Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jesus' strategy: Hearts and Minds

Let me start by telling you what you already know.

Today, my home State of Arizona is enacting Senate Bill 1070, an anti-immigrant law which, among other things, tasks local law enforcement with the duty to enforce federal immigration law.

Yesterday, US District Judge Susan Bolton enjoined four provisions of Senate Bill 1070 from going into effect until various lawsuits challenging the Constitutionality of the law can be settled.

For folks all around the country who oppose SB1070, the judge’s ruling is a victory. People outside of Arizona, who never had a say in this bill or even in the legislators who voted for it can celebrate a legal victory. For those folks, the law was neither moral, nor legal, and therefore the court did exactly what it was meant to do: defend the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority! Let the celebrations ensue!

But for those of us who live here in Arizona, legal battles are not enough. The fact of the matter is, many here in our state support this law and a judge cannot rule over the hearts and minds of a community. And this is my community. These are my brothers and sisters, both those being persecuted by SB1070, and those who support it. The folks who speak in broken English about the fear of broken homes that will result from this bill, and those who speak in angry tones about “illegals” and their drain on our society, these are all my people. Here in Arizona, there are no winners in these winner-take-all legal battles, whether they are fought in legislatures or court rooms. We are a broken people.

Fortunately, I believe in a God of broken people. I believe in a God who treks across human boundaries with migrants who care more about feeding their families than legal documents. I believe in a God who offers the powerful mercy and comfort in the face of fear, if they can just find a way to admit they are afraid. And I believe in a God who came down to hear our stories, feel our pain, and offer us a new life, and a new chance to be the loving neighbors and gentle stewards we were created to be.

And so, as much as this bill breaks my heart, you won’t find me protesting today. I won’t be carrying signs or attempting to shout down the voices of power. But you won’t find me idle either. I’m gonna try to listen to some stories today, from folks who need people like me - Arizonans, Christians, human beings like me – to hear their stories. I’m gonna try to talk to folks – respectfully, lovingly, honestly – to folks who don’t always agree with me. And I’m gonna try to pray, and trust that the God who can lead a people out of slavery in Egypt and out of slavery to our own selfish desires can lead my people, my home state, out of slavery to our own fear. In other words, I’m gonna try to give up the short game that makes me feel good about myself but does little to bring love into the world, in exchange for the long game. It takes time to build community with folks you don’t agree with, and even more to love them, and yourself, into the people that God created us to be. But maybe, if we take the time, we can create a world in which everyone wins.

Did I mention that I also believe in a God of miracles?
~brian schlemmer

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