I was a little fuzzy as to what I wanted to write about or what thoughts to express in this particular blog. To be honest as a person of faith, who has a strong desire for decency, justice and mercy, I must say the new Arizona law concerning illegals is more then just a little troubling for me.
I have read, extensively opinions on this new law from both the right and left of the political spectrum. The arguments for and against this law range from compelling and thought provoking to ridicules and racist.
Yet when is all said and done, this law disturbs me deeply…not just in the head or the heart but the far reaches of my soul…you know that place where only you and God go.
Even more perplexing to me is, why as an out and proud gay Christian man this law should disturb me so deeply.
Then it hit me, this law was not written to hand out any kind of justice, or extend any kind of mercy. Further this law was not written to prevent crime or to allow the Arizona law enforcement folks to “serve and protect”. No, this law was written out of fear and political opportunism.
Ever since 9-11 our fear of illegal immigrants has reach unprecedented levels of fear. We are now justifying our fear of people and cultures we don’t know or understand by painting with a very wide brush that says if you are not American then you must mean us harm. Of course lost in this is Tim McVey, the “Uni-bomber”, Eric Rudolph, John Wayne Gacy or Charles Speck, all who were white and as American as they come…but I digress.
All this concerns me because this is the same kind of fear used against LGBTQ people and through various laws attempt to control and crush or kill if need be those who don’t live out their lives from the correct biblical perspective and view of the universe.
We have heard all the arguments why “these” people must be contained, captured, and deported without benefit of legal counsel or trial. Why it is justified to destroy families and even kill those coming across the border with very little provocation. These arguments have affected “collateral damage” by making the landscape ripe for “human trafficking and smuggling”. We don’t seem to care about the truck loads of humanity that have died in mass in the desert heat and without water or food.
It is argued first, this is a matter of national security since we don’t know which illegal who simply wants a job and food for his family might be a terrorist sneaking into our country to blow off the very hand which feeds them.
When that argument doesn’t have the desire results the arguments added to the rhetoric is the rise in violent crime, theft, poaching and land destruction (property values). At the same time this is being spewed across the landscape, we hear the cry: “They are taking our jobs”! Further, because of our ridicules drugs laws we have set ourselves up for more collateral damage with an unwinnable “drug war”, which also becomes part of the collar placed on the necks of all illegal’s who well you know are “drug traders”.
Finally when all else fails the argument is made these illegal’s are taxing to the breaking point our health care system. Really? Our “health care system” was pretty screwed up long before out of political expedience it jumped front and center in our “war” on illegals.
Now let me be clear these concerns are things for which we must be aware of and admit at some level as with anything there is good with the bad.
However, all these arguments are being made and exploited without benefit of our faith connection being considered as our starting point for our conversation, questions and concerns.
Rev. Richard Nathan is the pastor of Columbus Vineyard Church and makes two excellent points in two different articles:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hardly a liberal organization, published an extensive report refuting often-cited myths concerning immigration (“Immigration Myths and the Facts Behind the Fallacies,” www.uschamber.com). Despite claims to the contrary, illegal immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes each year, and do not qualify for or collect public assistance or welfare benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or Section 8 housing.
Furthermore, enforcement-only policies are no solution. Deporting 12 million illegal immigrants is utterly impracticable. Not only would it cost hundreds of billions of dollars ($206 billion over five years, according to the chamber), it would destroy families and communities across the country.
The way forward is clear. We need to secure our borders, crack down on dishonest employers and require illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements, including learning English, working and paying taxes before they earn the chance to become citizens. Such practical reforms would strengthen our economy, serve the interests and honor the ideals of our nation, and provide immigrants with the opportunity to fully join our society.
His second point asks his readers to put on their “biblical spectacles” when confronted with the issue of illegal’s and your “faith response”. I would ask my readers to do the same:
I would hope that Christians would first put on biblical spectacles when approaching the issue of illegal immigration. The biblical Christian would:
1. Begin with the conviction that illegal immigrants are persons made in God’s image and are, therefore, worthy of respect and dignity (Genesis 1:26,28).
2. Appreciate the fact that many of our spiritual ancestors were themselves economic refugees. Thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved from the Promised Land on several occasions in search of food (Genesis 12:10; 26:1; 41:57; 42:6; 43:1-7). The story of Ruth is the story of an immigrant who continually crossed national borders in search of food. Other spiritual ancestors of ours were pushed out of their homeland because of war or persecution (Joseph, Daniel, Moses, David, and the baby Jesus). So immigration because of economics, war, and asylum-seeking is not far from every Christian’s own heritage.
3. Specifically apply the Second Commandment to illegal immigrants: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
4. Care for immigrants since they had a central place in the laws and practices of ancient Israel. Israel was commanded to love immigrants because God loves immigrants. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).
5. Be hospitable according to New Testament teaching which literally means to “love the stranger” or the alien (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Jesus commanded his followers to welcome people who had no social standing, such as the poor, the sick, and the outsider (Luke 14:12-14).
I am fully aware that these considerations will not solve the challenge of illegal immigration, but it will sure change the discussion from what is now destructive and life ending to something that more closely resembles “doing justice, acting mercifully and walking humbly with God”.
As Christians we are encouraged to “cast out all fear and replace it with unconditional love”…so then we must ask ourselves how does the Arizona law promote the love we are suppose to be living, the love we are suppose to be practicing, the love we are suppose to be sharing?
In looking through my copious notes for sermon writing I came across something I had cut out of an article (I am not sure who gets credit for this) and they more then apply here:
One must consider where they stand…how do they love others? Is this love up to the standards set by Christ?
-if you haven’t killed some one-who have you called a fool? What emotion did you pour out upon them when you became angry with them? Whose reputation have you slaughtered by the harsh things you had to say about them?
-If you haven’t committed adultery-and felt good about this-then consider for a moment what you have wanted to do….
-Or consider who holds a grudge against you because of something you did-something for which you have not apologized?
-Or again-what promises and vows have you broken and then justified yourself in doing so?
-When was the last time you criticized immigrants for stealing all the jobs in this country, or expressed your dislike for the person who took the promotion that belonged to you?
Let’s be honest here the whole thing in a nutshell comes down to a prevailing attitude in this country today:
1) We greet those who greet us.
2) We do good to those who do good to us.
3) We lend to those who will pay us back.
4) We welcome those who welcome us.
As for everyone else, well if asked, most people have a reason for what they do and an excuse for what they do not do.
That is the problem with the Arizona Law; it is an excuse for what we have not done.
God have mercy on us all.
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.