The recent debates of illegal immigration have been very greiving to me on a number of levels. Most disturbing is the Christian response thereto which seems without exception to be both stupid and dispicible. Generally the white, conservative Christian response tends to be one of “Ship them the the hell back where they came from!”
Setting aside for the moment the fact that the whole reason white conservative Christians are in the country is because we enslaved one race, committed genocide on another and oppressed several more, I find the response of Christians to aliens so disturbing because of how blatantly it puts aside the Christian practice of hospitality which has been a mark of Christianity from its inception. The roots of this lie in the Old Testament:
“You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 22:21)
“You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 23:9)
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:33-34)
“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:19)
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” (Zech. 7:9-10)
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:5)
The New Testament is even more damning to Christians in America today:
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Ro 15:7)
“Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (Ro 12:13)
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:2)
Of course, what is the most terrifying is Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25. How many self-righteous Christians, conservative and liberal alike would be exempted from these?
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ ” (Matt 25:41-45)
May God have mercy on all of us. May we all learn what it means to extend the hospitality of God to the least around us. May we finally realize that the “we” of America is not the “we” of the people of God. May we welcome and love the alien as God has loved and welcomed us when we made him into and alien and stranger.