by ProfDave, ©2023

(Jan. 23, 2023) — What does a Christian Conservative think about the immigration/border crisis? Still trying to figure out the “undocumented” crisis.  So glad I am not responsible for it – but I vote for (or against) those who are.  Soon the crisis will be coming to my town and yours.  We have already encountered panhandlers who are apparently off the social services grid.  Whether you are right or left tends to determine what you call the situation.  On the one hand Jesus was a refugee in Egypt and was homeless during his ministry.  Compassion is required of anyone who pretends to follow him.  On the other hand, anyone with a conservative bone values the rule of law.  Ignoring the law leads to chaos for society and a shadow over the lives of violators, no matter how otherwise honest and industrious they might be.  The worst of the problem is the middlemen – the drug cartels and human traffickers.  Slavery is alive and well and the undocumented have no recourse: drug running, prostitution and indentured labor come with the territory.  This is a monstrous human rights problem.  If we have to let them in, then it is immoral, if not criminal, to leave them in the hands of organized crime. 

The need for immigration reform is obvious, but don’t hold your breath for Congress to agree on anything.  Meanwhile, Christians are commanded to respect the law.  Martin Luther King, is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” made the point that a law that contradicts the law of God is no law at all.  Is there a moral problem with restricting entry to our country to those who qualify and are duly processed?  Failure to provide adequate and timely processing certainly is a dereliction of duty, but does it justify civil disobedience by government entities?

Compassion has been for two millennia the province of the Christian and of his church.  The trend, over the last 80 years or so, has been to delegate compassion to the state.  We have devoted vast sums, erected huge institutions and hired highly paid staff to do compassion for us.  Some have been very helpful – my Medicare is lavish – but a lot of the effort goes into a bewildering array of procedures, paperwork and now web applications.  Compassion on a grand scale is impersonal and inefficient.  Christians need to step into the gap.  Real Christians are impelled to compassion on anyone who is hurting, legal or not.  Even the coyotes are redeemable, image bearers of God.  So, faith-based NGOs provide emergency shelter, food, blankets, medical care and sponsorship for refugees, “deserving” or not.  They are on the front line; some of them – though ever underfunded and understaffed – have been doing really great work.

The larger picture is a broken world.  The USA is messed up and getting worse, but still enjoys more wealth and stability than the rest of the world.  We have no idea how well-off we are.  Our homes are twice as large, our store shelves stocked with immeasurably more and better merchandise, we have toilet paper and hot running water.  Even our homeless are not starving.  The phenomenon of civil war and failed states – where government is not in control and rebels, fanatics and criminal elements terrorize the populace – is spreading in Latin America and the Middle East.  When life becomes intolerable in your own country, America is everybody’s destination of choice.  No, we cannot house the whole world and maintain our luxury lifestyle, but Christians share to the point of sacrifice.  The danger is that as we throw our doors open to all comers, we admit the bad ideas (socialist despotism and Islamic terrorism) and the criminal exploitation that the true refugees are fleeing.  Will those refugees enjoy our world or bring their world with them?  Makes me nervous.

Perhaps we should start exporting democratic and Christian values again?  Is there hope for the rest of the world?  What made America great?  Not good luck, not racial pride.  Certainly not the unrequited labor of slaves or richness of the soil misappropriated from indigenous people.  Not the conquests of our armed forces.  The undeserved blessing of God?  Perhaps.  Do we want to lose that?

What made us so rich and our regime so stable?  What made the USA a refuge for the world’s oppressed and destitute?  As one founder expressed, democracy is a bad political system – but all the others are worse.  So, free-enterprise capitalism is a bad economic system – but all the others are worse.  I would contend that it was our ideals and pervasive Christian moral values which made it all work, in spite of human failure to live up to those ideals, that made us wealthy, stable and strong.  Do we want to lose that?

Free-enterprise capitalism encouraged the successful to reinvest, rather than consume, their wealth to make more wealth.  The “bad” result of this system concentrates wealth and power in the hands of the few, but everything depends on the character and public spirit of the rich and powerful.  Christians see themselves as stewards, under God, of everything they have.  Power without that kind of character is the corruption and downfall of every system.

The idea of democracy is to distribute power as broadly as possible, leaving as much liberty as possible to all.  The “bad” parts of this system are its vulnerability to popular whims on the one hand and to deadlock on the other.  Plus the tendency to take advantage of one another.  This time, everything depends on the character and public spirit of the population.  The Judeo-Christian worldview and morality gave a compass for consensus and civil behavior.  Alternatives concentrate political as well as economic power in the hands of the few.  Power notoriously corrupts.  Conclusion: character and morality, top to bottom, are the keys to a free and prosperous society.

What should we do?  “America First” is OK as a principle of realpolitik (pursuing America’s realistic interests while recognizing the realistic interests of other nations), but as an attitude smacks of chauvinism – not an American value.  National selfishness is not who we are. America was great when she was generous.  We need to reclaim our values. 

Practical applications. Quietly finish the wall to channel the flood of immigrants through the gates and put the coyotes out of business.  Declare war on the cartels and assist our neighbors in their war on drugs and organized crime.  Mexico must not fail.  Reform the refugee and immigration procedures so that desperate people are not forced to throw away their integrity to gain entrance.   Admit a lot more aliens legally.  Stop compromising with evil.  Return to law and order, equal opportunity, individual responsibility and free enterprise, free speech and sanity, liberty and justice for all (not just protected classes).  Be the “city on the hill” again for the rest of the world.  In short, return to God.

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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