Tuesday, May 23, 2017

You Shall Love the Alien as Yourself

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

                                             Leviticus 19:34(NRSV)

Many Canadians have been aghast at the chaotic first months of the Trump administration which has managed to undermine the dignity and moral authority of the presidency with lightning speed. It's a challenge to know where to start, given the gaffes, the disrespect for checks and balances, and the dismantling of environmental protection.

Add in ICE, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is becoming the strong arm tactical force to institute the phobic approach to those who are living in the country without proper documentation. Although they are being arrested for living in the States illegally, many have been there for decades, running successful businesses, paying taxes, and raising families.

Image result for javier flores garcia sixty minutes

There are faith communities which are responding, at least 800, which are providing sanctuary to those who fear deportation. The program Sixty Minutes did a thoughtful exploration of this movement on the weekend, and while I caught only the final few minutes, it was worthwhile. There was an interview with a Methodist minister describing his convictions and here is a portion of the transcript:

Philadelphia's Arch Street Methodist Church was built by Abraham Lincoln's favorite minister. 
Rev. Robin Hynicka: We are a sanctuary church.
And a 155 years later, Reverend Robin Hynicka is on the same chapter and verse.
Rev. Robin Hynicka: My baptismal covenant, there's a vow that's taken either on my behalf when I was baptized as a child or as an adult, that I would take the power and the freedom that God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they show themselves.
Scott Pelley: Well, in your view what is this, evil, injustice, or oppression?
Rev. Robin Hynicka: It's injustice and oppression, all of which is evil. Yeah, when a human being's human rights are denied, when they can't stay with their family, when they can't work, when they can't participate in the community in which they have deep roots, all of those apply.

He's talking about Javier Flores Garcia who has lived in the church basement for six months. He came from Mexico, illegally in 1997. He's a landscaper with a decade-old DUI on his record. His other offense is crossing the border repeatedly. A judge ordered him deported but he moved here rather than leave his three children who were born citizens.

Javier Flores Garcia: I think you have to keep fighting and I'm doing this for my kids. And I would do it again if it became necessary.  
Rev. Robin Hynicka: We're taking a leap of faith, right, in many respects, because we don't know what's going to happen.

There have been sanctuary congregations in Canada through the years. A new couple at Bridge St. came from a congregation in Winnipeg which was home for several months to a family from Pakistan who feared for their lives if they were deported. They were eventually allowed to stay.

I'm a law-abiding person, yet there are times when the rule of law is not the moral law of God. Deciding what to do in those circumstances isn't always straightforward. Listening and discerning and acting to the God of justice is a higher calling.

Can you imagine your congregation providing sanctuary, if necessary?

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