Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Immigration: The Battle for Manassas
I love watching this and seeing Greg Leteicq point to the bible as the reason why he's opposed to Undocumented Immigrants. I call Bullshit. His position is not supported by the bible. The bible is Greg Leteicq's smokescreen for his racism. I think there's a commandment about bearing false witness he might want to consider.
For a different perspective on what the bible actually says about "aliens" check this out:
Bible has lots to say about immigration
How many religious leaders have you heard address the topic of immigrant rights? How many sermons have you heard on immigration reform? If there were a scripture-to-sermon ratio test, one would expect to hear about 50 sermons on immigrants for every one sermon on homosexuality. That's roughly the ratio of biblical utterances on the two topics.
That may be a silly way to evaluate your pastor's sermons or your priest's homilies. Still the larger point remains: The scriptures of Christians and Jews, the Bible, have a lot to say about "resident aliens," "foreigners in your midst," "sojourners and strangers among you." How a society treats strangers, foreigners and resident aliens is arguably a major focus, even preoccupation, of the Bible.
The overall theme of the Bible's teaching is summed up in Exodus 22:21, "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Reminding the people of biblical Israel that they had been slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews are enjoined to treat aliens, foreigners and sojourners in their midst fairly and with respect. Leviticus 19:34 echoes and expands upon the Exodus teaching. "The alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." From the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews we hear, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unawares."
Why is the matter of the immigrant or the "foreigner who resides among you" such a concern of the Jewish and Christian faiths and what bearing does it have on the current immigration debate in our country? As for the first question, the answer is that God didn't want the ancient Hebrews to forget where they had come from, or how they had gotten where they were, namely, the Promised Land. They had come from slavery in Egypt. They knew what it was like to be exploited and taken advantage of. Now that they had land and wealth they shouldn't forget that hadn't always been the case. Ring any bells? It should. Most Americans are the descendents of immigrants.
A second reason that the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity press their adherents to respect and not exploit the alien in their midst is especially pertinent to the contemporary American scene. Injustice anywhere leads inexorably to injustice everywhere. If there is a class of people without rights, without voice, without legal recourse and protection, it puts not just that group at risk. It puts an entire society at risk. It becomes a cancer that eats away at the whole social body. If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.
Another way to put this, and to bring it forward to the contemporary situation in the United States, is that we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly because it is in the best long-term interest of our own society and its health. It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.
This concern to avoid the development of an exploited group or class points, however, to another factor in the immigration debate, one that I have not heard mentioned or acknowledged. The United States has become a very affluent society, and the wealthy among us have become very wealthy. In the past 25 years, largely due to the taxation and social policies (or lack of same) of the Republican Party, the rich have become far richer. We have become a society of private wealth and public poverty. (If you don't believe me, check out the opulence and sheer size of new homes in Seattle and on the Eastside and the state of public school buildings in the city). Such private wealth allows and requires a servant class.
While the state of the economy in Mexico and Central America is certainly a driver, in many ways the immigration conundrum is a consequence of growing private wealth here. The question that merits serious reflection is this: Do we want to be a society of the rich and the rest, where a servant class is tolerated and required? The Scriptures of Christians and Jews argue for legal protection and respect for "resident aliens" because these faiths see the danger to the whole society in an unprotected servant class. Do we?