24 November 2008

christians at the border

M. Daniel Carroll R., Christians at the Border (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).

Daniel Carroll is the best professor from whom I've never taken a class. I became acquainted with him during my graduate work at Denver Seminary, where he teaches Old Testament. And yes, I never had the privilege of sitting through one of his seminars. Where we built our friendship was in the days when I was the general manager for the bookstore and he would come in with his warm and engaging demeanor. And it is from this, and many subsequent discussions, that I can classify him as such.

What makes Carroll unique in his discussion regarding immigration and Christian response is that he comes from both American and Guatemalan cultures. He has never abandoned one for the other and has ministries stemming from both of these backgrounds.

The book itself is a much needed dialogue for American Christians who are seeking to find a way forward through the overwhelming amount of socio-cultural and political rhetoric which surrounds us. One of the main points which emerges in this discussion is the very sad reality that many American Christians have decided to build their understanding and approach to the issue of immigration upon popular cultural and political opinion rather than relying on Scripture. As he references another work in this area, Carroll puts it this way: ". . . the Christian church has lost its way and is captive to the culture" (138). In his attempt to right this ship, Carroll advocates for a movement toward a more biblical understanding of immigration, refugee and sojourner before entering into the political equations (so, go figure that he would want us to look to the Bible first. . .one must wonder what kind of oddball theologian he must really be?!?!?).

After setting forth a few introductory comments, Chapter One gives background and outlines a broad history of Hispanic immigration. Here Carroll also reviews current data and figures regarding the cost (both real and imagined) of undocumented immigrants as well as the contributions of those who have become citizens. Chapters Two and Three then review Old Testament perspectives regarding foreigners, citing portions from Torah, Ruth and such. Chapter Four then turns to the New Testament, focusing mostly on the ministry of Jesus among the Samaritans before briefly mentioning 1 Peter and Romans 13. Chapter Five acts as a summary, conclusion and brief outline for moving forward.

The book itself is quite accessible, both in content as well as size (@140 pages, no pictures though). Carroll has succeeded in providing a primer for those interested in engaging this topic further, and a solid introduction for those who need a compass to navigate through a sea of political lunacy and idiocy which constantly surrounds us. While there are a couple of points where I might question Carroll's conclusions or propositions, they are too minor to introduce here and in no way cause me to abandon his overall thesis and aim. More prevalent is his charge to the church to emulate the repeated calling of Scripture to exhibit hospitality - for this all is God's land and he desires us to care for it and its inhabitants in this manner (98-99ff).

Hopefully this book will continue to spark discussion as it already has throughout the evangelical community and allow us to be followers of Christ first before we are followers of our culture.

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