Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Challenge to Unity: Bigotry Against Migrants

This morning’s Bible Study was on the Pentecost story, and the question that my small group spent the most time on was in regards to how the presence of migrants might impact unity. My group members, from India, Korea, and Romania, had some great input, and they left me wondering about the U.S. (especially when one looked at me and asked, "What does this mean in a country of migrants?" followed up by "Do you think migrants have the rights to build their own churches for worship, or should they join everyone else?").

I think most of the people I know are very open to people coming from other places. However, I have heard a few shudder-worthy comments coming from Presbyterians when discussion our church’s social witness policy regarding immigration and those states that are criminalizing immigrants. Presbyterians, who undoubtedly see themselves as faithful good people, stand up and say some really bigoted things. The most memorable from two or three assemblies ago was from a delegate to the PC(USA) GA who thought it is ok to continue to exclude undocumented people from the U.S., because they are often child molesters. She used more words than that, but that was the gist of her argument. Yes, be embarrassed. I’m always amazed at how the Stated Clerk and Moderator can keep a straight face. (I was interested to hear she did not bother to add that convicted pedophiles in the U.S. be equally legally excluded.)

That said, I wondered to myself: how is it that in highly Christian areas, such as Alabama and other states with blatant anti-immigrant legislation, the Biblical celebration of a diverse church is not sufficient in the U.S. to overcome bigotry? The U.S. has been majority Christian for quite a long time, and in that time, we have seen plenty of discriminatory legislation against various migrant groups, including Chinese, Japanese, South Asians, and now Latin@s (the de facto targets of current legislation).

I find it amazing that evangelism efforts, which I believe must be relying in large part on the rapid growth among people of color and new immigrants, are not better coordinated with work for immigration reform.

So. My current annoyance with the U.S. church is that our commitment to the theological mandate to hospitality and diversity is weaker than our social and cultural racism in many areas. Bravo to those Christians working hard to make our country and churches hospitable once again.


Our group concluded that the presence of migrants can make unity more difficult, but that the church is richer for their presence. What a gift, that worship is an expression of how we praise God, how we are in community with one another, even when it is difficult.

P.S. The Presbyterian Church (USA) is very pro-immigrant, and pro-justice for immigrants, let's be clear. Click here for more information.

P.P.S. Here are a couple of resources:
Loving Our Neighbors: Immigration and the Mexican Border (Adult downloadable study)

Neighbor: Christian Encounters with "Illegal" Immigration 

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