Thursday, December 09, 2010

Wesleyans and the DREAM Act

Last night the House passed the DREAM Act.  Today the Senate may not.  I was thinking it provided a possible test case for Arminian vs. Calvinist theology in action.  Gabriel Salguero, who is a Nazarene in the Wesleyan tradition, who teaches at Princeton, and who is one of several helping us contextualize our Missional Course into Spanish, has been one of several engaged with the White House on this bill.  Similarly, Norm Wilson, a Wesleyan who teaches in IWU's undergraduate program, has been encouraging Wesleyans to support the bill.

What is the bill?

The bill addresses individuals whose parents brought them illegally to the United States before they were 18.  Such individuals often are far more American than, say, Mexican.  In some cases, they might not even remember Mexico, might not know how to survive in Mexico, have nowhere to go in Mexico.  In some cases their parents have been deported and they are just floating around here.  Maybe they have gone through our public schools and they mainly know our way of life.

In short, these are individuals in a kind of limbo.  Legally, they do not belong here.  Culturally, they may belong here far more than in some other place.

The DREAM act gives them a path to legality.  They can enroll in college or the military for two years and if they demonstrate they are profitable members of society, they can become legal.  The key criteria are that they have lived here for at least 5 years and came here before they were 18.

So how does the flavor of your Christian theology potentially affect your attitude toward this issue.

CALVINIST: Because the rules and God's justice are the main thing for the Calvinist, I suspect Calvinists will have a tendency to want to see us stick it to these kids.  Tough luck Charlie.  Your parents broke the rules and so you have to pay.  We're going to send you back where you belong and if you have a hard time there, well, your parents should have thought of that before they broke the rules.

ARMINIAN: In God's eyes, you are just as important as I am.  Legal, illegal, they are precious in his sight.  The goal is redemption.  What separates you from me is a piece of paper.  I will do to you what I would have you do to me.  If it were me, I would have nowhere clear to go and a potentially dangerous and unknown path to a place that has become a foreign land to me.  If it were me, I would want you to have mercy on me and let me make a go for myself, let me contribute something to your society, which I would own as my society.  I suspect that the true Arminian would be biased to be sympathetic to this Act--only the details would then lead me to be against it.

I don't think there are any such details in this case.  This Act is all about biases.  Are you a legalist without compassion?  You will tend to be knee jerk against it.  I think anyone with the heart of Christ will have a bias toward passing it.

13 comments:

Kevin Wright said...

It maybe just the Presbyterians I'm hanging out with here in Charlotte but these Calvinists are advocating for the dream act with as much fervor as anyone. In fact, I think the Presbys in Charlotte do as good of a job as anyone on preaching the magnanimous nature of God's grace. But that could just be a Charlotte thing.

Rick said...

Kevin Wright is correct, especially in regards to the grace aspect.

Tim Keller, hardly an Arminian, has an interview up at Christianity Today regarding his new book, Generous Justice.

"God's grace makes you just. The gospel is such that even though you're not saved by good works, you are saved by grace and faith—and it will change your life and lead to good works. According to the Bible, if you really have been changed by the grace of God, it will move you toward the poor...

...My definition of justice is giving humans their due as people in the image of God. We all agree that everyone deserves not to be enslaved, beaten, raped, or killed. We are not just talking about helping the poor but helping people whose rights are being violated. What people are due is not an easy thing to determine from the Bible. I'm urging Christians not to be so certain that they know how the Bible translates into public policy.

Many Christians say that the best way to do justice in the world is to be a Democrat, others say to be a Republican. I'm trying to shake people loose and say that you need to be involved in your political party without that kind of triumphalism."

Ken Schenck said...

I would very much imagine that the Princeton Calvinists are the same. The crowd you are with, in my opinion. Who knows what Piper himself thinks? What I am talking about is the general bias of the theology as I see it. Good to hear from you Kevin!

Ken Schenck said...

Rick, I believe there are many Calvinists who have a "Wesleyan" spirit, just as there are tons of grass roots Wesleyans who are nothing more than hard-hearted legalists.

::athada:: said...

Not sure about the theology, but thanks for bringing attention to this issue. Those who want to marginalize these brothers and sisters will help their self-fulfilling prophecy/stereotype of violent, desperate, marginal immigrants. Give them a seat at the table, and they'll be just as (U.S.) American as you or me, kids more than anyone.

Call your senators... http://www.senate.gov/index.htm

Michael Cline said...

I'm stumped.

How does Calvinism necessarily correlate to an emphasis on God's law and the penalties of breaking said law in a way that escapes Arminianism?

Though those of who are more Arminian may not like the predestination of our Calvinist brothers and sisters, I'm not sure that we can equate their theology with a lack of emphasis on grace or mercy. Even if God has chosen whom He will save and condemn, and there is nothing we can do about it, it doesn't play out that we can therefore shrug our shoulders and do nothing, or presume to know which of the "illegals" deserve our mercy and which do not.

So again, I don't see the correlation.

Ken Schenck said...

Mike, just for half of your reaction, I still believe these would logically be the trajectories or flavors of these thought traditions. Clearly there are Calvinists I really like who are the more sophisticated ones at Calvin or Princeton. They share my values on these sorts of issues like the Presbyterians Kevin mentions above.

But I'm not sure they are being true to their own theology. The idea of "limited atonement" sums it all for me. Christ only died for those who are predestined, so we are not beholden to those who are not. It is this spirit that led many to dismiss William Carey for going to India (if those people were predestined to be saved, they would have been born here) and Cotton Mather to dismiss any moral obligation toward Native Americans or African slaves.

Logically, a Calvinist should only be interested in those individuals who might potentially be part of the elect. So, yes, a Calvinist might be interested in finding which illegals are potentially elect (although Edwards might have assumed that the very fact they are law-breakers points away from them being elect). Once you ascertain the elect status of a person, there is no logical reason to have any further interest in the non-elect. After all, God doesn't care about them. Why should we?

Ken Schenck said...

I'm wrong on Mather, but not wrong about the general sentiment at the time in Puritan New England.

JohnM said...

If I had the time and inclination I'd research the denominational affiliation and (harder) the theological leanings, if any, of congressmen voting for the act and those voting against the act. Only then would I be able to say it is a test case for Arminian vs. Calvinist theology in action, rather than Arminian vs. Calvinist theology in theory.

Of course, even if the DREAM Act were to pass (as I post this my understanding is it didn't in the Senate)it still makes what some no doubt will consider an unwarranted and unfair distinction between "our" kids and "their" kids. Your children and mine don't have to join the military to become citizens. The act might be construed as another instance of a minority being put in a position of having "more to prove". I'm not sure it would satisfy everyones sensibilities.

Ken Schenck said...

John, as far as seeing the theological leanings of Congressmen, I would also say that this discussion is likely a good example of how people do not necessarily act on this level in terms of what their ideological systems might lead them too. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Go ARIZONA

Ken Schenck said...

Are they playing today? ;-)

::athada:: said...

Yes, the Arizona Cowardly Anonymous Lions are playing. Their record is about as good as the other Lions that play in Michigan :)