Featured Reviews, VOLUME 4

Review: Christians at the Border – Daniel Carroll R. [Vol. 4, #5]

035661: Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible

A Review of

Christians at the Border:
Immigration, the Church, and the Bible

By M. Daniel Carroll R.
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2008.
Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

[  EDITOR’S NOTE: Although this book is about three years old now, we didn’t give it a proper review when it came out, and with the coming No Longer Strangers conference on the Church and immigration that we will be hosting, we wanted to take this opportunity to review it…]

Qué el Señor nos illumine y otorgue entendimiento.  May the Lord illumine us and grant us understanding is the prayer the author prays in the opening pages of his writing. I would be so bold as to add “and all the people said, Amen”. Oh that we as God’s people truly had those renewed minds and hearts Scripture speaks of, then we might actually begin to see things as God sees them and not as they are colored by our nationalities, our cultures and our personal agendas.  Christians at the Border is an incredible encouragement to God’s people to be a reflection of the wisdom of God and the humility, grace and mercy demonstrated in Christ in the midst of all the immigration rhetoric.

Daniel Carroll is very clear in stating the purpose of his writing: to help move us beyond our entrenched posturing and simplistic positions that dominate the media and politics and seek a deeper wisdom; to move Christians to reconsider their starting point and develop an awareness of a divine viewpoint. (19) Our Sunday School class at Englewood Christian Church has been reading about and studying the immigration issue for several months now. If we’ve discovered anything, it’s how little we truly understand and how desperately we (as God’s people) need God’s wisdom in this issue.  Our deep thanks to Daniel Carroll for this writing.  He has been a great help in reshaping our thinking and sorting out all the conflicting voices and opinions we hear bombarding us from all directions.

This book is divided into three main areas of discussion:  a general overview and history of Hispanic immigration, wisdom from the Old Testament, and wisdom from the New Testament. Christians at the Border is easy to read and easy to understand while at the same time very clearly addressing many of the questions surrounding the issue.  He writes specifically about Hispanic immigration because of his own history – being the son of a Guatemalan father and an American mother and having spent quite a bit of time in Guatemala.

In his first chapter, an overview of Hispanic immigration, we are challenged to think of the Hispanic immigration as an opportunity – not as an issue or a crisis.  He speaks well to what it seems are the two “driving fears” of the issue on the side of the United States: the economic impact on our nation and the loss of our “Americanness” as those from Hispanic origins enter our culture.  Using the history of Hispanic immigration in the United States, he is able to help us see the big picture, and as he says, to see why the current situation is so “baffling and contradictory.”  He sorts through the misconceptions and media hype and helps us uncover the reality of the situation. Unraveling the muddle, he says, is a tall order and one that will be very messy.  Entering the realities and sufferings of life on this earth is always messy, but as God’s people that is part of our calling and we need to be willing to do that.  The author’s contention is this:  “if Christians want to address the problems posed by the immigration of Hispanic peoples and contribute to possible solutions, then they should do so consciously as Christians and more specifically as biblically informed Christians.”  (62)  God forgive us for allowing our identity as Americans to overshadow our identity as God’s people and our attitudes to reflect those of our culture rather than those of Christ.

In the second and third chapters, Carroll takes us to the Old Testament to uncover the wisdom found there that might help to shape our response to all of this.  What we think really doesn’t matter – what God thinks does.  How does the fact that we are all created in the image of God affect the issue?  What can we learn about immigration and host countries from the travels of God’s people in those early years?    What are some of the reasons people groups immigrate from one place to another?  What did hospitality look like in the Old Testament and what laws governed God’s people in this particular area?  What do all these questions have to do with us today?   The author does a great job putting all these questions into context for us and sharing insights and understanding.

In Chapter 4, Carroll moves us to the New Testament to follow the story and help the church find her place and her role in the opportunities and challenges immigration presents.  The author takes a look at the life and works of Jesus, the whole teaching on hospitality, the instruction on obeying the laws of the land and weaves it all together to help us begin thinking as God’s people – those called to reflect Him – not our culture.  He encourages us throughout the book to move past debate and into dialogue.  With Scripture as our foundation, what an encouraging and hopeful force the church could be in addressing the issues surrounding immigration.

In a couple of places in his writing, Carroll mentions that the title of this book is really a double entendre.  We are obviously faced with the issue of a literal physical border between the United States and Mexico, one that has become a focus of great attention, particularly over the past few years.  But, as God’s people we are faced with a much bigger issue. We are standing at a different kind of border.   As the author very clearly challenges us: will we ignore the teaching of Scripture and form and defend our opinions on other grounds or will we submit to the will and way of Christ as God’s people and display the wisdom of God to a watching world?  In other words “we are at a crossroads of faith and conviction” (23).   The issue is complex but the wisdom of God more than sufficient to speak truth, hope and light into every aspect of it.  May we have listening hearts and spirits! And all the people said Amen.

We here at Englewood are very excited about our conference on immigration planned for this coming April, especially in light of escalating tensions around immigration-related issues in the state of Indiana.  The author of this book, Daniel Carroll, will be our main speaker. Workshops are planned to help us begin tackling this issue together and seeking the wisdom of God.  All are welcome to join us for this time and engage with us in the conversation. Thanks to Daniel Carroll for a great book and for speaking up and speaking out and becoming a prophetic voice to Christ’s church.   May she rise to the occasion!

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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