Sunday, July 18, 2010

A King Who Did not Know Joseph

Abraham and Sarah left all that was familiar and dear to them to follow the promise of a better future. If asked for evidence of the promise, they could have provided no proof other than their faith—they were “undocumented.” This, the Scripture tells us, “the Lord reckoned [to them] as righteousness” (Gen 15:6).

Whether following the “pull” of a promised future or the “push” of conflict, economic distress, or famine, Abraham and Sarah’s descendants also lived lives shaped by migration. Their grandson Joseph was sold by his brothers along the trade lines that went to Egypt, only to be rejoined by his family years later because of a famine. In turn, their own descendants would be forced to escape from slavery in Egypt, embarking on a journey whose powerful imagery remains central to many faith traditions today.

These sacred stories have staying power because they mirror the complexity of our own lives and speak truth to our lack of permanence.

“My brothers sold me,” said Juventino during a discussion on the biblical story of Joseph. An undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, Juventino was one of the 389 people detained in the May 12, 2008, immigration raid in Postville, Iowa. “They didn’t literally sell me,” Juventino continued, responding to the puzzled look on other Bible study participants, “but because most of the land and wealth in my country is controlled by relatively few people, the rest of us who live in dire poverty are practically sold to the traders—the coyotes, the smugglers—who takes us north along the well-worn trade-routes followed by our coffee, bananas, and roses.” On the day of the Postville raid and the criminal prosecution that followed, Juventino further identified with Joseph’s story by sharing in the confusion and grief of going from being a trusted worker—praised for his hard work—to being viewed as a criminal and landing in jail in a foreign land.

Joseph’s story ends with success in his new land and a difficult but powerful reconciliation with his brothers. These basic details are recounted briefly at the beginning of the book of Exodus, which continues the narrative. Within a few verses, however, the narrative takes a sinister turn: “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). Following a troubling dream about seven fat cows and seven lean cows, an earlier Pharaoh recognized that he needed Joseph (an immigrant lingering in his jail) to help him both interpret his dream and address the pending national crises it revealed. By contrast, the new Pharaoh (who did not know Joseph) fails to see the immigrants as assets and rather sees them as a threat. Juventino’s identification with the Joseph story makes me wonder whether, in our current public perception and media portrayal of immigrants, we remember their contributions as much as the challenges they may pose to our communities. The increased global nature of our economy has resulted in a much more connected world; a world where, for example, a large portion of the food we eat every day originates in other countries or has been picked, processed, or milked by immigrant laborers in our own country. Further, an immigration system out of touch with this reality means that the vast majority of those doing this work do so without proper documentation. Do our elected officials, our “Pharaohs,” know these immigrants, these José’s who contribute to our economic well-being? Do we “know” José?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Clean Up the Toy Room (and immigration)

Often when I ask my kids to clean they toy room, one of them will sit in the couch, arms crossed, and claimed that she has already cleaned out all "her" toys, and the remaining ones are all her brother's. In the annoying role of a parent, I try to point a few things:
1) the toy room is still a mess
2) who the toys "belong" to doesn't automatically reveal who has been playing with them
3) by the nature of how toys are acquired, property isn't always a clear cut affair (i.e. many toys belong to BOTH brother and sister)

When it comes to immigration, the one thing on which there is nearly universal agreement in the United States that our current system isn't working--"broken" is the most used adjective, no matter the perspective. The toy room is a mess. The disagreement comes in how to clean it up. However we do, we must recognize some of those same annoying details above:
1) the system is still broken--and unlike a messy toy room, its state does threaten the well being and very life of many
2) where people "belong" (i.e. where their citizenship is) doesn't automatically reveal who has been benefiting from their work and labor. when it comes to many of those who work in the United States without proper documentation, both their countries of origin and the United States has and does benefit from their labor.
3) by the nature of being human, "belonging" isn't always a clear cut affair--the vast majority of those who are undocumented are related, fall in love, or are otherwise connected to both documented immigrants and citizens in the United States

We are deeply interconnected and must always remember--as the discussions get heated--that we are talking about human beings, and not toys...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Jon Stewart on Arizona Immigration Law

With his usual over the top style, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has offered one of the most poignant commentaries on the Arizona immigration law... working my way through biblical texts these days, I have the feeling his commentary may be closer to the style of the original writers of the Bible than the measured statements we are limited to offer as religious and/or political leaders...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Law & Border
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Usual Suspects?


Monday, April 26, 2010

Growing Split in Arizona Over Immigration

Addressing the recent anti-immigrant law passed by the Arizona legislature and signed by the Arizona governor, an article in today's (4/26/2010) New York Times names the role of fear in the immigration debate. The church's call is to preach good news--Good News that are repeatedly introduced by "Do not fear" ( "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10). We must do as we are called, and preach good news into this fear driven conversation...

Quotes from this article follow, and you can see (and participate in ) a fuller discussion of the legislation on the Forum section of at

"Immigration has always polarized residents of Arizona, a major gateway for illegal immigrants. But the new law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday has widened the chasm in a way few here can remember."

"I also don’t feel it is racial profiling. You are going to look different if you are an alien, and cops know.” --Mr. White

She prays every morning as she steps out the door, “because we go out and we do not know if we are coming back.”--Ms. Miñon

Read the full article here.

Also, I just signed a petition asking President Obama and Congress to pass immigration reform so we won't see the racial profiling law in Arizona spread across America. Click here to join me!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy Easter/Felices Pascuas

Blessings to all this Easter season. May God's dream of justice and peace, which we celebrate this season, fill your homes, communities, and our world. We've put together a short "video greeting" in hopes of sharing the powerful experiences of Holy Week in Jerusalem. This year the Easter celebrations of both Eastern and Western Christian traditions coincided on the same week, together also with the Jewish celebration of Passover. You may watch the video above or see it on YouTube at the following link:

Saludos de Jerusalen en esta temporada de resurrección, cuando celebramos la promesa de justicia y paz que Dios trae a nuestras vidas, hogares, comunidades, y el mundo entero. Hemos puesto un video corto con la esperanza de compartir un poco de la experiencia inolvidable que hemos tenido esta Semana Santa aca en Jesuralen. Pueden verlo aca o en YouTube en el enlace siguiente:


David, Karla, Dawit, and Meheret

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

In this simple statement form his poem Mending Wall, modern American poet Robert Frost voices the deep concern with how human fear leads to building walls that separate us from others. "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know," goes on Frost, "What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence."

While the Great Wall of China has been reduced to a tourist attraction and the Berlin Wall stand as symbol of the progress of freedom, reality is that nations around the world are building walls at an unprecedented pace--from the U.S. Mexico border, to Israel/Palestine, and in an article in today's New York Times, to a small village in Eastern Europe (Walls, Real and Imagined, Surround the Roma)

By contrast, Ephesians 2:14 portrays Jesus ministry as one of physically breaking down dividing walls: "For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us."

Share your thoughts about, as Frost says, "what I was walling in or walling out" at Faith on the Move Forum.