Monday, November 15, 2010
Fast Before Feast
The U.S.-Mexico border fence, erected the same year the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, poignantly symbolizes the social architecture of division that defines our world. It stands up to twenty feet tall and runs for hundreds of miles, bright with floodlights by night, thick with Border Patrol officers by day. But it cannot stem the flow of undocumented immigration, because when barriers are built by the strong and wealthy to keep out the vulnerable and the poor, they will always be transgressed by those desperate to survive.
Ched Myers and Elaine Enns, Ambassadors of Reconciliation (2009)
Tomorrow is the National Day of Fasting and Prayer for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. EasyYolk is participating with this coalition of faith communities and political organizations because we believe there is no better time to change the law on behalf of our undocumented brothers and sisters than right this second. Every single working day I get the opportunity to teach children who did not choose to come to the United States, but who came with their parents who were simply responding to their own economic survival. These bilingual children have been greatly challenged to learn a new language and new cultural rules. Many of them are achieving against the odds and attending colleges and universities to take another step in a long journey of success and fulfillment. Thankfully, we live in a state that honors the dreams of undocumented students by allowing them to attend Cal-State and University of California schools with much lower in-state tuition (in that regard, our state honors their citizenship).
Many of my undocumented students have not been so fortunate. Some have become victims of the record number of deportations under the Obama Administration this past year. This policy tears families apart, making it even more desperate for young immigrants in a foreign land. Others simply cannot obtain legal work to pay for higher education. The parents of my undocumented students work 2-3 jobs to support their families in meager living conditions. We are all acquainted with these hard-working contributors to the American landscape: maids, dish washers, gardeners, janitors, cooks and farmhands. They do the dirty work for cheap wages so that the rest of us can live comfortably and conveniently. Only a nation of hypocrites would use language like “criminals” and “aliens” while greatly benefiting (directly and indirectly) from the work of these neighbors who simply had the misfortune of being born south of the U.S. border.
Those of us committed to living by the biblical Script have much to consider when weighing the immigration issue. God called his exodus people to love the immigrant as themselves (Leviticus 19:34), reminding them of their brutal heritage as slaves in Egypt. In fact, when God’s People approached the Promised Land, God was quite clear that they were to view themselves as the immigrants and God as the owner (Leviticus 25:23). The prophets, during Israel’s time of exile, sternly reminded them of their vital call to care for the immigrant among them (Jeremiah 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7; Malachi 3:5). In the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Christians are called to view themselves as, first and foremost, “in Christ,” before ethnic, gender and vocational distinctions (Galatians 3:28).
For followers of Jesus, our pledge of allegiance is to God’s Reign, not Caesar’s or Uncle Sam’s. We are humanitarian, all children of Adam, all bearing the very “image of God.” The apparently “meek and mild” Jesus rebuked his disciples for wanting to call down fire on the despised Samaritans after they rejected their message (Luke 9:51-59) and when the scribe cynically asked Jesus to define “neighbor,” Jesus told a story with a Samaritan (in the Jewish context) as the hero (Luke 10). Shouldn’t Jesus’ 21st century American disciples boldly and passionately stand up for our Good Mexicans and Good Guatemalans while those “natural-born-citizens” with non-brown skin call them “wetbacks” and “beaners?” Paul’s greatest and longest epistle, The Letter to the Romans, is primarily about the relationship between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus coming together to worship a God who showers them both with grace and forgiveness. As Paul reminded them that they are all—both Jew and Gentile—equally “sinners” before a gracious God (Romans 3:23; 6:23), perhaps we need to be reminded that we are all—white, black, yellow and brown—equally “wetbacks” in the Reign of God, clothed together in Christ to do good works (Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 2:10). After all, as Paul reminds the church in Corinth, “from now on we regard no one from a human point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Tomorrow, let us stop eating for 18 hours in solidarity with immigrant workers and their children who are hungry for a dream deferred too long. As our bodies become weak and woozy, may our hearts be filled with the justice, mercy and love of the One who longs for all of God’s children to sit at the table of unfettered freedom and equal opportunity. When that Day comes, what a celebratory feast it will be!
Sign the pledge to join the fasting movement!