There is no question that the Bible is full of bigoted remarks about foreigners, women, gays etc. and I’m certainly not going to support them here. They are used endlessly by so-called Christians to justify their endless malice and persecution. The Sermon on the Mount ought to be a potent counterweight for the modern Christian, but, in my experience, many people adopt their prejudices first and then use the Bible as their justification. I find that approach execrable. One thing the Bible is very clear about, however, is the status of immigrants in Israel – God’s Chosen Land for his Chosen People. Leviticus spells it out in no uncertain terms:
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 19:34).
No mincing words there. God is crystal clear. The people of Israel are to treat foreigners as if they were their own. It further states that they are to respect foreign religions and cultures. I would have thought that if this law were good enough for God’s Chosen, it ought to be good enough for the likes of Britain and the United States. Yet Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump reveal the opposite attitude, sometimes under the guise of Biblical teaching.
The bottom line is, “you were immigrants once, so respect others.” Let me shout out the hidden implications of that statement loud and clear – WE ARE ALL DESCENDANTS OF IMMIGRANTS. Unless you are directly descended from Homo erectus in east Africa (or for Genesis 2 literalists, born in the Garden of Eden), someone in your genealogical line migrated to where you were born. For people of European stock in the US, this fact is obvious, but Anglo-Saxons in England are not exempt, nor are Aborigines in Australia. I am perfectly in accord with the claims of indigenous groups all over the world that they should be treated fairly and compensated for their historic losses. But I don’t see anyone as getting a completely free pass. Rather, what we ought to be saying is that NO-ONE has absolute rights to any piece of land, and, therefore, we should all just try to get along on whatever parcel we happen to occupy. No one should be treated unfairly because they or their forebears came from another place – no one.
Among other things, this means that colonizers can neither make the claim that they can treat indigenous peoples unfairly because they now own the land (whether they got it in the first place fairly or otherwise), nor can the indigenous peoples make the claim that they were there first and it’s really theirs. In a lot of cases they weren’t the first there anyway. History is replete with the movement of peoples. By the time that the Spanish got to the New World all kinds of ethnic groups had come and gone. Nonetheless, this fact should NOT be a justification for the oppression of one over another.
Furthermore, sharing of ideas and resources is a good idea. Hybrid vigor is a good thing both physically and culturally. Hybridized stocks of plants and animals generally do better than single strains. Simple example: pedigree (pure bred) cats and dogs take more care and die younger on average than mutts. Inbreeding is not as harmful as people believe, but on average interbreeding is more successful. So too with cultures. Cultures can remain isolated and do very well for some time. But then problems arise. Cultures that learn from one another are stronger. Japan is a pretty obvious example. The Tokugawa shogunate imposed radical isolation on Japan from about 1633 to 1866. Traditional Japanese culture certainly flourished during the period of isolation, but developments in other parts of the world, notably the European Enlightenment and the First Industrial Revolution, passed Japan by completely. Now you can argue, and I certainly would, that the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution were not unalloyed blessings. But they happened. When Perry enforced an end to Japan’s isolation there were a lot of painful changes to come.
The US is a great crucible of cultural hybrid vigor. The banjo is a perfect example. It is the product of African and European instrument traditions coming together. Argentine tango is another hybrid. It was born in the slums of Buenos Aires where people of Italian, Spanish, African, and other heritages all lived and worked together. I suppose you can be iffy about the banjo, but surely not tango. If neither please you, how about jazz, rock and roll, quilts, rocking chairs . . . and on and on. We are all immigrants and our cultures are all hybrids. Get used to it.