Last week I jumped into the political fray on the issue of homosexual rights, I figured I’d continue the controversy and tackle political hot topic #2, immigration. As with the marriage debate, this one is fueled by great emotion and is often used as a political campaign weapon. The “right” cries foul in favor of lowering debt and taxes, while the “left” plays the human rights card. It’s an emotional debate for sure; one that causes division in our society as well as within the church.
While it may not be entirely correct to say that a majority of American Christians lean “right of center” politically, I think American (especially evangelical) Christianity tends to be more socially conservative. Within this group it is almost a curse word to be labeled “Liberal,” which is exactly what I am sometimes called when I discuss this topic with acquaintances. I truly want to have an honest discussion about this important issue, but I’ve found very few people who can leave their emotions at the door. Furthermore I think it is unfortunate that we seem to have slid to a point where any [apparent] threat against a conservative position is seen as a threat against the kingdom of God, as if “USA” were synonymous with God’s Kingdom (it’s not, by the way). How do we openly discuss issues such as this when we’re unable to do so civilly? Again, a reframing of the debate is [I think] necessary.
As with much of the western world, America is watching national debts multiply faster than gremlins in a downpour, which – at some point – will likely require an increase of taxation. As it stands now illegal immigrants have become the scapegoat for this problem of increasing debts, and since I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually likes paying taxes (I just had a meeting with my CPA this morning in fact), we clearly have a recipe for frustration and anger.
I live and minster in a fairly conservative town that, perhaps more than any other in America, could be labeled “Anti-illegal immigrant.” Fifty miles from the Mexican border, Escondido has a nearly 46% Hispanic population. At the direction of the city, law enforcement regularly sets up “license checkpoints” which have been highlighted several times on the national news and challenged by the ACLU. Several years ago we garnered national attention when a city ordinance passed that prohibited landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. I’m not sure what came of that one, but I’m sure it has been hung up in court. Each of these measures are the result of decreasing revenues and increasing costs; the easiest place to point is the illegal immigrant population.
Please don’t misunderstand, from a political stand point, I agree; if people are going to immigrate to our nation then it should be done legally. We are, and will continue to be a nation of immigrants. My grandparents (on my father’s side) immigrated here from Italy, and I’m grateful that they did. That said, if I grew up south of the border and could provide a better life for my family by moving north, I’d likely do that however I possibly could. Our biggest issue with such immigrants is not that they’re lazy, cause they’re not. It’s not that they don’t pay any taxes, because they do (i.e. sales taxes, many of them pay payroll taxes under fictitious Social Security numbers, property taxes as renters, etc…). As conservatives, our biggest issue is that we’ve been baited, by political rhetoric, to believe that they (“aliens”) are the cause of our fiscal problems. I’m not convinced that they are.
Sure, they’re using civil and social services as they live in our communities, but these services are offered to anyone who meet the criteria for receiving them. Thus the problem is not the low income immigrants as much as it is the social services themselves. Many conservatives are not exactly proponents of such social programs in the first place. If you provide social services, people will utilize those programs; but then you cannot turn around and be mad at the people using the programs that you provided. This being the case, I’m convinced that the best way to change the discourse is divert our attention from those using the services to the services themselves.
Is it the mandate of our constitution that we provide such services (i.e. health and welfare)? Is it the place of the government to provide them, and therefore tax the people to do so? Or, is it actually something that we, the church, should look to do for the fatherless, widows and strangers in our midst?
For much of history this was a domain occupied by the people of God. At some point in the last century the church vacated that sphere and abdicated their responsibility. The vacuum left by the church’s absence was ultimately filled by the government, who must provide such services via taxation and not charity. The need of services for the fatherless, the widow and the stranger will never go away, as “the poor we will have with us always.” But would we rather share the love of Christ by willingly meeting the needs of those who have them, or will we horde what we have? If we are unwilling to render unto God what is His in loving our neighbor, we will certainly be required to render unto Caesar what is needed to meet a need that will never go away this side of the Kingdom of God.
Daniel’s article yesterday is a good reminder. Preaching the gospel and living the gospel are not mutually exclusive realities.
For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
– Deuteronomy 10:17-19
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
– 1 John 3:17
You “a-political” student 😉
I appreciate your post Miles. As I walk through my neighborhood almost daily I see little ones walking with their moms and I think, I am not going to be the one to turn you away from a clinic or put you on a bus back to your parents country. So I smile and say hello. If their presence is ‘illegal’, I cannot allow my mind to be dominated by worries of “will there be enough for me and mine”. Maybe we as a nation are irresponsibly generous; it does not go unnoticed by God. As a simple woman I would rather be reckless in my faith and generosity and trust God to provide for my needs as well as those of the ‘alien’. I know these issues are HUGE, so I repeatedly meditate on Psalm 131.
Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
Wow! Miles I love this article, “if we have not love we have NOTHING” that love has no parameters, boundaries or limitations… AS I have ministered (quarterly) in Lompoc Federal Prison in the maximum security wing for the last few years… The Lord has transformed my heart. Your words surely would have us all consider checking our hearts…. I have always found it interesting that we never consider that illegal immigrants risk their lives to come and work only to provide for their families. We need a better system which would allow immigrants to come on a work visa, the jobs or work they perform are at the very bottom of the food chain – I don’t want to be political so I will stop… Thank you for the courage to take on tough issues…
Very thought provoking Miles and so timely. I confess, I have too often gotten caught up in the political stream of conversation and if I forsake the will of My holy God for whatever way the political wind is blowing, woe be unto me. I appreciate that you are willing to challenge others to consider whatever the current affairs are, in light of what the Holy Scriptures declare. Oh Lord that you would write Your Word in my heart that I may not sin against You.
I love the responses both of Kelly and Jim and I say Yeah and Amen, but I know the Lord has so much to do in my own selfish heart, but Lord I am willing, please change me, make me an extension of Your love, mercy and grace and help me to love my neighbors (whoever they are or wherever they come from). I don’t want to hoard any longer but share with others. Thanks for challenging me, pray that I will truly be changed.
This is nice, but we all know true Christians are anti-immigration, pro NRA, vote Repubican, and think anything but the King Jimmy is less than actual scripture. It just would not be right for us to welcome foreigners and strangers to share the grace we have been so graciously given.
Sorry Miles, did not sleep well last night, so I’m a bit cynical. Your post was refreshing and I thank God for it!
Spoken like a true missionary… 😉