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Asking the clergy: Should congregations be involved in immigration and other secular issues?

Pastor Justin Lathrop, Ascension Lutheran Church, Deer Park:

As is the case in many complex issues, the answer is yes and no. As a Christian, I look to the example and ministry of Jesus for guidance on these matters.

In his ministry, Jesus always focused on those who were marginalized in society. Whether it was because of race or gender, sickness or poverty, Jesus always reached out to people the rest of the world ignored. As people of faith, we are to act accordingly. We are called to speak for those who can't speak for themselves.

However, we must be careful in our pursuits. While Jesus was certainly outspoken to those in authority, he also was careful not to get caught up in the political process. We, too, always should be conversing and working with our elected leaders to strive for justice and care for those in need, while maintaining separation from our secular government.

Pastor Haiko Behrens, Ascension Lutheran Church, Franklin Square:

The Bible teaches support and protection of the weak - and being an immigrant myself, I can say that immigrants are weak and often subjected to procedures they have little or no control of.

I have become a U.S. resident only with the involvement of my congregation; and we have other immigrants in our midst who went through the (sometimes painful and, yes, scary) process.

I was lucky (blessed) to have a congregation advocating for me - but what about those who are not pastors? They have no voice. From where should their voice come?

The church of Christ is called into this world. This means that a Christian should be involved in society, pay dues, go and vote and be engaged in issues that are close to one's heart. This gives our society a much-needed faith-flavor.

Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, Jewish Center of the Hamptons, East Hampton:

Each religious grouping has a set of values which its adherents bring with them as citizens. Our faith's traditions teach us about the sanctity of life, the common kinship we all share, the respect due each human being as a child of God, the ways in which we are to treat the strangers among us.

Adam and Eve are neither Christian, Jew nor Muslim. They are the parents of all humankind. The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) call on us again and again to have one law for both the citizen and the stranger who dwells among us and to be sensitive to those who are less fortunate than we or who migrate to different places to find a new and better life, for we were strangers and oppressed in the land of Egypt millennia ago.

Most of the issues we face today are open to the teachings of our faith traditions and the values we espouse. If we humans are to create a just and caring society as our prophetic traditions call us to do, then we must get involved and bring these values to the entire polity. But we must do so always sensitive to and respectful of the differences among us, some of the differences in our faith's traditions and always respectful of and sensitive to each other.

Pastor Gertude Nation, Union United Methodist Church, East Northport:

Congregations consist of individuals who are faced with immigration and other secular issues including politics. They become involved because of their humanity. Therefore, I believe that congregations should be involved in secular issues. Congregations can benefit by seeking divine guidance as they allocate resources. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Jesus during his earthly life chose to be involved in secular issues. Jesus' popularity was highly influenced by his involvement in secular issues. Jesus showed people that he was aware of the issues, and he chose to address them. For congregations to effectively accomplish the church's mission, they must be willing to be involved in secular issues.

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