Immigration and Assimilation

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 16, 1 Peter 4

American Immigration

According to Harvard Professor of Sociology Orlando Patterson, the Immigration Act of 1965, which abolished the system of national-origin quotas, “set in motion vast demographic and social changes that have altered the nation’s ethno-racial landscape” [1]. While European immigration declined, immigrants from all over the world flocked to the United States [2]. Today, 12.6% of the total American population is foreign-born [3].

Cultural Assimilation

In many cases, immigrants feel homeless, living in a tension between two cultures. Although they live in the United States, they maintain their old country’s cultural identities, languages, and traditions. After a few generations, however, the tension often dissipates and full assimilation results. According to Patterson, studies report, “[W]hatever the language spoken at home, the children of recent immigrants nearly all come to use English as their first language, and they are as Americans in their attitudes and behavior as their native counterparts” [4].

Christian Aliens

Immigrant assimilation should serve as a warning to Christians. In his letter, Peter refers to Christians as “aliens” [5]. Although Jesus says that we are “in the world” [6], Paul cautions us not to be “conformed” to it [7]. As Christians, our primary citizenship is in heaven, our primary authority figure is Jesus Christ, and our primary law is the Word of God.

Christian Distinctives

Peter offers several Christian distinctives. First, he writes that Christians should be “of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” [8]. We must be alert so that we can stay touch with our foreign king. Second, we must “keep fervent in [our] love for one another” [9]. We must not ruin the camaraderie and unity of our alien community. Third, we must “be hospitable to one another without complaint” [10]. We must create opportunities for one another to feel at home. Finally, we should “employ [our special gifts] in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” [11]. We must be vehicles of grace used by God.

Christ the Immigrant

In Jesus, who was fully human and fully God, we see a resident alien marked by Peter’s Christian distinctives. On the cross, He prays to the King, sacrificially loves His citizens, practices hospitality by inviting immigrants to come home, and gives grace through amnesty.

What about you? Are you maintaining your true identity of our King in these ways – prayer, love, hospitality and grace – or are you assimilating to our culture?

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[1] New York Times, Race and Diversity in the Age of Obama, 14 August 2009. Not only did the European-born immigrant population drop from 60% in 1970 to 15% in 2000, immigration as a whole doubled between 1965 and 1970 and again between 1970 and 1990| [2] David Frum. How We Got Here (2000). See also Study: Immigration Grows, Reaching Record Numbers. USA Today. 12 December 2005 (In the five years after President George W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 2000, nearly eight million immigrants came to the United States – more than in any other five-year period in our nation’s history). | [3] Id. at [1] | [4] Id. | [5] 1 Peter 1:1, NASB, emphasis mine | [6] John 17:11, NASB | [7] Romans 12:2, NASB | [8] 1 Peter 4:7, NASB | [9] 1 Peter 4:8, NASB | [10] 1 Peter 4:9, NASB | [11] 1 Peter 4:10, NASB

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One Comment to “Immigration and Assimilation”

  1. What a great reminder. Thanks, Bethany!

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