Journal of Lutheran Ethics Issue Index December 2019/January 2020. Immigration: Moving Forward Faithfully

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Editor's Introduction


Denise Rector, Guest Editor
The Journal of Lutheran Ethics has had several immigration-themed issues in the past few years. As guest editor, I wanted to look at this pressing issue yet again. A fellow student of mine at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Pastor Betty Rendon, was deported in May, shocking many in the ELCA. Pastor Betty was an interim pastor in Racine with no criminal record. Read more.

For Congregational Discussion:
The December/January issue of JLE is dedicated to the topic of immigration. This is a fitting topic for Advent, when Christians think about the coming of Christ into a world that tells his family that there is no room at the inn, into a world where the King wants to kill him as an infant lest he endanger his rule, into a world where the Lord and Master of all must seek asylum as a refugee.   The following quotes and questions might be used to generate discussion about the emotions and reasons surrounding congregation members' views about immigration and how these integrate with their Christian faith at Christmastime. Read More. 



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Learning from the Barmen Declaration of 1934: Theological-Ethical-Political Commentary by Craig Nessan

What can the Barmen Declaration teach us about theological, ethical, and political implications for the political responsibility of Christians in response to the flight, migration, and integration of displaced persons also in our own time?  This essay examines each of the six articles of the Barmen Declaration using a contemporary theological-ethical-political lens.

A Pastoral Reflection of Congregational Response During a Family Separation Crisis by Jonathan “JJ” Lynn

What are some of the issues that arise when a congregation member is affected by deportation? In this article, a pastor describes a church’s response when one of their own experiences a family separation – including raising legal fees, money for travel, and having representation at court. Using scripture as well as pastoral experience, the author discusses how a congregation spanning the political spectrum responded to an immigration issue in their midst.

What are the implications of the term “illegal”? What are the images and tropes that are associated with illegality? Relying on Moltmann’s articulation of the theologia crucis, this essay argues that God’s humanity is found not in the privileged population or those who enjoy wide acceptance and power, but within that population that has been declared outcast and other, and who has been stripped of their most basic dignities. This reading can help the church imagine the creative resistance we have been called into by the Crucified Christ.

How can we reframe our language and experiences to create a community of justice and welcome? In this essay, the author looks at Christians across the rural Midwest to explore questions of immigration and what hospitality can look like in everyday life.

Book Reviews



Book Review Introduction

Nancy Arnison, Book Review Editor

The works reviewed in this issue approach migration through three different lenses — academic, artistic and activist. Professor Laura Alexander reviews Tisha Rajendra’s Migrants and Citizens: Justice and Responsibility in the Ethics of Immigration (2019). Rajendra addresses questions of political philosophy, arguing that Christian ethical thought can enhance global dialogue on migration and prompt Christians to understand their own responsibilities toward migrants. Joy Nelson, a long-time activist for immigration justice, reviews a Lauren Markham’s first book, The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life. This true story follows the harrowing journey of two boys fleeing El Salvador to seek safety in the United States. The book offers both a narrative of personal experience and the contextual information necessary to help readers understand migration facts and policy. Finally, ELCA immigration professional, Mary Campbell, reviews four recent films addressing different aspects of migration: worker rights, the courageous activism of Dreamers, the violence forcing families to flee Mexico, and the environmental destruction caused by the border wall. 


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Migrants and Citizens: Justice and Responsibility in the Ethics of Immigration by Tisha Rajendra

Review by Laura Alexander

Rajendra’s contribution here is to provide a framework which, she argues, helps people and communities think clearly through and sort out their obligations. She calls this conceptual framework justice as responsibility to relationships. This understanding of justice draws on an ethic of responsibility: it is realistic about the political, historical, and social systems people find themselves in, and it requires that people respond in morally good ways to the needs of others within those systems, at both an individual and a systemic level. What Rajendra adds here is an ethical commitment to see clearly the relationships that make up the context surrounding any given person or society; to construct appropriate narratives to describe those relationships; and to accept the specific responsibilities that arise from those relationships. 

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham

Review by Joy Nelson

As soon as I heard about the book The Far Away Brothers I hoped it would deepen my understanding of the causes and perils of Central American flight. I was not disappointed. Lauren Markham tells the harrowing true story of the Flores brothers (names have been changed) who crossed the border in 2013. Her strong relationship with the twin brothers, careful research and interviews, and travels to the brothers’ home in El Salvador yield a compelling book of personal drama infused with illuminating facts and analysis about the push and pull factors for Central American migration as it intersects with U.S. policies.

Recent Films Featuring Migration Themes

Review by Mary Campbell

Four new films offer penetrating and personal looks into various aspects of migration, deepening our understanding of migrant worker vulnerability, environmental destruction from continued wall building, the courageous work of Dreamers, and the shocking and complex violence driving families to flee Guadalupe, Mexico.

Articles published in the journal reflect the perspectives and thoughts of their authors and not necessarily the theological, ethical, or social stances of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.​

© December 2019/January 2020
​Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 19, Issue 6 



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