All posts tagged “reform

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The merits of a symbolic statement on immigration reform

Earlier this week, a group of some 140 evangelical leaders signed a statement calling for immigration reform and laying out some key basic principles they all manage to agree on. That evangelical leaders are making this a priority is good news, though long overdue. And that they agree on basic principles is also good, considering the signatories represent both ends of the evangelical political spectrum, represented by a couple of very different Jims: one at Sojourners and the other at Focus on the Family.

The statement calls for a bipartisan solution to the immigration issue based to these six principles:

  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.

As has been noted elsewhere, the only possibly controversial point is the final one, which many conservatives have opposed in the past for fear it would incentivize entering the country illegally.

The New York Times’ coverage of the statement focuses largely on the Republican Party’s problem with Latino voters, which presumptive nominee Mitt Romney certainly hasn’t helped, but it’s worth mentioning that Barack Obama hasn’t exactly made immigration reform a priority either. Maybe a statement like this from a supposedly important voting bloc will serve to elevate the conversation around immigration reform as election day looms this November. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

I’m glad these leaders got together to sign this statement, and I was happy to add my signature. Honestly, it all seems perfectly sensible to me. But now what? Will this least-common-denominator statement of basic principles be enough to make any real difference? How likely is it that those two Jims — much less Mitt and Barack — will find common ground when it comes to concrete policies that are both compassionate and just? I admit I’m not overly optimistic on that front. Nonetheless, getting leaders from different ends of the political spectrum to agree on something — anything! — is a rare feat these days.

It’s easy to lose heart when considering the sober reality that a statement like this may not actually result in any concrete legislative action. It may, but it may not. Nonetheless, if these principles indeed have biblical support, as it seems to me they do, the statement has merit in itself, as a public declaration by evangelical leaders standing together for what’s right.

If you’d like to add your signature, or see the list of original signatories, you can do so here.

[Photo credit: Jerilyn Forsythe/Cronkite News Service via]

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Repaso: Religion in development, immigration as civil rights, Mayan voter frustration, scavenging for gold in Guatemala, and integrated Latin America policy

1. A ‘devout atheist’ on the role of religion in development
The From Poverty to Power blog, by Oxfam research guru and ‘devout atheist’ Duncan Green, had a post a few weeks ago with an interesting case to make for the importance of religion in international relief, development and advocacy work.

2. New civil rights movement?
The New York Times has an interesting editorial and slideshow on the fallout from Alabama’s “oppressive” new immigration law, suggesting that immigration reform has become a new civil rights movement.

3. Mayan Guatemalans frustrated that their government can’t spell
Guatemalans went to the polls earlier this month for a runoff election in which Otto Perez Molina, a former army general, was elected president. The Christian Science Monitorhad an interesting story leading up to the election about how some 400,000 Mayan citizens have had trouble getting ID cards because of the complicated spelling of their names. Some aren’t buying the government’s excuses, though, saying this is just the latest evidence of anti-Mayan discrimination by the state.

4. A different kind of gold mining in Guatemala
My friend Tomas shared with me this heartbreaking story about those trying to make a living by scavenging through Guatemala City’s landfill in search of discarded jewelry and metal scraps:

At dawn, the scavengers arrive much as if coming to a regular work place. Many are wearing clean, ironed shirts and even whistling. They carry shovels and backpacks filled with their garbage bags, snacks and change of clothes. They leave their dry clothes at an improvised camp and start looking for treasures. Scavenging, which is prohibited by the government, can get particularly dangerous during storm season. The workers say many have died while trying to pick garbage out of water raging through the ravine. Dozens perished one day in 2008 when a mountain of garbage collapsed on them… Still, the “miners” call the dangerous heavy rain “the blessing of winter,” because the increased flow of water improves their chances of finding more metal.

5. Migration & development in Latin America
In October Bread for the World and Church World Service released a fact sheet about the connections between migration and economics in Latin America. Not surprisingly, economic hardship is the number one reason for migration from Latin America to the United States. These two groups are calling for an integrated approach to US development aid in Latin America with domestic immigration reform, which seems like a no-brainer to me. You can’t really address either problem on its own. I’d love to hear a presidential candidate offer a compelling vision for this sort of an integrated approach.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

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Repaso: Remembering Rich Mullins, FoxNews & Lady Gaga in Lancaster, Jewish-evangelical cooperation, Latin American trends, and more

Last week’s Repaso was a day late and a little on the light side, but I think I’ve made up for it here. This week, a dizzying array of cool stuff. Ten items, in fact. Please enjoy, and comment with any thoughts.

1. Remembering Rich Mullins
Veteran Christian singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson has a reflection for The Rabbit Room about the late great Rich Mullins, who passed away 14 years ago this week. Rich’s record A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Raggamuffin Band is in my all-time top five albums. It is sheer magic.

We rounded the bend at sunset and there before us stood those craggy Tetons, all gray stone with white snow tucked into the fissures. The clouds were gold with sunlight and long, misty fingers of rain dangled from them, caressing the peaks and the aspen- and fir-covered shoulders of the range. Who else but Rich Mullins could write music that would adequately suit a scene like that? I demanded the iPod, selected A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, and we drove the next forty-five minutes without speaking. We weren’t speaking because we were being spoken to.

2. Eugene Peterson interview in Leadership Journal
Katie is reading Eugene Peterson’s new memoir The Pastor, and I’m getting more and more excited to read it too with each little excerpt she reads to me. In this interview I was reminded of so many of the reasons I love Peterson. For example, this:

My task as pastor was to show how the Bible got lived. Of course it’s important to show that the Bible is true, but we have theologians and apologists for that. I just accepted the fact it was true and didn’t bother much about that. I needed to be a witness to people in my congregation that everything in the Bible is livable and to try to avoid abstractions about big truths, big doctrines. I wanted to know how these ideas got lived in the immediate circumstances of people’s lives at work, in the town, and in the family. The role of the pastor is to embody the gospel. And of course to get it embodied, which you can only do with individuals, not in the abstract. And so that’s why, for me, a small congregation was so essential. It enabled me to know the people I was preaching to, teaching, and praying with.

3. FoxNews visits Lancaster
If we needed any “fair and balanced” convincing that Lancaster really is a hip destination (if Lady Gaga’s visit didn’t do it for you), here you go! My roommate’s mom even gets a shout-out for good measure.

It’s a Saturday afternoon in the Prince Street Cafe, a coffee-and-sandwich spot in Lancaster, Pa. A couple in their 20s canoodle on a plush leather couch by the fireplace. A 30-something in thick, black-framed glasses punches away on a laptop between bites of a green salad topped with quinoa, and a college-age girl with a brunette pixie doodles in her sketchpad. It comes as a bit of a surprise, then, when you wander upstairs to artist Julia Swartz’s gallery and find a series of portraits depicting local Amish men-straw hats, serious-looking black suits, and all. Here at the Prince Street Cafe, it’s easy to forget you’re in Amish Country.

4. Plastic school in Guatemala
I blogged about this school in Guatemala built using discarded bottles back in April, and this is a cool update from GOOD:

A plastic school might sound like it’s better suited for Barbies than for people, but the technology—developed by the Guatemalan nonprofit Pura Vida—is actually quite clever and allows for schools to be built for less than $10,000. The plastic bottles are stuffed with trash, tucked between supportive chicken wire, and coated in layers of concrete to form walls between the framing. The bottles make up the insulation, while more structurally sound materials like wood posts are used for the framing.

5. A Jewish view on evangelicals
USA Today has an op-ed by Mark I. Pinsky on “the truth” about evangelicals:

If, as Jews, we replace the old caricature of hayseed fundamentalist mobs carrying torches and pitchforks with one of dark conspirators trying to worm their way back into political power at the highest levels, we run the risk of accusing them of doing to others what we are doing to them: demonizing. We didn’t like it when people said we had horns and tails, ate the blood of Christian children and poisoned the wells of Europe with plague, much less conspired to rule the world through our Protocols. “Evangelicals in the main want the same kind of common-sense solutions and moral integrity as other Americans,” [Rev. Joel] Hunter says. “We do not want to use political means for our faith’s advancement; we just want to vote our values and leave it at that.”

6. Entrepreneurs more likely to pray
A few of my friends working at the intersections of business and faith tweeted or shared this story. Interesting findings:

Entrepreneurs behave just like most Americans when it comes to religion — but with one spiritual twist. They’re significantly more likely to pray several times a day or to meditate, says sociologist Kevin Dougherty, a co-author of the Baylor Religion Survey. The survey can’t answer whether prayerful, peaceful folks are more likely to take a business risk or whether the stress of a start-up drives folks to their knees or to the lotus position, Dougherty says.

7. Nicaragua and the Ortega family
One of my favorite places to go for news and commentary on Latin America is the Central American Politics Blog by Mike, a professor at the University of Scranton right here in Pennsylvania. He shared this video from Univision about how Daniel Ortega’s family and the Sandinista party have taken control of the Nicaraguan media, and by extension, have ensured they will be in control after November’s elections and for the foreseeable future.

8. Social networks in Latin America
Stephanie Garlow, who runs GlobalPost’s Latin America blog, has some interesting info on social media popularity in the region:

There’s a whole wide world of social networks out there, and Latin America isn’t missing out on the party.
More than 95 percent of internet users in Latin America now use social networks, up 16 percent from a year ago, according to a study by internet analysts comScore.

9. Jewish support for immigration reform
M. Daniel Carroll R., a Guatemalan-American professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and author of the important book Christians at the Border, has a blog post on the increasing participation of the Jewish community in working for immigration reform and their reasons for involvement:

As I have spoken to these Jews about their reasons for joining the “cause,” two primary reasons have been given me. One is that their own history for many centuries as a people has been one of migration and persecution, so it is fitting that they come alongside of other immigrants. Second, they have a long experience with discrimination, caricatures, and hate speech, and they are seeing that phenomena surface now against immigrants. They feel that they cannot defend their own rights if they do not speak out for others, who are experiencing the same thing.

10. Andy Kristian’s micro-finance video
I’m meeting with my friend Andy this morning to discuss a cool project he’s working on. This is some rough (but beautiful!) footage he put together during a recent trip to Northern Uganda. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

Short video on Micro-finance from andy kristian on Vimeo.

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The President’s immigration speech

Photo courtesy of The White House

Yesterday in El Paso, President Obama gave a speech on “building a 21st century immigration system.” Although immigration reform is a divisive issue for some, seemingly everyone agrees that the status quo isn’t working. So I’m glad that Obama is bringing the issue back into focus, and while there’s not much indication this will happen, I sure hope it may signal a new beginning for constructive, healthy, bi-partisan debate that will lead to real results that work both for our immigrant families and for our country as a whole.

For thoughtful, Christian perspectives on the immigration debate, I’d recommend two books:

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, both with World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible by M. Daniel Carroll R., a Guatemalan-American seminary professor and author.