Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ALIENS AMONG US

If you read American history you will know about the immigration problems in New York in the years preceding the Civil War. The Potato Famine in Ireland sent thousands of poor Irish to the tenements and ghettoes of New York City where they sought to scratch out a hardscabble living while being hated and abused by the ethnic groups that came before. When the Italians came along later the Irish had someone they could then hate and abuse. America has a history of hating and abusing newcomers even though our statue in the harbor says something about bringing “us your poor, your huddled masses.”

I lived in the Chicago area for about eleven years through college and my twenties. I discovered Chicago to be one of the most precisely racist major cities I have ever seen. I say “precisely” because Chicago has very precise ethnic neighborhoods. These blocks are Italian, these are Polish, these are African American, these are Mexican, this is Chinatown, etc. Except for a couple of years when I lived in a predominately Italian suburb, I spent my years safely ensconced in the suburbs. The racism didn’t really affect me. The movement of new ethnic groups into established neighborhoods which triggered more movement and a redrawing of the neighborhood boundaries in the city didn’t touch me or cause me a moment’s concern.

During Bush’s eight-year presidency the issue of illegal aliens was continually debated. What should be done? Should a long wall be built along the border with Mexico? Do we need to have more border patrols? Citizens created their own posse of border patrols and took matters into their own hands. There was a lot of hissing and fussing about the illegal aliens coming into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and especially California. I visited my family here in California a number of times over the last eight years and heard people calling the state “Mexifornia.” (They weren’t smiling.)

Back in our lily white communities in Michigan I heard a lot of distressed people talking about the problem of illegal aliens. It was a touchy subject with some of my friends. “They are taking away jobs. They are getting free health care. They’re just coming here to have their babies so they will be American citizens. They are putting a burden on our welfare and educational systems. We are footing the tab for them being here illegally. My grandparents had to learn English when they came here.”

Now I live here. Now I have to have an opinion. Now I have to do something. It sure looks a lot different from this perspective. Let me make an admission: I’ve always been somewhat of a bleeding heart on some issues. I’m plagued with “white guilt.” As a student of history I recognize that the USA simply took all this land from Mexico in the great Mexican War in which all our Civil War generals first made names for themselves (before they turned on one another a decade later). We wanted this land so we took it. I can’t get away from the nagging fact that this land was theirs. (I wonder if the Israelites had bleeding hearts who felt guilty about taking Canaan away from the Hivites, Jebusites, and all the other “ites?”) In fact, when I drive south to Los Angeles I pass through a massive ranch called the Tejon Ranch. The sign along the freeway shows that this ranch was founded when California was still Alta California, Mexico.



There are many illegals in our area and our neighborhoods here. I don’t know who they are. They don’t wear any insignia on their sleeves and they are not tattooed (at least not yet). They mix in perfectly with all my other neighbors. They work on our farms. They harvest our almonds. They pick our strawberries. They have Social Security deducted from their paychecks. I know this much. None of my kids would ever do the jobs these folks are doing. Also, come down to Mexico with me and see the poverty, hardship, and hunger there. If I was living there I would do everything in my power to get up here and feed my family.

I don’t have to take a political position. I have the luxury of saying that I am here in Shafter, California to offer the gospel of Jesus Christ to all and to minister to their needs in the name of Jesus Christ regardless of citizenship status. I’ll let others debate the politics and economics of the situation. I just know that I have far more “stuff” than any of the illegal aliens around me and I’m not hurting because they are here. (No, I’m NOT an economist and, no, I DON’T know the long term effects of their presence, and I’m not sure I CARE.)

Where did all this come from? Exodus 23:6, 9. Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. Most of us never knew how it feels to be aliens. My question has to do with what the body of Christ will do.

4 Comments:

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

That's a tough situation. I wish the answer were more clear so that Christians could easily know the right thing to do. I struggle with how to respond, so I am mostly silent on this topic.

 
At 4:04 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Dear Vander Craver,

I respect your position. In fact, I respect it a lot! It is extremely difficult. The government is free to take whatever action it wants to take. They have the right to that. But we have another authority to whom we answer. This requires a lot of prayer! Thank you for your thoughts.

 
At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Sean Nemecek said...

Thanks for your thoughts Dave! Here in Northern Michigan we have a lot of talk about "illegals." I continue to believe that the earth belongs to God all so do we (all of us).

I did a study on the sojourner in the Old Testament. I came to the conclusion that God's people are supposed to be generous and hospitible to all who are in need (especially the alien).

For that reason, I have taken an unpopular stance. I hope the Lord's people will learn to give to anyone who is in need.

Kingdom first!

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Dear Nemecekema,

I congratulate you on your willingness to take a difficult position among the Michigan Militia up north there, eh.

I like what you say. Kingdom first! It's not our kingdom that we are seeking to build. God saw fit to bring me into his kingdom and I don't think I have a say in whom else he chooses to adopt. The church needs to realize that God is bringing these people right to our front door. I think he would be pleased to find the hinges well-oiled and the doors ready to swing wide open!

Thanks, Sean!

 

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