Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Who Would Jesus Deport?

We Christians follow a refugee Messiah.
Ched Myers

At the end of his one-hour lecture on immigration in a jam-packed, standing-room-only auditorium at Cerritos College this morning, a student blessed Ched Myers: I thought it was really cool how you connected all of this to the Bible. The sincerity of this 19-year-old shimmered for me. Could anyone do a better job summing up the significance of what Myers and his wife Elaine Enns are up to? No.

I am convinced that no one on this planet intertwines as many disciplines as Myers does with his reading of Scripture: history, political science, economics, psychology and on and on and on. And this is precisely how Bible-reading must be. For instance, how is it possible that finally, after three decades of Christian faith, I have been presented with the idea that Jesus and his parents (Jose & Maria, as Myers calls them) were, in fact, undocumented refugees when he was born in a feeding trough in Bethlehem? After all, how else could we possibly explain why Jose traveled from Nazareth to his family's ancestral town and, sure enough, not one of his ancestors lived there anymore?

Like Jose and his entire family, the current influx of immigrants into El Norte have been pushed by economic and political forces (war, NAFTA, etc) harnessed and unleashed on them by the United States (see this if you doubt it). In other words, they don't come to "our country" because we have Disneyland. They come to survive economically. Just like they always have:


And, as Myers points out with his next slide, don't be so quick to claim that Hispanics are dominating the population charts--in fact, the Germans have for decades:


So, as it turns out, we are all immigrants. And Myers, a 5th generation Californian whose great-great-grandfather became an American when the U.S. ceded stole California from Mexico in 1848, ought to know. But all of this is in the Bible, you know? Myers will eventually get to a book project on Genesis 1-11, what he calls the first subversive literature in the history of the world. The Church has always read it only theologically. But when we read it through the lens of history and politics and economics, we hear the voice of God warning us of the tragedy that comes with civilization: the hatred of Cain, the hoarding of Noah's neighbors and the hubris of Babel.

This is the kind of God whom Myers exposes: the One who can only care for everyone by adamantly privileging those on the periphery of society. This One bubbles and boils from below because the goodies never seem to trickle-down when they are gifted to those who sit ruling from above. As Myers says, "the poor folk are the protaganists of history." And, sure enough, when we pursue justice it all actually connects to the Bible. Good to know in a country where you can buy one of these at a gas station:


*For more on Ched Myers and Elaine Enns, see this.

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