Welcoming the Stranger: My Impressions of the First Edition (Part 2 of Welcoming the Stranger Series)

Last week we introduced a new series by Royce Francis, an associate professor at George Washington University and an ESN author. Royce was inspired to learn more about immigration when he attended InterVarsity’s Northeast Faculty Conference last summer, and now he’s sharing his thoughts on the InterVarsity Press book Welcoming the Stranger, as well as some notes about training to run the Baltimore Half Marathon in support of World Relief. You can browse the first post here or all of Royce’s work for ESN here

My Impressions of the First Edition of Welcoming the Stranger… What can you look forward to?

“A New York rabbi taught me a lesson I had never before heard. He said that there is no Old Testament commandment to love your parents, husband, wife, or children. There are only three commands: to love the Lord your God, love your neighbor, and love the alien in the land. Deuteronomy 10:19 gives this third commandment to love and explains why: you were once aliens yourselves.”

-Leith Anderson, Foreword to Welcoming the Stranger, Revised and Expanded Edition

These words from Leith Anderson remind us very well why this issue should be important to us all. We were once aliens ourselves. That is true for almost every American, whose ancestors left their home cultures and everything they knew to make a new life in this land.

However, what is also true for Christians—that is not true for everyone in this land—is that Christians still are exiles and aliens:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your souls. [1 Peter 2:9-11, ESV]

Now, most of us no longer consider ourselves aliens, because we have found a way to reconcile our Christian convictions comfortably with our secular worldview. However, once we come to Christ, having given up everything, having been ransomed from the sinful ways we inherited, we are brought into a new life where things are radically different—where old wineskins will be destroyed by the new wine. Our experience of conversion should help us to be able to empathize with the sojourner and the aliens in our land. We should be able to relate.

Perhaps this is why I felt that Soerens and Yang’s message was so important as I read the first edition of the book. I just felt that so much of what I’d heard on immigration—or any other hot-button political issue du jour, for that matter—completely missed the point. Soerens and Yang are calling us to look at this issue first and foremost through the lens of Scripture, and it starts from the very first line even of the foreword of the book. If you take nothing away from anything I say (and indeed, take my words as mine and not theirs) at least understand that Welcoming the Stranger is a call to take a fresh look at what the Scriptures command concerning how we treat the sojourner and alien among us.

But I have a few other impressions of the prior version I’d like to share. I’ll split my thoughts into two parts: what I’d like to see them keep in the revised edition, and what I’d like to see them expand on or revise. This won’t be a review, and it is not my intent to convey criticisms, as I do not want to be critical. I am also certainly not being unbiased or fully objective. Just my thoughts of what was impressed on me by their efforts.

What I want to see more of…

First, I thought they provided a great compact historical analysis of immigration policy, attitudes, and trends in the United States. I learned a lot from their efforts, especially in Chapter 3.

Second, I thought they gave a thoughtful description of the current bipartisan solutions as of the first edition. What I fail to hear in current discourse are the consensus, bipartisan solutions that are so obviously available after reading Soerens and Yang. In my opinion, not much has changed since 2009 with respect to the need for immigration reform, and Chapters 2, 4, and 8 all touch on the policy problems and solutions that have been discussed to some degree. If you’re used to hearing about immigration policy and immigration reform through cable news, radio, or the press, you may think there’s nothing that can be done. Soerens and Yang show us that there are quite a few thoughtful alternatives—that “cross the aisles” no less—available to us if we are willing to consider them. Perhaps a bigger prayer need for our nation is for God to raise up statesmen who will look beyond their own political fortunes.

And third, though I’ve already hinted at this, there is a strong overview of the Biblical statements—especially from the Old Testament—immediately relevant to the alien and the stranger. You may be opposed to using the passages in the ways they present them, but they are fair in their overview of these passages and the possible interpretations thereof. One thing that they do well is address non-biblical reasons for opposing immigration, and compare those with biblical passages. I don’t think they should add more here, but I do think it’s important to note that often times opponents of illegal immigration are also opponents of legal immigration. Perhaps discussing this aspect of opposition to immigration would be an opportunity, but Soerens and Yang are probably wise not to address this more than they already do.

What I hope the revisions cover…

I understand why Soerens and Yang have to—and do—provide description of the perspectives of those who oppose immigration broadly. They also provide brief overviews of the perspectives of Biblical scholars who oppose increased immigration to the US. I’m not sure that there is deep enough explanation of how these opposing views can also be justified by Scripture, and so I wonder if it isn’t possible to expand the coverage of these perspectives in relation to the Scripture.

Next Steps

If you thought this was interesting, I hope you’ll go out and get a copy of the book. You can also support WorldRelief here by making a donation.

If you’re not quite ready to buy the book or make a donation, but want to hear more, you can watch a talk given by Matthew Soerens at Fellowship Missionary Church in Ft. Wayne, IN in 2013.

Peace and Blessings, and we’ll re-connect next week.


PostScript: Week 1 Training Update

In my experience, I know that not a few academics are drawn to endurance sports. So perhaps there may be an opportunity to exchange notes on training. Let me share a bit about me and my training plan. I won’t write all this every week, but if you want more details, I can share those offline.

Some Things About Me: I’m 36, I look more like an American football player than a road racer weighing a bit over 200#, and this year is the first summer in a bit over 2 years that I’ve been able to put together two weeks in a row running 4+ days per week. Last summer, I was dealing with plantar fasciitis and calf strains that only just now seemed to resolve themselves for me to train. I have run four 10-mile races (my favorite distance, 1:30, 1:20, 1:18, 1:25), two marathons (3:55, 4:20), and two hilly 10-K road races (47:38).

My Training Plan: Based on my experience, I’ll need to run at least 30 miles each week once we get past the first month or so of training. Less than that, I’ll be able to finish the race—kind of—but I won’t be satisfied at all with what I’ll run. The most I’ve ever put together was 55 miles in a week, but I’m not training for a marathon and don’t want to commit that kind of time. I’m hoping for about 8 weeks in a row of 35+ miles each week. I’m using my own modified version of Pfitzinger’s half marathon plans. To keep things simple, I run two hard workouts (two out of three: one long run with fartlek intervals during the second half, one track workout with longer ~4min intervals, or a tempo run), two weight lifting sessions with about 30 minutes jogging afterwards, one run of about an hour, and a circuit workout with some friends on Saturday morning doing calisthenics.

Week 1 Recap: I like to start the week with a hard workout, just so that I know that I’m getting off to a good start. I always end the week on Saturday with a calisthenics workout in the park, and Sunday with no training. So I’m not like most road racers who like to run their longest runs of the week on Saturday or Sunday or both. This is what my week looked like:

M: 2 loops around Druid Hills behind Baltimore Zoo (about 7 miles) + Pullups/Bodywt Squats

T: Weight Training [Heavy Squats and Pullups, ~4 mile jog on treadmill]

W: Circuit Training [20 jumping split squats, 5 squat thrusters, 8 pullups, 15 pushups, 30sec. Jumprope… 4 rounds + 30 min jog on treadmill]

Th: 50 minutes interval training [20 minutes at 10:00/mi, 800/1200/1600m @ 8:00/mi with 0.25 miles jog rest + cooldown]

F: 2 loops around Druid Lake Park (about 8 miles) w/3:00 on 6:00 off fartlek intervals on gentle sections

S: Calisthenics Circuit [Box sprints + 10 rounds of 6 Pullups/10 Cossack Squats or 20 Jumping Split squats/12 pushups/30 seconds jump rope]

In this week, Monday and Thursday would have been my harder workouts, although Friday would have been very difficult as well since the park is hilly. I only did one heavy weight session since I wanted to save my energy more for running. This time around, my focus is on staying healthy, well-rounded, and strong. Dealing with injuries has taught me to write my training plans in pencil, and make sure my longer runs are commensurate with the rest of my weekly running. That means, if I’m only running 30 miles in a week, my longest run should probably only be about 9 or 10 miles (1.5 hours). I’ve also learned that weight training—even if your only resistance is your bodyweight—is very useful at maintaining your athleticism. Unfortunately, running isn’t very athletic, and can do some funny things with your fitness if you aren’t careful. Again, don’t want to spend too much time on this, and next week, I’ll probably just post the workouts in the recap. Drop a comment or a line on Twitter if you’d like to discuss!

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Royce Francis

Royce is an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at the George Washington University. He conducts and teaches under the broad theme “SEED”: Strategic [urban] Ecologies, Engineering, and Decision making. His research and teaching interests include infrastructure sustainability and resilience measurement, risk analysis, and drinking water systems analysis. Royce is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).

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One Comment

  • chykman@yahoo.com'
    Chike commented on August 7, 2018 Reply

    ………..but I do think it’s important to note that often times opponents of illegal immigration are also opponents of legal immigration! That’s the truth!!!

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