Not many days after our return from New York and Ellis Island, I happened to make a visit to our local seminary's book store (a veritable garden of delights and temptations, by the way). While I was at the counter making other purchases, I noticed that the book They Are Us: Lutherans and Immigration was prominently displayed. Of course, I had to have one.
This is not a difficult or scholarly book, but it is full of passion for the gospel, and passion for the people who are coming to our shores. We are not too different than they, the authors remind us, telling the stories of their own immigrant ancestors. The book highlights the need for both advocacy and mission. The advocacy section is not particular to Lutherans, although I believe that the positions outlined are the positions taken by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. The authors contend that our immigration system is broken, and offer illustrations that make their case. Here are the four questions they believe we should ask regarding any immigration proposal:
1. Does the proposal promote familiy unity?
2. Does the proposal promote human rights and worker rights?
3. Does the proposal enable those without status to come out of the shadows and live without fear?
4. Does the proposal provide a path to permanence as a full member of society?
The authors also do a good overview of the history of immigration in our country, from colonial tmes to the present. They also contend that even if we differ on immigration policy, we can agree that it is our responsibility as Christians to welcome the stranger, and to share the hope of the gospel with all those in our communities, and particularly those who are newcomers and vulnerable. They highlight several Lutheran churches who have been renewed and revived in their mission by doing just that.
This book's strength is also its weakness. It speaks to Lutherans, and from a particular Lutheran perspective. I am glad that the great work of Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services are highlighted. But I think both the policy questions and the ministry questions would be great for churches of all denominations and theological positions to wrestle with. I wish there were a more generic version, so that more churches would have the opportunity to join this most important conversation.
By the way, this is book #27.