Let’s be honest. America the nation is divided today. Take any big issue, and polarization results. It can be the deficit, gun control, healthcare or Immigration reform. Emotions run high and vigorous debate occurs. Recent general elections have shown that we are still divided, but the most recent election has demonstrated something new and historic. The President appealed to a coalition of minority views and was elected. We are no longer a “WASP” society.
As I was pondering this I was thinking about America the ‘idea’. I have lived with this concept all of my life. Having been raised in Scotland, I knew that to be ‘Scottish’ was to be part of a nation within an nation state, the UK. (It’s much like our pride in our own state. It doesn’t make us less American but it does underscore our local roots.)
So yesterday when a group of Senators proposed a new approach to immigration, I cheered! As an immigrant who is now a citizen, I have benefited from the close historic links between the UK and the USA. In addition, there are close links between the PC(USA) and the Church of Scotland. So in Scotland you will find American Pastors who are now British. Indeed when a congregation in Scotland meets an American minister, they invariably say, “I like your accent!”
So how do we as Christians approach the emotionally sensitive and difficult challenge of immigration? The senators pointed out the problems quite clearly. Porous borders… Highly educated people being forced to leave… People living under the radar.. Some, but not all by any means, criminals… Families separated for economic reasons… And the list goes on.
I liked the senators’ principles because they were realistic and addressed the issues of 11 million illegal or undocumented workers in our country. So whatever the outcome of the debate, what is the Christian response?
First the noted theologian Henri Nouwen pointed out some years ago in a book entitled “Reaching Out” that the basis of the Christian message is hospitality. He was not simplistic in this approach because he recognizes the reality of life.
One of his great quotes is this:
“To wait open ended is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.”
In the Gospels and in Paul’s writings, the notion of realistic hospitality is found throughout the New Testament. We can also look through scripture and see that the radical nature of Christianity is one of realitic hospitality.
So as the political debate continues to develop, my hope is that America the land of opportunity, the land of immigrants, will also be the land of hospitality. I pray for our politicians who will develop new policies which are fair.