Guest Blog by Michelle Warren
This week I read an article on CNN about an Alabama court’s decision on the constitutionality of their State’s new Arizona copycat law. This was of no surprise to me since numerous states have proposed legislation to attempt to address the undocumented population in America, and this is not the first to have been challenged in court. The general attitude is that if the federal government won’t engage and fix the broken immigration system, then states are left to deal with the issue.
What caught my eye wasn’t the topic but rather one small paragraph about some of the advocates—specifically the faith leaders. The paragraph read, “leaders from the Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic churches…” It went on to talk about how they were testifying to the court on behalf of the churches they serve and the impact the law would have on their communities. It wasn’t what they were advocating for or against that caught my eye. It was that once again, my faith group was missing—the Evangelical.
I sighed at the realization that once again the Evangelical voice was not represented. Of course, it wasn’t that the reporter missed the citing but rather that once again Evangelicals weren’t at the table advocating on behalf of this important issue.
As both an immigration advocate and an Evangelical, I have been working alongside other Evangelicals to bring the injustice of our broken immigration system to light in our circles. And, while I know that the collective work is moving forward, the article reminded me once again how far we have to go in both big and small ways to both raise awareness and move toward a just response.
While working on this issue with Evangelical leaders, two really common phrases I hear are, “this just isn’t on my radar” and “I don’t get into political issues.” I can relate with both of those comments very much. Personally, I would love to have a smaller radar. Life is messy, and when I hear that phrase from church leaders what I hear them saying is, “Michelle, don’t put it on my radar, my plate is full.” The second phrase is also something I wish wasn’t a reality of this issue because politics can be ugly.
Personally, I don’t like politics or arguing or advocating or pushing the envelope. I would much rather bury my head in the sand and pretend that there is justice for all who live here and play by the rules. I want to believe that the country of my birth, with its history of immigrants and fairness and opportunity is not the problem. I want to believe that ours is a just society and one in which I don’t have to “get into political issues.”
Sadly, and yet thankfully, my radar is much larger now that I have lived in an immigrant neighborhood for fourteen years. I have seen how we in this country have benefited because of the immigrants who are here and how much more we would benefit if they could come out of the shadows and live freely. I have learned of the injustice of our system and how if we would have the will to change it, we actually could.
And yes, I have also learned that faith leaders—Evangelical faith leaders—have a place in this political conversation. Our faith, with its 92 references regarding the immigrant, the stranger, and the alien in the Bible (actually, in the Old Testament alone), needs to be our driving force to both put this issue on our radar as well as be willing to get involved in some political advocacy.
Advocating for justice is not about our comfort zone, our radar, our full plates or dislike of political frenzy. You don’t have to even “like” doing it. I sure don’t. I have just found that I like “doing” justice more.
Michelle Warren is the Community Liaison for Open Door Ministries, a Community Development Corporation in Denver, Colorado. She earned her MPA from the University of Colorado and her Bachelor’s Degree from Cedarville University. She specializes in immigration, education and human service policy.
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