May 29, 2020 Prayer Partner: Respectful Conversations in a Time When Tensions are High
I don’t know if it’s just me – and the friends, family and acquaintances whose interactions I observe on social media – but it feels like tensions are high for many Americans in the midst of the stress and disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the country reckons with the seemingly competing goals of protecting public health and reopening our economy, our churches and opportunities for recreation, socialization and some semblance of normality, many seem quick to choose a side and then dismiss or even besmirch those with a different perspective. It’s not been a good season for civility.
As has often happened at various points throughout U.S. history when the country has faced public health, security or economic threats, some find immigrants to be a convenient scapegoat for our national problems. Immigration was a divisive topic to begin with, and in the midst of a public health and economic crisis, the risks of engaging in conversation with someone whom we suspect might not share our perspective on the topic seem to be compounded. I understand why many avoid discussing the issue altogether.
At the Evangelical Immigration Table, though, we’re convinced that these conversations are as important as ever, because immigration is not just a cultural or political issue: it’s a biblical issue with significant missional ramifications for the U.S. Church. If Christ-followers do not engage in mutually respectful dialogue on this topic – especially with those with whom we disagree – the discourse within the Church will simply mirror the divided state of our society as a whole, devoid of biblical wisdom. As Christians reason together, guided by the Scriptures and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we believe that more common ground on immigration is possible than many might initially presume.
We’ve prepared a new tool that we hope will help you in this regard. A Guide to Engaging in Respectful Conversations about Immigration offers several suggestions for how Christians can dialogue about this complex issue. Because often these conversations hit roadblocks when there is confusion about how the U.S. immigration system works and has worked historically, we’ve also prepared a basic immigration primer with non-partisan facts, definitions and links to additional resources.
As Christians, we are commanded to “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17) – even to those whom we might vehemently disagree. We may not all come to agreement, but we pray – in the midst of these challenging times, when tensions are high – that these new resources might help us to engage in respectful, civil conversations on this often controversial topic.
As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and enter into what is sure to be a contentious election season, would you pray with me that, rather than mirroring or even exacerbating our societal divides, the Church in the United States would model respectful conversations as we think about immigration and any number of other polarizing issues – and that those outside would be drawn in by our love for one another even when we may not always agree.
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table