Although I have great respect for many of the evangelical leaders who signed on to the original letter from the Evangelical Immigration Table, I have a few problems with how the evangelical label is being exploited for political gain. You can read some of my thoughts on that here.
I had some hopes that we might actually see meaningful immigration reform early on in the process. [ See my post Immigration 2.0: I Want to Believe! ]
My primary concern with the EIT is not funding from George Soros, although that does raise questions, as does the lack of transparency about it by the EIT. My primary concern is that their approach to influencing Christians on this issue of immigration legislation reflects what I call an Isolationist Gospel.
The Isolationist Gospel
By Isolationist Gospel, I mean that they have chosen to isolate one valid aspect of the gospel and fixate on it to the exclusion of all others. What remains is a fragment of the gospel, one that is valid in so far as it goes, but falling well short of what Scriptures reveal as God’s inclusive redemptive word.
The result is a false dichotomy in which we are asked to choose between mercy or justice. Either we pass amnesty – the allegedly merciful thing – or we kick out the huddled masses, yearning to be free – the allegedly just thing. Either we usher them in to our society regardless of how or why they are here or we chase them out into the streets like dogs.
But being faithful to God need not be an either / or dilemma. God himself is not an either / or being but a both /and deity in His very Triune nature. He is both one and three. We should expect gospel solutions to real-world problems to reflect both His unity and diversity. Not surprisingly then, we read this:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)
Not one or the other but both justice and mercy. We can do justice AND love mercy while we walk with humility before Him.
But the EIT seems to be fixated on mercy to the exclusion of justice. I suppose the practical aim is to guilt Christians into supporting legislation that reflects this Isolationist Gospel. Not only does the Isolationist Gospel help perpetuate the very problem they claim to want to solve, but it’s poor policy that lacks biblical wisdom.
I Was a Citizen
For example, consider this moving video of evangelical leaders reading a Scripture as part of their “I Was a Stranger” campaign. Clearly the intent is to move us to compassion for those in our country illegally who are in need of mercy. We should be eager to show such compassion. And we have.
In my experience, the overwhelming majority of evangelicals have always wanted to show mercy – and do. But they also want to ensure that our leaders fulfill their first responsibility to keep our own citizens safe. They want their leaders to act justly to ensure the laws actually can be enforced and build a fence that actually works to ensure this disaster involving very real people never happens again.
Perhaps we should launch a new campaign entitled: “I Was a Citizen.” What about justice for them?
But My Mercy Is Better than Your Justice
At the heart of the Isolationist Gospel seems to be the idea that loving mercy is superior to doing justly. Thus a leader who supports legislation to provide a path to citizenship for illegal aliens is more godly or enlightened than one who insists on also protecting the interests of the people (read children, families, the elderly, widows and orphans) the leader is sworn to represent.
Imagine that a father found intruders in his home. Instead of insisting they leave, grabbing the nearest shotgun to reinforce his point, or calling the police, he insisted on showing mercy by giving them free access in the home. Never mind that his children and wife already have little food and have fallen behind on their mortgage payments. Never mind that a few of the visitors are known child molesters and felons. Never mind that his family will be destroyed in the process, mercy above all becomes the new mantra for the home. Worse yet, he refuses to address the open door that caused the problem in the first place.
It sounds like a scene from Cape Fear or some other creepy, stalker film. But I would argue it is an accurate reflection of what our leaders are doing by ignoring their first responsibility to defend and protect the citizens of this nation first. Of course, there is a valid place for mercy as we secure the well-being of our own national family first. If our leaders had done their job in the first place, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
Just as it is the father’s first responsibility is to provide for and protect his own family, it is the first priority of national leaders to protect and defend their own citizens. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8 NKJV)
Just like a father defending his home, it is not unmerciful to do what God has commanded us to do. Only a corrupt version of mercy would suggest so. Securing our borders is not unmerciful, it is the just duty of our nation’s leaders.
If It’s Really about Mercy
For those who truly care about being merciful, the answer is to call for both justice AND mercy. Secure the border, really and truly, with an honest-to-God double fence and serious border enforcement that cannot be overridden by bureaucrats or set aside by an executive branch Administration eager to secure a broader voting base.
Yes, we need to craft a path to citizenship for those willing to embrace who we are and become part of our culture. To all such people, I apologize for our leaders who failed to do their jobs. They left the door wide open and you walked in. I don’t blame you. I probably would have done the same.
Now that you’re here, know that we love you. But we also need to fix the problem that led to your present predicament.
Lessons from the Classroom
In many ways, our situation is now like the teacher who lets his classroom go crazy, then brings one student out of forty to the principal’s office for speaking out of turn – when the entire class is pure pandemonium all day long. Sure, the student was wrong, but the fault lies primarily with the teacher for fostering the situation in the first place.
My response to that teacher as a principal would be — fine. Give the student a detention. But I’d fire the teacher. He had a fiduciary responsibility that he failed to fulfill. He did not act justly. His injustice created a scenario where I could be merciful, but I would prefer not to have to be in that situation in the first place.
In the immigration scenario, give those who’ve immigrated unlawfully a detention. But fire the leaders who neglected and continue to dodge their duty to the people. That’s mercy AND justice.
The Isolationist Gospel being pushed by some members of the EIT seems a misguided attempt– at best — to feel good about embracing what is politically expedient. But the Gospel of Christ doesn’t work that way.
You can take it all or leave it all. But it’s not open to negotiation. Or isolation.