The authors of Refuge Reimagined: Biblical Kinship in Global Politics “feel an urgent need for a biblically grounded Christian perspective on our present global crisis of forced displacement and an outline of how this biblical ethic might be applied faithfully and creatively at all levels of the church, the nation, and the globe” (p. 6).
This might seem like an overly ambitious plan, but authors Mark and Luke Glanville (brothers) seem to be the ideal team to tackle it as they have doctoral degrees and experience in biblical studies and international relations (specifically the responsibility of the state toward refugees) respectively. In a rigorously researched yet compellingly readable volume, they propose a biblical ethic of kinship as a framework for engaging with refugees, “to encourage communities to express love for the stranger and repentance for harms done to strangers, to make themselves vulnerable for the sake of the vulnerable, and to accept responsibilities and embrace opportunities in response to a global crisis of forced displacement that is worsening every year” (p. 3).
Complementing and validating their scholarly theological and political research, the authors share stories from “Kinbrace,” a ministry of Grandview Church (pastored for years by Mark Glanville) in Vancouver which provides refugees with housing, support, and community. These stories go a long way to keep a fact-packed book “practical and personal” (p. 14).
Part One explores the biblical theme of kinship, that God’s people have always been commanded to include outsiders and strangers (including immigrants) in their community, loving and not mistreating them. Part Two shares many ways that the Church today can include and love refugees by both sharing in feasts with them and “sharing in their grief” as well (p. 16).
Part Three seeks to work out a political philosophy that “acknowledge[s] the value of national identities” (p. 16) as well as common fears and objections to accepting refugees while also showing how doing so can be and should be a valuable practice, suggesting that nations “‘lock in’…compassion, in a sense, via policies and procedures grounded in love and trust rather than fear and antagonism toward those whom they might enfold as kin” (p. 17).
Part Four zooms out critiques Christian realism as a method of dealing with the vulnerable, instead seeking to express “a renewed vision for global engagement with the plight of the displaced” (p. 201) in which many nations work together, since no one nation can address the refugee crisis on its own. The book concludes with an exhortation for Christians to lead the way in embracing kinship with refugees by “lean[ing] into the creative kinship of the kingdom of God” (p. 244).
In all my reading of books on relating to refugees, I have not yet found one that made such an admirable effort to engage both Scriptural truths and political realities, holding them in creative tension and wrestling a way through the polarized noise with well-reasoned arguments and gracious pastoral insight. May it be the beginning of an ongoing, action-inspiring conversation of thinking Christians who engage politically for the common good.