When Christians Talk about Immigration

 In Telling a Better Story

By Teanna Sunberg

October 18, 2019

My own immigration journey began four years ago on the dirty floor of a train station where I sat across from a young Syrian couple. Their story of war and the remarkable courage it takes to flee from home were my first steps away from the media-curated feed of the war in Syria. Newlyweds from Homs who had left their city 25 days earlier, they had been married just 28 days. I began by asking, ‘Why did you leave?’ Muhammad* looked at me and answered, “Surely you know?” To my shame, beyond a couple of documentaries and the news, I had no real concept of the war that they had fled, nor their refugee journey, nor the trauma that will shape how they walk through the rest of their lives.

That interview was the first of many to teach me something significant. We watch our favorite news program, scroll our preferred media content, chat over coffee with like-minded friends, and conclude that our opinions have been vetted and are sound. The danger is that we do this from the comfort of our secure life and at the mercy of a news-media machine whose primary goal is not information but the acquisition of money through entertainment. All too quickly, we begin to exist in the echo chambers of our own consumeristic media-choices. A screen devoid of real people and real interaction both mediates for us and insulates us from the wounded hurt of our world. In reality, we have little, if any, true knowledge about the people and the events unfolding beyond our front door yet we have opinions that we are willing to war over.

A screen devoid of real people and real interaction both mediates for us and insulates us from the wounded hurt of our world.

Our chosen absence in the real world of the wounded Other has left us navigating unknown terrain in which civil, respectful, national discourse is in free-fall. We live in an era of heightened fear, somewhat of our own making, that encompasses an astonishingly broad spectrum of issues. As a nation, we are not only divided, we are polarized.

Immigration is a prime example. When the discussion turns to borders and sovereignty, displaced people and the politics surrounding the topic, tempers easily flare and stress levels rise. This is one of the most polarizing debates and it actually exists on a global scale. The topic of refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced people crisscrosses real borders, cultures, and languages, to ease itself into conversations at the dinner table, on our media feed, in our bedrooms, in our classrooms, and into our systems of government.

When the media capitalizes on immigration and turns asylum seekers at our borders into ‘marauding hordes’ and ‘illegals’, those individuals cease to be people in our minds. When the Democrat on the other side of the political aisle is ‘corrupt’, ‘liberal’, and ‘manipulative’, he is no longer John the neighbor who mows his lawn on Saturday afternoon in Bermuda shorts. Somehow, the screen reduces the conversation to bulleted talking points, and that reduces us, the consumers, into an arsenal of toy soldiers on a global game-board. I don’t know about you, but to the best of my ability, I choose not to play.

The first step toward authentic learning about the issues and the real people affected by them are relatively simple.

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search