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The Resistance Prays

January 30, 2019
By Rev. Benjamin Perry

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This morning, President Trump quoted from his daily Fox and Friends viewing, tweeting “Three separate caravans marching to our Border. The numbers are tremendous.”
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Isaiah 5:20
The migrant exodus is a blessing, not a threat.
Setting aside Fox News’ migrant alarmism and propensity to label even casual pedestrians as “part of the caravan,” the entire mindset of migration-as-threat is patently unchristian, but also blind to the ways that migrants—by subverting immoral boundaries—bring us closer to God’s justice. Migration is an integral part of the human condition, one of the few constants throughout our history. Militarized borders, a relatively recent invention, are attempts to hold back inexorable tides through violence—a quest as futile as it is cruel.
By transgressing a line that should never exist, migrants expose its inherent absurdity. Their existence and self-determination is itself an act of resistance. The borderlands themselves, then, become a liminal space—a place betwixt and between, one that undermines the very premise of fixed categories that only serve hierarchies’ beneficiaries. Far from resisting, or walling off, such movement, we should welcome this upending with open arms—and embrace its ethos in our own lives.

The truth is that physical borders are only one example of an oppressive boundary. Millions suffer amid other rigidly enforced borderlands. Though they are less concrete than the U.S./Mexico border, boundaries of gender, sexual orientation and race—to name just a few—are no less damaging to people who find themselves caught betwixt and between. Welcoming migrants who transgress physical borders may be the first step toward unraveling all these damaging hierarchies.
By exercising this transgressive agency, migrants bear God into our lives, the same God who promises to make all things new. Nor should it surprise us that God should be seen among people who unsettle rigid, forced boundaries. In so many ways, that is the biblical story. The Israelite exodus from Egypt may be the most glaring example, but the rest of Scripture is rife with stories of God rejecting boundaries that ought not exist. Christ, for example, rejects the Judean/Samaritan divide in his famous parable; we even read about Jesus himself learning to see past oppressive human categories in the story of the Syrophoenician woman. Transgressing violent borders is God’s work. It’s high time we viewed it as a blessing, not a threat.
If you want to read more about how migrants’ faith and agency points us toward God, and exposes unjust borders in our own lives, pick up a copy of the new book Borderland Religion: Ambiguous Practices of Difference, Hope and Beyond.
God, thank you for migrants’ courage, faith and tenacity, for the way they force us to recognize how you are moving in our midst. Walk with those who travel; envelop them in your love, wrap them in your holy armor. Open the eyes of those who fear, guide their hearts toward compassion. Amen.
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