But many that are first will be last, and the last first. — Matthew 19.30
If we try not to spiritualise what Jesus says in his parable of the workers in the vineyard too much, it is literally about giving a fair minimum wage and equality in the labour market. Although literal exegesis is often given a bad press, it’s useful to state sometimes what the Bible actually says before jumping into interpretative dance with it. This parable is one of many in which Jesus demonstrates his Upside-Down Kingdom, his anti-establishment manifesto. It’s the kind of thing that we in the church try to sermonise out of existence.
This all comes to mind when I think about the raw issues surrounding immigration in Britain, the whipped hysteria served up by the Daily Hate, pandered to by Tories and the Labour Right before even thinking about the absurdist criminals that call themselves BNP. I find it odd how, seeing as migration has been part of human nature since we learnt the trick of walking upright, draconian administration of border controls is a recent phenomenon and has been spun as something right-thinking and normal.
One incident happened recently that showed me what this is all about. On Friday 12 June 2009, members of the cleaning staff at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) were invited to an emergency meeting with their employers, ISS, a subcontractor to SOAS, over pay and conditions. The meeting was raided by immigration officers supported by police in riot gear. It must have been terrifying for the cleaners, many of whom were ‘illegal immigrants’ (almost ‘illegal humans’). Many of them had lived and worked in London for a number of years, and subsisted on meagre wages. They were deported.