Going through my emails this morning, I came across an article from CNN titled “Denmark plans to isolate ‘unwanted’ migrants on remote island.” The uninhabited island was once used for contagious animals. These unwanted migrants have “tolerated stay” status and include those who cannot be deported because their lives would be threatened, those who are set to be deported due to criminal activity or national security reasons, and those convicted of breaking certain laws.
Inger Støjberg, the Danish Immigration minister, stated on Facebook that certain people “are unwanted…” and “When you are unwanted in Danish society, you should not be a nuisance for regular Danes…” Martin Henriksen, DPP immigration spokesperson, has said “We are doing what we believe is in the best interest of Danes, and if it comes down to choosing whose interest to protect — then we will take care of our own first…”
Those in American who believe in the slogan “America first” and see tear-gassing and separating children from parents as legitimate ways to deal with migrants seeking asylum in our country may applaud the efforts of the Danish to “protect” their citizens from undesirables. Many of these Americans identify as Christians (often as Evangelical Christians) and see migrants and other people who are “different” as a danger to American and Christian ways and values. Other Christians who disagree with this perspective cite the Bible as advocating caring for the stranger and extending radical hospitality to all people. Who is right?
Brian McLaren in his book The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian offers a way to see these two conflicting viewpoints. Chapter 5 of the book defines five concepts of God:
- God 1.0 is a primal trust in a God who takes care of you, as an infant sees their parents as there to satisfy their needs.
- God 2.0 includes the concept of God as someone who satisfy your needs but also introduces a God who calls you beyond selfishness to generosity, as a toddler is learning to share and consider the needs of others.
- God 3.0 is a concept of God that includes a God who meets your needs and calls you to generosity but adds the God of rules and fair play who rewards and punishes. As children grow to adulthood, they realize the need to obey the rules.
- The concept of God 4.0 is a God of love, sacrifice, and humility which inspires adults (who may marry and have children) to see their life as “a journey of learning new and deeper expressions of love.” But God 4.0 isn’t enough as it is a God “who shows favor to us but not them.” God 4.0 “leads people to affection, fidelity, and forgiveness in family, community, and nation – but only for people from our religion, ethnicity, or tribe.”
- God 5.0 is “a God of the inclusive we, the God not just of us but of all of us. Only a bigger, nondualistic God can unite us and them in an inclusive identity that is not limited to a tribe or nation, but that extends to all humanity…” and to all living things.
Although the details and chronology may be off a bit, looking at a traditional scene of the birth of Jesus can give us inspiration as to who God wants us to include in the Kingdom. The center of the scene is a helpless baby who contributes nothing tangible to society and requires constant care and self-sacrifice. Yet babies bring us joy and love, things which we cannot put a price tag on. The baby’s parents are poor peasants, part of a subjugated people who will later (as they flee to Egypt) be refugees. The shepherds’ occupation made it hard to maintain religious purity and keep the Sabbath; they also spent most of their times away from society and out in nature. The Magi were probably not kings, but they were foreigners and likely adherents to another religion than Judaism. Finally, we see the animals as part of the scene, because God’s Kingdom includes all of creation. To my mind, the birth of Jesus depicts God 5.0 and calls us to seek a more inclusive concept of God than most of us have had in the past. What do you think?