Friday, September 18, 2009

The LORD watches over the stranger (Ps. 146:9)

Slacktivist with another good post, on the topic of that form of trespassing more commonly known as illegal immigration, and why no one likes to call it "trespassing":
The main reason that none of these Very Angry, Very Scared people wants to use the word "trespass" is that it reminds them of church.

There's this prayer we Christians say in church, at every service, whenever we get together. We recite it in unison, usually, and we've all got it memorized. We call it "The Lord's Prayer," because Jesus himself taught it to us and told us to pray it. Sometimes we call it the "Our Father," since that's how it starts.

Most of this prayer is comforting and reassuring, like the 23rd Psalm. "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray. "And deliver us from evil." Daily bread and deliverance, that's nice.

But then there's this other phrase which, when we listen to ourselves saying it, is the scariest part of any given Sunday. "Forgive us our trespasses," we pray, "as we forgive those who trespass against us."


Think of Wilson and the rest of the "take back America" crowd praying this prayer in tens of thousands of nominally Christian churches across the country. Think of them praying this prayer on behalf of "their" country: "Forgive America its trespasses as America forgives those who trespass against it."

If those are the conditions -- and they are -- then we're screwed. Our own words, our own prayers, condemn us.
To which I would add a few brief addenda (perhaps also relevant to a certain other nation state that has quite the problem with "trespassing"):
You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exod. 22:20)

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exod. 23:9)

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:33-34)

Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment (Deut. 1:16-17)

Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more. For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:16-19)

Cursed be he who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deut. 27:21)

This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as a heritage for yourselves and for the strangers who reside among you, who have begotten children among you. You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel. (Ezek. 47: 21-22)
Or, less fancifully:
The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the stranger without justice. (Ezekiel 22:29)

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