Friday, November 21, 2014

Immigration Reform

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.


Susan Moore said...

In that we, Christians, are considered by God to be aliens on this temporal Earth (1Pt. 2:11-12), it should be no stretch for us to be compassionate towards others who are aliens in this culture-driven world.

Although there has been a long standing need to reform Immigration laws, there is actually a new problem that we are facing with the more current wave of immigrants.

If I understand correctly, the current law provides protection only for those fleeing from their persecutory governments. However, the new problem is that it is not the governments that are persecuting Christians (and others). The new problem is that groups of banding people are persecuting Christians, and the governments are not able to protect the Christians, nor themselves, for that matter. Examples of these bands of people would be the IS and drug-cartels who, through their bullying and thug activities, kill Christians to provoke fear and reduce push-back of their activities.

Because the representative foreign governments are against the IS and drug-cartels, the illegal immigrant currently, under our current law, has no grounds for protection here.

I’m not saying I agree with this, I’m just sharing information as a call for prayer on this, and to alert anyone who knows about legal things –we need a rewording of the law.

David Drury said...

Thanks for your kind words here, Ken, and for giving attention to this.

I think your well-reasoned paragraphs here make sense of the political realities. In some ways reform is harder now--but counter-intuitively, it would also be the BEST THING for the country, for the GOP, and in many ways the President as he would get more coverage for his action.

If Congress and the President want to play political football with immigration, everyone loses, including them.

If they want to actually lead us and make immigration a substantive and workable part of our public life, then everyone wins, including them.

Too bad politicians rarely see it that way. It's always: "team over all else."

Play ball!

Nathan Hedge said...

To your point that the people who KNOW immigrants who are affected by the inefficiencies of the system...We are blessed to have a Hispanic congregation as a vital part of our church. I was consoling a wife in our church lobby who was terrified her husband would be deported because he'd been arrested for not having insurance and a driver's license. When I shared the prayer need with others, one asked me, why is she always afraid? I leaned over and said, "Welcome to the world of the immigrant in the United States today." You could hear a pin drop. Suddenly, the staunch conservatives in the room realized the policies they'd espoused and held up for so long were having a direct NEGATIVE impact on a sister in Christ they genuinely cared about. As we prayed, one (who is often the most vocal conservative) simply prayed, "Lord, I don't know what the answer is anymore, but help our representatives in Washington to fix in so this type of thing doesn't happen anymore." My heart leapt for joy! Breakthrough! But this raises another can we get MORE people in our churches to not only meet, but get to KNOW immigrants? The answer is in multi-ethnic churches where we intentionally provide fellowship opportunities with different cultures! I didn't have to say anything, the Lord spoke through the situation and through the agape shared among fellow believers.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Compassion is not good public policy, unless America wants to disintergrate! Compassion is given to "groups" identified by a particular need. As all humans have need, the discussion becomes one of "selfishness"! It is "selfish" if you have more than someone else!! Equal distribution is an outcome based goal, except for the priviledged, running the show. America's standards were based on voluntary charity, not Government enforced mandates of redistribution!
Constitutional checks and balances to power and the "rule of law" is at stake and Obama knows it is a "no win" situation for Republicans,as well as Americans! You are right that Obama uses immigration reform as a political TOOL!
Compassion leads to America and Americans DYING for "universal ideals" such as "universal healthcare", etc.! The Public sphere eats up the PRIVATE! That isn't rational, nor is it voluntary! But, it IS the "slave morality" that Americans/Christians will be called to take! It is "good medicine", even though it stinks and tastes like H***!!! Resistance to that kind of power is what our country's values upheld. Now, we are being asked to forego our rights for someone else's? (And at the costs of "life and limb" for some!) That is not justice! But it is collective thinking such as "social justice"!
If the "rule of law" does not protect the/an American citizen, then, the "rule of law" is DEAD and that means Justice dies with it!
The citizen will be required to take the "DUMP"!

Ken Schenck said...

I'm not taking a position on the executive order issue. And I'm not against there being a penalty for breaking the law. The question is what the penalty should be. Should I be deported if I break the speed limit?

There is only one counterargument I've ever heard that makes any sense at all to me and that is the question of encouraging more illegal immigration by making a way for those here to get legal status. I can't think of any other argument not to give immigrant status to those who are peaceful and already here.

Laura Hurd said...

Thank you, Dr. Schenck, for speaking out about this and defending David Drury's brave words! For the first time in my life, I've faced heated arguments from my closest Christian friends and family - all because I wholeheartedly support the Wesleyan Church's stance on immigration. I am a strong conservative (and have NOT been thrilled with the current White House's position on much of anything) but in this case, my moral standards and spiritual responsibilities seem to be in direct conflict with my political associations. Guess which side I will choose, when pressed?

I believe you are absolutely correct in your assessment that those who personally know immigrants see a different side to this issue than those who push the generic rhetoric of "secure our borders; if immigrants won't come here legally, we should just deport them..." When you get to know the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus," engraved on the Statue of Liberty), you begin to see these desperate poor as people for whom Jesus died, instead of faceless social parasites who should be driven from our land.

America has always held a promise of hope for those who are spiritually oppressed, economically destitute, and in physical danger by tyrannical regimes. Because of this, I believe my view is more American, more conservative - more "Republican," if you will - than those who scream for deportation and cold justice. But even if not, I am a Christian first and an American second. I love my country, but I love Jesus more. And I am trying to find a way in which I can be a part of the solution. Thanks to the Wesleyan Church, that way is becoming clearer.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I do not think that one can disassociate from their culture, unless it is intentional. Intentional consideration of one's culture takes critique.

Culture is an environmental framework. For the religious, culture is conditioned by the understanding of a particular religious tradition. But, since America allows for multi-verses or diversity regarding religious opinion, as well as allows for none at all, it leaves the question open toward "open borders".

Borders define boundaries that are basic for definition and existence. All groups must define themselves and humans tend to associate and identify within groups of preference in our country. But many immigrants seem to like America's benefits without becoming American. (I think the Wesleyan view of salvation/sanctification might fit well as an analogy...the right to be called a Christian without the fruit of being a Christian).

As a nation, we must protect our viability, which is not furthered by open borders (granting Natural Rights apart from Legal Rights). Open borders ("human rights") lead to annihilation, because everyone's right becomes no one's right, except those that determine policy.

It is true that subjective knowledge sometimes makes for "justification", in our minds, because personal knowledge knows and considers context of particular people. That is compassion. It is experience driven, not Scripturally/Traditionally driven, while a person's reason rules through objectivity, not inter-subjectivity.

Objectively, each of us wants "life" and liberty, as it allows for the dignity and value of choice. Choice is about self ownership, and self responsibility. The person is an end in himself, not a particular means to an end. Christianity seems to have become politically "useful". But, that is not in accordance with the "rule of law" (Constitutional checks and balances to Power).

The "rule of law"(Constitutionally) was to prevent those in Authority from using their position to protect themselves and their policies, rather than governing with consideration of those that they were to represent.