Monday, March 25, 2013

Evangelicals, Citizenship & Immigration Reform

In a post 2015 migration and development context it's obvious (to informed policymakers) that citizenship will surge to the heart of policy making on both sides of the Atlantic. As I wrote in november:
'from a purely logical perspective can only be about the merger of migration & development.'
Linda Chavez wrote last week:
'Perhaps the most promising development hasn’t been Paul’s embrace, but that of thousands of evangelical church leaders. The Catholic Church has been part of the immigration-reform coalition for years, but evangelicals, as a group, are relative newcomers. A new group, the Evangelical Immigration Table, which represents pastors of more than 100,000 churches nationwide, is launching a grassroots effort to make reform a moral crusade.

Beginning with a verse in the Gospel According to Matthew — “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” — the group is trying to get church members to read 40 Bible verses that describe the duty to treat strangers as neighbors. If they succeed, the conservative base in the faith community may begin to view immigrants, including illegal immigrants, differently.'
Last friday an Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform was announced as the latest effort by evangelical pastors and organizations to push for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. I would argue this effort to be a symptom of a more fundamental conversation about citizenship among evangelicals worldwide.

A recent speech at the University of Groningen by Ad de Bruijne on our heavenly citizenship, discussions between Henk Geertsema and Ad de Bruijne on God's politics and our politics in the reviews Radix and Theologia Reformata are strong signals a transition is taking place at the grassroots. I gave my interpretation of the organic developments concerning this important topic in the Netherlands in my blogpost our missionary citizenship (Re)defined. The 'Refugee Church' in Amsterdam is also a symptom of this conversation among Evangelicals. Add to this William Dennison's discussion of apologetics and citizenshsip and it becomes clear Geerhardus Vos' thinking is making a comeback:
'Paul's appeal to his Roman citizenship is not an appeal to a two kingdoms doctrine for the sake of his ministry and the church; rather, Paul's appeal to that citizenship is only to undermine it for the purpose of serving his sole, real, and final citizenship in faith-union with his Savior who now sits at the right hand of his heavenly Father.'
Allthough since the first world war American exceptionalism dominated the political discourse in the US, the reality that the United States has allways been a country of immigrants has remained an important undercurrent. Just think of what J Gresham Machen, a student of Geerhardus Vos, wrote after the first world war:
'It is a glorification of imperialism....A very immoral purpose indeed!...Imperialism, to my mind, is satanic, whether it is German or English. The author glorifies war and ridicules efforts at the production of mutual respect and confidence among equal nations....[The book] makes me feel anew the need for Christianity,...what a need for the gospel!'
Examples abound, like Chris Christie speech at the Republican National Convention, Saul Bellow's book Augie March, based on his personal experience as immigrant in Chicago, John F. Kennedy's speech in Berlin which has strong similarities to Geerhardus Vos' understanding of citizenship.

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