When we engage people on important and potentially hot topics, one of the key things is to try to establish an appropriate starting point. Where do we begin the discussion, so that there truly is a give-and-take, a conversation – not a monologue or one-directional lecture?
I would like to suggest that we begin the discussion on immigration at the beginning—that is, in Genesis 1, which talks about the creation of humanity. Ultimately, immigration is about people, both those who are on the move as well as those of the culture that receives them.
It is not uncommon for some to want to start any talk about immigration with the question of legality. For Christians, this usually means citing Romans 13 and the imperative to submit to the government authorities.
I would suggest, though, that this can be a conversation killer. Why? Well, the argument is short and sharp: Undocumented people have broken the law to get into this country; they have disobeyed the authorities established by God—end of discussion. A person either has proper documentation or not. In its most crass form, this sentiment can be expressed by saying something like, “What is there about ‘illegal’ that you don’t understand?!?”
We do have to get to issues of immigration legislation (and there are many!), but this is not the place to start a dialogue. We will need to build toward it, biblically and theologically. We must get to Romans 13, but let us look at the contributions of the hundreds of pages in our Bibles that precede that passage. Perhaps that background will guide us so as to read it better. Let me repeat: We need to get to legal matters, and we will, but we will not begin our wrestling with immigration there.
In our next entry, I would like us to turn to that opening chapter of Genesis and begin to think through how it might impact thinking about immigrants and immigration. Join me, won’t you!