What can Lutherans do about Immigration?

One of the many things I have learned in my time as bishop can be summarized by the Anais Non quote. “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Depending on ones perspective, the headline to this blog post can be read in different ways. If you have a bias toward an anti-immigration view, you can read that question one way, if you have a more pro-immigrant perspective, you can read it another way. So, at the outset let me state my bias. I am very much a pro-immigrant bishop.

But, my reasoning differs from the typical arguments that dominate more left leaning politics.

First of all, I begin with a biblical understanding based on both the Hebrew Testament and the Christian Bible (aka the Old and New Testament) You can read a summary of those lessons by clicking here. The Bible is very clear that one of our callings is to be people of welcome and hospitality to strangers, travelers, migrants etc. This lays the foundation for my views on this topic.

Second, as a person who fully acknowledges that economic life is a central and undeniable reality to how we live and move and work, I am very aware of the value of immigrants in our society. This is a perspective that is acknowledged by economists on the right, the left and the center. Immigration is a positive for the economic well being of a society. It’s not just the argument of who will pick the strawberries, change the sheets in the hotel room; it’s also who is going to be your heart surgeon, the next social media start-up founder or software developer. Immigrants come to this country and they actually stimulate economic growth for all of us.

Third, and this one is particularly selfish of me. Immigrants make our food options far more interesting. I love being in New England where I can literally travel the world with our cuisine options.

Fourth, I’m here in the US because my grandfather immigrated in the 1920’s. I’m serving in a Lutheran denomination because previous generations immigrated to this country. There are Lutherans around the world because immigration allowed for ease of transport and movement throughout the world. Immigration is who we are as Lutherans.

So yes, I’m pro-immigration. Now, I do acknowledge that a system that addresses a fair and balanced form of how immigration should happen needs to be developed. In the past, Democrats and Republicans had proposals that were discussed but never acted on. Were they perfect? Of course not. If you want perfection folks, you are going to be waiting a long time. The problem today is that while we have lots of headlines, tweets and grand standing for political gain, there is no serious desire to solve this issue. The reality is that people in power today want this to be an issue that is used for political points. The harshness and brutality of this abuse of our civic life is horrific. The ones who are suffering the most are women and children.

So, let’s get to the question of what we can do about immigration:

  1. VOTE - If you don’t vote you can’t complain. Voting is not only a right it is a responsibility. Engage, and find out what candidates say they are going to do if elected.

  2. Consider becoming a Welcoming Congregation. This means you can simply gather a couple people in your church and engage in projects that support immigrants in different ways. Some churches have sponsored refugees and immigrants, others have accompanied people to legal hearings, others have engaged in public advocacy. Want to learn more? Send me an email and I’ll connect you.

  3. Learn more about what the ELCA Lutherans are doing across the country, as well as right here in New England. Visit the ELCA AMMPARO website. We just had two educational events in Providence and Hartford on this work, and I commend it to you.

  4. Have a conversation with someone from our New England Synod Refugee and Immigration Task Force. Doreen Rinas is a great resource. She can be reach at doreen.rinas [at] gmail [dot] com

  5. Consider going me on a Companion Church visit to the Lutheran Church in Honduras. We are going in late February 19-26, 2019. This will be a chance for you to meet Lutherans in Honduras, work on some lite construction at a church, help teach a Vacation Bible School. It’s a perfectly safe way to visit this country. Join me. More info here

Immigration is a part of our lives. Let’s embrace it and find a way to make it work.