KELSEY REED: Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. Our mission is to come alongside you, learning and laboring with you as you disciple kids and teens through culture and current events. I’m Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.
JONATHAN BOES: Hello!
KELSEY: Together, we want to model conversation and apply tools you can use at home or in the classroom. We would love for you to send in your questions for us to address in future episodes. Please send your questions to email@example.com.
JONATHAN: So immigration is in the news again. A few weeks ago, Title 42 ended. This was a pandemic-era provision that allowed the United States to turn away migrants at the U.S./Mexico border on the basis of public health concerns. There was a pandemic going on. But as Title 42 neared its end, migrants flocked to the border. Facilities have been overwhelmed. Families have found themselves stuck in legal limbo. And in the midst of this, there have been new asylum rules coming from the Biden administration. These have also caused confusion. And so once again, we’re faced with all the complexities this issue brings. So what do we, as parents and educators, do with this topic of immigration?
KELSEY: As we begin to launch into this topic, one of the first things that came to mind for me is this discipleship or educational tool we talk about a lot, which is cultural intelligence. And by “we” I mean those of us who are in educational circles. We speak of the need for cultural intelligence to inform our engagement—our civic engagement, our global engagement—as global citizens.
So I want to acknowledge that we work from within a North American context, culturally speaking. It’s a Western culture. It has all the distinctives of that type of cultural surround. For us to develop in cultural intelligence, as those who are embedded in that context, we need to actually be able to recognize the particulars of this culture in which we’re living. This allows us to notice things about ourselves and about others that are shaped within our own context, but also to compare and to contrast, for those who are shaped by contexts different than our own. It’s a chance for us to do both observational and analytical work. So we’ve talked also a lot about emotional intelligence in our episodes to this point, where we are discerning what emotions we’re bringing into any one of our experiences or the news stories we’re hearing. And it’s about coaching our children’s emotional intelligence towards, hopefully, the direction of emotional health. Well, cultural intelligence, or “CQ,” has a similar function, where we’re developing “CQ-self,” or CQ towards the community in which we live, cultural intelligence about our context, and “CQ-others” for those who are in contexts different than our own. This equips us for a more mature, godly response.
And we know a bunch of our listeners are actually missionaries overseas, or who have spent some time overseas in other countries, or may even be contextualized within the country of their birth, but who are listening in to what we’re talking about, which so often is dictated by North American news. We want to actually open an invitation today, for you to stand from that different reference point and speak into our understanding of ourselves. We want to invite you to chime in, share your impressions and insights towards the news we are exploring today regarding immigration. But even if you have other thoughts that come up as we deal with these stories, we’d love to hear from you. We’d love for you to record a voice memo and send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org—if you have a smartphone, it’s a very easy app to find called “Voice Memo”—and practice this methodology we’ve been seeking to model, where you ask: What can I affirm about this posture towards immigration? That’s what we’re dealing with specifically right now, this posture towards immigration that we see within the continental United States. What might we challenge? Or to put it another way: Can you speak a positive or neutral observation for any critical observation that you might have? Here are some more questions to guide you, and we will put them in the show notes:
How do people in your country, the country of your birth, or where you serve or have served, perceive the United States? What do they find attractive? What do they find puzzling or frustrating?
How is immigration handled in the cultural context of the country you have experienced outside of the United States? And how is U.S. immigration law and process viewed by the people of that country?
Again, we’ll post those in the show notes.
JONATHAN: So we often start with observation, looking at the details of what’s going on. We touched on it in our introduction. Title 42 has ended. So the pandemic-era restrictions on immigration are over, which has led to a flood of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border. And now we have new rules coming from the Biden administration, that asylum seekers will have to apply online through an app that itself has had a lot of bugs and issues and has created some confusion. And also, migrants caught crossing illegally now will not be able to attempt immigration again for five years, or else they could actually face prosecution, which is different than past rules, and has a lot of people upset at the strictness of this policy. So that leads me to another observation question, which is: What responses to this issue of immigration are we observing?
KELSEY: Within the states, there are a myriad of responses depending on how people view those that are coming across at the border and what they even know of them. I’m just thinking back to a story that happened early on this year. The border crisis has been so long going that we’ve had many, many stories that have come out. So my child heard the story of the truck in which there were 70 folks seeking asylum, and the majority of them passed away in the grueling journey to seek a better life. Her response to this story was one of pity. And she viewed what was going on there, you know, why? Why would they risk their lives? Why would they do that? You know, what is going on? Those poor people. So I know that in a child’s response, there is some understanding of only a portion of what’s going on there. And in that response, it can be maybe a little bit overly simplistic, you’re just, “Oh, there are poor people who want to come in; we should let them in.”
JONATHAN: And also, I think there’s another simplistic response of, “Well, people are trying to come in illegally, they must just be bad guys.” That childhood simplicity can kind of go both ways. I think, when I was a child, I had a tendency to think in those very black-and-white terms of, “Somebody broke the law; obviously they are just a bad guy; whatever is coming to them they deserve.” Not a lot of grace in that view. And not a lot of complexity in that either.
But I think you also see a simplicity even in grown-up responses to this. I look out at the popular political stances towards the issue of immigration. On one side, I feel like I hear a lot of people who want to paint immigrants, even people legally seeking asylum, as purely a threat, either as bad people or as people who are just going to drain our resources, take away jobs. Or on the other side, as opposed to viewing all migrants as a threat, denying that there could be any threat or strain from just letting immigrants in.
KELSEY: And based on our observations of what’s going on at the border, we see that there are those with a legitimate need. And then there are also those who are legitimately seeking to do evil. We know that sex trafficking is real, that drug cartels are real, that this is a part of the complexity there.
JONATHAN: And that, for a lot of the people legitimately seeking asylum, those are the evils they’re running from. In WORLDteen, we had a story about a mother whose husband was killed by gangs, and now she is seeking asylum at the border with her kids. So, yeah, it’s complex.
KELSEY: Other responses add to the complexity, but sometimes focus and hone in only on one portion of the problem, into the resources that are at the border or in even the surrounding United States. It’s the capacity that has been reached, those who have been lingering in detention facilities, even those who may be passing away from sickness or any number of other reasons why, there are resources that are needing, there are resources that are needful, and that are often limited in terms of truly being able to host those who are seeking a better life. So lots and lots going on, that can be so easy to focus on just one shade, or just a couple of them, when really we need to look at it in a big picture sense.
JONATHAN: And I find that this is one of those issues where politics and Christian worldview can really get muddied up together and mixed. And when I say “politics” in this sense, I mean specifically party politics, or a party’s platform or stance toward immigration, can really start to get mixed up. And there’s even a temptation sometimes, I think, for that to start taking the place of a Christian worldview response to this issue.
KELSEY: I’m glad that you are being really careful about how you define what version of politics you’re talking about. Because I absolutely agree with you that we can opt for party politics, trying to find another way to simplify our response to an issue that we’ll just lump in with or throw our towel in with a certain posture or a certain party. And because of the fact—as we deal with so many of these complex issues with Concurrently—because of the fact that it’s complex in terms of the problem, it obviously deserves a complex answer, and it deserves thinking carefully about our terms. And so I want to define “politics” outside of “party politics” as part of the way we think through what we’re doing here. So if you look up a definition for “politics,” you’ll find there’s like five different definitions under it. It’s complex as well. But politics—when I use what I’m going to suggest is a part of the solution—when we use this sense of “negotiating the interests of multiple parties and navigating complex relationships,” that is maybe the good version of politics that does need to be applied in this situation. And it stretches us in terms of how we, as believers, engage. That seems like a very mature concept, to be willing to negotiate the interests of multiple parties. That lines up with some good discipleship understanding, at least in my view. So it allows us to not necessarily conflate our faith with our party politics, but renews our understanding of what even politics are meant to be.
JONATHAN: Because there’s structure that is good. God ordained the government, and one of the roles of the government is to protect its people. And we’re seeing how that can break down, depending on the resources available, when things are just flooded and overwhelmed. And there is a good sense of politics, like you were saying, in which we create systems so that we can seek the best for each other. But then there’s this other definition of politics, where it’s this party competition, where it can become less about seeking one another’s good and more about seeking power for my group, my party, and seeking protection just for my bubble of people. And that can seep into our hearts in such a way that it blinds us to a level of cultural intelligence, where we stop seeing the needs of other people who are made in the image of God just because they fall either outside of my political party or outside of my geographical border. Because as citizens of the United States, we can think about policies and what’s best for border policy, what’s best for the resources of our nation. As Christians, we understand that no matter where somebody lives, what country they come from, they are made in the image of God and they need the gospel.
KELSEY: It’s the difference in terms of using the political machine as a way for each achieving or even expressing and asserting power, versus looking at the political machine or process as a means by which we move towards consensus, or for the believer, a means by which we express faithfulness. It’s another tool in the hands of the one who’s seeking to glorify God and to love neighbor. So we’re kind of talking about Title 42, within the system of American politics, as a part of understanding the shades of what’s going on, and even the temptations of our hearts. And you know, we’re always going to be touching a little bit on idolatry when we think about a discipleship response. So I’m thinking of control. Already I talked about that. I’m mentioning power, you know, thinking about the ways that we might be trying to provide for our own comfort—as long as we’re good, then we’re not necessarily reaching out and generously taking care of the needs of others. So how do we use the political vehicle as a means for faithfulness instead of a means for serving our idols?
JONATHAN: There was a story I loved from earlier this year, that we covered in WORLDteen, about the U.S. government actually enlisting the help of ordinary people. And this was specifically related to the Afghan refugee crisis. But I think the principles in this story can really apply to this situation, where the United States, instead of just creating more and more government programs, actually worked with citizens and worked with humanitarian organizations to create sponsor circles, where you had neighborhoods and churches and communities banding together to house refugees, provide for them, in some cases helping them with getting a car, paying their rent. So instead of it just being a top-down thing coming from the government, it was actually the government using its power and its ability to coordinate to create space for the faithfulness of ordinary people and faith groups and neighborhoods.
KELSEY: That is just such a lovely article, and we will post that in the show notes as well, because the picture it reveals of the faithfulness of believers using the channels that are open to them, and using the resources that have been provided for them by our Heavenly Father, it is a lovely story. And it transforms the way that I imagine a response. So as we’ve had this conversation, we’ve delved into observation, we’ve done some analytical work. And we’re starting to really draw out what a believer’s mature response looks like. And these are the things to talk of with your children, to draw out, to show those beautiful stories as shaping to their discipleship response. So we commend that story to you, as a part of shaping our imaginations for being those whose citizenship is in heaven, and who were once aliens and strangers, who were called into a kingdom that is a global and beyond kingdom, and one that is welcoming of the alien and the stranger.
JONATHAN: Just thinking in Revelation, we see every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping together, even though there were earthly geographical differences, language differences. We’re all citizens of the kingdom of God.
KELSEY: It transforms us into, instead of thinking of this in a defensive manner, thinking of this as an opportunity, definitely one that follows structures. We want to encourage wisdom. And we want to encourage families to pray for wisdom for those who are on the ground, for those who are able to connect in person with those aliens and strangers. Maybe you are one of those. And we pray for you to have the discernment for engaging in a way that is both generous and wise. But there are so many opportunities here for the true kingdom to go forward into the hearts and minds of men, women, and children.
JONATHAN: And that true kingdom view, that gospel view, addresses our temptation to simplify and to view a two-dimensional or one-dimensional view of the refugee or the immigrant. Because again, there are those political temptations, to say “migrants are a threat; they are bad people,” or to just assume that anybody seeking asylum is essentially a saint. But through the lens of the gospel, we know that the best person seeking asylum is a sinner in need of grace, and the worst person at the border is made in the image of God and also needs grace.
KELSEY: Glorious ruins. A mentor of ours used this phrase, and I think I mentioned it in another episode, but it’s worthy to return to and unpack. But you already unpacked it through what you said, that we are both glorious and ruinous. We both reflect something that only humanity can reflect of the Heavenly Father, and yet we are works in progress, who have held great potential for depravity. We are ruinous without the Spirit dwelling within us. And that is the same Spirit, the same gospel, that is so desperately needed more than entrance into the United States. People need to know Jesus and be welcomed into the eternal kingdom.
JONATHAN: We can seek wisdom for the policy structures that decide who comes into the country or who doesn’t come into the country. But in our heavenly citizenship, the limits of our neighbor love cannot fall along geographical borders. We are called to love. And if we let our concerns about the policies, or our worries about resources, actually interfere with those kingdom priorities, I think that’s when our response begins to fail.
KELSEY: So to shape that response, here are some questions that you might want to explore with your children, towards yourself during self-examination, in your classroom:
How can we begin to see the other, the alien, the immigrant, the sojourner, as a whole person and image-bearer or a glorious ruin?
Where might you explore relationships with those who’ve either spent time overseas, maybe in the military, maybe as missionaries, or have come from a country outside of the U.S.? Ask your children, what are you curious about regarding other people’s lives and experiences? And what questions might you want to ask them?
One of the most disarming ways my family and I have entered into relationship in the past is actually by just asking people about their favorite foods, and what they might miss eating from the country that they hailed from or that they served in. That door just blows wide open into much deeper discussions, where we share back and forth and go deeper into the things that we value, and even what we believe. So maybe even ask: What do you miss about where you spent time before you were here in the United States?
JONATHAN: Those are good questions that, again, lead us away from those simplified political views of the migrant or the refugee, and draw us into seeing them as whole people, as neighbors, as image-bearers.
KELSEY: They equip us to move into relationship, just as God was completely full, in and of Himself relational, Father, Son, and Spirit, and made us for relationship with Him, and sends us out into relationship with one another and to draw more into His kingdom. So move into relationship, maybe by means of these questions or others. Exodus reminds us in chapters 22 and 23, but first from 22:21-23: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.” And then Exodus 23:9: “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
JONATHAN: And all throughout scripture, especially in the Old Testament—in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah—there are provisions and calls such as this, to take care of the foreigner or the immigrant. And there’s a quote I love from a Gospel Coalition article called “The Gospel and Immigration.” The authors of this article say: “While we’re not proposing that we directly apply God’s rules for the nation of Israel to the United States, God’s love for immigrants and others who are vulnerable is unchanging and should guide our contemporary response.”
So there is room for disagreement on how the politics of immigration play out, but that unchanging love God has for those who are vulnerable—that is the thing we can unite around in our response, and everything else can be an outworking of that.
KELSEY: As you work these things out with fear and trembling sometimes, may we remind you again—parent, teacher, mentor of kids and teens, you who are serving in an overseas context, you who are serving near the border, you who are in a sanctuary city—He has equipped you for the work.
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