Dr. Steve Pavey published a theological reflection on the immigrant youth right’s movement in the May/June 2011 issue of ESA’s PRISM magazine. The article, “Out of the Shadows and Into the Light,” begins with a question asked by Howard Thurman in 1948:
What do the teachings of Jesus have to say “to those who stand with their backs against the wall?” asked Howard Thurman when addressing the African American experience of racism and violence of the 1940s. His answer and challenge, in his Jesus and the Disinherited, shaped the civil rights movement. The good news revealed in the teachings and life of Jesus is, wrote Thurman, “that fear, deception, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.” Jesus reveals the power of love, for self and others, that enables us to overcome relations of inequality that are perpetuated by fear, deception, and hate.
Fast forward 60 years to today’s growing nativism, xenophobia, and violence surrounding the presence of immigrants in the United States, and Thurman’s analysis of the lives of the disinherited is equally compelling here and now to those who have their backs against the wall. The experience of inequality and violence among immigrants is exacerbated for the 11.8 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Nearly 20 years ago anthropologist Leo Chavez described the “shadowed lives” of undocumented immigrants. With the growing public antipathy and the media construction of the “Latino threat,” living in the shadows remains an apt description and continues to be marked by the same fears and survival techniques of deception described by Thurman.
Steve ends the article with this missiological challenge:
“For us, the privileged and powerful, a radical conversion will mean discerning Jesus in the disinherited undocumented immigrants in our midst. We must repent of our anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy, seek a conversion of the broken immigration system that persecutes the immigrant community (in whom Jesus himself dwells), and begin to walk with our marginalized brothers and sisters, joining them in the light–– even as they experience a conversion from fear to freedom.”
2011 PRISM – May.June.2011