Guest Blog by Ian Danley

(This is the first of a two-part blog; Part II is now online as well.)

As we consider together the question of a biblical perspective towards immigration and immigration policy, I want to offer a few lenses that I think help Christians identify the issue in biblical terms. I should say that I am not interested in a policy debate here and certainly not a partisan one.  I do have strong opinions on what good immigration policy might include and believe that comprehensive policy reform is the only real solution to a badly broken immigration system.  First, though, we need to orient ourselves in scripture.

Dr. Danny Carroll Rodas, professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary, notes in his book, Christians at the Border, that inside immigration discussions among Christians he found little different from conversations had with others. The same media talking points were shouted at the opposition while the same stumbling blocks prevented much agreement.  His book is a recommended resource for those who wish to begin a truly biblical conversation around immigration.

Usually immigration debates begin with a question of legality and the implications of law. Dr. Carroll reminds us that this is not where scripture launches us; scripture instead begins with a creation narrative featuring a divine Creator bestowing upon the culmination of His creation a particular image: the image of the divine.  God engineers humanity to represent Him on earth, and He calls it good, and also very good.  This unique quality among all of creation means that humanity is supremely valuable and each life unbelievably precious.  An attack on human beings insults their Maker, whose image they possess.  This is where we begin all immigration conversations.  At the root of every immigration debate, anecdote, or label are human beings, loved by God and undeniably precious.

Reading the comments to online immigration articles or hearing honest conversation regarding unauthorized immigrants reveals that we abuse this core biblical principle too often. We label human beings ‘illegals,’ making faces, families and stories irrelevant and violation of their essential humanity easier.  While beginning with the imago dei does not ensure policy agreement, it orients the conversation and those inside it in a different way.  It helps us stay closer to God’s heart for people.

Dr. Carroll also reminds us that we inherit our faith from migratory biblical heroes who give us an essentially migratory faith. Many of our best-known Bible stories highlight famous immigrants:  Abraham, Isaac, Daniel, Joseph, Ruth, Moses, David, and even Jesus of Nazareth.  Our immigrant friends can connect deeply with the stories of migration in the scriptures.  This historic phenomenon is a dynamic used by God to bring about His purposes.

The people of Israel also understood exile. Living enslaved in Babylon they are tormented by their captors in the Psalm 137.  ‘Sing us your songs, Hebrews! We know you like to sing! Come on, sing your silly songs!’  Their response is well known and powerful:

How can we sing the Lord’s Song in a strange land?

This becomes our inherited Christian mantra. How can we muster the strength to sing the songs of God living in this foreign and crazy place?  Because, of course, this is not our home: our Christian identity comes with a supreme citizenship in a different Kingdom; it trumps all other identifiers.  Nationalistic tendencies become silly in comparison.

Stanley Hauerwas calls us Resident Aliens in his similarly titled book. For Hauerwas, in our context, it is most important that the church be less co-opted by the country we live in and more fashioned by the Gospel.  Christ’s values and ethics are at odds with the world; the coin bears the image of Caesar, we bear the image of God.  So, we give to Caesar what is his and to God what is God’s.  Those of us who place partisan or patriotic labels before our primary identifier confuse our true identity.  We cannot prequalify our supreme identity as God’s people, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Continue to Part II of this guest blog.


Ian Danley is a youth pastor and community organizer with Neighborhood Ministries, a 30-year-old Christian community development work in Central Phoenix. Ian lives in the neighborhood where he serves with his wife Shiloh and recently completed a Masters in Public Policy from Arizona State University.

 

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. 

 

If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, send us an email at [email protected].

3 Responses to Theological Lenses for the Immigration Issue, Part I

  1. M. Cruz says:

    “I should say that I am not interested in a policy debate here and certainly not a partisan one.”

    Why write an article on a public blog, then, if you don’t want debate?

    “This unique quality among all of creation means that humanity is supremely valuable and each life unbelievably precious.”

    Of course all persons are unique and therefore precious. I don’t know any Christian – on any side of this issue – who argues otherwise.

    “An attack on human beings insults their Maker, whose image they possess.”

    Being against people entering our country illegally does not equal an attack on anyone.

    “We label human beings ‘illegals,’ making faces, families and stories irrelevant and violation of their essential humanity easier.”

    No, we do not. We label people’s behavior illegal – just as we would do in the case of someone entering our home without our permission.

    “Dr. Carroll also reminds us that we inherit our faith from migratory biblical heroes who give us an essentially migratory faith.”

    Immigration is not the problem. Illegal immigration is the problem. Please do not deliberately confuse the issue.

    Neither does people migrating (moving) from one place to another equal people entering our country illegally.

    “Because, of course, this is not our home: our Christian identity comes with a supreme citizenship in a different Kingdom; it trumps all other identifiers. Nationalistic tendencies become silly in comparison.”

    Of course this is not our ultimate home as Christians. That does not mean, however, that we throw out all rule of law and common sense in dealing with the practical issues of our day. If that were the case, then why have any laws at all?

    “Christ’s values and ethics are at odds with the world; the coin bears the image of Caesar, we bear the image of God. So, we give to Caesar what is his and to God what is God’s. Those of us who place partisan or patriotic labels before our primary identifier confuse our true identity. We cannot prequalify our supreme identity as God’s people, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    This is simply an attempt to use a false sense of spiritual superiority dismiss those of us who do not agree with allowing anyone and everyone to enter our country illegally.

    In Part 2 I hope the actual specifics of this issue are addressed. Then we can have a productive discussion.

  2. Ian Danley says:

    M. Cruz,

    Thanks for the comments and good points all. I would like to respond to a few of them:

    “Why write an article on a public blog, then, if you don’t want debate?”

    I want to avoid starting out arguing over policy. Instead I want to focus on the scriptures and allow them to orient our discussions around policy that have to happen, only later. It’s a question of sequence and priority. What is most important?

    “Of course all persons are unique and therefore precious. I don’t know any Christian – on any side of this issue – who argues otherwise.”

    It is easy to say we all agree about the inherent value of human beings, but also clear how often we violate this value. We use metaphors of invasion, disease, rodents and insects all to describe what are really walking, talking one-of-a-kind God-imagers. I believe that focusing on the human reality still allows for policy disagreement but changes the tenor and language of the debate.

    “Being against people entering our country illegally does not equal an attack on anyone.”

    Again, I am talking in terms of scripture not policy. Wanting to avoid insulting the Creator by abusing his creation may seem a trivial principle – or even biblical common-sense – but again I think it is important to remind ourselves at the center of this issue sit human beings.

    “We label people’s behavior illegal – just as we would do in the case of someone entering our home without our permission.”

    I know of no other kind of law breaker who gets labeled an ‘illegal.’ We do not label shoplifters or people who run red lights – similar offenses in category to unauthorized entry to the U.S. – ‘illegals.’ The debate over language is important because it shapes our image of human beings. Whether we describe these families as undocumented, unauthorized immigrants, or as people or families living in the U.S. without legal permission – these are better options than labeling 10-12M people with the faceless, nameless moniker of ‘illegals.’

    “Immigration is not the problem. Illegal immigration is the problem. Please do not deliberately confuse the issue. Neither does people migrating (moving) from one place to another equal people entering our country illegally.”

    God’s people throughout history have moved and migrated to escape persecution, famine, poverty and to be obedient to God’s purposes in the world. Again, this is my point. I often race towards the policy implications as well wanting to fix stuff; let’s wait a minute before we do. Reflecting on the truth that God’s people have always been migratory and current immigrants can identify with this, regardless of status, might affect our perspective.

    “Of course this is not our ultimate home as Christians. That does not mean, however, that we throw out all rule of law and common sense in dealing with the practical issues of our day. If that were the case, then why have any laws at all?”

    I am not advocating a disrespect for all law or easy dismissal of any law. I do think thoughtful biblically-based analysis of public policy is necessary to discern where and when man’s law falls short of God’s law. In these instances we work to change our laws to better reflect biblical values. I’m sure you can imagine instances with other issues where you would support this process.

    “This is simply an attempt to use a false sense of spiritual superiority dismiss those of us who do not agree with allowing anyone and everyone to enter our country illegally. In Part 2 I hope the actual specifics of this issue are addressed. Then we can have a productive discussion.”

    Again, I have not really mentioned any of my policy positions. You are making a few assumptions about them, which may or may not be correct. What I am more interested in now is a different conversation around what a biblical orientation to the dialogue might include. If we spend good time seeking God’s heart and his Word to be our starting point, I do believe we will have a different kind of conversation. For me, this is time well-spent and even productive. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  3. Raquel Magana says:

    Personally I am tired of hearing the same views over and over, fom both sides, with different names attached and maybe a few words changed.
    The bottom line is there are a lot of undocumented people living in the USA.
    Some of which give the others a bad name because they abuse the world around them. I feel that in the name of God please go home and give the people who care a chance if you are not going to.
    And then there are the “undocumented Americans” and we all know who they are. The men and women who are apart of our culture, our workforce, our friends and our families.
    There is a common bond with these people that we should be preserving.
    I would also like to mention that there is no help or support morally, emotionally, or financially for the American women, men, and children who are forced to follow their spouse into the unknown.
    That in itself is being overlooked, with clouded eyes, and should weigh heavily upon your hearts. But, its not.
    What is Jesus-like about that. Please choose to respond, negativly, but remember something simple like Christmas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

xanax online without prescriptionbuy xanax without prescriptionvalium for salebuy valium no prescriptiontramadol online without prescription
Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.