Mike Huckabee, Immigration, and Evangelical Compassion

I haven’t said anything about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. from the countries south of Mexico, but I’ve been following the story. I’ve never quite understood why American evangelicals are so anti-immigration and pro-borders. And I say this as someone who grew up in an evangelical family solidly involved in conservative politics. But border issues were never my thing. The first year I participated in homeschool speech and debate in high school, the topic was illegal immigration. My partner and I developed a plan that involved giving jobs training and other services to immigrations, transforming immigration checkpoints into integration centers.

In the years since, I’ve often felt that evangelicals and particular and conservatives in general ought to be pro-immigration. The emphasis on individualism and free trade ought to translate into support for those seeking to eek out a better life and an openness to the free flow of people. Besides, evangelicals emphasize the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of all Christians across national borders. Ostensibly, evangelicals ought to value people over borders. Except that they don’t.

Evangelicals in particular and conservatives in general tend to be anti-immigration—or, they would argue, anti-illegal immigration. But a big part of the problem, for many of them, is actually xenophobia. Immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border tend to be Hispanic, after all.

I bring all of this up because I recently came upon Mike Huckabee’s take on the current unaccompanied minors issue, as posted on his facebook. Trying to follow his logic is fascinating—and saddening.

I’ve been asked several times what is the Christian thing to do about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have fled to the United States illegally. Let’s be clear—there is a Christian thing and there’s a government thing. I find it interesting that the same people who scream for separation of church and state now want the government to act like a church and provide assistance and benevolence. Helping the poor and aiding the homeless and the helpless is indeed the duty of the church. But the duty of the government is to protect us—not provide for us. If the border agents are playing wet nurse and changing diapers and beds, then we aren’t protected very well. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. If Christians would give a dime of each dollar in tithes to fund assistance to the needy, the government wouldn’t need to be a big charity.

Government isn’t supposed to rearrange people’s social standing and redistribute income. Instead of straining social service budgets and education budgets and court budgets in the US, it would be better if our government acted competently and did its Constitutional job to secure our borders. The churches, charities and relief organizations could deliver supplies to those in need around the world. We should be interested in helping the people of other nations experience the fruits of freedom and free enterprise. If they wish to come to America, we should welcome them when they come through the same legal process that we would have to go through to go to their countries. But to not have a border is to not have a brain. We can love people and love security at the same time. But if you give up security, you really don’t love the people very much either.

The trouble is that this isn’t about a threat to U.S. security. We’re not talking about terrorists or foreign militants here. This isn’t about security. This is about children fleeing violence and abuse in their home countries. Huckabee’s talk of “security” is nothing but a distraction or a smokescreen. It is possible to maintain national security while opening the borders to far larger numbers of immigrants. For a nation of immigrants, we have no business being this anti-immigration. And that Huckabee fan say with a straight face that we should be helping others “experience the fruits of freedom and free enterprise” even as he argues that children seeking just those things should be turned back from our borders is just sad. As for the legal process, are we really to expect children to figure out immigration paperwork by themselves?

I also think Huckabee misunderstands what the separation of church and state means. If your religious or philosophical beliefs teach you to care for others and exercise empathy, there is nothing wrong with acting from these values when working in government. The separation of church and state does not in fact mean you check your beliefs and values at the door. It does not mean your religion cannot influence your politics. It simply means that the federal government should not promote or persecute any given religion.

Also, Huckabee’s argument that charity should be the realm of the church and that security should be the realm of the government is not as Christian as he thinks it is. The Bible is a big book and Christianity is a diverse religion. There are plenty of Christians who believe that the government can and should be an agent for aiding the poor—and there is nothing in the Bible to contradict this. In actual fact, it is the wedding between evangelical Christianity and American political conservatism that has created this dichotomy. Before that marriage, American evangelicals didn’t have a problem with mobilizing government resources to help the poor and needy.

There are plenty of good reasons not to leave care of the poor and needy to private charities alone. I believe the government has a responsibility to its citizens, and that part of that responsibility involves maintaining a safety net for those in need. I think a lot of people don’t know where our current safety net came from. When the Great Depression hit, private charity tried to handle it. However, private charity quickly ran out of resources and was incapable of handling the situation. The government created its own system in order to step in to that gap, and we’ve had it ever since. Private charity is important, but it’s not sufficient, and it shouldn’t have to be.

I do want to highlight a few of the comments on Huckabee’s status:

I don’t believe God believes in open borders. Around His city, there are walls and gates. In John 10:1, Jesus said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. God established borders with Abraham in Genesis 13:14. Even Heaven has pearly gates!!!!

The Christian thing to do would be to send them back to their families!

If government were not forcibly taking so much in taxes, then there would be more private money to spend on aiding the poor and on other charities. It is the government who must first stop stealing from the people.

Quit having kids if u cant care for them i say that to mothers over here also. Makes me so mad all these women have five or six kida different fathers no sense in that. … if you cant care for them dont produce them its not americans that pay taxes responsibility to pay for your way in life.

We can’t save the world…send the children back across the border and let Mexico and they home countries decide what to do and how to care for them.

The Christian thing to do for AMERICAN CITIZENS, would be to phase out all mandatory funding for illegals (which is involuntary servitude, just as foreign aid is), begin the tedious task of rounding up the 50 million invaders, shutting down the borders so tight that a fly couldn’t get in, and put a moratorium on ALL legal immigration for at least 20 years or until this nation is indebted no more and every American citizen is working. Period, cut and dry. Any recommendations less than these borders on treason.

When Jesus fed the 5000, He multiplied the food. He didn’t force taxpayers to pay for it. There’s a difference. Obama is a dictator-tyrant, not a Messiah.

These sorts of comments make me incredibly sad for the state of American evangelicalism. I don’t see the compassion or love evangelicals preach. Sometimes I wonder if they can even see that, or if they’re incapable of stepping outside of themselves and seeing how they sound.

I’d also like to point out that Huckabee is a hypocrite. He may be all about using his misinterpretation of the separation of church and state to justify deporting tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from our borders, but he seems to forget all about the separation of church and state when it comes to LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.

I don’t like it when people say, ‘But you’re against gay marriage!’ I say no, I’m for keeping marriage the only way it’ ever been in history; and until Moses brings two stone tablets down from Brokeback Mountain that say we’ve changed the rules, we’re going to keep it that way.”

Separation of church and state? Hey what? Can you say selective application?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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