Matthew Soerens sent me an email yesterday about a new project he’s involved in, Undocumented.tv. I’ve mentioned Matthew’s name before as the coauthor of the important book, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate. (See part one and part two of an interview about immigration with Matthew’s coauthor, Jenny Hwang.) After the disappointment around the Senate’s failure to pass the DREAM Act it is encouraging to see that this issue will not be ignored in the coming months.
According to the website, Undocumented.tv is about,
creating provocative, response-oriented short films paired with specific social-action experiences. UnDocumented.tv will inspire churches and individuals to understand and enter the Immigration Reform conversation. We will challenge our audience to move beyond any existing personal or media-driven bias and toward active involvement in social change.
The first film is set to stream release on January 17, but for now you can take a look at this short video description of the project.
My latest article for Out of Ur went up a few days ago. In it I attempted to show how the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform offers the American church an opportunity to live up to our calling in some significant ways. Given how polarizing these issues can be, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the (mostly) thoughtful comments left by that blog’s readers; a small sign perhaps of the growing conviction among Evangelicals of the pressing need for immigration reform.
The National Association for Evangelicals recently released a position paper on immigration. Because this group represents many within the hard-to-categorize evangelical subculture, this paper is especially noteworthy. While the paper points out the illegality of undocumented immigration, it takes a mostly sympathetic view of the experience of many undocumented immigrants.
The following paragraph impresses for its acknowledgment of immigration’s many causes and the injustices faced by many for whom illegally crossing the border seems the only option.
Due to the limited number of visas, millions have entered the United States without proper documentation or have overstayed temporary visas. While these actions violate existing laws, socioeconomic, political, and legal realities contribute to the problematic nature of immigration. Society has ignored the existence of an unauthorized work force due to the economic benefits of cheap immigrant labor. Without legal status and wary of reporting abuses, immigrants can be mistreated and underpaid by employers. Deportation of wage-earners has separated families and complicated the situation for many. Most undocumented immigrants desire to regularize their legal status, but avenues to assimilation and citizenship are blocked by local, state, and federal laws. This has generated an underground industry for false documentation and human smuggling.
The paper closes with a call to action that includes seven points. It’s interesting that all but the first are directed at the government. Is this an acknowledgment that immigration reform must take place on the national level, or a cop-out for the role local churches could play in this pursuit of justice? I’m not sure.
- That immigrants be treated with respect and mercy by churches. Exemplary treatment of immigrants by Christians can serve as the moral basis to call for government attitudes and legislation to reflect the same virtues.
- That the government develop structures and mechanisms that safeguard and monitor the national borders with efficiency and respect for human dignity.
- That the government establish more functional legal mechanisms for the annual entry of a reasonable number of immigrant workers and families.
- That the government recognize the central importance of the family in society by reconsidering the number and categories of visas available for family reunification, by dedicating more resources to reducing the backlog of cases in process, and by reevaluating the impact of deportation on families.
- That the government establish a sound, equitable process toward earned legal status for currently undocumented immigrants, who desire to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that accompany citizenship.
- That the government legislate fair labor and civil laws for all residing within the United States that reflect the best of this country’s heritage.
- That immigration enforcement be conducted in ways that recognize the importance of due process of law, the sanctity of the human person, and the incomparable value of family.
The entire position paper is worth the five minutes it takes to read.