From the wilderness
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Whenever the Israelites' "wilderness wandering" comes up, it
presents a golden opportunity--especially in the current U.S. political climate
--to talk about immigration.
This kind of preaching and teaching "with the Bible in one
hand, and the newspaper in the other" (as Karl Barth is said to have put it)
provides at least two major advantages. It's an opportunity to consider and
engage a major political issue in light of the gospel. It's also an opportunity
to consider and engage Christian life in light of a major biblical and
theological motif: the idea that every disciple is fundamentally a pilgrim, a
"stranger in a strange land."
As far as immigration from the South is concerned, the
reality is that our southern border is everywhere--it's not just along the far
rim of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Undocumented workers'
extremely low wages enable low prices in supermarket produce sections across
the country, and a similar subsidizing effect is in place in a whole range of
homestead industries: construction, housecleaning, landscaping, house painting
and so on.
The U.S. standard of living depends on poor people who work
for low wages and are often separated from their families for long periods of
time because of immigration laws. Becoming more aware of these dynamics means
becoming more aware of reality itself--and of the real consequences and costs
of our everyday decisions.
It isn't for nothing that the Bible spends so much time
reminding readers that they, too, were and so in some sense still are slaves,
strangers, aliens in a foreign land. It's a point that might motivate us again
and again to work to reform our society into a more humane, self-aware,
graceful place to live.