Our God is Undocumented

Our God is Undocumented

Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice

Ched Myers & Matthew Colwell, Orbis Books

One simply cannot read the Bible and not notice the ever present call to hospitality and welcome of the stranger. It is one of the central themes of both the Old and New Testaments.

How, then, does that theme apply when we consider the question of how we as a nation should approach the question of people arriving undocumented on our shores?

This book is extremely relevant in Australia at this time, given the recent hardening of both the government and opposition positions on the handling of asylum seekers arriving by boats.

In alternating chapters, Ched Myers, an American theologian specialising in biblical studies and political theology, explores the biblical dimensions of heterogeneity, hospitality, sanctuary, the crossing of borders and God’s preference for those on the margins; while Matthew Colwell, a pastor ministering in Pasadena, provides profiles of contemporary practitioners of immigrant justice giving us a glimpse into the lives of immigrants and immigrants’ rights activists.

Themes include diversity, churches without borders, embracing “otherness” and defending human rights.

While some themes, such as policy reform and recovering cultural history, are less relevant because the book is written from the North American perspective, there is certainly enough in the book which speaks into the Australian context.

The authors remind us of Jesus’ consistent practice of hospitality and that we follow a refugee Christ, whose family fled to Egypt to escape political persecution.

Similarly, the people of Israel fled to foreign lands in times of economic and political hardship and the Torah compels the Jews to treat the “sojourners” in your midst with dignity and justice.

In fact, the book asserts that “from beginning to end, God too is portrayed as entering our world in the guise of a stranger in need of hospitality”.

This book is a rich and thorough exploration of the scriptures and what they have to say about the principles of sanctuary and prophetic hospitality. It would make an excellent study book for anyone wanting to take seriously the call to follow Jesus the Christ in our world.

Karyl Davison

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