Sojourners: Illegal Hospitality, A Church’s Guide to Civil Disobedience

In light of the current controversy over H.R 4437, the so-called “immigration reform” law that could potentially make it a felony to assist, house, or aid an illegal immigrant, here is this timely story from Sojourners Magazine Online:

by Melissa Bixler
SojoMail 3-29-2006

A few weeks ago I read about my friends Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove being arrested. Clothed in sackcloth, the Old Testament symbols of grief and mourning, pictures in the paper showed the couple on their knees outside the Raleigh-Durham Central Prison protesting the execution of inmate Perrie Simpson. Images of my friends being led away in handcuffs gather in my mind alongside other historic moments of resistance: sit-ins in Greensboro, Buddhists monks torching themselves in protest of the Vietnam War, and the chants and dances of anti-apartheid demonstrations in South Africa.

Recently I’ve added a new and unusual image. Abram and Sarai, the mother and father of Israel, are now planted in my imagination as possible protestors and rabble rousers. Their act of potential civil disobedience is found in Genesis. Abram’s welcome of three strangers is the quintessential hospitality story in the Bible. It is marked by a flurry of activity as Abram rushes about ordering food, cleaning up the tent and entertaining the mysterious newcomers.

But Abram welcomes the three without knowing where they came from or where they are going. He asks for no identification and requires no answers about the strangers’ country of origin. As such, if Abram lived in the U.S. in 2007, these actions would have made him a potential crime suspect. If the strangers turned out to be undocumented workers a bill passed by the House in December would have allowed law enforcement to arrest the holy couple for harboring illegal aliens.

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