Sunday, February 03, 2008

Do Not Oppress the Alien

Exodus 22:21-24:

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

Over the years, debating immigration policy in a Christian context with Dan Trabue and Andy Bryan, I've noticed recurring reminders of passages from the OT law in which the ancient Israelites were to treat "foreigners".

On several occasions, Dan and Andy have suggested that strict immigration policy or mass deportations of illegal immigrants would be in conflict with Christian values as a result of these OT commands.

My question is to whom the OT refers to as "foreigners". Three possibilities come to mind:

1. Foreigners present in Israel with Israelite consent (assuming that immigration policy is a transferable concept).

2. All foreigners regardless of how they arrived in Israel.

3. The native Canaanites already present in Israel at the time of the conquest (comparable to Native Americans in the U.S.)

Although I would like to assert that it is option 1 or 3 because they would support my policy positions, I must admit that major exegetical research must be done to discern which of these options (if any) is correct. At this point, I just don't know.

I really struggle with this issue. As a pastor, I know that I must not turn in any illegal immigrant that I met in a pastoral context to authorities merely because s/he is an illegal immigrant. To the contrary, I must help everyone who needs the care of the Body of Christ.

So I guess that I'm advocating a position as a citizen that I must abhorr as a pastor.

One seminary professor challenged me to change my public policy positions to keep in accordance with my religious convictions. But I would find it very hard to advocate a position that I know will lead to the dismemberment of my country.

I know -- I'm not making any sense. As I said, I really struggle with this issue.

58 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

I think, as a citizen, it makes some sense to want good immigration laws and rules. But my idea of good immigration rules lean towards the grand notion:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.


While I lean towards that, I acknowledge that we don't want the 7 billion folk of humankind moving in here - that would not be sustainable or good for anyone. But I think that if we want to talk reasonable immigration policy, we HAVE to be sure that, as the most powerful nation in the world, our foreign policy isn't making things worse for other nations, giving them incentive to come here, legally or not.

I appreciate your honest contemplation on this subject, John. I admit I certainly don't have all the answers. How do we accept the poor huddled masses and provide for the foreigner in the land and still maintain some sense of boundaries? It's not an easy question and it's worthy of much thought and discussion.

Rich Holton said...

what is it that makes an "alien" alien? What exactly are we trying to protect by keeping people out?

The crux of the issue is the attitude that "I'm part of something good here, and I don't want to lose that, even if it means not sharing that good with others."

JD said...

As a Christian, we are called to uphold the laws of our country, even if we do not agree with them, if they are not in direct conflict of God's commandments. Enforcing immigration laws is really two fold, but what we continue to discuss here is the effect of enforcement on those coming in. We as Christians should vehemently support this law and hold all the companies that encourage illegal immigration and oppress those looking for a better life. One cannot believe in upholding a law if all parties breaking the law are not held accountable. That is one issue.

The other: no matter how wealthy a country, we cannot be held responsible for the care of the world. While some foreign policies we have may aid in the oppression of others, we cannot make a blanket statement that all foreign policy causes this. For those areas of the world oppressed by religious fanatics and dictators, we must pray for them, and do what we can in a peacful way, to promote change, otherwise we fall back into nationbuilding and interference that those who fee we are being cruel to immigrants oppose. Followng the law can be a double edged sword. We cannot be everything to everyone, only Jesus can. It is out job as Christians to make sure His story and His power to change are heard.

PAX
JD

Dan Trabue said...

It is out job as Christians to make sure His story and His power to change are heard.

I think the prophets would disagree. I think Jesus would disagree.

I think they would say, "If you say to the poor and oppressed, 'Be warm and well-fed,' and do nothing to warm them or feed them - OR work to change systems that contribute to their hunger and cold, then you have fallen short of your calling."

But surely we agree on that point?

Dan Trabue said...

As a Christian, we are called to uphold the laws of our country, even if we do not agree with them, if they are not in direct conflict of God's commandments.

But this is the rub, isn't it? A good many of us believe some laws to be in DIRECT conflict with God's commands.

And, that being the case, I reckon you are saying that we (who believe certain foreign policy is in direct violation of God's commands) OUGHT to stand opposed to them - perhaps even violate them?

JD said...

Dan said:

"And, that being the case, I reckon you are saying that we (who believe certain foreign policy is in direct violation of God's commands) OUGHT to stand opposed to them - perhaps even violate them?"

Opposed to foreign policy, yes, violate, not sure how you can do that unless you have black market trade with conuntries that have sanctions against them. a.) The immigration policy of America is not foreign policy, it is policy specific to how America deals with immigration. This policy is not supposed to directly influence foreign countries. Key word, supposed. b.)Belief that a policy is in conflict with God's commands, and it actually being in conflict with God's commands are 2 different things and, if not arrived to through study of the Word, very subjective.

PAX
JD

Rich Holton said...

jd said:
The other: no matter how wealthy a country, we cannot be held responsible for the care of the world.

You state this as though it were a given. Christ does call us to care for others, especially if we are wealthy are they are in need. And we are held responsible. See Matthew 25:31-46

JD said...

Dan said:

"But surely we agree on that point?"

And we do. The statement I made did not preclude being involved. You know as well as I do, sharing with the world the power of Jesus Christ to change, starts with you and I showing it, not just talking about it.

You left out an important part of my statement, "We cannot be everything to everyone, only Jesus can."

By doing what we can. By not only believing in Jesus, but doing as Jesus did, is a Christian's way to show the world of His power to change.

I am at a loss where we disgree on that or that my statement was contrary to that understanding? Just confused, that's all.

PAX
JD

Michael said...

The greatest challenge I've had in is keeping separate the issue of national security (border control) which is an issue to take up with the Congress, but still being on the front line of defense to protect those illegals who are here but are being exploited.

THAT, to me, is the Christian issue. We need not concern ourselves with how they got here, only that they are treated fairly and with the inherent respect due any human person created in the image of the Lord.

JD said...

Rich said:

"You state this as though it were a given. Christ does call us to care for others, especially if we are wealthy are they are in need. And we are held responsible. See Matthew 25:31-46"

Yes, but I am not called to bankrupt my family and country and to feed the rest of the world, especially when we cannot even take care of those in our own country. My wife asked the other day, "Why is it that we are so quick to run to other countries for mission trips, when there is so much we need to do here?"

I agree. Why is it that there are those in this country that are so quick to say we need to give aid to the rest of the world, when we are not even taking care of those in our own backyard? While we are called to help the world, we seem to easliy forget those that are here. Also, I do not have a problem helping those that cannot help themselves, but most people that disagree with the wealth re-distribution within our country due so because most of that money goes to people that do very little to help themselves.

Sorry, I digress from the topic at hand.

PAX
JD

Michael said...

I hit the button a little too quickly. I wanted to add that concerning ourselves with the matters with which Christ Himself would be concerned would distinguish between nationalism and Christianity.

JD said...

Michael said:

"We need not concern ourselves with how they got here, only that they are treated fairly and with the inherent respect due any human person created in the image of the Lord."

Actually, we need to do both, and there in lies the conflict that individuals like John and myself have.

PAX
JD

Dan Trabue said...

JD said:

Belief that a policy is in conflict with God's commands, and it actually being in conflict with God's commands are 2 different things and, if not arrived to through study of the Word, very subjective.

Well, seeing as how we're fallible human beings with the potential to be wrong about God's will, I agree. Since we are not getting God's Word for immigration policy whispered in our ear directly from God, yes, it is subjective.

Thinking that it's okay with God to have a restrictive immigration policy is subjective and thinking that God doesn't want our gov't to pass NAFTA and then have oppressive response to Mexicans searching for work is subjective.

I certainly don't claim to speak for God. BUT, the scriptures DO repeatedly make the case that foreigners ought not be oppressed and that, indeed, they ought to be provided for; that gov'ts that ARE oppressive towards foreigners are likely to be judged harshly by God; that business and gov't systems that treat the poor (wherever those poor may live) wrongly will be judged harshly by God.

That being the case, I don't think it unreasonable that folk who value what the Bible has to say would be cautious in siding too quickly against poorer nations and individuals.

Dan Trabue said...

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor."

~Zechariah 7: 9-10

"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

"Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword/


Exodus 22: 21-24

[interestingly, that passage goes on to say...

"If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can your neighbor sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate."

One of the very idea which Jesus refers to in the Sermon on the Mount. Systemic oppression, the way some of us read it.

the reverend mommy said...

Oh, THAT kind of alien. I thought you meant Ferangi or Klingons....

For me it comes back to that question that is poses to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

It's easy to talk about the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" when they remain faceless and an abstraction. It's a lot hard when they have names and faces.

the reverend mommy said...

press return too fast ...

I understand your struggle -- I faced the same sort of dilemma with the "homeless" -- I politically have (or had) one opinion, but in practice (deep personal practice), that stance morphed into something different. "They" became individuals with faces and names; and then my stance morphed again when I discovered the deceit and corruption within the system; how one individual would hit more than one shelter for help, out of greed or desperation, who knows. Hence the need for the "rules" that I found in stage number 2 to be draconic.

It's the tension between the "already" and the "not yet." Wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove as the scripture says. So maybe there is room for both a strict immigration policy, to protect US against those that would abuse the system and also to protect the innocent in the system AND the heart of a pastor who understands that the aliens are our neighbors. It's a balance and a (somewhat) escatological pursuit.

John said...

How do we accept the poor huddled masses and provide for the foreigner in the land and still maintain some sense of boundaries? It's not an easy question and it's worthy of much thought and discussion.

It is, and I think that we've passed the unsustainable point.

John said...

JD wrote:

As a Christian, we are called to uphold the laws of our country, even if we do not agree with them, if they are not in direct conflict of God's commandments.

Please justify this statement Biblically.

John said...

what is it that makes an "alien" alien? What exactly are we trying to protect by keeping people out?

The crux of the issue is the attitude that "I'm part of something good here, and I don't want to lose that, even if it means not sharing that good with others."


What are we trying to protect? Our identity and unity as a nation. If we become a nation with two dominant cultures that speak two different languages, we will fragment as a nation.

It's not a matter of sharing or not sharing. It's the difference between giving out of your abundance and selling all you have and giving to the poor. Which is certainly Biblically justifiable. But if you're actually advocating that as national policy and supporting the dismemberment of the U.S., please come out and admit it openly.

Open borders/amnesty policies have consequences, and advocates for them should come clean with what they're proposing.

Dan Trabue said...

Please justify this statement Biblically.

"We must obey God rather than man."

How's that? That is, what exactly are you asking JD to justify?

Dan Trabue said...

It is, and I think that we've passed the unsustainable point.

Please justify with some data and/or biblically.

JD said...

John, is this what you were looking for?

"Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." 1 Peter 2:13-17 (NKJV)

It is also more thoroughly discussed by individuals such as Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis.

PAX
JD

Rich Holton said...

John said,
What are we trying to protect? Our identity and unity as a nation. If we become a nation with two dominant cultures that speak two different languages, we will fragment as a nation.

You seem to be suggesting that either we keep "them" out or we end up with fragmented nation with two dominant cultures. Aren't there other options? What about a single transformed culture?

John said
t's not a matter of sharing or not sharing. It's the difference between giving out of your abundance and selling all you have and giving to the poor. Which is certainly Biblically justifiable. But if you're actually advocating that as national policy and supporting the dismemberment of the U.S., please come out and admit it openly.

My priorities lie first with the Kingdom of God, and in living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. When dealing with national politics, one does have to face the realities of what is possible to accomplish. We can't vote to bring about God's Kingdom.

But neither should we try to creatively reinterpret scripture to make it seem as though political necessities were in fact scripturally mandated.

Ultimately, which is more important, maintaining the integrity (intactness) of the United States, or maintaining the integrity (fidelity) of our faith?

~c. said...

This reminds me of the fellow who asked Jesus "...and who is my neighbor?" Jesus never answers the question, because he knows it's loaded. Instead he helps the man to see compassion in the Good Samaritan and commands him "to go and do likewise".

Let me also say that I appreciate the struggle you are bringing forth John. The dichotomy you mention is applicable to many circumstances. Ultimately, I commend you for taking on the struggle, rather than blindly doing how you want to. I think that shows a real virtue that will carry you far as a pastor.

Rich Holton said...

I said:
Ultimately, which is more important, maintaining the integrity (intactness) of the United States, or maintaining the integrity (fidelity) of our faith?

Then, ~C said:
This reminds me of the fellow who asked Jesus "...and who is my neighbor?" Jesus never answers the question, because he knows it's loaded. Instead he helps the man to see compassion in the Good Samaritan and commands him "to go and do likewise".

I did not intend to be asking a loaded question. Actually, I thought the answer to be quite clear. The kingdoms of this world will come and go. I am glad I live in the United States, but the integrity of my faith comes first. It really never occurred to me that the answer was in doubt.

However, it does occur to me that I am being less than compassionate towards John as he struggles (if I can use that word) with these issues.

John, you have more courage than I do, in sharing your struggles on this with us. I hope that your struggles are fruitful. It often seems to me that faithfulness requires us to struggle--even if we never find a completely satisfactory answer.

Anonymous said...

Re the comments

What are we trying to protect? Our identity and unity as a nation. If we become a nation with two dominant cultures that speak two different languages, we will fragment as a nation.

and

I think that we've passed the unsustainable point.

I think there is a lack of historical perspective here. The U.S. has gone through this type of "immigrants need to (be forced to) learn to speak English and assimilate or our country will fragment" before. As an illustration of the perceived lack of assimilation problem in the first third of the twentieth century, there were at least four Supreme Court cases dealing with such attempts to force English-speaking and/or assimilation through the schools: see (and google if you wish) Meyer v. Nebraska (1923), Bartels v. Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923), Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510 (1925), and Farrington v. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927), all of which dealt with this issue. Is the situation now so different from the one then? Can we reasonably say that those who then wanted to hold onto German (as in Meyer) or Japanese (as in Farrington) wanted to pass on their language and culture to their children in a manner qualitatively different than those that want to hold onto (primarily) Spanish today?

What about all the Chinatowns, Little Italys, Polish and Bohemian (Czech) neighborhoods the dotted the larger cities, where Chinese, Italian, Polish, or Czech were the day-to-day language of the streets and stores, and the newspapers that served the those communities in those languages? Did they "fragment" the US?

Learning a new language and a new culture is hard. It will not happen overnight. But i can see no reason to believe that now, as it happened then, the immigrants themselves, and their children and grandchildren, will be fully assimilated. It just takes a couple of generations.

Richard H said...

It's been said, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."

This helps illustrate problem of timing when it comes to measurement. When you invest yourself in teaching a person to fish you will - at one point in the process, appear to be cruel and heartless. "Here is this poor man, needy and starving, and instead of giving him a fish, you make him wait until he can learn to catch one himself."

Or we could change the image a little. "Here is this poor person without a job, and instead of giving her a job right now you make her go to school first. How can you be so heartless?"

With current techniques of communication and travel, we can know more than ever about the tremendous needs of people around the world - and we have the means to send them resources. We know how to sell all we have and give all to the poor. But is that a "give a man a fish" or a "teach a man to fish" solution? Something that will help in the short term but be disastrous in the long term (unless having large numbers of people who have given away everything and now need other people to care for them is not seen as a negative).

Admittedly, the this whole idea of fishing is unbiblical (though other ideas of fishing are present in scripture, this quote comes from elsewhere).

So what can we do given the problem of time? Here are a few ideas:
1. Live as grateful recipients of God's grace. Nothing we have is ours merely because we deserve it.
2. Live as stewards. God has put resources under our control to use for his agenda. In the parable of the talents praise came not for immediately giving the talents away, but for multiplying them until the master called for them.
3. At any given time be living in such a way that a picture of your life up to that point would show you to be generous with the people around you.
4. Redefine your sense of personal gain and prosperity to include the actual well-being of the people around you.
5. Give more than you loan. If someone pays you back, that's ok.
6. Trust God to take care of your finances and possessions more than you trust yourself (or the government) to do so.

John said...

JD, in reference to the passage that you have selected from 1st Peter:

1. Do you agree with Peter that all governments are "sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good"? Including Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin?

2. Where in this quote do you derive your ethic that we are to exempt from laws that are "in direct conflict of God's commandments."

John said...

Rich wrote:

You seem to be suggesting that either we keep "them" out or we end up with fragmented nation with two dominant cultures. Aren't there other options? What about a single transformed culture?

Please name historical examples where cultures have successfully merged without violence.

As counter examples, I offer: Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and the USSR -- all of which were multicultural societies.

I did not intend to be asking a loaded question. Actually, I thought the answer to be quite clear. The kingdoms of this world will come and go. I am glad I live in the United States, but the integrity of my faith comes first. It really never occurred to me that the answer was in doubt.

I understand this, but I wonder that if we decide that Christ comes first and consequently, we should not feel any particular civic duty to our country, if we can still in good conscience exploit our citizenship to carry out policies which are detrimental to that polity.

John, you have more courage than I do, in sharing your struggles on this with us. I hope that your struggles are fruitful. It often seems to me that faithfulness requires us to struggle--even if we never find a completely satisfactory answer.

Thank you!

Dan Trabue said...

re:

It's been said, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."

It's also been said that if you teach a person to fish, they eat for a lifetime, BUT ONLY if the gov't doesn't set aside fishing waters exclusively for corporate use or if you allow the waters to be polluted.

The teaching a person self-sufficiency is a great model, but it's not the whole model. At least, if we look at the prophets, they were concerned about NOT just letting the foreigners, etc "fish" for food, but they were also concerned about systems that served to oppress the poor - the practices of taking land and leaving people without the means to fending for themselves.

If we teach a person to fish but the gov't or corporations own all the rights to the fish, that's still not enough.

That, to me, is the analogy for our foreign policy, free trade practices and immigration rules, as far as what the Bible has to teach us.

John said...

Please justify with some data and/or biblically.

When Mexican-Americans start suggesting that Los Angeles is not a part of the U.S., but Mexico, we're being colonized.

When illegal immigrants march in protests and haul down American flags and replace them with Mexican flags, we're being colonized.

When thousands of illegal immigrants march in protests claiming that White people have no place in the U.S., we're being colonized.

When the Mexican government publishes instruction manuals on how to sneak into the U.S., we're being colonized.

When the Mexican government provides hundreds of thousands of kits for illegally crossing the U.S. border.

When the Mexican government provides advice on how to cross the U.S. border illegally, we're being colonized.

When the Mexican government advocates the erasure of the U.S./Mexico border so that Mexicans face no restrictions whatsoever, we're being colonized.

I could find more, but I have a sermon to write.

John said...

Richard H, where are you going with this? I don't follow.

Richard H said...

Maybe I can clarify my muddle a little, John. Here's what I'm thinking.
1. There can be a difference between helping/loving/blessing people (aliens, in this case) and APPEARING to do so.
2. One of your concerns seems to be maintaining American identity. You seem to see this as a good thing. I think - though I'm not aware that you say it explicitly - that there is something about the American way that is not only good for America (and its current citizens), but also for those who are not now or not yet Americans. One might further think that substantially changing American culture in a particular direction, i.e., toward greater conformity with a large group of non-assimilating immigrants, would not only make America less attractive to current citizens, but also to those who would like to come here. I don't know about you, but I think this is a reasonable position to take.
3. Though I am an American citizen and would like to see America prosper, I count my citizenship in the Kingdom of God to be my primary allegiance. Therefore there are necessary limits on how much America can prosper. While I am not a zero-summer, and think that our prosperity is not only not incompatible with the prosperity of others, there are SOME ways in which our quest for prosperity, particularly when we reduce it to material terms, very often does preclude the prospering of others.
4. It is a fact that when it comes to material prosperity (and a few other kinds as well), America has been blessed. It's awkward to put it in those terms, because when we see our prosperity as a gift of God instead of something we deserve, some might be inclined to think that God is simply unfair. That complaint aside (not because it's worthless, but because I don't know what to do with it), I think we need to hold what he have loosely, as if God has given it to us not merely for our own sake but for the sake of the people around us.

Is that just more muddle?

Richard H said...

Dan, I am sensitive to the access problem. Would I be close to you if I said I favored respect for property rights, but that property rights are not absolute?

I know it'd be nice to have a benign, all knowing government to step in on occasion and adjudicate property rights so that those who have nothing or are late coming to the game might have a chance also. I'm skeptical however, having seen too many who speak "for the people" but really mean "for my cronies."

Rich Holton said...

John,

I think I'm going to have to agree with your seminary professor:

One seminary professor challenged me to change my public policy positions to keep in accordance with my religious convictions. But I would find it very hard to advocate a position that I know will lead to the dismemberment of my country.

Where do your primary loyalties lie? If being a US patriot were to come into conflict with being a Christian, which would you pick?

In a later comment, you insist that "we are being colonized" (I presume by Mexico). I wonder if you recognize how ironic that is, given the history of the United States. But I think it's more telling that the "we" you refer to is clearly the United States.

Remember that when Jesus walked the earth, Israel was a "colony" of Rome. The hope of many first-century Jews was for a Messiah who would throw off the Roman occupation and restore Israel to the greatness it had known under David. But Jesus rejected that path.

John said...

Very well, Rich. Make that choice. I can only respect a decision to choose Christ over country when the two are in conflict. But then do not claim any loyalty to the U.S. Be open and honestly state that the policies that you advocate will destroy the U.S.

Rich Holton said...

John,

I'm not sure what policies you believe I'm advocating, beyond putting Christ before country. That policy I am unashamedly advocating.

However, I don't agree that I must give up all loyalty to my country. While I cannot serve two masters, there are plenty of times when loyalty to the United States is consistent with serving the Master. And there are plenty of other times when the Master allows me the freedom to choose loyalty to the US.

Also, I don't believe that putting Christ before country will result in the destruction of our country--though if a sufficient number of people were to put Christ before country, it would result in a transformation of our country, and of the world.

And I look forward to the day when the very concept of nationhood is only a dim memory, when God's Kingdom is our only kingdom.

Dan Trabue said...

Be open and honestly state that the policies that you advocate will destroy the U.S.

I'm with Rich. I don't think AT ALL that following God's way will destroy any nation. It may place us at risk (I'm sure that's what Israel thought when God disallowed a large standing military and insisted they trust God for deliverance), but life places us at risk.

Building a wall and draconically tightening immigration rules places us at risk (the risk that, as the world economy crumbles, as oil and water supplies are endangered, that we're choosing to become a wealthy gated kingdom that wants to exploit the nations and workers of the world so we can continue to live high on the hog safely on OUR side of the wall.) Having the world's (history's) most massive military has a risk.

There is the risk that people will see us as Goliath and the only way to attack Goliath is by guerilla attacks. Terrorism, instead of a "fair" fight between honorable militaries.

Life has risks. I don't think what I perceive to be God's way is any greater risk than not. (and I'm saying this as an anabaptist, well familiar with how our peaceable, accepting ways have oft led to our deaths and destruction).

Are you saying that, John - that God's ways place us at inordinant risk?

John said...

Also, I don't believe that putting Christ before country will result in the destruction of our country--though if a sufficient number of people were to put Christ before country, it would result in a transformation of our country, and of the world.

Name examples from history of nations that have been internally unified across linguistic and ethnic lines over the long term.

John said...

Are you saying that, John - that God's ways place us at inordinant risk?

Yes. To follow Christ means the cross. It is a life of self-sacrifice.

I struggle enough to follow this for myself, with my full belly in my comfortable home, guarded by men with guns who will use them to protect me and my stuff.

But I balk at forcing my country to also die on the cross.

Andy B. said...

I am sorry to arrive at this party so late. I have been focused this week on welcoming a new foster daughter into our home.

At this point, there is too much that has passed by for me to enter meaningfully into this conversation, if anyone is still reading comments by this point. But for what it's worth I appreciate your original post, John.

What if "foreigners" or "aliens" just meant "not Hebrew"? That keeps with the idea of the Hebrew people as a nation, wherever they happened to be at any given moment. Ironically, I've read a couple of places that indicate that the Hebrews started out as a rather loose collection of folks, pretty diverse even in their origins, anyway.

Anyway, I thank you for the thought provoking question in the original post, and as far as this long thread of conversation goes, my two cents is pretty much "what Dan said." :)

Rich Holton said...

John,

I've mentioned our conversation here on my blog, SpatFromTheWhale.

John said...

Thank you for doing so, Rich, but you still haven't responded to my twice-offered challenge to name examples from history of nations that have had multiple cultures that have successfully merged over the long term without violence.

John said...

Rich wrote:

My priorities lie first with the Kingdom of God, and in living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. When dealing with national politics, one does have to face the realities of what is possible to accomplish. We can't vote to bring about God's Kingdom.

But neither should we try to creatively reinterpret scripture to make it seem as though political necessities were in fact scripturally mandated.


But isn't this what you're trying to do by advocating a more open border for immigration?

Rich Holton said...

John said:
...you still haven't responded to my twice-offered challenge to name examples from history of nations that have had multiple cultures that have successfully merged over the long term without violence.

I don't know what the point would be. I'm not a history expert. But, for the sake of our discussion, let's say that there has never, in the history of the world, been a nation with multiple cultures that have successfully merged over the long term without violence.

Let's assume that. What's the point?

Rich Holton said...

I said:
My priorities lie first with the Kingdom of God, and in living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. When dealing with national politics, one does have to face the realities of what is possible to accomplish. We can't vote to bring about God's Kingdom.

But neither should we try to creatively reinterpret scripture to make it seem as though political necessities were in fact scripturally mandated.


Then, John said:
But isn't this what you're trying to do by advocating a more open border for immigration?

I haven't advocated for any particular stance regarding our border and immigration. I will say that focusing on the border is the wrong approach. We (the US) should be working aggressively to reduce the economic disparity between the US and Mexico. We should recognize that there is a demand for Mexican workers in the US, and find ways to let those workers be here with dignity and allow them to become citizens if they want. And I am against any sort of mass deportation.

I don't see how any of this requires a creative reinterpretation of scripture.

I try to take my hermeneutic cue from Christ: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In God's kingdom there will be no borders, and ideally that is what I would advocate. But, as I said, when it comes to national policy, you have to face the realities of what is possible to accomplish. Advocating the elimination of all national borders just isn't going to work in this world until Christ inaugurates the Kingdom in its fullness.

So political necessity requires some compromise. But I'm not going to find that compromise, then try to creatively reinterpret scripture to support that compromise.

Dan Trabue said...

ut you still haven't responded to my twice-offered challenge to name examples from history of nations that have had multiple cultures that have successfully merged over the long term without violence.

The US? There has been violence, of course, and it's taken a long while and we're still working on it, but man! what a testimony to the world that we ARE getting there. People CAN get along, given time and the desire and a good bit of stubbornness.

It's one of the strengths of our nation, one of the things that makes us distinct.

Still, I agree with Rich: what difference does it make if it hasn't been done historically? What's the point?

Before last century, historically-speaking, I'm not sure that women ever had the chance to vote in a Democratic style gov't.

Before 3 centuries ago, I don't know that anyone ever really tried a democratic-style gov't with equal rights for all.

Being the first to do a good thing is not necessarily a bad thing.

John said...

Rich wrote:

But, for the sake of our discussion, let's say that there has never, in the history of the world, been a nation with multiple cultures that have successfully merged over the long term without violence.

Let's assume that. What's the point?


If it's never been done successfully (and we have countless cases of it being done unsuccessfully), then maybe it's an unsound public policy proposal.

John said...

Rich wrote (way back):

My priorities lie first with the Kingdom of God, and in living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. When dealing with national politics, one does have to face the realities of what is possible to accomplish. We can't vote to bring about God's Kingdom.

But neither should we try to creatively reinterpret scripture to make it seem as though political necessities were in fact scripturally mandated.


And then in the most recent comment contradicts himself by making specific public policy proposals:

I haven't advocated for any particular stance regarding our border and immigration. I will say that focusing on the border is the wrong approach. We (the US) should be working aggressively to reduce the economic disparity between the US and Mexico. We should recognize that there is a demand for Mexican workers in the US, and find ways to let those workers be here with dignity and allow them to become citizens if they want. And I am against any sort of mass deportation.

John said...

Being the first to do a good thing is not necessarily a bad thing.

Times change, but people are the same. We love, we hate; we kiss, we kill.

I think that America is different in the sense that we have our unique history. But I see no reason to believe that America is exceptional; that the laws of history are suspended north of the Rio Grande. I see no reason why as a multicultural society we would succeed whereas so many others have failed. The burden of proof is on those who wish to advocate for such a crazy experiment.

It's possible to jump out of an airplane without a parachute and survive. And unlike in this scenario, people have actually done that successfully. But that doesn't mean that it's a good idea.

Dan Trabue said...

I'm not really following your point here, John. What do you think we're advocating (or, speaking for myself, what do you think I'm advocating)?

Dan Trabue said...

Or, asked another way: What crazy experiment do you think I'm advocating?

Do you think the US as a multicultural society has failed?

I believe I've gotten lost in all our conversations here, but what are you saying exactly?

Rich Holton said...

John,

I confess to being puzzled. You see me contradicting myself, but I don't see where I have.

Perhaps it was that I said that we can't vote to bring about the kingdom. Then I later stated what I believed we should be doing as a nation. I guess I can see how that might appear contradictory, but I don't believe that it is.

Our activity will never bring about God's Kingdom. But that should not keep us from working toward the Kingdom.

We seem to be pretty far apar in our opinions, and I don't want to belabor our differences. This is your blog, and you certainly deserve the last word. Therefore, I don't expect to comment further.

John said...

Dan, my impression is that you and Rich are advocating either the current level of U.S. immigration law and enforcement thereof or a reduction in immigration restrictions.

Do you think the US as a multicultural society has failed?

It is rapidly moving in that direction because the U.S. has not absorbed the massive glut of current immigrants. If we do not reverse the trend, then we will become a balkanized nation, such as Yugoslavia, the USSR, and Czechoslovakia. These are nations that, BTW, do not exist any more because of ethnic differences. Or we will become like Canada or Belgium -- nations that have never fully unified their ethnic differences.

You and Rich, as far as I can tell, are advocating specific public policies. The lessons of history are not irrelevent or unimportant. Can we build a single transformed culture, as Rich suggests? Maybe, go ahead and argue for it. Argue from history that it can and often has been done. Doing so is the foundation of sound public policy debate. Wishful thinking about a utopia that we could create is not.

John said...

Another point: formulating U.S. public policy from Christian ethics. Isn't that theocracy?

I'm forming an image in my mind of Dan and James Dobson holding hands and going on a walk on the beach together. [giggle]

Dan Trabue said...

I'd argue from our proud US history (flaws and all) that it can be and HAS been done. God bless diversity!

You are right in thinking (by your joking) that I'm no fan of the notion of trying to legislate a theocracy. I'm saying that I'm not worried enough to change our immigration policy, I don't see any great concerns there.

I think there IS some room for improvements, but that those improvements will come mostly through changing our free trade and foreign policies. And I think that because I think it makes the most civic sense. In this case, my civic belief and my Christian belief are not especially far apart.

I find the notion of a Walled US horrifying in implication, efficacy and practicality.

John said...

I find the notion of a Walled US horrifying in implication, efficacy and practicality.

I find it no more horrifying than putting a lock on the front door of one's house.

DannyG said...

In the current bible study I am attending we were discussing worship at the Temple, and it was noted in the material that signs were posted at each gate in greek advising that only Hebrews were allowed beyond this point...at penalty of death. Clearly, although told not to mistreat the alien...the alien was expected to obey or face the consequences.

The passage which John cited at the start of this discussion was in exodus. Throughout Leviticus as the various rules and instructions are laid out in detail by God to Moses particular attention is paid to "Strangers" i.e. aliens amongst the Hebrews. In some cases, the instructions were to include the strangers in the same rules which governed Isreal. In other places it stated specifically that what was allowed for, say, a Levite and his family was not allowed for a stranger in the household (guest or worker).

Clearly, the stranger came under the rules of the Law. All I ask for is that aliens be held subject to our law, including the rules and regulations concerning immigration and legal work. I'm not saying that if someone is hungry or sick or otherwise in distress that we should not help, but at the same time the law should be referenced and obeyed.