Monday, April 26, 2010

The Samaritan Savior: immigration, missions, and the foreign love of God (Part 3)

I want to conclude by bringing out four implications, the first two relating to how we see ourselves and see others, and the final two relating to how we live as missionaries.  
First, Jesus comes to us, but as a Samaritan.  We have already seen how this form breaks our tie with our own people.  Our savior comes to us but not as one of us; he comes to us from outside, as an alien.  We have to follow him, but he is not the image of our people.  In fact, he’s closer to the counter-image, the opposite, of everything we pride ourselves in being.  Jesus shows us that our salvation is not tied to the destiny of our people.  We need not make our people “the right” kind of people; nor do we need to assure others that we are indeed the right kind of people.  Our people--our folk, good people like us--will rightly leave us on the side of the road.  They are not our future.  Our hope does not rest in our people, in the strength or goodness or purity of our people.  It rests only in the miraculous help that comes to us, Jesus.  But Jesus comes to us as someone like Tanveer, someone we think our people must exclude.  And if he comes to save us in this form, then salvation means that Jesus comes and breaks our connection to our own people.  Jesus comes to us, but as a Samaritan.

The Samaritan Savior: immigration, missions, and the foreign love of God (Part 2)

We don’t want to hear this.  We don’t want to hear that we are not the saviors but the naked person, covered in blood, bruised and broken, on the verge of death, incapable, lost, without hope and unable to even give voice to our needs.  That is us.  That is you.  We don’t want to hear this word.  We want to look at ourselves and say, hey, I’m a pretty good person; I know what I’m supposed to do as a Christian and I generally do it (and at least I know enough to know that I will fail and need grace).  I’m doing alright for myself, and for others.  I can help my neighbors.  I can offer them my strength.  I can serve them with my wisdom.  I can really help them.  Just tell me who they are, who needs my help, and I’ll go.  

The Samaritan Savior: immigration, missions, and the foreign love of God (Part 1)

Tanveer Ahmad was born in Pakistan, in 1962, the fifth child in a poor family.  As an adult, he made his way to his brother’s store in Saudi Arabia and from there started traveling.  One time, he came over to the U.S., to New York, and fell in love with the city.  He eventually got a visa to come over to the U.S. and headed straight to New York in 1993.  Eventually, as often happens to new immigrants, he ended up in Texas, working at night in a gas station.  The store was in a bad location and was robbed, repeatedly.  During one robbery, he pulled out the store’s unlicensed gun to stop the criminals; the cops came to the store and fined him for brandishing the weapon.  Though he left Texas to work in New York as a cab driver, that incident would continue to haunt him.  It would undermine his attempts to get a green card, especially after 9/11.  Being a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan would make it difficult to renew his visa; having a “disorderly conduct” charge involving a deadly weapon made it impossible.  In 2005, having failed to get proper documentation, Tanveer overstayed his visa.  His roommate had done the same thing with his student visa.  After a raid by immigration officials to capture his roommate, Tanveer was told by these officials to report to immigration.  Tanveer did, where he was promptly arrested and placed in one of the many the detention centers, which currently hold a total of over 500,000 people awaiting deportation.  In this for-profit, private prison, Tanveer suffered a heart attack.  His pleas for medical attention were ignored.  Eventually the guards took him seriously but had to first request permission from their superiors to take him to a hospital.  Tanveer died at the hospital, and became one of over one hundred people who died in custody while awaiting deportation, many of whose deaths are connected to medical neglect, and some to abuse.