Friday, October 14, 2011

My Letter to the Executive Director of Morgan County's CCC

I recently stumbled upon an article from a town in Alabama and it was extremely troubling to me. The jist? A para-church organization decided to start enforcing a rule they have apparently had for a long time in regards to the people they will serve at their local clothing and food bank: if you do not have a legitimate social security number, you are not welcome. You can read the whole article here. Of course, this did not sit well with me so I thought I would send a letter to the Executive Director of the Committee on Church Cooperation in Morgan County, Alabama. I thought I would share it here as well.

Dear Gayle Monk,

My name is Bethany Anderson and I live in Fullerton, CA. I know this is very far away from Morgan County, Alabama, but I felt deep in my soul that I should reach out to you and the organization you oversee. We are connected even though we have never met. We both claim to follow the same God. You see, I had to write you because we are supposed to be sisters in Christ, but I am afraid your Christ is very different then the one I have come to intimately know and love. The Christ I know loves and accepts everyone. He stands up for the oppressed. Although He is greatly concerned for all of humanity, He makes it very clear that He has a deep concern for the poor, hungry, sick, prisoner, and stranger. In fact, He says that those that do not show this same love and concern for those that fit any of the descriptions listed will find it extremely difficult to enter the Kingdom of God.

I am afraid you might have missed that part of Jesus' Good News. I am also afraid that your enforcement of a rule that excludes undocumented immigrants from the services you provide will taint the true Good News for others as well. I fear that those who are undocumented in your community have not experienced the transformational love of God and instead, have experienced a god that tells them they are not good enough to receive his love. I am afraid that those who call Christians hypocrites might be proven right. I am concerned that you, your staff, board and volunteers are missing the purest sense of joy, peace and purpose that the Lord blesses us with when we fully participate with Him in His Kingdom. I don’t mean to be rude, but I know for a fact that by consciously choosing to NOT serve and, more importantly, NOT to be in relationship with those who are undocumented, you are missing out on fully being who God intended you to be. I am reminded of the many scriptures in the New Testament where Jesus continuously challenges the Pharisees legalistic mindset. He exemplifies being a Godly rebel by touching those He was not supposed to touch, talking to those He was not supposed to talk to, and healing those He had no business healing, especially on the Sabbath. If we are to truly be like the One who came before us, then what does this rebellion look like in our society? I can’t help but think of the undocumented community as one of the most marginalized, isolated, and hated of our society. When Jesus was here in the flesh, He spent a lot of His time with those who were also marginalized, isolated, and hated. He did this, I believe, mostly because He loved them dearly and partly to show us who we should spend our time with.

I think the work you do is commendable. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and loving the hurting are at the heart of Christian ministry. However, I am very thankful God does not have comparable qualifications for receiving His services as you do for those in your community. Thank God He loves us no matter where we were born. Thank God He died for all of us. Thank God He invites all of us to eat at His table and drink His living water. Thank God we don’t have to show a social security card, proving our worthiness, at the gates of heaven. I know I surely do not deserve the grace given to me, and although I do not know you, I am sure you are grateful for this as well.

If I may, I would like to offer a challenge to you. Would you give one day of your life and spend it with an immigrant, preferably one without papers? I know there are many in your community and if you have trouble finding one who is willing to spend the day with you; maybe you can talk to a local pastor to point you in the right direction. If all else fails, you are more than welcome to visit me in California. We have an extra bed and my husband and I would love to introduce you to our foster son from Honduras who was trafficked here and now is undocumented, or our good friend who was brought here as a young child, is in college, and works with the teens in our neighborhood, or our neighbor who came here with her 2 young children because they were literally starving in Mexico. In any respect, I encourage you to hear the story of an Immigrant. Ask what life was like in their home country. Ask why they decided to come here (if they even had a choice in the matter) and what the journey was like. Ask them what life has been like for them here and what their dreams are for the future. After your day with them, prayerfully consider what you would do if you were in their situation and how God might be calling you to engage.

I fully know how confusing and difficult the issue of Immigration is. I know the laws don’t make sense and that people on both sides of the discussion are passionate. I also know that we, as the Church, have a choice to make. We can choose to be on the side of complacency or even hate or we can stand on the side of understanding, grace, and love. We can be like the Pharisees: too clean to touch the unclean, or we can be like Jesus: the perfect expression of God’s upside down love.

Gayle, you are in my prayers and if you would ever like to converse further on the things I have written, I would be honored. My contact information is included. Blessings to you.


Bethany Anderson