Monday, March 21, 2011

IMMIGRANTS & COMMANDMENT EIGHT: DO NOT STEAL


Polytheism amalgamates personality upon which private property hinges. If we all are the "children of God" or if we all are "mankind" and if we allow this terminology to be used connotatively, then very quickly we begin to lose sight of individual personality. One of the dangers of not understanding a true covenantal relationship is the loss of the individual. We see this in national and ethnic stereotypes (I hope we can recognize it in political stereotypes, too). Having assumed that a people group is "this" way or "that" way and after spending time with one or a few individuals of that particular group, we are shocked to discover that they are people just like us! That is NO new revelation. 

Growing up in Germany, the bottom of the totem pole where I lived was the Turk. Even though the Turk looked like a German or Italian, the people group is largely Muslim and, therefore, not European (Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant). In the 90's at a park in Mannheim, Germany, I had a long talk with a Turkish girl who explained to me the scourge of looking European but being Muslim. She described living in Germany as a paranoid experience. She never knew when she would be "found" out. For her, she did not want people to know her because they would eventually discover her heritage and reject her. The cultural climate of Germany was the backdrop to that paranoia. After all, Neo-nazis set fire to a Turk in Berlin that very summer. 

If individual personality is lost then individual responsibility is lost. If there is no responsibility there is no initiative. All three are inter-related. What is the engine of personality? It is that man is made in the image of God and all that means. Moral obligation arises from there. Of course, that is easier said than done especially amongst displaced and disparate people groups. You might recognize an individual to be made in God's image. However, it can be rather intimidating and an obstacle to relationship if he himself does not recognize that he is made in the image of God. Anything less than an appeal to individual responsibility results in manipulation, coercion, blackmail. 

I can use words to align with reality instead of using words to express my dissatisfaction with it. Similarly, we should interact with our immigrant and refugee friends, not for what they can become, but for who they are at this very moment. 

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