Immigration, especially illegal immigration, is one of the most pressing and distressing issues in the United States today. Bring up the subject, and you’re almost certain to get passionate opining. Bring it up in settings where people hold diverse viewpoints, and that passion will often explode into open conflict.
Nowhere do we see this kind of dispute more clearly than in the debate about the recent legislation passed in Arizona, which is meant to strengthen anti-illegal immigration efforts in the state. For some, the health, integrity, and safety of our country are at stake, and Arizona is doing what is necessary to preserve them. For others, the state is perpetrating a gross injustice upon innocent human beings, based on racism and xenophobia.
Not surprisingly, Christians differ widely in their estimation of the Arizona law in particular, and illegal immigration in general. As I have listened to Christians debate these issues, I have heard a wide range of opinions. And, believe me, I have heard plenty, since I have lived in California for most of my life, and Texas for the last three years. In states that lie along the Mexican border, immigration is probably the hottest and move divisive issue we face.
I have been concerned by what I have perceived to be the absence of serious, theologically-probing, mutually-respectful conversation about immigration and illegal immigration in the Christian community. Oh, there have been plenty of proclamations and diatribes, but relatively little conversation where people with differing convictions work to understand each other and, even more importantly, to understand what God might have to say about the matter. Conversation about immigration among Christians has mostly resembled what we see in the secular arena, with people talking mainly to those with whom they agree and blasting away at those with whom they disagree.
Now, I must confess that I have not contributed to the conversation about immigration, so my criticism of Christians applies equally to me. So when Patheos, an outstanding website that promotes religious conversation and understanding, asked me to contribute to such a conversation, I felt both honored and obliged to say “yes.” They were not asking for a dissertation from me, only a few paragraphs of reflection in their Cross Examinations series, part of their Cross and Culture conversation. Patheos also asked a number of other Christian leaders to offer their thoughts. All of us share a common commitment to Christ and the authority of Scripture. Yet we represent a wide variety of perspectives on immigration and its connection to our faith.
Here’s the question that Patheos posed to me and eight other Christian thinkers:
Immigration and illegal immigration are matters of grave ethical concern. Does the Bible give principles or insights that should guide Christian thinking on this issue? Is there a ‘Christian position’ on illegal immigration? Would it be un-Christian to expel illegal immigrants who have built their lives in the United States?
In the next couple of days, I’ll summarize the answers given to these questions as well as present and explicate my own position. You can read all the answers and comments in this Cross Examinations conversation at this link.
As always, I’m interested in your observations and opinions. Feel free to add a comment or email me with your thoughts. Perhaps we can in some small way grow in mutual understanding as well as understand of how Christians should approach the issue of illegal immigration.