Pastoral Statement on the Immigration Crisis

In recent days, I’ve been continually more disturbed by the conditions our government is creating for migrant families fleeing for safety from Central America, crossing Mexico and and seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States. The nation’s immigration and asylum systems are stretched beyond capacity by this humanitarian crisis, and our government’s response has been to try to deter those seeking safety with further hardships at the border: rightful requests for asylum denied, months-long lines in Mexico, squalid holding conditions, inadequate access to legal aid in native languages, parents separated from infants, forced relocation for thousands of “unaccompanied” minors, and children facing judicial hearings without any legal help whatsoever. Being under orders to perpetuate this sinful abuse has sickened the souls of those charged to protect the border on behalf of the American people, exposing terrible racism and prejudice in some who wear the uniforms of our government.

I don’t have children but I have nieces and nephews, and I know there are generations to come who will ask about this time in American history. I think about the children of the church, and wonder how we will respond when they ask those of us who are adults in the church, “What did you do when all this was going on?” I confess that the enormity of the situation, and the ways it’s become so politically toxic, have challenged what moral courage I believe I have. And yet the Bible, which gives us the best window we have into God’s wishes for the world, is very clear in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures about the importance of welcoming strangers and caring for immigrants. Jesus summarized all of God’s laws into the Great Commandment, “love God and love your neighbor as yourself”, then went on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), explaining that “the neighbor” includes strangers who have fallen under attack and lie on the brink of death. In Matthew 25, Jesus makes clear that what we do to “the least of these”, we do to him as well. Every picture of children in cages (like the girl above), refugees fleeing, or migrants drowned is a picture of Jesus Christ. If we cannot see Christ in those seeking safety at the southern border and move ourselves to respond in faithful, compassionate ways, I wonder if there is any point in gathering as a church in Jesus’ name. How will we explain the gospel of God’s Good News to those who come after us, if we hide from this moment in history? The policy responses to immigration are difficult, to be sure, but we are not the politicians who must develop those. We are Christians first and foremost, called by God to live by the gospel of Jesus Christ, with its expectations of compassion, mercy and love.

This weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are planning to raid immigrant communities throughout the United States, likely including our neighbors in the Twin Cities. How will you respond? How will we respond as a congregation? I exhort you to prayer each day this weekend, on behalf of the neighbors God has given us. This includes the prayer of your fingers dialing the numbers of elected officials, the prayer of feet joining vigils this evening, and the prayer of financial donations to organizations like ISAIAH, working for a more humane state and nation, in God’s name. 

Each week when we gather, the church says, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” I pray that the generations who follow us will be able to recognize how our actions have borne out the gospel truth of these words.

Photo credit: Pedro Pardo / AFP / Getty via The Atlantic. Click through to see many more photos of migrants journeying north.

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