Friday, February 27, 2009

Under the Same Moon: Immigration as a sign of the kingdom

Last night Ellen and I watched Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna), a movie about a Mexican boy's quest to be reunited with his mother working in the U.S. The boy, Carlitos, is nine years old and lives south of the border from El Paso. His mother, Rosario, is working in Los Angeles. They have not seen each other for four years, though they have weekly phone calls from pay phones. But circumstances change, and Carlitos goes off in search of his mother. It's a powerful, moving film that had us in tears at many points. Not only does it put a human face on the realities of contemporary immigration, it also serves as a timeless tale of the love between mother and child.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that if Jesus were preaching here today, he would probably use immigration narratives as the basis of his parables. I can totally imagine him saying, "The kingdom of God is like this: An undocumented worker gave up everything of the life she once knew, to journey to a new land, to gain a better life for her and her family . . ."

Or perhaps: "There once was a son whose mother was in a distant country. He left his home to search for his mother until she was found . . ."

What is striking to me is that at first Carlitos thinks that his mother doesn't care about him. But he gradually realizes that her absence is actually a paradoxical sign of her love for him. He has no idea of the sacrifices and pain she goes through on his behalf. It is not until he goes on his own journey that he realizes his mother's immeasurable love for him.

I can easily imagine Jesus saying, "You know this kind of love that propels people into extraordinary circumstances and compels a mother and child to be reunited with each other? If that is how much simple human beings can love, how much more so is God's love for you!"

Often in evangelical circles we emphasize the shepherd going off to search for the lost sheep. This movie shows us the flip side - the waiting parent of the parable of the prodigal son. Rosario's story is a counterpoint to Carlitos's journey. And both are seeking, in different ways. Carlitos gives us a picture of the yearning seeker who feels the absence of his mother so much that he is drawn to find her once again. It's a picture of the God-shaped hole, the heart that is restless until it finds the beloved that brings wholeness and completion.

One particular scene also jumped out at me as a Christlike model of substitutionary sacrifice. As it unfolded, I thought to myself, "Wow. I can't believe that just happened." It was an amazing picture of the cost of sacrificial love. But I can't say more because I don't want to be a spoiler!

The film is of course also about immigration issues, which are woven throughout the plot. It reminded me of the complexity of immigration policy and how the system desperately needs reform. Book plug: Check out the new IVP book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by World Relief immigration experts Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang. It debunks myths about immigration and gives guidance for how Christians can be involved on both a public policy level as well as on a local grassroots level in practical ministry to our immigrant neighbors.

The film also invites us to consider where we are within it. As Carlitos goes on his modern-day odyssey, he encounters a variety of characters, some predatory, some compassionate. Which will we be? Where are we in the story?

Ultimately, Under the Same Moon depicts how we are drawn toward reunion with the beloved. It's a picture of the great lengths that love will go to for the sake of the other. Great movie. I highly recommend it.


Pilgrim said...

This is a partial view. Someone who worked for the Border Patrol, or who lives near the border, would have a different view. I have in-laws who have been in this situation.
There is a balance to be worked toward.

Pilgrim said...

I didn't mean your review of the film was slanted.
I meant there are two sides to the immigration issue. Many of men coming across are violent, repeat offenders.
There is a lot of fear near the border.

There is a curious public silence surrounding border patrol agents, and the dangerous conditions some of them have to work under.

Lesley Miller said...

Great movie review. I saw this film awhile back but didn't draw as many of the interesting parallels that you did. Thanks for the thoughts.

And, Julana, I agree this is a very complex issue...we live in such a broken world. :(

Pilgrim said...

Wading through Leviticus:
"The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of egypt: I am the Lord your God." 19:34

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