Welcome doesn’t have to mean citizenship

To the editor:

The Roman Catholic bishop of New Ulm normally addresses his words of spiritual guidance and instruction to the members of his own church. This past Sunday, however, he ventured beyond that sphere and offered spiritual guidance to the general public through The Journal’s editorial page (“Plight of Immigrants Demands Response”).

In his article the bishop refers to comprehensive immigration reform as a “moral imperative.” This implies that anyone who objects to comprehensive immigration reform is acting in an immoral manner, is violating God’s will. He bases this opinion on “the biblical moral principle found throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, namely, to welcome the stranger in our midst.”

It is certainly true that a number of passages in the Bible urge God’s people to treat the stranger and foreigner well. Strangers and foreigners have always faced special challenges, and will always be in need of our kindness and generosity.

To imply, however, as the bishop does, that treating the stranger well means that we must grant him citizenship, is to go beyond what the Bible itself says. The Bible offers no advice to the governments of this world as to what rules and norms should govern their citizenship policies. Our country is under no “moral imperative” to grant citizenship to anyone.

It is interesting to note, though, that while the Bible says very little about citizenship laws in the countries of this world, it says much about how one becomes a citizen in the kingdom of God. The focus of the Bible is on bringing those who were strangers and foreigners, having no hope and without God in the world, and making them fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God through faith in Christ.

That citizenship, in the end, is the only one that matters.

Michael Thom

New Ulm

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