I wonder, what will we say twenty years from now? Looking back at this moment in history, when America and Mexico were in conflict over immigration? What will those who identify as "Mexican-American" think fifty years from now? Will that label for identifying certain individuals still be in use?
There's a song I sing that endorses a theology I believe in - it claims every human being is a "child of God" - and yet, If I'm honest, at least based on what I see, read, and hear (from many professing Jesus-followers), it seems being a child of God is second to being a child of "legal Americans." Because throughout two decades of ministry in various American Christian churches, these are the messages I received:
If we are legal, we are worthy of acceptance and hospitality.
If we are illegal, we are worthy of rejection and deportation.
If we are legal, others protect us from those who wish to commit hate-crimes.
If we are illegal, others must be protected from us - and so we experience racial and ethnic stereotyping, family separation, being detained in cages - all for the "safety of society."
If we are legal, many churches will allow us a seat at God's table of communion.
If we are illegal, we must first request a seat in America, only then are we qualified to request a seat at God's table.
If we are legal, others see our native Spanish language, dark hair, and dark skin as "ethnic" or "diverse."
If we are illegal, others see us as a threat to the ways of a "Native" North-American lifestyle.
If we are legal, Jesus-followers say God offers forgiveness and relationship through the gift of Jesus as risen Lord - accessible to all.
If we are illegal, Jesus-followers say access to God is available only by way of legal American relationship - this community is exclusive.
"We never said any of that," you may say, but actions (and in-action) speak louder than words. If we removed the label of "Mexican-Americans" or "Mexicans," how would our posture and attitude change? Would we change?
If "illegal Mexicans" became individuals from Mexico - children of God, born in Mexico, and if we actually believed this, what would we (as individuals and church communities) do differently? My theory is some would refuse to change anything - because their theology is infused and confused with nationalism and racism.
Do they know the Jesus who approached and welcomed those who were societally unwelcome - the Jesus who crossed exclusive boundaries? Do they know the Father who longs to bless the world through Abraham's offspring - who longs to be in relationship with the whole world? Do they know the Holy Spirit who challenged Peter to include non-Jewish people into God's family - making it possible for Gentiles to enter God's church - which includes Mexicans and Americans?
I wonder if we have forgotten who we are - Are we Israel? Are we Gentiles? Are we grateful that Jesus grants us access to this God? To follow Jesus is to accept the offer to be granted inclusion into God's family - a title we don't deserve, nor earn, but gladly receive and live from.
May we have eyes that see children of God, ears that hear their stories, and hearts that are open to new conversations.