Evangelical Support for Immigration Reform is Biblical, Not Political??
RE: The Credentialed Signatories of American Evangelicalism who intimate a Scriptural and Spiritual Imprimatur for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (see http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/)
Weaving through the Web to acquire factual information for many writing projects, I often get sidetracked onto articles and essays which, although worthy of interest, waylay the priorities of my time. This article reflects one of these occasions, to which I will, no doubt, be kicking myself tomorrow.
One comes across an inordinate number of ethical and sociopolitical advocacies by purported Christians, proud of their own voice, while displaying third rate Scriptural interpretation and reason. I often wish that the Internet had not been invented and thereby not give such free agency for such to utter their babblings in the name of Christ.
I am not timid in expressing economic, social and political analysis in this web site. And Scriptures deeply and insidiously influence my thinking. However, the underlying motivations conform to two of the few New Testament adages, which might bear any relationship with sociopolitical issues. One seeks to extend individual liberty of conscience in the social realm to the fullest extent that the virtue of a contemporary populace can bear (Romans 14). The other is a sociopolitical implementation of the frequently enjoined Scriptural admonishment to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Hebrews 12:14). If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). If I raise a concern about economic inequalities and their ensuing social, political and legal inequalities or with philosophical sectarianism, it is in the context of their relation with social piece and individual liberty.
So, I do not have problem with people voicing opinions, regardless of competence. The Internet might prove a worthwhile vehicle to induce iron sharpens iron precision and clarity to its participants’ arguments. What I do take umbrage with, is the SPIRITUAL IMPRIMATUR that some Christian adherents arrogate to their views.
I have seen Christ conscripted into the cause of capitalism and socialism; although I find that those advocates seem clueless about the respective economic philosophies, let alone their own theology. There is a distinction between free markets and capitalism. And a voluntary surrender of one’s goods and property with a community of one’s choice (Acts 204) differs from the coercive ideologies of socialism and communism.
One of the earliest uses of Scriptural imprimatur in my life came from adversaries of mixed racial marriages. As is so common from such advocates, the unity of the mind of God is ripped into little selective proof texts. The banner of Be you not unequally yoked together was waved in my face; until it was realized and pointed out that a couple of words were missing from that adage.
Therefore, I cannot help but feel like punching through church walls when I encounter such rubbish as the suggestion of a Biblical sanction for some American Comprehensive Immigration Reform policy or bill. It astonishes that church leaders, denominations and umbrella organizations even have Statements of Principles with its who’s who of signatories from many Evangelical denominations. Or that advocates, more interested in the things of this world than in things of God would dare to embellish their advocacies with Scriptural verses, located by a Google search without a coherent depth of understanding of Scriptures, theology or the complicated trade-offs required in sociopolitical policy.
From this article comes this little gem
I believe that the primary reason that most have spoken out is not, as Mr. Tooley hints, an embrace of sentimental, liberal theology, but rather an orthodox commitment to the authority of Scripture.
To correct this biblical blind spot, the Evangelical Immigration Table has launched the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge, providing a bookmark that lists 40 Scripture passages that relate in one way or another to the topic of immigration, which we are encouraging people to read, one passage per day.
In this, the author of the article and the umbrella organization, which he cites, tosses tinsels of Scriptural proof texts to embellish their sociopolitical cause and impress the gullible and clueless.
Are these people serious and sane?
I do not desire to perform exegesis on the flak of Scriptures being offered. There are greater principles involved than discoursing on the minutiae of immigration policy.
And the source of my complaint stems not from any given position on the matter. My overall position on the matter, if it mattered, would be probably one of being in favour of a one-time amnesty program, but with grave misgivings. But these arguments are rational and nuanced. It is certainly not a clear-cut moral issue. Indeed, those who oppose naturalization of illegal immigrants have a better hold of justice on their side.
The issue and the only issue of this dissertation is the perverse abuse of Christ and Scriptures to give spiritual imprimatur to a temporal concern. It requires a hermeneutical contortionism, which betrays the competence or integrity of those credentialed signatories who wasted serious time and money on their theological training. It exposes the worldliness of modern Evangelical theologians, who scurry around like Constantinian bishops, self-deluded by the ostentatious flattery of secular authority of the importance of their influence. It helps explain why the person on the Evangelical pew is Biblically, theologically and ethically ignorant, while its leaders expend their time on needle point points of legislative policy. It causes unnecessary alienation from the Gospel of people with different views on this tertiary social matter, when the Magisterium of God is being invoked. It brings considerable and long-term dishonour to the cause of Christ if this scripturally unsupported policy goes south. The corruption of the theological elite is a tell-tale sign that the salt of American Evangelicalism has lost its savour. “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)
The Sociopolitical Position
I do not belong to the political jurisdiction in which this issue is raging. The political jurisdiction, to which I belong, suffers from similar problems but to muted and manageable levels. My position doesn’t really matter. And I offer it only for didactic purposes. But I do belong to and represent the jurisdiction of historical Evangelicalism to which these credentialed signatories also claim to belong. And any claim I stake on the issue is merely to denounce the abuse of the spiritual office of these credentialed signatories.
The situation of the illegal alien is like one of a fugitive from justice; which is exactly what they are. An unfortunate consequence of their self-imposed circumstance concerns that of their children, especially those who are naturally born in the U.S. (However, I am not aware that children born to ambassadorial staff in the U.S. are considered citizens by virtue of their birth either.) And although the vices and folly of parents ought not to be imputed to children, the natural effects virtually always do. It is a foundational lesson of the Fall of Man.
The host country fashioned rules beforehand, which seem in the main to be reasonable; to protect the national household from violence and violent perpetrators; to protect (and even enhance) the economic welfare of its inhabitants from influences that might impoverish them; to protect the cultural values, which the inhabitants believe have given them a good quality of life; to protect rule of law and justice; to protect from social discord. Governors, like parents, must take of their own first before flitting hither and thither to assist the children of their neighbours.
Those, who deride the right of nations, even rich nations, to set boundaries and limits on immigration and thereby harbour secret belief in the right for any individual to transverse borders without regard to national laws, must practice what they preach. They must permit total strangers to invade their residences and stake a space for themselves, wherever they please, and take of the fruits within that residence without their permission. Until they do so, their opinions are not credible. (This might seem like a straw man argument, until one has had to personally make it.)
A nation has right to control the quality of the potential citizens within their borders. But what does queue jumping say about the character of those who ignore rule of law when it doesn’t suit their purposes? Because a nation may only have at any given time, an upper limit of economic opportunities; it will limit immigration to conform to that perceived availability of opportunity. If queue jumpers take those available spots, are they not inadvertently stealing from those who pursue immigration through legal means? What happens to respect for rule of law in those who have hitherto respected rule of law?
One can recast Adam Smith’s law of supply and demand in labour markets, perhaps pessimistically and realistically, as one of an organic balance between employer and employee. Does not illegal immigration undermine the leverage of the employee? Does it not depress wages of native-born and legal immigrant workers at the lower end of the pay scale? If because of the exploited impoverishment of illegal aliens, they must live within lower standards of living than their neighbours; do they not directly depress the property values of the neighborhoods in which they dwell and the general society indirectly? Does not their fugitive status invite a burgeoning black market, which has infectious qualities? Does the situation not add to the seriously, socially destabilizing economic inequality that the U.S. currently faces today? Those, who are more distantly affected by illegal immigration, have the luxury of cursorily lamenting the circumstances of the illegal immigrant and their children. Those, more directly and deleteriously affected, tend to be understandably opposed.
Many such arguments along this vein can be made. Therefore, in terms of law, rule of law and justice, these credentialed theologians are talking lawlessness. For, a scrupulous justice gives full right of a host nation to expel those who didn’t enter by the gate (John 10:1).
However, from the perspective of practicable consequences of rectifying a current horrible situation, the size of the illegal immigration population is just too enormous (est. 12 million). To maintain the current state of affairs is to perpetuate the social evils that have ensued and have only been partially delineated.
But to uproot the illegal aliens would cost a society an untold, up-front fortune in time, treasure, disruption and discord. How does one send back native-born children to nations to which they may have never even visited? What type of jurisdictional disputes would ensue? What would be the ensuing sociopolitical consequences to those countries to which these illegals were returned? What would occur to the global reputation of the host nation who scrupulously pursued such policies? And what would be the economic and geopolitical consequences of such a soured reputation of that host country, who scrupulously executed such justice? One hardly thinks that the typical American could bear and stomach such disruption.
Therefore, there is an argument on the basis of prudence, and not from justice, to find a legal means to ameliorate the surfeit of violations of law and its consequences. From the perspective of national self-interest, a path toward legal status and/or citizenship might be wise. But the host society still pays for the harmful consequences of the lawlessness of its illegal population. The issue is the manner by which the host nation might pay it. A path toward legal status might prove the lesser of two social evils.
The grave misgiving is one of encouraging future illegal immigration and violations of the rule of law with impunity. I recall that the U.S. has been here before with President Carter and culminating with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 under Reagan, to which 3-4 million illegals were naturalized. The lesson from Roman history with regard to the settlement of barbarians within its borders confirms that such pragmatic solutions that ameliorate current situations simply invite even worse conduct and their harms in the future. Probably only draconian measures against future violations might work to arrest this future development, including the full proscription of all property of employers who knowingly employ illegals.
The Theological Position
However, none of this meandering of thought is a simple-minded moral argument or argument from [Biblical] justice, to which these credentialed theologians infer with their splattering of Scriptural verses. Of the 40 verses tossed for consideration, ten or more are not even pertinent to the discourse. They are either vaguely and mistfully related or seek to coercively apply the law of Christ (New Testament), which pertains to Christians only in their private capacities, upon believer and non-believer alike. Fifteen or so, speak of justice, in terms of equity and equal treatment without respect of persons. Another 10 speak of social kindness and charity towards foreigners in one’s midst.
However, if civic authorities have enacted a reasonable law, published beforehand and openly and applied it with rough equitable treatment, where is there a violation of justice? Indeed, justice is violated when equal treatment is afforded to all immigrants, regardless of their legality. Therefore, these ‘Evangelical’ cries for justice invite justified scorn by outsiders about the intellectual and moral competence of such credentialed theologians.
Furthermore, one must pour skepticism upon this superficial splashing of proof-texts without context or rationality; or the very selectivity of Scriptures, which omits some serious contrary arguments (if there was even legitimacy in their use for secular politics); or the use of Old Testament principles, when Evangelicals purport, at best, to only abide by the moral portions (Covenantal Theology) of the Mosaic Code; and the all round interpretative abuse of Scriptures.
Let us take the injunctions, directed only to converted Christians in the New Testament, about showing hospitality to strangers (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2). First of all, Christian congregations themselves have lost the practice of abiding by that injunction in the personal lives. What deep hypocrisy to advocate this injunction upon all, as a coercive sociopolitical principle! Furthermore, when one entertains guests, one does expect them to return home. One would be hard pressed to find any historical theological interpretation that suggests that one must put up strangers in one’s home for the rest of one’s days; especially after coming home to find them, lounging in your living room unexpectedly and uninvited. That is the sociopolitical equivalent of illegal immigration.
Let us consider the injunctions about obedience to civic authority (Romans 13:1-2, 1 Peter 2:13-14). At best, how is it in any way relevant? Furthermore, by citing these passages in support of violators of national laws, how does this advance one’s cause?
How does Paul’s mistreatment at the hands of the Jews apply to immigrants? (Acts 16:37) Paul was both a Jew in a Jewish homeland and a Roman citizen in a Roman Empire? Did anyone actually vet these verses after they Googled them? Or was this outsourced to Tom Daschle? (re: The Harbinger and poor Tom’s use of Isaiah 9:10) In that Tom is not, to my knowledge a Bible-believing Christian, he has excuse. What is the excuse for these credentialed theologians?
Pretty much every New Testament citation is irrelevant or even contrary to the sociopolitical argument being advanced; emitting the fog-like vagaries of impressions instead of being critically relevant to the issue. As has been stated, the New Covenant of Christ is relevant to those who signed onto this Covenant through conversion (faith and all elements of the Christian walk which practicably ensue from real faith) and pursuing a Kingdom in the next realm. Those outside ought not to be asked to conform to the Law of Grace, which makes only credible sense if one believes the cosmological perspective that is asserted in New Testament Scriptures.
Convenient Omission of the Scriptural Passage Most Relevant
Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber…Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (John 10:1, 7-10)
It is highly doubtful that the intent of Christ was to apply the bevy of His words to sociopolitical issues. The seminal theme throughout Scriptures is the ultimate futility of sociopolitical solutions; demonstrated by the example of the ancient Hebrew State. And the history of the world has only confirmed this ultimate futility in the decline and fall of nations, regardless of the political and legal structures that were erected. Legal regimes, constitutions, political constructs and machinations are but static Maginot lines; which the evil genius of humanity is certain to successfully find ways to circumvent. This understanding certainly seemed to have dawned upon an American General…
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.
(General Douglas MacArthur – Radio Address after Japanese surrender ceremony – September 2, 1945)
And at one time, this wisdom was known and imparted in Evangelical circles. What manner of men are these credentialed signatories, who man the ramparts of current denominational and para-Christian organizations?
However, even if this passage was to apply in a temporal sociopolitical setting, it speaks of the immigrant to the Kingdom of God who seeks citizenship, requiring a going through proper gates, using proper rule of law procedures. It condemns and expels those who sought the Kingdom through other means. It does not reward citizenship to squatters and invaders. And if these credentialed theologians cannot apply Scriptural principle properly in the temporal realm, one wonders whether they are applying Scriptural principle properly in the spiritual.
Perhaps the limits of human power and endurance cannot bear the disruption that such expulsions would cause in the present situation. And this is fair argument. But do not use SCRIPTURAL or SPIRITUAL IMPRIMATUR to justify Comprehensive Immigration Reform or for that matter, most political policies.
The Larger Argument
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs. (2 Timothy 2:4)
I have observed for too long this disgrace of credentialed theologians pursuing coercive moralist solutions on the whole population, that go beyond immediate and significant harm to their neighbours. The liberal secularist is no better. Liberty of conscience is a primary theme of New Testament Scriptures and the Western heritage; having led to a temporary blip of history, whereby liberty and the ensuing flourishing was allowed to occur to considerable extent. This was before the reassertion of moral decadence and natural human folly to arrogantly impose one’s own personal perspective and ethics, whether religious right or secular left, upon their neighbours. The foolish arrogance invariably leads to social war and/or oppression.
However, liberty of conscience has been circumscribed, denigrated, neglected and repudiated, for the most part by Christendom, to the disgrace of the glory of the Christian God. A key reason that Paul differentiated primary issues from secondary and only applied these issues to the membership of church congregations, was so as to not cause another stumbling-block to potential believers from coming to knowledge of the truth of Christ, through alienation on secondary, tertiary and irrelevant issues. When credentialed theologians disingenuously give SPIRITUAL IMPRIMATUR to obscurities and morally doubtful issues, they are to be condemned as practicably alienating whole swaths of the population.
Are such credentialed theologians so obtuse as to not be able to transfer the prudent advice of Augustine from the realm of science to the gauntlet of sociopolitical dispute?
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]
Saint Augustine – The Literal Meaning of Genesis – Vol 1., Chapter 19, Section 38,
Taken from Ancient Christian Writers., vol. 41. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. New York: Paulist Press, 1982.
Indeed, Christ uttered, in a controversial parable the aphorism “And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.” (Luke 16:8) Historical observation of Christian history overwhelmingly supports this assertion. Christendom is either too gullible, too superficially ignorant of human nature, too foolish in attempting to conflate the principles that apply to the Kingdom of Heaven to the kingdoms of men. Or they are simply dealers in casuistry and sophistry. The worse charlatans are not the Joel Osteens and Rob Bells. The deceit and/or folly of those men are too obvious for most.
True and Orthodox Christianity produces a radicalism that defies sociopolitical categorization and labeling; that sees flaws in every secular ideology; that is not co-opted by conservatism (Republicans) or progressivism (Democrats), capitalism or socialism. It realizes that innate sinfulness in humanity undoes every system that aspires to produce utopias (and invariably produces dystopias). It observes the eventual overcoming of every check and balances system, which seeks to mitigate the worse vices of men from overflowing into private or public tyranny, oppression, persecution and genocide; the Robber Barons or the moralist busybodies who oppress with the approval of their consciences. It holds little hope in those human devices. This truth is an underlying element of the Gospel.
A True Christianity and its credentialed theologians do not wage war as the world does. It recalls its overwhelmingly primary mission as salt-of-the-earth teaching facility and exemplifier of the Gospel of Christ and the Full Counsel of God. It does not flirt with secular power and influence, which have no lasting beneficial impact and much lasting detrimental consequent as is evident in the Hellenist Churches after Constantine. It does not gleefully prostrate and proffer itself to flattering political overlords.
I am first and foremost a Christian; an Evangelical in the historical sense. I do not know what these buffoons are; who are so many degrees of separation from sensible and rational knowledge of the Gospel and Full Counsel of God. And I am only a Christian because I knew Christ long before knowing this confederacy of dunces, who purport to shepherd the sheep. If America was not the birthplace of Evangelicalism, it was certainly the locus of its childhood, maturity and its heartland. However, it suffers from a terminal incoherent dementia; giving symptomatic evidence of its senility and oncoming death by giving SPIRITUAL IMPRIMATUR to a complicated and obscure issue where there is no clear Biblical position or sanction.
Copyright © 2013 John Hutchinson