Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
Although I am not a Baptist, I have tried to follow news about the Southern Baptist Convention, and recently I have been encouraged by their engagement with politics. Last year, Russell Moore impressed me with his objection to the Glenn Beck rally. And at last week’s Southern Baptist Convention, they passed a resolution on illegal immigration that is bold, loving, and important:
Messengers have adopted a much-debated revolution [sic] on immigration that asks “our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” . . . .The resolution, though, was amended to state that “this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.”
It is to our shame that such a resolution is needed, but many conservative Christians have allowed their frustration at our government’s poor immigration policies to turn into a hatred, disgust, or disregard for immigrants (for example, referring to them as “illegals” or calling this crisis an “invasion”). In regard to immigration policies, a failure to see immigrants as people has allowed some Christians to view immigration laws far too simplistically: if someone did not come into our country legally, they should be kicked out, because they broke the law.
What this kind of thinking doesn’t take into account is that these immigrants are not simply young, single males who can be uprooted from their communities and sent back to their home. These are families and single mothers and elderly couples. These are people whose lives could be devastated if they were deported (particularly considering the current drug war in Mexico). What I love about the SBC’s resolution is that it does not fall into the either or fallacy that so often dominates the political conversation about immigration. We must be just and compassionate. We must provide a path to legal status with appropriate restitutionary measures.
As citizens of the United States, it is not necessarily in the best interest of the Southern Baptists to ask our governing authorities to implement such a path to legal status for illegal immigrants. But as Christians, they realized that they have a higher obligation. They have an obligation to treat these immigrants as people first, not as faceless burdens on our economy.
I’m also strongly encouraged that the SBC voiced this resolution as a religious body. They could have simply recommended that individual baptists support immigration reform, but they went further and appealed to the government. American Christians treasure their right to follow their private conscience, so we prefer to have our churches encourage us to be politically active but not to speak on our behalf, which would usurp our right. But there are times when the church needs to speak out. And by passing this resolution and making a political statement as a religious body, the SBC has demonstrated that our heavenly citizenship and corporate membership in the church has a higher demand upon us than our American citizenship and our individual political preferences.
Also see this fantastic blog post by Russell Moore which elaborates on the Christian response to illegal immigration.