Of Immigration Refugees & Exiles: A Review & Reflection of Chapter Two of “Christians at the Border”

by

Erin Moniz

Does the Bible inform our modern discussion of immigration? If so, where and how does it, direct believers? In the second chapter of his book “Christians at the Border,” author M. Daniel Carroll R. encourages Christians to engage the subject of immigration with Scripture as the primary lens. After wrestling with and acknowledging the varied complexity of the topic in chapter one, Carroll seeks to guide readers towards foundational doctrines established in Scripture which become the primer for Christians. After admitting that his exegesis is by no means exhaustive, Carroll focuses in on the doctrine of the Imago Dei whereby all of humanity is made in the image of God.

He begins with this by acknowledging that the topic of immigration cannot be “argued in the abstract because it is fundamentally about immigrants” (67). As a result, human persons and “their worth, destiny, rights, and responsibilities,” are central and essential to any position on immigration from a Christian perspective. Carroll does not simply land here, however, but goes on to expound how the human aspect of immigration has far-reaching implications. First, since Genesis 1:26-27 declare all persons, male and female are made in the image of God, then every single person inherently possesses “a will, intellect, emotions, and a spiritual component that distinguishes them from all other creatures” (66). Next, Carroll asserts that image-bearing has both a relational and functional component for how humans relate to God and to one another. The implications for how this shapes our view of immigration is that the topic must be “considered from a human rights perspective and not defined solely in terms of national security, cultural identity, or economic impact” (68). Carroll notes that all of these considerations need to be factors in immigration but they should not supersede the human rights aspect that comes from Scripture, (to be clear, ‘human rights’ are defined by popular culture and politics. I am referring not to those definitions, but to ones established by God through His Word.). The author recognizes that the Imago Dei has implications for the majority culture and how it views itself and immigrants, but it also has implications for how Hispanics view themselves and the majority culture they are immigrating into.

Next, the author turns to where immigration appears in the Scriptures. Carroll argues that refugee migration is not the only kind of examples given in Scripture but that there are multiple reasons why people migrate that have implications on our current situation. He opens examples in Scripture that point to hunger, famine, and forced exile as reasons why people migrated both too and out of the promised land. He examines how a significant number of texts are written from the perspective of God’ people in exile living as foreigners. All of the examples he highlights provide opportunities to see immigration from the perspective of both migrant and native peoples. The reactions of native peoples to immigrants and vice versa as well as Yahweh’s response to their reactions hold a wealth of information about how the people of God should be shaped by God’s ways and will. Carroll claims that ultimately, Scripture reveals time and time again that “[immigrants] are part of the plan of God for the unfolding of world history. Consequently, the majority culture must evaluate its reaction to immigrants” (87).

Carroll will go on in subsequent chapters to delve into more of how Scripture speaks to this issue, but at the conclusion of chapter two he has demonstrated the following:

  1.  Christians have essential doctrines that apply directly and immediately to the topic of immigration.
  2. All image bearers have responsibilities and relational ethics that come with their status before God.
  3. Scripture has a multitude of information about immigration specifically.

These assertions draw us to the Scriptures as the primary source of our information on immigration. But exactly how Christians are shaped by this information on such a complex topic, has only just begun. Carroll has laid a foundation but full riches of Scripture and God’s heart have far-reaching implications for this topic. Subsequent chapters will continue to build on these premises.

 

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