Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jesus, Israel and Arizona

In all the discussions of the Arizona law regarding illegal immigration there has been little, if any, discussion about the religious significance of it all. As a result, what we have been left with, largely, is a hodge-podge of liberal and conservative catch phrases. So what can Christians and Jews have to contribute?

First, there is a constant reminder throughout the Hebrew Scriptures that we are a refugee people -- not just immigrants from Egypt, but political and economic refugees. To forget that is to forget God, says the Psalmist..

Second, for Christians the earliest reality for the Holy Family was as refugees in their flight to Egypt. We should probably be grateful no one there asked to see their papers.

Third, the one constant in Jesus' own experience as the light shining in the darkness was as refugee, as unwelcome immigrant: "foxes have holes and birds have their nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head."

The issues involved in illegal immigration are complex -- even on purely economic grounds. If we take our own religious history and identity at all seriously, they become even more difficult -- as we live under the words of the Incarnate One, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me."

Egypt and Arizona, Mexico and Caanan, and on and on it goes.

Lastly, the truth is not served by asserting that any significant numbers of illegal immigrants are criminal element types -- or that there are no criminals involved. In my experience, the largest numbers have risked their lives in coming here from desperation. Paul Levine, normally a comedy writer, has captured that reality in his new novel, "Illegal." It speaks of the reality of the nitty-gritty details of people's lives