“Be careful when you go out to fight a dragon that you don’t wind up becoming another dragon that someone else needs to fight.” An older pastor told me this during my first call. It is something I will never forget. There is a tendency in today’s political climate called “othering.” Othering is where people use hurtful inflammatory rhetoric to describe those they disagree with the most. Predictably this rhetoric causes an equally intense and inflammatory reaction. No one listens or learns anything from these exchanges. It also leaves little room for efforts of reconciliation in the future.
Our congregations are made up of members that span the political spectrum. I encourage you to consider this as a gospel issue rather than a political issue. In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminds us that we are to seek to be peacemakers and to show mercy to one another. In Romans 12 we are told to bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. How we speak about immigration concerns with one another within our congregations is as important as us having the conversation.
I encourage everyone to read the social message on Immigration adopted by the ELCA Church Council in 1998. Then, pray about the people and conversations you will be engaged with in the future. Here is the link http://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Messages/Immigration.
Here are some quotes to ponder from this message.
From page one:
We also recognize the obstacles and difficulties our church and society face in welcoming newcomers. Too often we are slow in, tire of, or even resist fostering a hospitable environment for newcomers. Too often we perpetuate the racism, the fear of, and the animosity toward newcomers that show themselves in our society. Our country’s history exhibits an ugly strain of exclusionary attitudes and policies toward newcomers who differ from the majority. In times of economic downturns especially-as happened in the early 1990s-this strain becomes more pervasive and leads to laws that unduly restrict immigration and threaten the well-being of newcomers.
From page three:
Hospitality for the uprooted is a way to live out the biblical call to love the neighbor in response to God’s love in Jesus Christ. They recall for us God’s command to Israel: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).4 They direct us to where Jesus said he is present: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25: 35). They call on Martin Luther to ask us: “How do we know that the love of God dwells in us? If we take upon ourselves the need of the neighbor.”5 Our desire is to carry on their faith and practice, their exemplary way of faith being active in love. “We pledge to continue our church’s historic leadership in caring for refugees and immigrants.”
From page nine:
The newcomers in our church from around the world remind us that all of us in the Church of Jesus Christ are sojourners, “for here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13: 14). As we journey together through the time God has given us, may God give us the grace of a welcoming heart and an overflowing love for the new neighbors among us.
The Rev. Herman Yoos