The Common Good

Christian Anti-Logic and Immigration Reform

100521_100501-0781-immigration-rallyThe issue of illegal immigration in the United States requires an anti-logic of radical love. (The anti-logic I propose is not fallacious logic. The distinction is a topic for another essay.) Christianity is a counter-intuitive religion. The ethics of Jesus requires a rationality that is antithetical to ordinary logic. When ordinary logic says if someone hits you, hit them back, the anti-logic of Jesus says turn the other cheek. When ordinary logic says love your friends and hate your enemies, the anti-logic of Jesus says love your enemies. When ordinary logic says treat others the way they treat you, anti-logic says treat others the way you WANT them to treat you. When ordinary logic says return more evil for evil, anti-logic says overcome evil with good.

On the question of illegal immigration, Christian anti-logic says to solve the problem, make it easier for people to come legally into the country to work. Offer hospitality to the undocumented workers who are already here and to those who will come under easier immigration rules. We ought to welcome them as brother and sister citizens.

The Bible teaches us to welcome the stranger because we ought to remember our own history, to remember when we were the strangers in the land. If we look deeply enough into our own histories, we will see when our ancestors were strangers in the land. When I consider my own family's history, I see the futility of an inhospitable response to the stranger. My parents moved to East St. Louis, Illinois, in the early 1950s. It was an era when jobs were plentiful. One could arrive in the morning and have a job by the end of the day. My father said he decided to move north because he could not tolerate living in the Jim Crow South where segregation was enforced by law.

However, if we look deeper into the history of East St. Louis, we see one of the bloodiest racial conflicts in the history of the United States, the race riots of 1917. In the early years of the 20th century, many cities around the nation experienced racial violence when European-Americans attacked African-American communities. The summer of 1919 is known as Red Summer because of the bloodshed.

One reason for the violence was competition for jobs. Employers often hired African-Americans from the South to break strikes. They often recruited them to work for lower wages. The question for me is: what would have happened had European-Americans welcomed African-Americans into the labor unions? What would have happened had they extended hospitality rather than violence?

History does not reveal its alternatives, but my guess is that race relations in the country would be very different. Cities would look very different. Knowing my own history, I say: welcome the stranger. Yes -- they are not citizens of the United States as were African-Americans moving north during the Great Migration. However, they are human beings acting on the same human impulse to go where they can make a better life.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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