Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the conflicting information and emotionally volatile arguments surrounding anything having to do with immigration? I certainly do, despite being very involved (crosscultural marriage, living and working among immigrants) with immigration issues for over a decade.
When witnessing the angry vitriol and bitter division this topic dredges up, it can be intimidating to consider even dipping a toe into the waters of the immigration debate or wading further in we’re already involved, but Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang invite us to do just that in their newly revised and expanded book, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate, and they prove to be trustworthy guides along the way.
I appreciated that the book did not propose easy answers and that it maintained a charitable openness to Christians who have varying opinions on the details of exactly how the US should handle immigration. Their goal is simple: “We hope you will be convinced–not necessarily or which policy to support but at least, as a follower of Christ, that we each are called to love and serve our foreign-born neighbors” (p. 18).
An impressive amount of research has gone into this book, with a whole chapter devoted to a fascinating treatment of the history of immigration in the US, explaining the why behind current realities and helping us better understand the challenges we face as a nation. Statistics and studies feature prominently throughout the book, with the authors using substantial quantitative and qualitative research to back up their ideas.
Soerens and Yang face questions, fears, and concerns about immigration head-on, shedding light rather than adding heat, maintaining a level-headed and informative tone while resisting condescension. They invite skeptics to consider facts, figures, and biblical principles, adding personal stories to make the theoretical practical and to keep their points grounded in human reality.
Even those who have already read the first edition of Welcoming the Stranger published in 2009 would do well to pick up a copy of the second edition–much has changed in the decade since the book first came out, and the authors spend considerable time and effort informing the reader on immigration issues as they stand now in 2018. They have also compiled an impressive list of online resources which people can use to keep themselves continually up to date as things inevitably continue to change in the future.
Welcoming the Stranger is my number one book recommendation to anyone who is wanting to understand immigration-related issues. The only thing that could have made it better is more time spent on the “now what?” and “how?” questions that readers will ask after becoming convinced that they should indeed welcome the stranger (though since the book is already 274 pages, I understand why this wasn’t possible!)
If you’re looking for answers to the practical questions that arise after reading this book, my own book–Loving the Stranger: Welcoming Immigrants in the Name of Jesus–may be helpful. In fact, I think these two books complement each other very well, with Welcoming the Stranger setting up a solid foundation of biblical worldview and factually-informed opinions regarding immigration, and Loving the Stranger offering encouragement and practical tips for building meaningful relationships with immigrants themselves.
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