14 March, 2008

"For those who come across the seas..."

I was talking with a friend this week about immigration policy. I am one of those ‘throw open the gates’ kind of people which is not overly helpful or practical I know. But I get the impression that there are some who are more reserved for two reasons. One, for me, is legitimate. There is an obvious security and sustainability issue that shoots down my position fair and square and I am fine with that. Then there is another, perhaps more selfish issue which I struggle with big time. That is, that our country will be over-run with ‘foreigners’ and that we will lose our special Australian culture. I love a good barbeque, and I am happy to lounge around and watch sport all day on the couch with a nice cold can of Diet Coke. But I am not willing to shut the ‘iron Venetians’ on those desperate for relief from war and oppression just because it might disturb my comfortable Aussie culture. Now don’t get your knickers in a knot. I know Australian culture is more than food and sport and that our culture is special and unique in its own right. But can that be a reason to limit immigration? I love my country, but I love God’s people more.

Anyway, during the discussion, my friend brought up a third issue which I really hadn’t thought about before. He suggested (and I won’t do the argument justice) that when communities immigrate and are encouraged to segregate from the national culture for the sake of retaining their own cultural identity, it decreases the opportunity for missional facilitation. Essentially, if cultural groups stay together then the nation will be divided into smaller sub-sectors and evangelism will be impeded. Additionally, there are some cultural and religious practices strongly opposed by Christians that should not be accepted within a ‘Christian’ country.

Within this whole debate, I feel there may be two Biblical paradigms at play. One takes an Ezra/Nehemiah approach. That is; we can't take infiltration. Our people are not strong enough to withstand the influences of other cultures/faiths/practices. So, we shall build a wall and keep them out and us in. We will be protected, and while they are of course not reaping the benefits of our clearly superior faith, it is for the greater good. Now I am not dissing the practices of these two fine servants of God. They were right. But from this, a culture of segregation emerged, a culture that was superseded and redeemed by Jesus. Because of this, Paul creates a pattern of ministry that deliberately infiltrates other cultures and attempts to, not coexist, but turn them toward his own. This is our second paradigm which seems to work for and against my argument of immigration. Cultures and races when mixed create a range of distractions and there will be of course a bunch of practices that are an abomination to God. But is it the government’s responsibility to ensure that the Christian culture stays dominant? Are they to be our Nehemiah? Or are we to be like Paul; accept that we are in the midst of a culture requiring transformation and act on it despite the potential negative ramification of large scale mixing? Paul ultimately dominated and he did not have the government on his side, nor did he work within a dominant culture.

Anyway…food for immigration thought!

Have a great and holy Easter everyone and go easy on the blood chocolate!

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