On Immigration and the Church

Like almost ALL Americans, I descend from immigrants. My ancestors came to this land seeking a better life for themselves and for those who came after them.

My father’s ancestors are Irish-Catholic. Until I read a well-researched book by a distant cousin , I did not know how poorly we Irish were treated by the established ” White Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment.  It was common, apparently, to see signs on shops and factories stating Irish Need Not Apply.  The established ” White Christian Americans” feared my ancestor’s  Catholicism . No one wanted us in their neighborhoods and it was hard for Irish families to eke out a living. Thankfully, one of my ancestors knew someone who made shoes in Pittsburgh James Caulfield was fortunate to find work among sister and fellow Irish-Catholics.

Today, the Irish-Americans are integrated into the fabric of our nation’s tapestry. We who were once the feared ” other” ; whom no ” respectable American” would employ, would rent to, or would even exchange pleasantries on the city street. They { the Establishment } thought we Irish to  ‘ talk weirdly, worship a foreign God, and even look sub-standard.

Does this sound familiar? It should be very familiar to anyone who has been cognizant these past 8 months.

Today, the powers-that-be want to vilify another group of people.

Instead of the pale, freckled Irish today’s personas non grata are people coming to the United States from Muslim areas . It saddens me to think of how many otherwise good Christians  have vile stereotypes of people who worship the same God differently than they do. The horror that occurred on September 11, 2001 might have been a catalyst for this institutionalized hatred of all Middle Eastern hatred by white Americans but it did NOT begin then.

White Christian Americans have a history of fearing and scapegoating groups of people who are ” different”.  But seriously, look to Holy Scripture and see how Christ Himself would treat the ” stranger”

First, here are some examples from the New Testament :

(Matthew 25:35-40 NASB)   “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)   “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV 1984)

The Hebrew Scriptures are smattered with instructions on how to treat guests:

“You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT)   “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)   “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you” (Exodus 12:49 NIV)   “Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!” (Zechariah 7:10 CEB)

So, what are YOU and your faith community doing to educate yourselves about the true plight of foreigners seeking a safe home among us in the United States? How can we follow these commandments to welcome strangers?

In the Name of Jesus, Our Lord who welcomed the stranger ,

Amen.

 

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