“11-Year-Old Guatemalan Boy Identified As Body Found Near the U.S. Border.” This was merely one of countless headlines detailing victims of the current illegal immigrant crisis. This year alone, an estimated 57,000 Central American minors have crossed into south Texas illegally, with a projection of 90,000 by years end.
In our last post, we looked at how the church is in a unique position to mediate effectively between two polarizing global trajectories: globalization and tribalization. As a global institution that incarnates itself at a tribal/local level, the church incorporates into itself two otherwise incompatible dynamics.
This means that the church is able to transcend the two polarizing political postures of amnesty versus deportation, and bring resolution to the problem of illegal immigration in the midst of the incessant incompetence of secular politics.
There are 3 ways in which the church can end the immigration crisis:
1. Provide comfort and compassion. The church is already supplying comfort and compassion to the situation at hand as only the church can do. Just last month alone, ministries such as Catholic Charities have distributed food, clothing, meals, showers, and laundry facilities to more than 6,000 immigrants from Central America. In this way, the church maintains the personhood, the innate dignity, of each immigrant, avoiding the depersonalized tendencies of those who advocate absorbing immigrants into a dehumanizing secular welfare state on the one hand or merely deporting them on the other.
2. Adopt an illegal immigrant family. Old Testament scholar James K. Hoffmeier has made a suggestion based on his study of the immigration crisis from a biblical perspective. Hoffmeier argues that the Old Testament passages appealed to by some Christians as justification for amnesty actually speak to the treatment of immigrants who have been granted permission to stay in the land of Israel (cf. Deut. 10:18-19). Well-meaning Christians are therefore committing the informal fallacy of equivocation by mistakenly applying these biblical passages to illegal immigration. Instead, Hoffmeier suggests that local churches can in effect adopt illegal immigrants and their families, help pay for lawyer’s fees to make sure they get a fair hearing in the courts, and then provide the resources needed to help them fulfill the court’s decisions. This is a very positive way in which the church can mediate a solution to this horrific problem by practicing compassion and mercy while affirming the rule of law.
3. Invest in sustainable economic development. Churches in the U.S. could network with affiliated churches in Latin and South America in order to foster economic development in those regions and thus reach towards a more long term solution. As such, the church would be part of a trend among economists, anthropologists, and policy planners who are becoming increasingly aware of the role religion plays at every level of economic development. A number of studies confirm that faith-based institutions are effective in revitalizing communities through sustainable economic development initiatives which can attract investments, build wealth, and encourage entrepreneurship. For example, in 1969, several churches in Goshen, Indiana came together in order to minister to the needs of Hispanic migrant workers in the Goshen area. For the past 35 years, La Casa of Goshen has provided affordable housing and services for disadvantaged Hispanic families. And the resources are there for work on a global scale. Amy Sherman’s study found that nearly 70 percent of Hispanic Protestant churches in the U.S. collaborate with other churches to organize community services such as housing programs, health care ministries, schools, and day care facilities. And by building up a community’s social infrastructure, churches contribute to increased property values which attract new residents and job-creating businesses, thus filling the various lacunae left by local and national economic and political instabilities in Central and South American regions.
Our political system is broken, having been torn apart by two incompatible civilizational trajectories: globalism and tribalism. I believe it is time to witness to the world that the church represents another way of doing human life and society that is able to mediate between these two poles. It is time to show the world that the church is a distinctive sacred social order; a global yet traditional shared life-world that alone shapes communities into economies of grace through the resources of the Christian gospel. For in doing so, I believe that we will be faithful to that biblical vision where all nations stream into the mountain of the house of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, to that place all Christians call home.
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