The Northern Men’s Convention is getting into some hot water on twitter. This year’s convention is headed “Men Standing alone: Holding the Word of God in the Worst of Times.” There are a couple of things making it unpopular. One is its description of the “Gay rights lobby…” I suspect that anything we say that shows a commitment to the Bible’s teaching on marriage” is going to cause offence.
However, this sentence has also been picked up upon.
“Add to this scenario the increasing problems associated with immigration, and Islam in particular and indeed many other things which push Christians further and further to the margin.”
I want to suggest to my brothers in the North that they might want to think carefully about what they are saying here and how it is being read.
A statement about “problems associated with immigration” is liable to be read as a political position on the need for greater immigration control. That’s a legitimate position to take. It’s possible to say that immigration controls should exist whilst also believing that immigrants should be welcomed and treated with respect. However, Christians disagree on what immigration policy should be. I for example am in favour of significant freedom of movement. That’s probably not the type pf debate that Christian Conventions want to stray into.
Secondly, for some people the statement risks being read as “immigrants are the problem.” We have to be careful not just about the exact words we use but how they will get heard in a context.
Thirdly, there are some real problems related to immigration
1. That many immigrants experience racism
2. That many risk exploitation
3. That the church has often failed to welcome and that Christians have been treated as second class in the church and that we end up with a church divided on ethnic lines.
4. That the Home Office’s “Hostile Environment” for illegal immigrants has meant a hostile environment for asylum seekers full stop.
5. That many people are stuck in the system struggling to get justice
6. That multiple generations on, Jewish families face anti-semitism.
7. That the cause of immigration for many is war and oppression.
8. Did anyone mention #Windrush?
It could be that those are the problems thought about. The problem is that unless they are stated explicitly they are not likely to be read in. The phrase “problems associated with immigration” has the problem that it is associated with a certain type of dog-whistle politics.
I would hope and from what I know of my brothers in the North that when they think of “problems” they are inclined to think of those types of things. I would hope -and again assume that the message at the Convention will be: Immigration is in fact an opportunity as God brings people from all around the world to hear the Gospel and enrich our church family life as we prepare for the day when every tribe and tongue will gather round his throne.
I hope so. Maybe the Convention organisers could put something out to this effect (I tried to email them along these lines but my email bounced).
P.S. For a further insight into the challenge here read this by Duncan Forbes which may give us conservative evangelicals further pause for thought about how we talk about immigration.
P.P.S I know quite a few conservative evangelicals based in the North and those I know have a strong commitment to welcoming, loving and serving immigrants and asylum seekers, hence my strong hope that this was a badly thought out bit of wording