The Isolationist Immigration Gospel of the Evangelical Immigration Table

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! ]

I still haven’t given up hope, but I am far more aligned with growing efforts of the Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration. You can explore their site here and sign their letter to Congress here.

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)

And.

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.

Let’s use an example a little closer to home. Maybe even your home.

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.

About Bill Blankschaen

Bill Blankschaen is a writer, author, and communicator who empowers people to live a story worth telling. As the founder of FaithWalkers, he equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

His next book entitled Live a Story Worth Telling: A FaithWalker's Guide is scheduled for release in May 2015 from Abingdon Press. His writing has been featured with Michael Hyatt, Ron Edmondson, Skip Prichard, Jeff Goins, Blueprint for Life, Catalyst Leaders, Faith Village, and many others who shall remain nameless.

Bill is a blessed husband and the father of six children with an extensive background in education and organizational leadership. He serves as VP of Content & Operations for Polymath Innovations in partnership with Patheos Labs. He is the Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development for the Center for Cultural Leadership. He works with a variety of ministries including Equip Leadership (founded by John C. Maxwell) when he's not visiting his second home -- Walt Disney World.

  • Alan Noble

    Uh…

  • Josh Steele

    So, you’re saying that the Evangelical Immigration Table is preaching an “isolationist” Gospel, and yet you go on to use the following illustration which merely perpetuates good ol’ American xenophobia:

    “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.”

    Also, with regards to the following quote:

    “Yes, we need to craft a path to citizenship for those willing to embrace who we are and become part of our culture.”

    …who decides what “who we are” and what “our culture” even looks like?

    • Josh Steele

      To be fair, I did appreciate the following:

      “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.”

      …but I’m trying to reconcile that portion with the quotes I’ve mentioned above.

      • sg

        Still, it is all based on the false premise that other countries are horrible places that people should not have to live in, and we are cruel monsters for keeping people out of the only good place on earth. That just is not true. They can live just fine in their own countries.

      • Alan Noble

        You will “destroy” our “family,” but “we love you.”

        As you say, Josh. Deeply problematic.

    • sg

      American xenophobia?

      What nonsense. Our immigration levels are higher than any other country. Why exactly must we legalize those who broke our laws? They aren’t lost puppies. They are real people with moral agency who choose to break our laws. Let me remind you of all the nice people standing in line to get in here. What about them? Are they just stupid suckers who don’t steal what is right in front of them? So, we tell them to fill out some more papers and wait a few more years because our top priority is giving legal status to those who break our immigration laws.

      Sorry dude, you have some phony righteousness going on. People who broke our immigration laws need to go home. When and if we feel like it, we will welcome those who respect our laws and our people. We owe them nothing. There is nothing wrong with simply living in another country. It ain’t gonna kill them to stay where they are. They will be just fine.

  • http://forumsforjustice.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3997&postcount=13 Forums4Justice

    Legalizing Illegal Immigrants – What’s the question?

    Illegal immigrants are already a burden on U.S. taxpayers;

    Legalized illegal immigrants will be an even greater burden on U.S. taxpayers.

    NEXT QUESTION?

    More at link: http://forumsforjustice.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4053&postcount=1

  • TimN1

    Firstly to the commentators who suggest American immigration is the highest in the world, you need to read more. Lebanon and Jordans population have increased by more than 20% in the last 2 years due to the Syrian crisis. Lot’s of countries have proportionally much higher levels of immigration, but they are much smaller. All wealthier countries are facing these kinds of questions.

    To answer the article, the question of Justice is at the heart of this issue. But we are not called to support “American Justice”, we are called to support Biblical justice. Why do we have borders at all? To preserve our wealth from others. If we were poor, nobody would want to come. This is not about securing our safety, it is about maintaining our standard of living. It is not about justice, but retaining our privilege – a global gated community. The numbers that make it to the west are a fraction of those that remain in poverty living short lives and dying of malnutrition, often with little chance of hearing the Gospel. The truth is that our “home” is a man-made creation carved out of God’s world, and the fact of the place of our birth does not make us any less a person made in the image of God.
    This view may be economically suicidal, it’s certainly not popular. But the question is – is it Biblical? To paraphrase Paul, In Christ is there legal/illegal?

  • UnreconstructedRebel

    One thing that seems to handicap this entire discussion on immigration is that no one, on either side of the debate, seems to have a clear view of the definition and character of nationhood; without defining what your nation is, it is impossible to have an intelligent debate about who you admit into that nation through immigration policy.

    The United States were established as English colonies and at the time of the nation’s establishment at independence, the population was overwhelmingly European (nearly all from the British Isles, with a German minority in some areas), Protestant and English speaking. John Jay wrote in Federalist Paper #2, “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united
    people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same
    language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of
    government, very similar in their manners and customs”.

    For the first century of its existence, America allowed very little immigration and that only from Europe. The Irish influx following the Potato Famine was one of the few large immigrations during this time. The leaders of the country preferred that the population would grow naturally from native born sons as the wilderness was pioneered and settled. The rapid industrialization of the north following the WBTS created a demand for cheap factory labor that resulted in large scale immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe from about 1870 – 1920. These Poles, Italians, etc rapidly assimilated to established American cultural norms, but the experience caused so much social upheaval that immigration was choked off almost to nothing by Congress in the 1920′s. Immigration quotas were established for various nations, but nearly 3/4 of the quota was for those from Britain, Ireland and Germany – populations which had historically proven that they could easily assimilate into American society and make a contribution.

    That was the status quo until the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, which overthrew the old country quota system and opened immigration to the Third World and allowed extended families to immigrate to join relatives already here. This was an act of national suicide. No nation can absorb a tidal wave of aliens from strange cultures, speaking different languages, with radically different religions and customs and who refuse to assimilate to our historic norms. America is NOT a “Proposition Nation”, where the criteria for fitting in is that you can pass a citizen test and say the Pledge of Allegiance and join the military. That is a conceit of humanist philosophy that doesn’t cohere with reality. America was established as a nation of white, European, Christians. Our heritage is that of W European civilization, our religion is that of the Reformers and our language, laws and customs are Anglo-Saxon or Celtic.

    Immigration worked (somewhat) in the past because new arrivals understood those norms – or were made to understand them – and they conformed appropriately. If you think you can let in 40 million Mexicans, with their Spanish language and hispanic culture, along with Somalians, Indians, Nigerians, etc and still have a functioning nation, then you are simply delusional and out of touch with historical reality. Tragically, we now have generations of people mal-educated in govt schools who are so dumbed down and ignorant that they are either unaware or unable to comprehend these concepts.

    A society that isn’t willing to defend it borders, language, and cultural identity doesn’t really deserve to survive and, history and current trends demonstrate that it won’t. RIP America. It was great while it lasted.


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