Shane Claiborne is an activist and best-selling author, founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and popular speaker. You can find him at www.redletterchristians.org. Photo courtesy of Shane Claiborne

Welcoming the stranger, even if it’s against the law (COMMENTARY)


(RNS) A nonviolent uprising around immigration is growing in Philadelphia. Its faith leaders announced last week that they would welcome immigrant families even if it is against the law. They are building a movement of "sanctuary congregations" and have dreams the U.S. will one day be a sanctuary nation.

We at The Simple Way faith community join them in insisting that we must obey the laws of God over the laws of our government -- and that means "welcoming the foreigner as if he or she were our own flesh and blood."

Jesus says that when we welcome the stranger we welcome him. To God’s question: "When I was a stranger, did you welcome me?" we are not going to say: "Sorry, God. Congress wouldn't let us."

We know that, sometimes, divine obedience can mean civil disobedience.

As St. Augustine once said: "An unjust law is no law at all."

Some Christians will ask, "But what about Romans 13, where Paul says we must submit to the authorities?" To that we say, as the early Christians, and later Martin Luther King, instructed: Submission does not always mean obedience. There are two ways to submit. One way is by obeying good laws. The other way is by respectfully disobeying bad laws. That's how we put the bad laws on trial in public and change them.

So on Sept. 24, dozens of faith leaders announced that New Sanctuary Movement congregations would provide physical sanctuary to immigrant families with final deportation orders:

“We defy President Obama's inhumane immigration policies by moving families into three of our member congregations, the Philadelphia Praise Center, a Mennonite congregation in South Philadelphia; Tikkun Olam Chavurah, a Germantown-based Jewish community; and West Kensington Ministry in north Philadelphia."

Pastor Aldo Siahaan of the Philadelphia Praise Center said, "We answer God's call by opening our church to bring hope to people in need."

Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Tikkun Olam Chavurah led 50 members in a Jewish Rosh Hashanah (New Year) ritual.

"Rosh Hashanah starts the New Year with your eyes fully open, able to bring greater justice to your journey in life,” she said.

Shane Claiborne is an activist and best-selling author, founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and popular speaker. You can find him at www.redletterchristians.org. Photo courtesy of Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne is an activist and best-selling author, founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and popular speaker. You can find him at www.redletterchristians.org. Photo courtesy of Shane Claiborne


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Holtzman shared that many Jewish people in the U.S. are immigrants or children of immigrants, and survived because others were willing to take them in during the Holocaust.

We demand that Obama use his executive power to end all deportations without exception and create a country of sanctuary -- where all are safe, respected and welcomed and where economic, spiritual and emotional wholeness is realized.

Join the New Sanctuary Movement. Welcome a stranger as God has welcomed all of us.

(Shane Claiborne is an activist and best-selling author, founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and popular speaker. A version of this essay appeared in www.redletterchristians.org.)

YS/MG END CLAIBORNE

Comments

  1. Although I agree with the premise, why do they argue for this based on religious beliefs? Do we as humans not have enough humanity to understand that this is the proper way to treat other humans? Do people really need a religion to tell them this?
    Only those who are focused on self would be against this, and that would be immoral. I don’t need a faith based belief system to know this.
    I am human.

  2. “I don’t need a faith based belief system to know this.”

    You “know” this because you have been raised in a western culture steeped in 2000 years of Judeo-Christian ethical influence. You probably also think you “just know” that strangling or drowning a helpless newborn infant, or leaving it abandoned somewhere to die of dehydration or wild animals, is also immoral — however it was a near UNIVERSAL practice among “humans” up until the Jews proscribed it first and Christianity then took that proscription to the world.

    And that’s only one example. “Humanity” in its natural state is NOT a homane species.

  3. Because many of those opposed to this policy share these religious views. Therefore, showing that their religion and prophets commands them to do this is a powerful tool for changing opinions.

  4. If it gets people motivated to do what is right and moral, I won’t argue the point. They don’t need religion to tell them this is the right thing to do. But it is useful for motivating others who look to such things as guidance. Religion as a rhetorical tool.

  5. Faith based moral belief by the largest Christian denomination as the justification for enslavement and genocide perpetuated for centuries.

    https://religionnews.com/2014/09/09/nuns-pope-revoke-15th-century-doctrine-allows-christians-seize-native-land/

    It speaks for itself. 🙂

    Btw abandonment of children is a long practiced tradition by Christian churches and is not related to infanticide. One expected an abandoned child to be cared for by clergy or passersby. The prevalence of infanticide in the Roman Empire may have been greatly exaggerated by Christian writings (they tended to do that a lot with those they opposed)
    http://ancientimes.blogspot.com/2011/05/widespread-roman-infanticide-not.html.

  6. Baloney. Abandoning an infant in the expectation that it will be collected and cared for by another is one thing. Abandoning it to the elements is quite another. And no, you can’t pin that on “Christian exaggeration” because almost everything we know of ancient infanticide comes from pagan writers. Five hundred years before christians Euripides wrote of Greek infants “thrown into rivers, flung onto dung heaps and into cess trenches, potted in jars to starve to death, and exposed on every hill and roadside, a prey for birds, food for wild beasts to rend.” Four hundred years before christians, the Romans codified the custom in the Laws of the Twelve Tables giving fathers the absolute right to infanticide and actually mandating the killing of deformed infants. Two hundred years before christians, Polybius blamed widespread infanticide for the decline of the Greek empire. Shortly before the birth of Christ, in the year that Julius Caesar was proclaimed a god, the Senate proclaimed that “no male born that year be reared.” During the early christian era Dio Cassius wrote of the extreme shortage of Roman women due to widespread female infanticide. And of course the pagan historian (and Roman consul) Tacitus eclipsed them all by sneering at Jewish opposition to infanticide as “sinister and revolting.”

    Just a few snippets of that “inborn empathy” and” humanity” that you naive kiddies so blindly believe in.

  7. Oh, and don’t forget Seneca, born at the same time as Jesus and lauded as one of the fathers of “humanism”, who unapologetically stated that the Romans drowned “weakly” infants at birth, not out of anger but out of “reason.” Yes, sounds very “humanist” to me.

  8. Shawnie5,
    Your arrogance is palatable, you must be a christian, or think you’re psychic.

    You don’t know where my morals come from.

    You don’t know where I was raised.

    Worse than that though is you also project this microcosmic point of view of yours onto all humans.

    How do you think man survived before christianity came along if they had no morals? If man simply competed against each other and had no sense of becoming a community and accepting strangers into it, we would have never made it as a species. Our ancestors would have wiped each other out, or lived in isolated fear and either not procreated at all, polluted their gene pool through interbreeding.

    Also, have you considered recent studies that have shown that infants exhibit moral behavior? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-moral-life-of-babies/

    Have you considered other cultures who also have morals and exhibit love for their fellow man who have never even heard of your god?

    How does all of this fit into your “2000 years of Judeo-Christian ethical influence”?

    If you feel christianity is where you get your morals, then your morals are not only not aligned with mine, but you really need to stay away from other humans because you are dangerous person.

  9. Earold, you atheists have been borrowing moral capital from Christianity for so long that you don’t even know you’re doing it anymore. And it’s a never-ending source of amusement to me to listen to you pontificate about “inborn” morals and “humanity” that several millenia of human history simply don’t demonstrate.

    As I’ve stated many times before, human beings have always had a sense of how to behave properly toward others. Where prechristian morality differed from ours lies in to whom this duty was believed to be owed — one’s own family, tribe, or nation. Jesus spoke of this directly when He said “If you embrace only your brethren, what reward have you in that? Even the heathen do that.”

    This is the reason why infanticide, for example, was a universal in prechristian civilization; an infant was not considered fully human and possessing rights until it was acknowledged as part of a family. Ancient people “just knew” this…because they were human and all, you know.

    The Imago Dei changed all that — the belief in inherent individual rights by virtue of human birth and creation in the image of God, completely independent of any and all social ties. However imperfectly it may have been observed over the centuries, it is the sole reason why the West has been the global standard bearer for human rights.

    “You really need to stay away from other humans because you are a dangerous person.”

    No doubt in your post- Christian innocence you would say the same of most of the prechristian ancients if you could go back in time and experience their cultures and values. Ironicalky, though, YOU would be the one considered, not dangerous, but ridiculous at best, and ” sinister and revolting” at worst.

  10. Shawnie5, You are as contradictory as the book in which your ideas come from. Pull your head out of the mind numbing cloud that surrounds it and find clarity.

    My words – “Do we as humans not have enough humanity to understand that this is the proper way to treat other humans? I don’t need a faith based belief system to know this.”

    Your reply – “Humanity” in its natural state is NOT a homane (humane) species.”

    Then later – “As I’ve stated many times before, human beings have always had a sense of how to behave properly toward others.”

    The article is about taking in strangers that need help. You first argue man’s morality, which motivates him to this action, is based on what you call judeo-christian ethical influence, and is not something we naturally know.
    Then in the second argument you agree with my point that it is an innate sense humans have.

    Other cultures that know virtually nothing about what you call judeo-christian ethics behave in the same humane manner, some with even more compassion than those who claim their morals come from what you call judeo-christian ethics and invite these strangers in.

    Case in point – Some that claim they get their morals from what you call judeo-christian ethics stand at the border of our country screaming at these strangers to stay away, stand in the halls of the buildings of governance trying to pass laws to turn these strangers away, sit in front of television cameras trying to convince their viewers we need to turn these humans away, and others who make comments on electronic media that we should turn these strangers away. None of this is humane, all ethics derived from their interpretation of your book.

    It is a dangerous thing for humans to derive morals from something written (by man) that can be understood in different ways.

    This is much better, safer way- “As I’ve stated many times before, human beings have always had a sense of how to behave properly toward others.”

  11. Whether you believe me or not, this Article is causing me, right now, to seriously re-evaluate my long-standing opposition to open immigration, amnesty, etc. I thought I was a good Christian in the past, but I’ve been going through a repentance and great transition in the past several months (praying more, reading scripture, quit smoking and drinking for the most part (only a beer here or there), and am purifying my life in other ways. When I read in the Article: “Jesus says that when we welcome the stranger we welcome him. To God’s question: ‘When I was a stranger, did you welcome me?’ …”, now has me giving this some serious thought and reconsideration. I’m probably going to change my views 180, even though I consider myself to be very conservative in every other regard.

  12. Everyone is welcome. That’s why we have a immigration policy and law. Follow the law otherwise deal with the consequences of the law.

  13. You still don’t get it. As Jesus pointed out, no one has to teach us to treat our own well, for the most part. But dehumanizing the “other” comes just as naturally. It is our culture that has, more or less, tempered that tendency. Even if we fail to respect human dignity at times, it is the ImagoDei that provides the moral ground for condemning that failure, such that we can all at least agree that we owe even the ” other” treatment with full human dignity. Earlier cultures would have unabashedly scoffed at such a duty.

    If you find me contradictory, I would advise you to rexamine your naive attribution of inborn empathy and humanity to a species for which slavery, infanticide, and oppression of women were not only universal, but universally deemed a positive good, for all of civilized history up until the advent of Christianity.

  14. Shawnie5, Oh , I get it just fine. Slavery, infanticide, misogyny and so much more are all part of the morals that can be learned from your book. You can have it. I’ll live life without it.
    Peace & Love

  15. A predictable response which neither evidences comprehension of my point nor addresses the central flaw in your argument. As I expected.

    Peace and love back.

  16. Shawnie5, The incomprehensible, is just that. We share expectations, so, in our disagreement we have found common ground.
    Have a great day.

  17. @ Earold Gunter
    be cause your human is why God wrote his moral law into your heart .
    AS THE BIBLE TELLS US

    your not a lion or polar bear THEY DO not have the moral law written in there heart.

  18. As with all subjects, you are ignorant.

    Immigration policy and law is dysfunctional, is in bad need of reform. The people most vociferous in the enforcement of such laws like yourself, usually know nothing about them.

  19. As I said the prevalence of infanticide in the Roman Empire may have been greatly exaggerated. Sounds “humanist” to you because you don’t understand the term nor care to learn what it means.

    Infanticide, slavery and genocide were never acts which Christianity had much aversion to when those on the receiving end of such acts weren’t Christian (or weren’t the “right type of Christian”).
    “Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.”
    A perfect example of “Imago Dei” in action!

  20. Oh the irony.

    On the issue you can try and vote in lawmakers who will support the laws you want.

    Follow the law or deal with the consequences of the law. Even kids get this concept Larry.

  21. “May have been” means little without some convincing showing of why the ancients “exaggerated” what they recorded about their own culture. Certainly your link offered little more than speculation. It also, of course, demonstrated nothing at all about “Christians” doing the exaggerating — it didn’t even quote any Christian writers. This is just more blind poo-flinging by someone with too much bile and too little knowledge.

  22. @Shawnie,

    “… I would advise you to rexamine your naive attribution of inborn empathy and humanity to a species for which slavery, infanticide, and oppression of women were not only universal, but universally deemed a positive good, for all of civilized history up until the advent of Christianity”

    Garbage.
    Pure trash.

    Jesus endorsed the genocides, slavery and infanticide of Yahweh wholeheartedly! And the ensuing millennia of Christianity blessed it as well – as YOU KNOW!

    “Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes.”
    (Isaiah 13:15)

    Jesus agrees! (JOHN 1:17), (Mark 10:19)

    “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – JESUS (Matthew 5:18-19)

    Shame on you, Shawnie5

  23. Oh please. Go take a pill and lie down.

    Your quote was from a prophecy about what an invading pagan army would do. And of course, it happened. And yes, Jesus agreed that it happened. Nothing to see here.

  24. @Shawnie,

    “take a pill”

    I’d love to take a pill – which one frees me of having to endure wild religious claims?

    “….slavery, infanticide, and oppression…up until the advent of Christianity”

    Nonsense. You drank the Jesus Cult’s Poison Kool-Aid and you cannot see reality.

    Christianity supported all human horrors and continues today to ARGUE IN FAVOR OF THEM!
    Jesus repeatedly supported slavery, infanticide, capital punishment, executions and oppression, along with EVERY SINGLE ONE of Yahweh’s Laws which commanded them.

    Jesus would not only have known about the sickening laws of Moses – as a rabbi he would have been instructing people to follow them.

    Yahweh’s laws look sicker every day. Jesus, as a full supporter of Yahweh is not worthy of the slightest pass. Jesus is primitive and dangerous, from a time when people thought the world was flat and bats were a kind of bird (Lev.).

    “The Imago Dei changed all that — the belief in inherent individual rights by virtue of human birth and creation in the image of God”

    Not true.
    You cannot connect those dots. If anything, Christianity retarded such progress on matters of human dignity a thousand fold!

    The idea that “God inhabits every human life” is not A FACT THAT GOD IS IN EVERY HUMAN. It is an idea of human dignity based on fairness and it was emerging elsewhere in the world long before it arrived in the deserts of Mesopotamia!

    The Greek Secular Aesop’s Fables ALONE from 600 BCE along with Hellenistic Socratic tradition are far superior to Christian hogwash and far more respectful of the dignity of the human mind.
    It is precisely the dignity of MIND that Christianity has no patience with preaching as it does obedience, fear, subjugation and abjection.

    As in the parable of the minas Jesus is all about pushing obedience and fear: “Execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Civilizations such as the Greeks and Chinese were flush with concepts of human dignity centuries before the bankrupt myths of Yahweh’s supposed ‘son’ emerged from the rubble of ancient Jerusalem.

    The first 1,300 BLOODY years of Christianity ALONE should be enough to disprove even a whiff of your claim! Not until the Enlightenment were people liberated of the degenerate Vice-grip on culture loosened from immoral Christian shackles.

    The evidence shows that Humans always project human dignity ONTO their myths – it has been done thousands of times in thousands of religions.
    Homer’s Illiad predates the Jesus story and again, is far superior and tells a better story of dignity.
    Jesus is a profoundly disappointing plagiarism of Homer!

    The Jesus story – a manmade primitive little shack of lies – is granted a civility and dignity it did not and still does not deserve.

    The same arguments for dignity of the individual can be found in the Hadith, Surah, Q’uran and Baghatvita. They are just as unworthy of ‘deification’!

    Good grief!

  25. Good grief is right. You didn’t get it anymore than Earold did. Dignity of one’s equals and brethren, yes. Dignity of the “other,” nope.

    Why do you think slavery saw such a resurgence just as the Renaissance was getting started? Why do you think the “enlightenment” thinkers were so lukewarm about it? Because at the same time as those guys were brought into increased contact with the Muslim slave trade (which the “respectful” Q’uran has never stopped even to this day), they were being newly impressed out the wazoo with the classical thinkers who were so “respectful” of human dignity that they pronounced some people to be “natural slaves” for whom “fairness” required servitude to their natural superiors. As Aristotle put it, “Justice is equality, but only for equals.”

    That’s prechristian “fairness” for you. Want to go back to that? How do you think you’d measure up on the “natural slaves/natural masters” barometer? Judging from the quality of the websites you’re prone to cut-and-paste your argumentation from, I’d guess not very high. Best of luck. Personally, I prefer the standard of dignity and liberty for everyone created in the image of God by virtue of birth alone. It’s much easier to work with, not to mention more humane.

    If anything, it was the clinging on to Aristotle’s theories, both ethical and pseudo-scientific, that held back the west — not that there was ever anything backward about the west. The so-called “Dark Ages” is a myth from outdated high school textbooks that no real historian talks of.

    You need an education as badly as Larry and Earold, and that’s too big a task for a discussion board. Feel free to take the parting shot (such as it is) for I won’t be back to this thread.

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