Saturday, August 11, 2012

It depends on your perspective

I read the Book of Ruth (all four chapters!) while on vacation last month, and recognized it as a refugee story.  (It's amazing how differently the Bible reads after working with refugees for almost five years.)
You may be familiar with the story.  Naomi's Jewish family flees to Moab because of severe famine (think of the Somali famine and scores of starving refugees we've heard about in the past year).  Naomi's boys marry local girls, and it looks like they'll stay in this new homeland, until all the men in the family die before any of the next generation are born.  Bitterly defeated, Naomi takes stock of her future and, hearing that there is food again in Israel, decides to return home.  Here's where the story gets interesting, because Ruth, a Moabite, refuses to stay behind.  Her famous plea, "Entreat me not to leave thee... for your people shall be my people..." has been used in many a wedding.
I've been paying close attention to our federal government's decisions with regard to refugees in the last few years, and have noticed the rather dramatic shifts in language, which reveal a depressingly seismic shift in values and negative attitudes toward refugees.  As I read the story of Ruth, whom we've often seen as a hero and a courageously committed daughter-in-law, I realized that if we approached her story with the currently propagated Canadian attitude of suspicion, it would read very differently.
The key players the way I usually see them:
Naomi- terrible sorrow, bitter circumstances, hopelessness
Ruth- loyalty, strong choice of family and Yahweh, courageous
Boaz- honourable, just, generous, kind

Here's my re-reading of the Book of Ruth aka Jason Kenney:
Ruth grew up in _______ and deviously schemed to marry a Canadian, hoping he'd someday move home and she'd thereby be able to become a Canadian citizen.
Ruth's husband died and she refused to leave Naomi, seeing her opportunity, finally, to get into Canada.
Arriving in Canada with her mother-in-law, Ruth discovered that a rich relative owned land nearby, and strategically placed herself in his fields, hoping he'd notice her.
She even went so far as to sleep at his feet during harvest, seducing him.
Boaz fell for her wiles and married her, giving her the future she wanted.
Voila!  Bogus refugee scheming to get married and have access to citizenship in Canada, taking advantage of the generosity of Canadians like you and me, accomplished!

My point in this potentially controversial blog is to help us be aware of how we're being influenced to view refugees as bogus, with suspicion and a resulting miserliness, rather than compassion.  Yes, we should deal with the 2%* who are trying to take advantage of Canada's open borders.  I'd like to challenge us to check our attitudes, however, and listen to refugee's stories with open hearts, reaching out with Jesus' love as He exhorts us to.  No one gets to legislate compassion out of our lives if we don't let them!

*Percentage quoted to me by a Canadian Border Services official, Ft Erie, Ontario

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