Ah, European elections. They present the chance for us to realise we are part of a bigger world and yet too many approach it as an opportunity to shrink their world down, like a pair of Levis in a hot bath.
This small minded trend shows itself when small minded parties claim they aren’t racist just because they want to raise the issue of immigration. I don’t believe them. They go on about how their old neighbourhood has changed and they aren’t comfortable with the newcomers because they have different ways and their food smells funny etc. But they never point their finger at me.
My kids and I were laughing the other day as I reminded them that they are the children of an immigrant. And we worked out that I must be the wrong kind of immigrant.
The wrong kind of immigrant because so far no one has pointed at me (while claiming to not be racist) and moaned about me taking people’s jobs, women or state handouts.
Nobody complains that I came here unasked (well, technically my wife invited me). No one tells my children they should go back to where they came from (Epsom and Croydon) .
I am the wrong kind of immigrant because I don’t speak a foreign language comfortably and so I don’t make them uncomfortable. Okay, I don’t say “Tomato” like the locals, but that is hardly a deal breaker. In fact, I am so invisible when you think “immigrant”, I once mentioned my status in a sermon and a little old lady came up afterwards and told me that I wasn’t one.
I guess I’m the wrong kind of immigrant because I’m not mentioned in the same breath as the “problem” ones. And that can only be down to fear about their race and origin.
Immigration is just one of hundreds of issues where we need to talk like grown ups. It’s jostling with how bad our roads are; how education is poorly funded and has been made too results orientated and legislated too ideologically; how basic services we rely on shouldn’t be put out to tender or expected to be profitable; how energy companies shouldn’t be able to see their customers as cash machines. We need to talk about climate change. We need to talk about what I have the right to demand from society and what society has the right to ask of me.
There is lots to talk about and no one debate or discussion will solve all our problems. Just as no one group are to blame for the mess we are in.
The immigration discussion is always destined to be a poor one (“send ‘em back”) when it is grounded in fear. And I read a bible that tells me regularly to “fear not”. It tells me regularly that if I am afraid of my neighbour then I will find it hard to love my neighbour. It tells me that if I make my nation an idol, then the kingdom of God and its values will always have to wait.
The followers of Jesus are drawn from all the nations and yet belong to none. That gives us the freedom to put down roots wherever we are and be good for those around us wherever we are. We are not called to be fearful patriots or net curtain twitching neighbours.
We are called to be people who are at home nowhere and everywhere.