A case where Christian civil disobedience may be necessary

A case where Christian civil disobedience may be necessary May 27, 2011

I cannot find out easily the current legal status of the entirety of Oklahoma House Bill 1804 that, among other things, made it a felony to give transportation or shelter to illegal immigrants. 

When the bill was passed by the state legislature, the Roman Catholic bishop of Tulsa declared that he would have to become a criminal if the law were implemented.  (It was immediately appealed and the appeals were denied and then portions of the law ruled unconstitutional, etc., etc.  So I don’t know exactly as of right now what portions of the bill are in effect.)

What I want to say here is that I agree with the bishop of Tulsa (who was backed up by Roger Mahoney, the archbishop of the Los Angeles diocese and other religious leaders) that portions of the bill/law are unChristian and call for civil disobedience.  The law blatantly conflicts with Christian principles.

I would even go so far as to question the authenticity of the Christian faith of those who wrote the law. 

Also, the law (in the version I read on line) contradicts itself.  It makes it a felony to transport or shelter illegal immigrants but then allows emergency room medical personnel to give life saving medical aid to them.  So, a non-medical person who transports an illegal immigrant to the emergency rooom can be treated as a felon whereas the medical people who treat him or her are not?

But, back to the theological judgment.  Some people object most strenuously when I or anyone else declares a person or group non-Christian.  Usually I find such objectors will gladly do the same with regard to people they deem heretics. 

But why limit such judgments to matters of doctrine?  Why, for example, judge Jehovah’s Witnesses non-Christians but say it is wrong to judge people who hate illegal immigrants non-Christians?

Now don’t answer that the authors of the Oklahoma law don’t necessarily hate illegal immigrants.  I’m not arguing that they have any particular emotion toward them; I’m arguing that the effect of their law is hateful.  Love and hate are not just feelings; they are more importantly behaviors.

To the best of my knowledge the law makes no exception for children.  Thus, insofar as the law is in effect, it INTENDS to and HAS THE EFFECT OF denying transportation and shelter to children of illegal immigrants.  (When most people think “illegal immigrant” they picture an able bodied adult male, but many of them are children.)

In my opinion, as a Christian theologian, this law reeks of hate toward a particular group of people and blatantly contradicts the biblical injunctions to treat the outsiders and aliens in our midst justly.  (And please don’t argue that it means retributive justice!  The contexts make clear the Bible means justly as in lovingly.)

I believe this is a clear case of the state criminalizing Christian behavior.  In effect it is no different from the Roman Empire criminalizing refusal to worship Caesar or from the so-called Holy Roman Empire criminalizing refusal to baptize infants during the Reformation.

In my opinion, the authors of this bill have bowed to Caesar rather than to God.

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