Tabitha McDuffee is a writer and student living in Southern California. She blogs at TabithaMcDuffee.com and is completing her master’s degree in refugee protection and forced migration studies from the University of London.
Outside a US congressman’s office, Christians holding homemade protest signs and clergy dressed in their robes and collars attend a march to challenge the separation of families seeking asylum at the US–Mexico border. They join in impassioned chants of “Keep the kids, deport the racists!” and “Lock them up!” referring to those who work for the US Border Patrol. In protesting the dehumanizing ugliness of children being separated from their parents they dehumanize others in return, calling for their rights to be taken away and their freedoms restricted.
Inside the offices of a Christian nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to immigrants, volunteers from a local church assist young immigrants with their DACA applications. These young men and women came to the US with their families when they were children and now find themselves undocumented, unable to live, work, or attend college in the US without the threat of deportation. The volunteers chat with the eager immigrants over donuts and coffee as they navigate the complex paperwork that will allow them to legally remain in their communities.
While the Christians in both these scenarios may believe very similar things about immigration, they have chosen to live out their convictions in dramatically different ways. But what makes us immediately recognize them as distinct from one another? I would suggest that the Christians in the second example are reflecting God’s beauty in the way they live out their beliefs about immigration. I believe that while God expects the content of our beliefs to be righteous, he also wants the form of our faith to be beautiful. Today, I’m using immigration as an example of how we can critically assess our beliefs and ask ourselves if they are displaying God’s beauty in the world, but the framework I propose could apply to any number of convictions held by Christians, even beliefs on which we might disagree.