The influx of children from Central America has me really torn up. Because it is a highly politically charged topic, I tend to shy away but cannot turn my back. We’ve been told a massive exodus tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants, mainly children and families, have overwhelmed our border patrol and entered our country. While our government argues about what to do, more and more arrive.
Meanwhile, last week, there was a standoff in city of Murrieta; which is named for Esequial Murrieta, a Basque who bought the Mexican land rights to the valley in the mid-19th century. Concerned citizens blocked the entrance to the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office and three buses containing more than 100 undocumented migrants turned around and left.
As a citizen who is concerned about people entering our country who intend to do us harm, I get comfort thinking about building Fortress America and walling ourselves off from our neighbors. As a civil libertarian, I am actually pleased to see a protest. We have the right of free speech, expression and assembly. Once in a while, I like to see non-violent civil disobedience. But as a Christian, I am far from at peace about this situation.
What is the correct Christian response to this exodus into America? Can we build a fortress and forget about the rest of the world? Or, are we called to something different?
We are coming up on the anniversary of the Philadelphia 11, eleven women ordained to the priesthood, on July 29, 1974, two years before General Convention affirmed the ordination of women. I am reminded of them because discussion about women’s ordination was simply that, a discussion, until the eleven were ordained. Then the Church had to ask itself, “Now that they are ordained, what are we going to do?”
The same question can be asked of this immigration crisis – now that they are here, what are we going to do?
The Bible is full of exodus stories. Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. Abraham was called to a foreign land. Because of need, another exodus brought the great-grandchildren of Abraham into Egypt. Moses led his people out of captivity. Then the descendants of Abraham were scattered and brought into exile into Babylon, what today is Iraq. Later, they returned and re-established Israel. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had their own exodus from Israel to Egypt for the safety and protection of Jesus. With all this movement of people, perhaps that’s why the Old Testament reminds its readers over and over again, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Ex 22:21) Here are just a few other examples of this command: “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” (23:9) And, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 19:34)
A sign at the Murrieta protest caught my attention: “When did we see you hungry?” That is a reference to a story that Jesus told that led to this condemning statement: “When you didn’t feed the least, you didn’t feed me.” (Mt 25) Could this affirmative response, “When you fed the least of my family, you fed me,” apply to us today?
Our porous border is a political topic but perhaps the care of those that are here is not. If this topic also tears you up inside, let’s get together after the July 20th 8 am service and then again after the 10 am service to pray and share what an appropriate Christian response might be.