The teachings of Jesus don’t really matter, do they? It certainly does sometimes seem that way lately, doesn’t it? Fortunately, we don’t all feel that way. Fortunately, I choose to think that a vast majority of Christians still believe that yes, the teachings of Jesus do matter.
We sang, “America the Beautiful” at church this past July to celebrate the freedoms this country provides. It is a July the 4th tradition at church, however, we sang it with conviction this year. There were tears streaming down faces, glimpses of hope, obvious feelings of despair, and people holding hands.
Many of us probably don’t realize this (I didn’t until a recent search about the history) but, “America the Beautiful” was originally written as a poem in 1893. It was changed a bit in 1904 and then again in 1911 (which happens to be the version we sing today).
It’s a shame that we often do not sing beyond the first verse because if we did, we’d make a realization. Although the wording has changed slightly with the different versions, one thing remains the same:
“O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!”
According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions for the word, “pilgrim” is what most of us think of when we think of pilgrims, “English colonists settling at Plymouth in 1620”. Allow me to now point out the obvious. An “English colonist” would be from England. In other words, that very colonist would have migrated here from England and been a (yes, you guessed it), immigrant. I don’t know about you but, I’ve traced my lineage. I often refer to myself as a mutt (in a loving manner) because I contain English, Irish, and German blood in my veins however one thing remains true. Every ancestor of mine immigrated to this country. Each and every one.
The Bible is loaded (and I do mean loaded) with verses about immigrants and how we are to treat them. These verses are contained in both the Old and the New Testaments (click here for a preview). Then, of course, we have the commands from Jesus ordering us to love our neighbors and to love each other.
Yet, it seems as if a blind eye or deaf ear is turned toward these teachings. One verse that I have seen used over and over in support of anti-immigration is about the law; most often Romans 13:1-7. So let me get this straight. This one verse, about law no less, overrides everything else? Remember that song, “Things that Make You Go Hmmm” by C&C Music Factory? This is truly one of those things that make me go, “hmmm” because I’m sitting here scratching my head in a state of puzzlement.
Let’s first take into account that this was law. This was something that, according to the scripture, was set by “governing authorities”. According to the State of Texas (I would imagine that most have similar definitions), a “governing authority” is defined as:
“A person or group of persons who are entitled to manage and direct the affairs of an entity under this code and the governing documents of the entity, except that if the governing documents of the entity or this code divide the authority to manage and direct the affairs of the entity among different persons or groups of persons according to different matters, “governing authority” means the person or group of persons entitled to manage and direct the affairs of the entity with respect to a matter under the governing documents of the entity or this code.”
You may notice that the words, “person or group of persons” is bolded. That was intentional on my part. Why? Laws set forth by people sometimes contain certain prejudices or biases, don’t they? For instance, slavery was approved and enforced by “governing authorities” but that didn’t make it right. Let’s also take into account (and I hate to point out the obvious) that these verses in Romans don’t mention one word about immigrants yet, I have noticed it plastered all over the internet by those who appear to be extremely unwelcoming to our brothers and sisters from other countries.
(Let me now pause here to ask if you are beginning to understand where I’m going with this.)
Governing authorities have also reached beyond slavery. Governing authorities ordered the imprisonment and executions of millions of Jews. Governing authorities ordered the internment of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans. I’m not anti-law. I do believe that laws are important and that most of them should be followed but I’m also able to see how certain laws can have devastating effects, especially when they are cruelly enacted against other people due to biases and prejudices.
Immigration and how we treat immigrants isn’t a political issue. It is very much a human issue. It is in fact, a moral issue. The words of Jesus could not have been any clearer.
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