A Journey of faith within the church, the culture and the world
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Arizona Law and the Church
The recent Arizona Law (SB1070) that makes it illegal for undocumented aliens to live in or travel through the state has caused significant reaction across the country. Entire cities have boycotted the state while others celebrate the proactive stance. While Christians might have social and political views that line up on one side versus the other, there is a larger question that must be asked:
What is the church's proper response to these kinds of social realities? Is it sufficient to simply pick a side and join in?
A friend of mine who is a Christian leader in Arizona advises the people he influences to use this situation as an opportunity to bring a new kind of leadership to the table. I think this is appropriate counsel. Rather than Christianize the political posturings of one side or another, a different kind of leadership is required--a leadership that is informed by Jesus.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced this in Germany at the beginning of World War II. He was horrified that the state church had submitted itself to Hitler's National Socialist agenda and called upon the "confessing" church to take a new stance of leadership. He insisted that, when the state acted unjustly, the church's role was to confront with state with its wrongdoing. If that did not end the oppression, then the church's next step was to shelter and protect the oppressed. If that failed, then the church had to act, albeit tragically, by shoving a spoke in the wheel of the state. In other words, take steps to stop the machinery of injustice. For Bonhoeffer, that resulted in his (as a pacifist!) joining the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.
It would be a gigantic and inaccurate leap to equate Arizona's recent move with the Nazi terror of the last century, and that is not my intent. Instead, I would challenge us to think of a way that the church brings the leadership of God's kingdom to bear in an unjust world. Yes, illegal immigration has problematic social, economic, and legal results. But we do not begin with people as immigrants (or as any other imaginable label). We begin with them, as we do with all people, as co-humans made in the image of God. As such, we are called to bring a new kind of leadership in a broken, unjust world.
I would also add that the instigators of these laws are also co-humans made in the image of God. Redemptive leadership should reach into those places as well.