Radical Welcome and Immigration: A Question

This is a quote from someone offering her opinion to the Obama transition team:

I do not believe in family immigration. Just because one person comes to America does not mean that the whole family belongs here. Immigrants should be educated and speak english (sic) to be in this country. We have enough people in this country who are not educated and can not (sic) afford higher education, so we must take care of the citizens of this country before we can take on more. We do not need to (sic) world’s poor in this country.

While I can understand the angst about losing our American character to a foreign invasion of poor, illiterate strangers who do not share it, it also betrays a deep ignorance of how America developed in the first place. It is also consistent with the ethnic paranoia expressed by every generation of Americans about new arrivals. I guess it’s human nature, but it’s terribly sad and worse, it’s the feedstock that fuels bigotry, violence and the corruption of our highest civic ideals. I’ve done some traveling about the globe, and I know what it’s like to be the one who is illiterate and uneducated, and who, like dear old Blanche Dubois, had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get by. Of course, I was “rich.” What if I had been poor? But even more important, what kind of connection might you make between this brief article and the several that precede it on the subject of radical welcome?

6 thoughts on “Radical Welcome and Immigration: A Question”

  1. The snippet you post caused a lot of emotion in me. I had to really think what it was that made me almost ill. The I realized I was on the other end, I am who she is talking about. My mother was a farm worker who moved between Mexico and the US. My Father first generation Italian, Neither ever made it to Junior High school, they had to work. I was \”fortunate\” enough to be born with light skin, so aside from my accent, I had little problem in school with friends, often until they met my family (dark skinned) I have had people yell from their cars \”die fag\” while walking down the street. I have had the peace refused to me in church. I have had family members introduce me \”he\’s white, but he\’s okay\” I have been beat up and left in a parking lot for walking a girl to her car. I am who the other desires to be protected from.

  2. Yes Bruno, That snippet also makes me sick. My papa was born in Italy.It was better growing up in South Philly we felt proud. I wish you had been there too!We had wonderful parents who appreciated God\’s gifts and did not feel entitled to them because we were fore ordained to be top dogs. Time wounds all heels and heals all wounds. Gianni

  3. Bruno,That saddens me deeply. I wish I better understood how it is that we find it so easy to be so cruel to one another simply because of ethnic or cultural differences, but I don\’t. CP

  4. Gianni, CP,thank you. The issue for me is more that this is what church still says is okay and the will of God. When we say that others who differ from us should not come to worship or to the table with us we negate the glimpse of heaven, the kingdom that God (as revealed through Jesus) that is now, here. If we cannot find joy, the surprise of the Spirit in what we encounter, then what is the point of saying \”God is with you\” and then replying \”and with thine spirit\”? If we cannot be generous with the stranger, the foreigner, the outcast, who\’s work are we doing?WE need to ask \”what is Christ\’s comfort\” is it an orderly, clean, quiet life? Is it sureness in things worldly? freedom to follow the dictates of society, culture?When we partake of the bread and wine are we gaining strength to act as a group or live individually? to be.What is the difference between proclamation and pontification? Where do we teach and discern, when? should all be initiated, does welcome necessarily lead to initiation? does it have to?Are we called to be gate keepers or initiators, facilitators? either or to just be?Does being \”one\” mean being the same?and does it all matter?Sorry for the rant

  5. Bruno,You have to do better than that to make it a real rant. As I see it, you\’ve simply made some accurate observations about the reality of things. From my perspective as a retired rector, there is no such thing as a congregation that does not have self-appointed gate keepers, social standard bearers, hurtful gossips, and many brands of prejudice. A healthy congregation is aware of that and actively engages the gospel with proclamation, teaching, and action that leads toward transformation and discipleship. That cannot happen without very intentional work at confession and repentance while taking seriously the meaning of the Eucharist. It isn\’t easy and it\’s never finished. And here\’s the really hard part, it all has to be done in the context of an environment that encourages joyful celebration in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit at work among us, and genuine delight in the fellowship that we share with each other. Who among us can pull that off? With God\’s help, we all can.CP

  6. What a rich conversation you\’ve had here. It\’s so easy to read quickly and agree with oneself that oneself doesn\’t enter into discriminatory acts, policing, guarding against the stranger – but upon reflection, the questions you discuss are real and serious threats to our claim of being followers of Jesus. How easily can we be suspicious, guarded – God grant us your forgiveness and your blessing on our willingness to examine ourselves and change again and again until some day we can say we are truly not prejudice, truly not judgmental, truly a follower of your word. Thank you again for sharing these stories and words of conviction.

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