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An average American that has some thoughts on politics, culture, and society with a conservative and Catholic twist.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

A Christian View of the Immigration issue- Part ONE

This immigration debate is heated and a times very emotional. There are people of good will on both sides of this debate. However, I have been disappointed that on a issue that will effect millions that there has been little Christian analysis of this issue. This is particular troubling in the blogsphere where there are countless numbers of Christian blogs. This silence might be similar to why many churches have been strangely slient. Why? Because the laity, the people in pews, do not want to hear their Preachers, Priests, etc talking about it in Church. I've have been hearing- Its none of the church's business stay out of politics!!!! Well folks if Christ can be in our marriage laws, aborton laws, among other things , then he can sure darn well be consulted in our immigration laws. The Hispanic Christians as well as others are demanding that happen also.

Many Catholic documents will be cited, but I think that even those can be used to pray and ponder over by non Catholics. The Catholic Church has had to deal with the issues of migration much longer than many other churches especially those here in the USA.

Scripture

Interpreting and applying scriptures to modern day problems is a at times a messy business. However I do think the scriptures give us guidance as to the alien in our midst. Do these scriptures advocate open borders, no consequences to those here illegally, or that we take the whole world and their problems into our borders? Of course not. But God seems to be telling us that our laws must be tempered with mercy and justice.
OLD TESTAMENT
The Old Testament is full of commands to take care of the poor, the oppressed, and the alien among us. Moses had some things to say on the subject it appears. After Moses gave the "Big 10" to the Israelites, he talked about some other issues. In Exodus 23:9 Moses said, "You must not oppress the stranger; you know how a stranger feels, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt." Pretty powerful imagery for today. Especially since many of our own forefathers came here to these shores to escape oppression and economic misery. In Leviticus 19: 32-34, God himself reminds Moses :"If a stranger lives with you in your land, do not molest him. You must count him as one of your own countrymen and love him as yourself—for you were once strangers yourselves in Egypt. I am Yahweh your God" That again is God talking himself. Does this mean that GOD advocates open borders and no immigration laws in the current concept of the Nation State that we live in. I think the answer is of course not. But again, it is showing that God is concerned about how people treat the foreigner that is among them.
I think its no secret that many of the illegals in this country are poor and often abused by their employers. The Psalmists talked on these topics. The obligation for us to look at for the poor, the oppressed, and the orphan among us. In Psalm 82: 2-4 , "No more mockery of justice,no more favoring of the wicked! Let the weak and the orphan have justice,be fair to the wretched and destitute;rescue the weak and needy,save them from the clutches of the wicked!" and in Psalm 103: 6 "Yahweh, who does what is right,is always on the side of the oppressed". God yets speaks again in Jeremiah 22: 3-4 Yahweh says this: "Practise honesty and integrity; rescue the man who has been wronged from the hands of his oppressor; do not exploit the stranger, the orphan, the widow; do no violence, shed no innocent blood in this place" . Furthermore, God in speaking to Zechariah in 7: 8-11: "Apply the law fairly, and practise kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow and the orphan, the settler and the poor man, and do not secretly plan evil against one another"
Do these scriptures ,as well as others, play a role in this debate? Under the current proposals millions of familes could be broke up. Children made orphans because their parents are deported. Familes could be starved to death for lack of work. Wives and husbands made widowers for all practical purposes. Should we meditate on God's words before passing something like the House bill that provides no exceptions or process for these people in this situation?

Finally in Isaiah 10: 1-2 :"Woe to the legislators of infamous laws,to those who issue tyrannical decrees,who refuse justice to the unfortunate and cheat the poor among my people of their rights,who make widows their prey,and rob the orphan". Thats pretty tough stuff. Its even tougher since in this republic of ours we elect the legislators. The key here is justice it seems. One must ask that as a a country that has basically allowed this illegal immigration to occur for about 30 years ,in fact profited from it on the whole, that if some proposed solutions are in scripture's words infamous and tyrannical. Should we ponder this verse as we are proposing laws to try to get a very complicated problem under control, or should we should mimic Pilate and wash our hands of the affair and simply deport or starve men, women, and children across the border? Do these scriptures speak to us of any responsibilty we have to the families that are mixed, that is both American and illegal? There are many other old testament scriptures that are revelant that I will link to in part II of this post. The question is, when it comes down to it, do we have a biblical mandate to take care of the alien and to even treat the illegal alien that is among us with mercy and justice. The Holy spirit is not giving us a blue print on how to craft this legislation as to specifics. But there does seem to be a mandate.

New Testament
The New Testament also speaks on this. If you take a step back there seems to an awful amount of wandering around from place to place from jurisidction to jurisdiction in the New Testament.
In fact we see this right off in the book of Matthew where the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has to flee. In Matthew 2:13-15 the Apostle inform us: "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." Its quite amazing to think that in many ways the Holy Family is almost a perfect picture of the immigrant. Mary and Joeseph depending on the kindness of strangers to find a place to give birth to Christ in a foreign place. Then this interesting episode of fleeing to Egypt. The question has to be asked, was the Holy Family itself illegal immigrants? Don't throw something in anger at the computer screen because I had the moxy to ask that question. There is no definate proof that they were "illegal" in todays understanding. The Holy Spirit does not inform us of the complexities of the Egyptian immigration laws via the Roman Empire. But one does ponder if Joesph checked in with the authorities in Egypt when Herod was doing everything he could to find and destroy the Christ child. For all the illegals that are here from China fleeing persecution , does this scripture have revelance to todays debate? There is much to pray and ponder on this story. Pope Pius the XII had to something to say on this topic. Pope Pius the XII was no liberal, fuzzywuzzy ,liberation theology Pope by the way. In 1952 in Exsul Familia the Pope stated"



The émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and
to seek a foreign soil

For those Catholic political conservatives, as well as other Christians, that say what the American Bishops are saying is just a bunch of liberalism the above should give you pause. More on this incredible encyclical later.

What is one the big messages of Christ?
Matthew 25: 35-40For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me; in prison and you came to see me. . . . I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.

Mark 12: 30-31This is the first [commandment]...you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

When we ask God to give us the wisdom of Solomon in order to make order out of this illegal immigration mess, I think the above quotes from Mark and Matthew must be remembered. To often we as Christians forget that God is calling us to do more than go to mass each Sunday, or say the Rosary, or accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and get saved. He is not only asking us , he is commanding us to do more. There is a theme here that should be pondered. I do not believe that Christ is saying that each of us ,either as a citizen or a country, is compelled to accept all the poor and perecuted folks of the World. However, there does seem to be a message that for those that are blessed much is expected. This should apply to our immigration laws as well. Love our neighbor as yourself. That means the brown skin ones and every other color. Again, a link can be seen from passages we saw in the Old Testament and the New.

One note before I go further. I think in order to try to put Christ in our immigration laws we must first cleanse ourselves of that which impedes that goal. There is a lot of hate going on right now. Not everyone that is against illegal immigration(I think we all are) are racist or hateful. But I do not do live in a pollyanna world. The anger and fear that is present often leads to hate. I have seen it. I am a proud southerner. I have seen first hand how on both sides in the black/white debate in this region how easy it is for people to get blinded. Good Christian people by the way that go church. Part of that is anger and fear and then evolves into hate. . I have experience in it. I lived and still live it. It is s here in this debate on immigration right now. So its important as we pray over this to remember
1 John 4: 19-21 : "Anyone who says, ‘I love God,'and hates his brother,is a liar,since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen.So this is the commandment that he has given us,that anyone who loves God must also love his brother."

Before I leave the New Teatament, I think its important to go back to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 25:31-46. The Sermon on the Mount has always been a tad disconcerting to me. I think that is one reason why it is in the scriptures because God is trying to get our attention in a big way to warn us that our souls are in danger. What I am talking about our souls being in danger, I am talking about the place that goes by the politically incorrect name of Hell. Now I am not saying that everyone that doesn't support the Bush plan or the Catholic's Bishop's plan on immigration, or is for deporting illegals is going to Hell. That would be wrong and silly to imply such a thing. However I do think that there is a biblical basis that citizens and politicians are held accountable to some degree by their actions. For instance there is a legitimate discussion if politicians that vote for abortion should be prohibited from taking communion. This should be kept in mind. These aliens, even the illegals, are people made in the image of God. We are dealing with persons and not just units of labor or as some folks call them "invaders" and "criminals" Each of these illegals have a human dignity. That does not mean that "illegals" should get anything they want in this debate, but it does inform us that we are dealing with many folks that have become the adopted Children of God himself through their baptism.

In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is basically using the image of the Shepard seperating the Sheep from the goats to explain what the judment will be like. One gets the impression that folks are pretty surprised that they are in the "goat" category.
Lets look at in full

" “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with
him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we
see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry
or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Now that is pretty stern stuff. Also, I think that most preachers and theologians will tell you that this is not an exclusive list. I often wonder in this debate if Jesus very well might say, "I was an Alien, and you deported me"or "I was 10 year old child and you deported my parents" Think on that for a minute. What would you say to Jesus? But Lord it was a issue of National Sovergnity!!!! But Lord they broke the law by illegally crossing the border 10 years ok!!! Is that explanation going to fly with Christ? Really pray on that and try to picture yourself saying that to Christ if he asked you.

Does that mean we cannot and should not deport some illegal aliens. OF course we should. In fact, one could argue that in many cases we have a duty to do so. But when I think of the possibilty that over 12 million illegals with their children(some of whom are American), will be forced into poverty or persecution this verse comes to mind. Again, the issue I believe is one of Justice. Illegal immigration is a wrong. However, it must be remembered that just because illegal immigration is wrong , that does not make all proposed solutions to that problem moral. One does not execute carte blanche people that shoplifts in our Christian culture. Shoplifting is a problem and I am sure that executing shoplifters would stop thefts at Dillards or Jc Penny's. However the response to the wrong becomes immoral in itself.

I am breaking up this post into two parts. The next post, that I hope to have up by noon tomorrow, will deal with the Catholic Church and other Christian Church's wisdom on this issue. Furthermore I will supply a list of links to Chrisitian resources that are helpful in this debate.


3 Comments:

Blogger SJ Reidhead said...

The late, great Barry Goldwater once said something to the effect that anyone mixing religion and politics should go streight to hell. It is one of those laws of physics I try to live by, when I can.

SJ Reidhead

10:57 AM  
Blogger SJ Reidhead said...

The late, great Barry Goldwater once said something to the effect that anyone mixing religion and politics should go streight to hell. It is one of those laws of physics I try to live by, when I can.

SJ Reidhead

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.
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8:58 PM  

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