American Christians are at a proverbial fork in the road with Washington’s failure to pass comprehensive federal immigration reform.
One road heads down a fruitless path.
We can curse the situation. We can blame the other party. We can demand change. We can threaten political payback in the future. We can protest outside the White House.
Futile gesturing and incendiary rhetoric will not change the fact that immigration reform got bottled up in Washington–and meaningful legislative remedies are unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Nonetheless, many Christians will head down this unproductive path, replacing the feeling of self-righteousness for the frustration of failure.
The other road is the long one.
It begins with a positive perspective: The failure to pass comprehensive federal immigration reform opens the opportunity door for American churches.
The long road demands moral endurance. Transformative social change has always required moral endurance.
William Wilberforce showed moral endurance. For 26 years, he labored against the British slave trade.
Clarence Jordan showed moral endurance. For years, he struggled to establish an interracial community in Georgia and worked tirelessly translating the New Testament into the Cotton Patch Version.
Martin Luther King Jr. showed moral endurance. He took the long march toward civil rights, recognizing that he might not live to see journey’s end.
Jimmy Carter showed moral endurance with his vision of eliminating the disease of river blindness in African and Latin American nations. Today, river blindness has been significantly reduced in affected countries.
Social change requires moral endurance.
The opportunity is before American Christians to take the long road
− to recover in churches the biblical teachings about the immigrant without the issue being politicized;
− to demonstrate care for the undocumented in our midst with church programming–childcare, English classes, nutritional initiatives;
− to engage in humanitarian efforts on the border, as Faith in Action Initiatives at Baylor Scott and White Health and Texas Baptist Men are doing;
− to create truthful narratives about the undocumented to replace the false ones that permeate the public square; and
− to change the country’s tone—preacher by preacher, pew by pew, Sunday school class by Sunday school class.
The road will not be easy. Moral endurance will be required. The end result will be a good one.
And a good tool to begin the journey is with our documentary, “Gospel Without Borders,” which is really a collection of stories of faith on the immigration front.
It has a humanitarian story from the Arizona desert. One from a bivocational Baptist family in North Carolina. Another from Iowa about how undocumented and documented Central American immigrants have literally and spiritually rebuilt a church.
We can curse the political darkness. Or we can turn on the DVD player to raise awareness about the plight of the undocumented and what goodwill people of faith are doing.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.