On March 6th, President Trump signed a second version of an Executive Order on Immigration titled, “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States”. We asked our contributors to share their reflections about the situation immigrants and refugees are now facing and how faith plays an important role in welcoming the stranger.
Christians have begun the season of Lent. In my congregation, on the first Sunday of Lent we read the story from Genesis 12:1-4a when God sends Abram and Sarai on a journey. God says, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (v. 1). And so, Abram and Sarai go. Abram and Sarai leave their country. They leave their kindred. They leave their family. And they become migrants. Their journey is long and troublesome, even though they go with God’s promise of blessing.
From its very beginning, Christian faith has centered upon journey. Even those of us who haven’t moved in a while, who wouldn’t call ourselves “migrants” at the moment, have journeyed sometime in our past. As we remember our descendants in the faith who have journey far and wide, we are called to support, welcome, and show hospitality to modern migrants.
Rev. Adam Copeland, Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders, Luther Seminary
If the Bible is clear about anything, it is crystal clear about our call to welcome the exile, the refugee, the stranger. Such a call draws us from the fear that our sins feed to a radical hospitality that is the very essence of the good news of Jesus. Unfortunately, our fear of the “other” is an easy political lever for our leaders to pull. Asking us to fear is easy; calling us to the welcome of the gospel is the work of God’s grace. So, we ought not buy into such fear and the lies that accompany it. Some want us so afraid of our neighbors that we will violate our deepest convictions. We ought not let anyone distort who our neighbors are nor misshape the people God has made us to be: a people of fearless welcome and unending hope.
Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto, Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary
God is interested in the wellbeing of the small, the unfortunate, the incarcerated, the widow(er), the refugee, the illegal, and all who are sick. As a nation, the USA had been known as a receiver of the rejects and refugees in general. How are we to be seen now?!
I stand by Matthew 25:45-46, NRSV: 45. Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” With the prophets of the past and Jesus I warn the USA.
Dr. Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, Director, Master of Arts Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary
I’ve been reflecting lately on how images of sanctuary – political, theological, social, personal – embodies the radical hospitality of our faith. At the heart of the Christian faith is an unequivocal call to love my neighbor, and that absolutely includes love of what is traditionally categorized whether by policy or prejudice, ideology or theology – the foreigner, the Other, the alien, the stranger, and yes, to love even those that are deemed my enemy, that is, those who hate me. This is a faithful critique of the recent executive order – and presumably the new one that will be presented shortly – on immigration and refugees that allegedly protects the nation from terrorists entering the United States. This faithful critique means that we do not see anyone as a stranger or foreigner or outsider – every human being is neighbor.
The rhetoric from the current administration attempts to make us think that this policy is first and foremost about protection but we are ultimately shutting out those who are in need – real, skin-and-bone lives are at stake. Casting out the most vulnerable populations of our world means those who are desperately seeking life will have to return to environments and governments that will deem that life unnecessary and expendable.
This is exactly the opposite of what we are called to do as the people of God following after Jesus Christ. Because this Jesus lived, breathed and walked sanctuary in his earthly life. And that sanctuary was a radical hospitality, not a mint on your pillow or getting out the special doilies for tea. It was a hospitality that puts your whole life – your flesh-and-blood – on the line. Sanctuary becomes more than a physical building – it becomes a way of life, and an image and expression of this radical hospitality.
A radical hospitality then is the expression of resistance and protest against those powers and structures that allow some people to live and others to die washed up on the shores of all our privilege. And the kind that Jesus exemplified for us is the willingness to put flesh and blood, body and soul on the line for others, standing in the front lines at those marches and protests for #blacklivesmatter, making those lines and barriers not to shut out but around to protect the most vulnerable.
I offer these words of blessing and protest: Blessed is the church that is ready to open its doors now to those who are vulnerable to deportation. Blessed are those who organize and stand against bans on refugees. Blessed are those who cross borders to seek asylum. Blessed are those who receive them. Blessed are those who breathe and live sanctuary in ordinary and holy ways.
Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, Staff-member of UKIRK, Indiana University
In Philippians 2, Paul writes that Jesus sacrificed his divine power and privilege and assumed the form of a servant in order to identify with the least among us. Consequently, he was exalted to the highest place. A nation’s character is judged by how it employs its power and influence to advocate for the least fortunate. Its future and fortunes depend on it. America, that is built on Christian values, at least in part, has an obligation to welcome immigrants and refugees who are seeking a new home, having already been victimized by forces of oppression. The new executive order on immigration that penalizes the most vulnerable runs contrary to this principle.
Dr. Raj Nadella, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
The executive order has transformed from a tool of efficiency to a tool of abuse. One way of processing this theologically without dragging out the same Scriptures (are these super-Christian-moralizing politicians ignoring those?): When Jesus says “You have heard it said…but I tell you” SIX TIMES in the Sermon on the Mount, he’s not only getting at the law itself, but the spirit of the law. In the case of immigration policy in this country, the law and the spirit behind it both stink. I’d respect our elected officials more if they just said, “We hate people of color. They can only come if they can agree to be 2nd class citizens, then still, maybe not.” Everything about this executive order cries of a happy prejudice that has tragic consequences. Unlike Pilate, those that watch and have power to speak will not be able to wash their/our hands from this.
Rev. Julian DeShazier, Pastor, University Church in Chicago
As an African-American Woman of faith I am deeply saddened by President Donald Trump signing of a revised executive order targeting immigrants and Muslims. At Faith in New York we are multifaith and multirace and believe that we are not called to push our brothers and sisters out but to welcome the stranger in as the Bible commands. All people of faith and morality need to speak out against xenophobia and stand for equality during these times of hatred. Faith in New York is determined to stand with our immigrant, refugee and Muslim brothers and sisters.
Onleilove Alston, Executive Director, Faith in New York
Put a dress on a pig – it’s still a pig. The first executive order (EO) on immigration and refugees signed by President Trump was a pig, in my opinion. And so is this one. It is a Muslim Ban. There is no other way to dress up this pig. It is a religious test for entry into the US for immigrants and endangers the lives of vulnerable refugees. It is bigotry on a national scale. It is not how we as a people or nation need to live in the world. Caring for “the least of these” is the mandate of people of faith. This EO does not even come close to living up to that call. #NoMuslimBan2
Dr. Karyn L. Wiseman, Associate Professor of Homiletics, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Christian faith is emblazoned with memories of displaced people seeking refuge and welcome. Joseph, Ruth, the Judean exiles, and even the young Jesus himself—countless biblical figures and people groups who crossed borders did so not because they were bored or curious. They were made homeless by wars, natural calamities, and tyrants. Their dangerous journeys to new lands bore witness about life’s precariousness and the unreliability of human societies. Their travels remind us that faith and hope can nevertheless persist even when desperation threatens to engulf everything.
The New Testament etches images of exile and displacement into Christian consciousness (1 Peter). Those symbols are as indigenous to Christian identity as the cross and the empty tomb. Christian faith is the expression of people whose lives and values have been uprooted. To be Christian is to hope fiercely to dwell in a new reality, to enter and shape an alternate society that deserves our true loyalty (Philippians 3:20). Christian identity resounds with the conviction that we—all believers, together—are aliens who seek a final, secure home (Hebrews 11:13-16; Ephesians 2:11-13).
For Christian faith to remain true to itself and its God, it cannot contradict its own defining symbols and memories. Christians do not get to choose whether to respond with sympathy to the plight of refugees. Christians cannot stifle the intrinsic incentive they have to welcome and assist outsiders who find themselves compelled to seek a new homeland.
And now a new executive order falls upon us, designed in part to block and malign desperate refugees. Like the failed executive order of January 27, this one also halts the nation’s Refugee Admissions Program for four months. All refugee applications are affected. The order caps the number of refugees the country will admit to less than half the current rate. The order comes now, to score political points and to funnel cynicism toward the nation’s existing and effective policies concerning refugees. The order comes now, when there are more displaced persons in the world than there ever have been. It comes now, when there is no evidence that settling refugees poses a significant security risk to Americans. (In fact, increases in immigration in a general sense appear actually to reduce crime.) Insofar as the president’s order deliberately discredits refugees, their desperation, and those who labor to relocate them, it reeks of manufactured fear, ugly xenophobia, and bald scapegoating.
Christians who support the executive order are affirming its sleazy rationales against refugee resettlement and closing their hearts to families who have been forced to restart their lives. By aligning themselves with a grim nationalistic indifference toward displaced people, they are effectively relinquishing a defining aspect of their Christian faith. They have forgotten who they are.
Rev. Matthew L. Skinner, Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary
I realize that I don’t have anything else to say to or about this administration’s mean-spiritedness or its attempt to, literally, “whitewash” the United States. Their inability to see the world in technicolor as a great gift puts all our lives in danger. How many times do we explain to them that they are being inhumane and even unpatriotic, by historical rendering. I pray for the people who will be most wounded by these actions. That includes praying for all of us. I also am looking for ways to enter the fray as a resisting citizen of the Commonwealth of God. We have much work to do.
Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, Womanist Scholar and Associate Professor, Homiletics & Hebrew Bible, Methodist Theological School in Ohio