MLK Day in Alabama… Solidarity with the Vulnerable
Jan 19, 2012 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
This past Monday I was in Birmingham, Alabama. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and several of us from around the country had flown in for a service in the evening at a local church. The purpose of the meeting was to gather Hispanic believers and pastors and encourage them with our presence, prayers, and words.
Several hundred Hispanic brothers and sisters and a couple dozen pastors came. We were told that it was the first time since the passing of Alabama’s harsh immigration laws that there had been such a gathering. Some were fearful of driving and being stopped; others were apprehensive about coming to a suburban mega-church. Still many came, and it was a wonderful evening. There was song and a couple of testimonies by two who had been affected by the laws directly. Each of us who had come spoke for a few minutes, and two preached short messages. Amazing.
I was asked to speak for a few minutes. I had two primary thoughts. First, Go to the Bible. It is a book written by migrant people for the people of God, who in both the Old and New Testaments are often displaced from their homes. From Abraham to Jesus as a refugee as a child, the people of God have had to live in foreign lands. The Bible is full of stories of people on the move, and it even contains laws that might help orient legislation in this country. In Deuteronomy 10:17-19 the ultimate motivation to treat the outsider with compassion is because God loves them. The laws in the Pentateuch concerning the stranger are not generated by fear or suspicion or racism. They reflected the care and compassion of God, who had redeemed Israel – itself an immigrant population – from Egypt.
Second, 1 Peter 2:11 tells us that all believers are sojourners and strangers. For most Christians, this is just a vague concept and metaphor. Immigrants, though, live the metaphor. It is their life; it is their day-to-day experience. Perhaps the majority culture needs to engage immigrants to truly understand the metaphor and to grasp in new ways what it means to be a Christian: to be dependent, vulnerable, and even persecuted.
I hope to post soon some pictures of the event on my Facebook page, so please check there in a few days.
The powerful and hopeful words sung by Afro-Americans at that time may still encourage us today:
“We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.”