It is deeply unfortunate that we now find ourselves in a situation where it will be very hard for many Christians in America to think anything but that immigration reform is of the Devil. David Drury, the Chief of Staff at Wesleyan denominational headquarters, put it this way: "The details and ramifications of such executive orders will be worked out over some time and should be discussed at length."
That is to say, it is appropriate to debate whether the President has the authority to by-pass Congress on this issue. Joe Donnelly, Senator from Indiana, who earlier voted in favor of immigration reform, put it this way: "I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job," but "only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it."
The problem is that it will now be very difficult for many American Christians to support immigration reform at all. Why? Because many American Christians can't tell the difference between being a certain kind of Republican and being Christian. Well-intentioned to be sure, many American Christians can't clearly see where their faith ends and a particular form of Republicanism begins. It's called civil religion, and it is a major problem in the American church.
So it will be hard for many Wesleyans to remember that they overwhelmingly voted to support a statement on immigration by the Wesleyan Church at the last general conference. Would we get the same vote today, since it is now so closely associated with President Obama? That is to say, would the political dynamics of the current situation override the church's Christian sensibilities?
David Drury makes three points:
1. We should vote for compassion over our political parties.
Why do those at my church HQ strongly support immigration reform? It's because they actually know people caught in the current limbo. Perhaps they face being ripped away from their children. Perhaps their country of origin is extremely violent. Perhaps they were brought here when they were a baby and wouldn't even know what to do in the country they were born in. Some may not even speak the language of the country in which they were born.
Those at Wesleyan HQ actually know these people. They are in our church. So this is not some abstract, philosophical discussion for them. This is about real people. This is Jesus with a real person in front of him, someone naked who needs clothed.
Some of these individuals were brought here as children and didn't even make a choice to come. Others broke a law that seemed as insignificant to them as breaking the speed limit is for some of us (so should we have them pay a fine for breaking the speed limit?). Others just didn't leave after their visas expired. Think of the 43 students who were murdered in Mexico last week. Would you go back?
I believe that most Wesleyans would feel exactly the same if these real people in real situations were right in front of them.
2. Drury called for immigration reform.
I lament that the situation has now become so polarized. In such situations, carnal human nature hardens. Will Congress pass immigration reform now, or will they stubbornly now refuse even more than ever? There was a by-partisan bill passed by the Senate. Because of the political climate, how many of those who even voted for immigration reform would be in jeopardy to do so now? I bet even Joe Donnelly of Indiana would have to decide whether he could get away with voting for it a second time. My own representative, Susan Brooks might have voted for it before but I bet she'll have a hard time doing it now.
One thing Wesleyans can do is tell their representatives that the best way to stick it to Obama is to pass immigration reform and make it legal.
3. Finally, Drury urges Wesleyans to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Of course carnal human nature is now going to be more opposed to immigration reform than ever. Obama beats his chest; the carnal reaction is to beat ours in response. But that's not the Christian response. The Christian response is to seek God's will, not to get back at the enemy.
I admire David Drury. It can't be popular in some Wesleyan circles to respond in this way. I know there will be a vocal minority who will grumble about this statement he made.
What I've found at every General Conference these last fifteen years, though, is that the church does the right thing anyway. I know the thirty somethings who will be leading our church in fifteen years. They will strongly resonate with this message of compassion.