Jay Bell, who for many years led the Internationals USA program, continues to take a look at immigration from a biblical perspective. He currently serves as mobilization pastor at the Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church (Bruce Barlow, lead pastor), where he passionate about reaching everyone for Jesus Christ.
The word marginalize means to treat (a person or group) as insignificant or peripheral. As you read U.S. history during the height of immigration (1892-1954), you will see how groups of people were marginalized.
For example, take the Irish. Today about 34 percent of Americans trace their roots to Ireland or about 11 percent of our population. The reason is that about one million emigrated from Ireland in a seven-year span (1845-1852), causing Ireland’s population to drop between 20-25 percent. Many fled to Boston, and in one year Boston’s Irish population jumped from 30,000 to 100,000. Looking for labor, many Irish turned to servitude – 70 percent of servants in Boston were Irish immigrants. Many Bostonians believed the Irish were a servant race – marginalization (Click here to read more about the Irish in America.). But attitudes have changed. Today, some of us celebrate the Irish influence through Notre Dame football. Go Irish!
Not only are new people arriving in America marginalized by language, culture, customs, clothing, food, etc., at the same time we can marginalize them by our attitudes. For example, I’ve heard the dismissive characterization “Those people.” At the same time, using possessive language people say, “This is my country” or, “They are taking over our country.” I’ve often reflected if my relatives were marginalized when they entered America not speaking English and dressed in their native attire.
Over the years of seeking to mobilize U.S. churches to accelerate the Great Commission among the nations “on our doorstep” through the ministry of Internationals USA, under the auspicious of Encompass World Partners, I’ve heard many marginalized attitudes. As you read through the list (and chuckle at some of them), ask if these attitudes reflect the passion of God’s heart who “so” loved the world and demonstrated His love even when were aliens and strangers, even enemies.
- Why, in the world, are there so many languages? (Currently, there are 7,472).
- I don’t think it’s good to mix so many languages together in one place!
- Why can’t everyone in America just speak English?
- Why do I have to listen to an airport announcement in Spanish in the “heartland” (Indianapolis) while waiting to fly on an American airline?
- Frankly, I don’t like people from other cultures and languages! (You may not like heaven!).
- We’re losing our country!
- I don’t want to “Press 1” to continue my phone call in English!
- What about “inter-racial” marriages?
- Why does a product catalog have to come in multiple languages?
- This is my country and “those” people are taking it over!
- Do you know how hard it is to understand somebody with an accent through a “fast-food” speaker box?
- And I don’t like my “fast-food” order messed up because the person taking the order doesn’t speak English good (pun intended).
- I want to be able to understand the person when I call “tech support.”
- I could barely understand my college science professor through his thick accent!
Yes, when people of differing languages and cultures come into proximity, there will be inevitable cultural clashes. That’s a given. Instead of reacting, we should respond as Jesus did when he looked upon the masses with compassion, knowing that men and women from “every tribe, language, people, and nation” would comprise His body thus fulfilling the promise He made to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 and used as an illustration in Hebrews 6:13.