History and Responsibility
This dissertation in the area of Christian migration ethics focuses on expanding beyond the communitarian and cosmopolitan frameworks that often dominate migration ethics in order to respond more adequately to the historic and present realities that shape migration patterns, policy, and discourse. This project grounds itself particularly in accounts of the history of the United States from the perspective of Indigenous and Latinx people, concluding that the dominant historical narrative operating in the United States is inadequate for informing ethical thought and serves largely to uphold a status quo that does not protect all people. Its thesis argues that a responsibility ethic, rooted in biblically informed reparative justice, offers a way forward that is especially helpful for informing Christian communities in their responses to migration in the United States. This builds on the work of theologians who have begun to forge a more relational “third way” of thinking about migration that focuses less on debates between human rights and nation sovereignty and more on how we actually relate to each other as citizens and migrants. Chapter one outlines the state of the question. After grounding the conversation in philosophical theory, the chapter considers communitarian and cosmopolitan perspectives on three major themes in Christian migration ethics: Christian anthropology, Christian views on the state, and the law and scripture. Chapter two maps the development of myths and practices in U.S. history in order to illustrate how they have shaped U.S. foreign policy, immigration policy, and discourse. This chapter pays particular attention to how these myths and practices developed in connection to the removal of Indigenous peoples from their land. Chapter three draws on the work of H. Richard Niebuhr and Charles Curran in order to propose a responsibility ethics framework. This is underscored by reparative justice, framing the work of concrete repair as consistent with the radical love of Jesus and integral to the Kin-dom of God. Chapter four provides a bridge between this conceptual work and the practical proposals of chapter five by considering how the work of the church is framed and directed by the relationship between Christology and ecclesiology. This chapter pays particular attention to the Christological and ecclesiological contributions of Indigenous and Latinx theologians. Chapter five concludes with proposals for how Christian communities can live out the ecclesiological vision of chapter four and foster more just relationships with migrants. It does this primarily by considering four case studies that highlight concrete examples of how the themes outlined in chapter four might be lived out.