I just returned from conducting training at the EthneCity Conference in NYC. My part was on Urban Mapping and Exegeting a City. A major aspect of the training was sending participants out to encounter people different from themselves. NYC has major pockets for such encounters. The best way to exegete a city is to get out among people groups, the foreign population, and the new immigrants to the USA.
The results of the 2010 US Census have recently come to our attention. Over the past 10 years there has been a sharp rise in foreign born populations migrating to the USA.
Predominantly located in the larger urban areas, these new arrivals to the USA come for a variety of reasons. Some come as refuges, escaping harsh conditions or political regimes. Others come to find a better life and live the American dream. While others come for educational purposes. No matter the reason, it is factual that the USA and its culture is changing. We are quickly becoming multicultural.
I was in a church not long ago and someone remarked, “What are we going to do about all of these foreigners coming to America?” I immediately spoke up and said,
Have we ever thought that God, in His providential timing, is bringing these many different peoples from many different cultures who speak many different language for a reason? Maybe, He is bringing them this direction so that we can easily with no restricted access issues to deal with proclaim to them the words of Romans 10:13.
Paul says, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13). There is something beautiful about the word “whosoever”. The beauty must be in its universality, its lack of exclusiveness. “Whosoever” is always used when describing God’s salvation. John says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Francis of Assisi once collapsed beside the road due to lack of nourishment. The two men who found him were wealthy and educated. They spoke in scholarly language of Latin. Not knowing that Francis would understand Latin, one said: “Just leave him here. He is worthless anyway.” To this Francis responded, “Call no man worthless for whom Christ died.” Men say certain people are of no value to the world and are but a burden on society, but God says “whosoever”.
One of the worst feelings in the whole world has to be the feeling of being excluded when we want to be included. All of us have experienced exclusion. It happens everyday. (At school with youth, at work, everywhere.) On the playground of any school or park there will be a child playing alone while others are playing together. At any college you can find students who are dorm hermits, never leaving there room, who seem to have no friends and no involvement in any social activities. All of us have felt like we should have been invited to some event when we were not. Or, included in some committee when we were not. And, etc., etc.
Sometimes I think we Christians are too prone to be like the rest of the world. We oftentimes exclude others when we should be including all. The Bible in Colossians 3:11 says “there is no difference between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Salvation is for all mankind. It is unique because of it’s comprehensive nature. All people can have it.
It might very well be that God is bringing people to us so that as body of believers in Christ we not convert them to be all that Americans are but all that it means to be in Christ.
Speaking of our homeland, the USA, on my last two trips back to the USA from Asia, the flight was full of Burmese as a part of the International Organization of Migrations. All indications do not foresee a decline in such migrations of people from other countries to the USA.
Just by visiting any metropolitan center or medium size town, one could easily realize that the USA is increasingly becoming a country with a foreign born population. Throughout American history, the foreign born have migrated to the USA in some cases for bettering their life economically and in other cases for asylum from political upheaval and persecution in their land of birth. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform,
The 2000 data showed an increase of 210.1 percent in the immigrant population since 1990, which compared with a 6.5 percent increase in the native-born population (which includes children born to immigrants) over the same period. That meant that immigration accounted directly for 45.4 percent of the overall population increase of the city.
Recent census estimates predict that in the past ten years (2000-2010) the percentile of increase is even higher. Current immigration policies are contributing to such an influx of the immigrant population with certain towns becoming initial hosting centers. To name a few, Nashville (Tennessee), Louisville (Kentucky), Ft. Wayne (Indiana), Boise (Idaho) and Manchester (New Hampshire), all medium size towns, are serving as the main reception centers for refugee programs. Moreover, larger metropolitan areas, such as Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas), Houston (Texas), etc., are experiencing an influx of foreign born populations. Consequently, the USA is increasingly becoming socio-cultural-religious diverse.
Although the USA is increasingly becoming multi-cultural, culture often tricks us to continue in relating to people who we are more similar culturally than those who are culturally different. To illustrate, in 1957, Alicia Iwanska, a Polish anthropologist, wrote a paper entitled “Some American Values” for the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Chicago. She described her observations upon an American farming community and then made some generalizations. She said that for the farmers on the large Western farms the universe was divided into three categories.
- Landscape – included the distant mountains, the trees, the scenery, the environment of the farmers. The farmers looked at it, they enjoyed it in a disinterested sort of way. It had no high emotional content for the farmers. Strangely enough included in the landscape were also the American Indians because one could look on them with curiosity yet never actually engage them socially.
- Machinery – included the farmer’s machinery. They polished their machinery, the cared for it, and it had high value to them in that they rated it in terms of its productivity. Strangely enough included in the machinery for the farmers were the Mexican migrant workers because their value lay in their productivity.
- People – included the farmer’s neighbors, people who were like themselves. They were people that the farmers grew up with and died with.
We can easily make the same value judgments. We could easily look upon some people as landscape and others as machinery. Basically, living within our mono-cultural environments, we could let the new wave of migrations pass us by without ever realizing that they are mere landscape and machinery. So, what of our homeland . . .