Culture

A Lament to God for Christ the Immigrant

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In his book Prophetic Lament, Soong-Chan Rah informs the reader of a lament tool in the form of an acrostic. “The acrostic points to an order beyond our chaos” and reminds us that God is in control even in the midst of suffering. Rah shows the pattern found in the book of Lamentations where the author uses the Hebrew alphabet as a way to guide the lamentations, and find fullness, shape, and form in them.

In struggling to find where to begin in lamenting the decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I am thankful for spiritual tools that can guide us. In this lament, I am acting as though Christ is the immigrant, for in the words of our Lord:  I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35-36).  My lament is both upward to God and outward encompassing the suffering of Christ, the Immigrant.

As a second generation Italian-American, a former missionary in northern Mexico where my son was born, as a person who also lived in Nicaragua and Honduras, and as a white, American evangelical woman, my lament certainly comes with its own biases, its own lack, its own blind spots. My prayer is that what I have laid out here will help you enter into a state of lament. What would you add to your own acrostic lament?  I encourage you to add to this in the comments below so that we might lament together.

I am lamenting the way the dominant culture—myself included—has acted toward Christ the Immigrant.

I lament the actions of the dominant culture toward Christ the Immigrant. @genaLthomas Click To Tweet

How long, oh God, will You let the dominant culture continue:

Allowing the empire-mindset to determine how they treat you, acting as if you have less dignity, less inherent value, and less to offer the corporal body of the American church.

Burdening you with their burdens and silencing you when you speak about yours.

Conforming their churches to the nation’s dominant culture rather than creating a better culture within the church that highlights your voice and intentionally seeks out the gifts you have.

Dehumanizing you, your struggle, your experience, and your spirit in word and deed and often, more strongly, in lack thereof.

Emancipating themselves and those who look like them before they seek to emancipate you.

Forgetting that many of their ancestors were immigrants, silencing those stories, and therefore numbing themselves to the hard realities of immigration. Forgetting that many of their ancestors oppressed Native Americans and African Americans despite fleeing their homelands because of oppression.

Gathering in spaces that are comfortable to them rather than entering into your home and, therefore, your life.

Hearing you but rarely listening.

Influencing you to think that the American dream is what everyone should strive for, and that their way of capitalism is the best solution to any country’s woes.

Justifying their outrage over you ‘taking American jobs’—a euphemism for their laziness or worse, their own belief in the American prosperity gospel—yet never trying to understand the story that brought you to their soil, the toil it has taken and continues to take on your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Kneeling to pray on the National Day of Prayer but failing to stand up to the powers that try to rob you of your dignity.

Listening without partnering, and failing to see you as a great teacher who has much to teach them.

Misguiding themselves into thinking that when they’ve heard one immigrant’s story, they’ve heard them all.

Negating you as their neighbor, and thinking of you only in documentation statuses.

Organizing to protest against abortion through marches and votes, but failing to leave their houses or call their senators when your livelihood and life is in the fire.

Possessing their dominant language so much so that they look down on your accent, require you to speak with an American accent to fit in, gain employment, find housing, and fail to grasp the advanced education it requires to speak more than one language.

Restricting your upward movement within church leadership in predominantly white spaces.

Questioning where your loyalties actually lie when American patriotism is at stake.

Supporting their sent-out missionaries and placing them in high regard without considering the idea that you may be a missionary sent to them, with a keen awareness of their inherent cultural blind spots and spiritual weaknesses … and negating that their spiritual health increases when they are in good relationship with you.

Tokenizing you and those like you.

Undermining your ability to call two places home, overlooking the human difficulty this truly poses, and ignoring the spiritual maturity it gives you in light of eternity.

Viewing you as a demographic and/or financial gain in their church rather than mentors, leaders, and important bridges between people groups for the flourishing of the Gospel.

Worshipping as individuals because their American culture idolizes independence, rather than learning from you of the richness of community and learning how to worship communally using collective pronouns rather than I, me, mine.

Xeroxing the stereotypes that their American culture has determined define your culture and projecting them onto you, so that whether you like the characteristics of that stereotype or not, you frequently feel you have to prove you are more than a stereotype.

Yielding to the spirit of White Supremacy in ways they are aware and unaware of, both in subtle and outright actions or lack thereof, in not recognizing that what they call ‘normal’ is often normal for people whose skin tone, resumes, and bank accounts look similar to theirs, and not placing themselves in spaces where they are the minority enough to even glimpse what you deal with daily.

Zig-zagging their way around the truth of their own cultural infirmities, inherited iniquities, and current responsibilities for the economic and spiritual glass ceilings they’ve encased above you.

Christ who comes as Stranger to welcome the stranger, hear our prayer and comfort those who suffer much at the hand of immigration enforcement, prejudice, and abuse, and cause those of us who don’t suffer to be righteously burdened to enter into the suffering of our immigrant neighbors, brothers, and sisters. Lord, hear our prayer.

 

 

*If you are an evangelical pastor, consider signing this letter: Evangelical Leaders Urge White House & Congress to Protect Dreamers For more information on how you can contact your congress representatives, see Contacting Congress.org

 

 

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