Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Evangelical Compassion and Immigration

Having read two articles on the virtual silence of Evangelicals on the immigration issue, I thought I would weigh in. The silence is said to be because of the tension between respect for the laws of the land and the desire to show compassion. However, I would and will argue that the two are not in tension in the immigration debate. In fact the converse is true. The rule of law and compassion are intrinsically harmonious.

As an evangelical whose conservative ideology is driven by his theology I cannot agree with the President (which grieves me) on this issue. My worldview will not allow it.

The following are a few of the reasons why.

1. In the OT Scriptures it was very hard for a person to become a proselyte/citizen of Israel. There is a reason why grown men wince at the mention of circumcision. And the dietary laws were no picnic either. The rule of law dictated the conditions by which a person would be able to claim citizenship in Israel. However, whenever ana alien(immigrant) is discussed in the OT law he or she is expected to keep the Law and the Jews are expected to love them (Lev. 18 and 19).

2. In the NT Scriptures such ideas of citizenship were not even on the table. Jesus spoke of the stranger/alien among the Israelites as one born under the Old Covenant. Also, he and the rest of Israel lived and did any ruling at all under the thumb of Rome. They were not a Sovereign nation as the USA is. Of course, they were to show kindness/compassion...they had no other option according to the principles of their faith and the dictates of Rome.

3. It is no act of compassion towards the illegal alien to reward him or her for willingly and unnecessarily breaking the laws of this land. For under our President's plan we not only forgive past sins, we reward the law-breakers for their productivity and ingenuity at breaking the law. Since when is it compassionate or kind to reward people for breaking the law? Every parent and teacher understands the consequences of rewarding bad behavior. It begets bad behavior.

4. It is hard for me to believe that injustice is not being done when we forgive the illegal acts of some and prosecute and punish the same acts by others. But this is what is being done. Those who have committed identity fraud and social security fraud will be not only forgiven they will credited with s.s. benefits based on work they did previous to becoming legal. This betrays a radical disregrad for the rule of law and an affection for political posturing. This is the height of injustice as it not only excuses wrong behavior but calls it right behavior.

5. Also, if laws are passed that in effect show compassion to the illegal immigrant through amnesty, this is no kindness for everyone else. It is an insult to the law-abiding citizen/taxpayer who is expected to submit to the laws of the land and hand over a significant portion of his wages. It is an affront to those who will invariably miss out on job opportunities because they are legal and must be paid at least minimum wage and for that reason are passed over. And it does injury to those who have waited and will continue to wait to enter this country legally.

6. The Republicans of Congress were rightly aghast at how President Clinton and his administration thumbed their noses at the rule of law by lying to a Grand Jury and then caring not a whit for the implications. Is it not the same when our Commander in Chief refuses to enforce the laws already on the books regarding illegal immigrants and those who hire and abet them?

7. "But Matt, where is your sense of love and grace and mercy?" The Bible, which gives meaning to these terms, clearly outlines the role of goevernmental authority in regard to illegal activity. Paul in Romans 13 speaks of the purpose of the "governing authorities" and how they were put there by God for our good. Whose good? Those who have "good conduct." "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will recieve his approval" (v. 3). You see, the rule of law and its enforcement is a good gift given by God for those who do not resist it. "But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain" (v.4). The most compassionate thing the President and our leaders in Washington can do is not bear the "sword in vain."

To argue for Christian compassion and tolerance and and then put no meat on the bones of such terms is dangerous. We end up wishing for and arguing for the very things we are against. There is no tension between the rule of law and compassion. I would argue that to selectively ignore the rule of law is to show a tragic lack of compassion

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