Guest blog by: Natalie Burris
Christians in the United States have historically been involved in important social issues. Unfortunately, Christians have far too often found ourselves on the wrong side of history. Throughout American history, Christians have supported issues that appeared to enjoy a Scriptural basis, but looking back today, it is clear that this support directly contradicts Jesus’ command to love our neighbor.
The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, boasts 16 million members today. However, it was formed before the Civil War due to a split with northern Baptists over slavery. Although they issued an apology in 1995 and have since resolved to promote racial and ethnic diversity within their leadership ranks, Southern Baptists found themselves on the wrong side of history for their past support of slavery.
Fast forward one hundred years after the Civil War to the civil rights movement. In 1963, eight Alabama clergyman joined together to publish a letter in a Birmingham newspaper, urging African-Americans to stop demonstrating against segregation. The clergyman requested the civil rights-seekers instead use the court system. Martin Luther King Jr.’s response to these clergyman is what we now know as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Today, it is clear that the most pivotal moments that led to the end of segregation happened outside of a courtroom: Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat for a white passenger, the subsequent bus boycott, and the march on Washington D.C. with King’s powerful “I Have a Dream” speech. Unfortunately, many Christians discouraged these events, again finding themselves on the wrong side of history
It is encouraging to see Christians today recognize the dignity and humanity of undocumented immigrants and to heed the call in Exodus 22:21 not to oppress the alien in our midst. However, many Christians are concerned about extending compassion to those who entered or remain in the U.S. in violation of the law, because Romans 13 commands us to respect the governing authorities. Many Christians feel that undocumented immigrants who break the law should be punished without exception, as the authorities “are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4.
However, let’s keep in mind that slavery and segregation were completely legal in the past. Thanks to the efforts of people who recognized such injustice and oppression, we no longer have laws on the books that enslave others or separate people simply due to their skin color. Unfortunately, the church often found itself opposed to these efforts.
Today, opposing the plight of the undocumented population results in heart-wrenching family separation and a class of people who live in the shadows, open to exploitation. But the same chapter in Romans that tells us to respect our governing authorities also reminds us that “love does no harm to a neighbor.” Romans 13:10. Let’s not make the same mistakes again. Let’s make sure we are on the right side of history when it comes to immigration.
Natalie Burris lives in Aurora, IL with her husband Manuel. She is currently a law student at DePaul University in Chicago, where she will graduate with her J.D. this May. You can find her on Twitter @natalieburris or on her blog at http://www.Natalie.typepad.com
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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