Monday, June 7, 2010

i've changed my mind on immigration reform

You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance," declares the Sovereign LORD.

ezekiel 47:21-23

if you've spent 10 minutes on my facebook page, you've probably noted a bit of controversy over topics of faith and life.  somehow the journey i've been on has led me to conclusions about my role in God's Kingdom on earth that are fairly opposed to the way i thought of them for much of my life...and the way many of my friends view them.  i sometimes joke with my dear friend, joe, that when we left our common church several years ago, and i went to the city and he went to the edge of civilization :-) , that our points of view went with us.  we shared 15 years of pretty much the exact same brain and heart.  since then the journey has been mostly divergent, although we're still good friends and can talk easily about all these topics that sometimes draw great ire.

one topic that's recently caused more than a stir in the US and my facebook page is immigration and what to do with a national problem.  some view it as a legal problem.  some view it as a people problem.  some prefer not to view it at all, believing it to be too complex a problem to be solved in a way that anyone wins.  interestingly, it seems like many of the issues in today's world fall under that "complex issue" category.

before this past weekend (june 4-6, 2010), i set myself in what i would have considered a middle ground position on the topic of immigration reform.  while i was not for mass deportation, or any sort of raid-based campaign that caused undocumented people to live in terror, i also believed that there needed to be some sort of plan to bring these people into a citizenship process, legal status, or compassionate plan to get them back to their home countries with visitation of family, etc. and to slow the unregulated flow of people into the country.  such a plan, such a middle ground situation would be very difficult to develop, and probably even harder to implement.  and, i must admit, this standing in the middle was partly to deal with the fact that i could not see amnesty for all as an option.  it was easy enough for me to see that deporting 13,000,000 people had massive negative repercussions attached to it, but i also saw amnesty some sort of easy way out, let's just get it over with sort of solution.

then came June 4-6, 2010.  this was the weekend of the River City Community Church retreat.  our second annual such retreat.  this year we had Reverend Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil as our saturday evening speaker.  she spoke on the first 11 verses of Ezekiel 47.  this was a familiar passage to me, as our pastor, Daniel Hill, had spent a few weeks last year going through this passage, and i had written a song "Run, River" that we did during one of those weeks.

on sunday morning we all gathered in our meeting area and had about an hour of people sharing what they had encountered over the weekend.  i sat in the back row with my iPhone bible opened to the passage in Ezekiel.  i decided to read the chapter again as people talked about solitude and family and rivers and being bottle up.

as soon as that great vision of the river ends in verse 11, there comes the sort of text that we, or at least i, often like to skip over.  much like the "begat" verses in the beginning of Matthew, these verses commanded Israel in how they were to divide up the land.  (nate's paraphrase) "you get that from this river to that sea.  they get that from this tree to the barn on the right side of the road."  nine verses worth of setting borders.  i was getting bored...and then came verses 22-23.

"You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel."

i've read lots of verses where God calls Israel to welcome the stranger and the alien.  they were core to my need to find a middle ground.  i may have even read these verses, although i don't recall it.  still, something new hit me that morning.  God blessed Israel with an amazing land, full of resources, and He commanded them ("...declares the Sovereign Lord" at the end of vs. 24) to share their inheritance with the alien who had settled among them.  He commanded them to consider them as native-born be given a piece of what what rightfully Israel's blessing.

i'm regularly amazed at the ability of the brain to calculate instantaneously.  a thought leads to a thought leads to a thought leads to a thought.  in less time it takes to realize it happened, the mind journeys and concludes things that would take hours to explain.  i contemplated aliens, citizenship, borders, God, the US, christianity, immigration...all in a few seconds.  and when i started letting my mind settle into what just flashed through it, i came away with this stance-changing conclusion.

it wasn't heritage that made the Israelites the people of God.  if it were, then no alien could share in their inheritance.  God was willing, and in fact commanded, that non-Jews were to share in the blessing, even to the point of being considered native-born.

the God who commanded this is the same today as He was then.  His words for His people then are applicable for His people now.

i am a citizen of His people now, not native-born, but welcomed through His son.

my citizenship in this community...this holy nation, chosen people, royal priesthood...this citizenship overrides any other i may or may not ever have here on earth.  i do not swear allegiance to anything formed on earth, as my allegiance is sworn to His Kingdom.

if i am a part of His people, and He has commanded me to welcome, and consider to be native-born, the alien living among us, then i will consider them to be as citizens.

so...where i have taken middle ground before, where i have found legal issues to be reasons to stand for compassion and justice on this issue, i will now simply, and probably not so simply, choose to stand for it because the heart of my God is for the alien living around me.

i will support amnesty and full citizenship for all undocumented people, and the US as a place where aliens and strangers can come to share in the blessing i have been afforded through the miraculous hard work of...being born here.


Leverage Your Life said...

Nate, Bro I couldn't even finish reading your thoughts on immigration, especially when you at least from my understanding of what your point was, somehow equating immigration with the nation of Israel? that is a bit of a stretch bro for sure. I should have read all of your blog before commenting so forgive me if that's not where you were going with it but it's late headed for bed.

Nate Heldman said...

hi, leverage. i'm guessing i must know you due to your familiar greeting, but i can't place "leverage your life" with anyone i know, and clicking on your "name" just says that you don't allow access to your profile.

Greg Johnson said...

Great post Nate. I have proclaimed to congregations for 19 years now that God is bringing immigrants to the US to be our neighbors so that we can love them and they can experience the love of God. It's all about loving God and ALL people!

We need compassionate reform of immigration laws.

Know that you are loved,

Donald F Tanner said...

An interesting concept that I will have to pray about, but I have seen too much abuse by ILLEGAL aliens here in Dodge City, kansas alone that weighs a lot in how I feel.

I will say though that if Mexico would start helping their own people, instead of concentrating on the tourist industry and virtually ignoring all the others, there would probably be no illegal immigration!

Heres something else to ponder: Have we as Americans become too lazy that we dont want to do the jobs these immigrants do? If this is so, then perhaps we need a wake up call.