News and views from the award-winning author of the Class H Trilogy: AMERICA LIBRE, HOUSE DIVIDED and PANCHO LAND

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Immigration issue brings liberation theology to the U.S.

When most of us think of liberation theology, we picture Roman Catholic clergy standing up to repressive strongmen on behalf of the disadvantaged in Latin America. These audacious men and women have at times paid with their lives in speaking out against governments where death squads and “disappearances” are a fact of life.

But there is a new face of liberation theology. And it has surfaced inside the United States in one of the least likely places: Arkansas.

The new Bishop of Little Rock, Anthony B. Taylor, has taken a daring stance on the immigration issue. In his first pastoral letter released on November 5, Bishop Taylor declares that all humans have “the right to immigrate when circumstances so require.” In the Bishop’s 64-page letter, Taylor explains that immigration is an economic necessity. It provides labor in nations where it’s needed, like the United States, and alleviates suffering in poorer countries. He quotes the U.S. Declaration of Independence and biblical scripture to make a moral and legal case for banishing laws that restrict immigration. “Unjust laws create disrespect for the rule of law, when people must evade the law in order to exercise their basic human rights,” the Bishop writes.

"Parents are obligated to protect their children and provide for them," Taylor explains. "The Church does support those who have no other alternative in the exercise of their basic human right to immigrate when circumstances so require," the pastoral letter concludes.

Needless to say, this bold assertion has already stirred criticism from the nativist fringe.

“It is not Christian to be a useful idiot of evil,” wrote Kenny J. Wallis, president of Keep Arkansas Legal. "Someone do a background check to see if this Bishop is a Pedifile [sic]," was posted on one nativist website. Another blogger characterized Bishop Taylor's theology as "a card-board cut-out lollipop and sugar plum Jesus."

As word of the Bishop's letter spreads, expect the backlash to grow more vehement.

Taylor's pastoral letter is titled “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me.” It will be enlightening to see how those who oppose immigration and still call themselves Christian will respond to the Bishop's compassionate stance.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez