Culture At Large

Loving the alien


Leviticus 19: 33-34 - When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Ever since Andy posted on ministering to undocumented immigrants the other week, I've seen many other references to Christians engaging the controversial issue of illegal immigration. As we read in the passage from Leviticus and in many other Biblical texts, God requires that immigrants be treated with love, justice, and equality. Yet the aliens in ancient Israel did not have to contend with the legality of border crossings or the bureaucratic complexities of green cards or visas that today's migrants to the U.S. face. Immigration in a complicated issue: undocumented workers enter and reside in the U.S. illegally but the American economy is dependent on their cheap labor. How can Christians navigate these tricky waters that pit a Biblical duty to love against ethical qualms about a system where workers and employers defy the law?

Sojourners reports on two Christians who face felony charges after taking three illegal aliens to a Tucson hospital. Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss could receive up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for their volunteer work with No More Deaths, a coalition of faith-based groups in Arizona that provides food, water, and medical assistance to migrants who face dangerous conditions crossing the border in the Arizona desert. Sellz wanted to make a difference after “witnessing countless instances where people were on the sides of the roads and no one was stopping to help.”

A California Cardinal instructed his priests to practice civil disobedience if Congress passes a law requiring "churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance and penalize them if they refuse to do so" (h/t: Hugo Schwyzer). Meanwhile, many conservative evangelicals are sitting on the sidelines of the immigration debate (h/t: Andrew Sullivan), despite the hopes of other religious activists who feel that evangelical voices could have enormous impact on whether Congress criminalizes humanitarian aid to undocumented border crossers.

Evangelicals' hesitancy to get involved traces, observers say, to political as much as moral reservations. Evangelicals might be inclined to sympathize with fellow Christians from south of the border who have taken a grave personal risk in order to support their families back at home, but, says [World Relief staff attorney Amy] Bliss: "The rhetoric is considered a liberal issue. Fear of looking weak or too liberal permeates a lot of the discussion."


Faced with the specter of political costs no matter where they come down on immigration, leading evangelical groups are opting not to get involved.

That means, barring an unexpected change of heart, the road to resolving the fates of some 11 million, mostly Christian immigrants to the United States seems certain to include minimal input from the evangelical conscience.

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, Justice