Tuesday was a big day.
Nearly 150 evangelical leaders signed onto an “Evangelical Statement of Immigration Reform.” Signers came from across the spectrum of evangelicalism including leading Hispanic evangelical organizations, to pastors such as Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Joel Hunter, and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.
No, that isn’t a typo. Sojourners stood side by side with Focus on the Family to draw attention to the plight of millions who have been caught up in our broken immigration system. It was exciting to see such unity across the traditional political spectrum that rarely happens in Washington.
Make no mistake, there are still big gaps in theology and politics among those in this group. But Tuesday wasn’t about politics. Rather we focused on the things we agreed were fundamental moral issues and biblical imperatives. This coming together to help fix a broken immigration system on behalf of those who most suffer from it is just what politics needs and could begin to affect other issues, too.
CLICK HERE to add your name (and if you forward to a friend you can get a free “Immigration Reform 2012” bumper sticker).
Instead of ideology, we came together because of morality and common sense. And that’s what leaders are supposed to do.
Here’s my statement from our press conference:
Big things don’t change in Washington first; they change in the nation’s capital last. You’d think that with all the lobbyists on K Street and the billions of dollars being spent, that Washington is the most important place. But this is the place where things don’t change, where politics maintains the status quo and the special interests maintain their own interests.
Things change when hearts and minds across the country change. Things change when social movements begin, when people’s understandings change, when families re-think their values, when congregations examine their faith, when communities get mobilized, and when nations are moved by moral contradictions and imperatives.
Things change when people believe that more than politics is at stake; but that human lives, human dignity, the well-being of moms and dads and kids, and even faith is at stake.
And when moral values change, culture changes; and then change comes to Washington.
The immigration system in America is utterly broken, and politics hasn’t changed that. Both sides, Republicans and Democrats, are responsible for this failed system. They are more concerned with their political bases and their votes than with the people and families whose lives are being crushed by a broken system.
There are two signs up at the border between Mexico and the United States. One says “No Trespass!” The other says “Help Wanted.” And 12 million vulnerable people have been trapped between those two signs.
But the Bible says that these people fall into the category of “the stranger,” and Jesus says how we treat them is how we treat him. They are not the political pawns of Washington, and many of them are our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We have come to know them, and to love them: we’ve come to see how their families are being torn apart, and their lives are in great danger. And we believe that breaks the heart of God; and calls us to action.
Look who is here today: Christians from across the political spectrum. The NAE, Anglo churches and Hispanic Churches whom God has brought together, the Southern Baptists, Focus on the Family, Sojourners. Has that ever happened before?
We realize our work is stronger together than as individual leaders. An effort for immigration reform of this size and diversity has never been attempted in the evangelical community. In the months and years ahead, the principles we release today will serve as the basis of outreach and communications work across the nation.
Together, we will create a national groundswell for immigration reform by reaching out to our fellow evangelicals in the body of Christ, to students at Christian colleges and seminaries, and to our churches — both Anglo and Hispanic; because God is calling us to stand together now in faith, in truth, and in the power of the Spirit—which is even stronger than the powers of Washington DC.
Together we are much stronger than divided. We represent large constituencies of Christians across America—and we are here to tell our political representatives that it is time to shed your partisan behavior — and implement a moral and biblical imperative; fix this broken system and pass comprehensive immigration reform! It is time to transcend politics and do what is right.
Together, we make a prophetic announcement today. Washington will change on this issue. Washington will enact comprehensive immigration reform…. because the people of God have come together to begin that change in our own lives and our own churches. And every Sunday we pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven. We mean that. Amen.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.