Friday, June 4, 2010

The immigration debate: Where do Christians belong?

Recently, I began a discussion with some friends on Facebook, who were responding to my 'status' statement saying that I disagree with the new Arizona immigration law (and, by extension, the national immigration law). As FB is sometimes a challenging forum for writing extensive explanations, I thought I'd take a stab at a more coherent statement here. So, briefly (I hope!):

First and foremost, I take it to be paradigmatic that, for Christians, our allegiance to Christ trumps our allegiance to any nation or culture. This is a HUGE issue in itself, and perhaps until we really learn to take this truth seriously, debating issues like immigration will be exercises in futility. But, nevertheless, this is where we must begin. As Christians, our primary responsibility is not to defend our nation or its laws (though there is a place for that); our primary responsibility is to live like Christ, doing all that we can to offer glimpses of the kingdom of God breaking into the world.

But what does this mean with regard to immigration? Well, it means basically this: As Christians, our views on immigration (or any socio-political issue) must be grounded in what Scripture and the witness of the Christian faith have taught us, NOT on what is best for our national identity or security. I realize this is probably a big sticking point, but I submit that to ignore this truth is to ignore Christianity. Much of what is called 'Christianity' is nothing more than an idol shaped to look like Jesus, but having only those features which we find consistent with our particular cultural or political views. This must be challenged.

So, with Scripture and the Christian tradition as our guide, what do we see? In Scripture we are presented with a worldview that prefers grace over judgment. We are given, over and over, mandates to take care of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the 'stranger' or 'alien' (the immigrant - Deut. 10:19). This is a theme developed in the Old Testament with particular intensity: Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deut. 27:19; Jer. 7:6, 22:3; Ezek. 22:7, 29; Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5. The Israelites are even told to create a sort of welfare system for the poor, the widow, and the alien, since those groups are typically the ones most deprived of blessing (Deut. 24:17-21).

It is important to note that these commands (given by God to Israel) treat the immigrant as though they are already a part of the community. Of course, it could be said that such rules and blessings only are meant to apply to legal immigrants, not illegal ones. But Scripture gives us no such categories. Yes, the immigrants should agree to abide by the laws and morals of the Hebrew nation. But this is meant to happen in tandem with the acceptance of the alien by the Hebrew people. In other words, it is the hospitality of the Israelites, and the immigrants subsequent positive response to that hospitality, that constitutes their 'legal' status.

In other words, it is not the responsibility of the alien to first jump through a bunch of hoops before they will be accepted as a part of the community. Instead, it is the responsibility of the CITIZEN to treat the alien as though they are already a part of the community, inviting them to share their lives. If the alien rejects that generous welcome and the responsibilities that come with it, they are simply told to leave. But notice that this is a near reversal of the current American system, where people have to clandestinely attempt to cross a border, thereby breaking a law and preemptively committing themselves to expulsion, simply to have the possibility of receiving the generosity that we, as Christian citizens, should be offering them to begin with. Simply being given the opportunity to cross a border does not constitute hospitality.

This is why those who claim that illegal immigrants automatically deserve to be punished - either by being expelled or by being imprisoned - are simply wrong, from a Christian worldview. Of course, since the U.S. is not a theocratic nation where our national and religious identities are fused (and I am glad we are not a theocracy - that would almost certainly be worse for everyone), this complicates the issue. We have to navigate between our allegiance to national laws and our allegiance to Christ. The existence of a border ought to be respected, but there is a higher calling for believers than the call to protect our borders. It is the call to protect the needy.

This leads to a fair question: Who are the needy? Well, I could point to Jesus' words in Matt. 25, or the parable of the good Samaritan, or any number of other passages in the NT. Jesus seems to indicate that the needy can be anyone, depending upon the situation, and our call as Christians is to respond with grace to anyone in need, no matter where we find them. This offers another glimpse into the connection with immigration: if the first element of a "Christian" immigration policy is the a priori hospitality of the citizens toward the immigrants, the second element might be called "a generous immigration." In other words, we should begin with the assumption that we will try to take care of as many immigrants as possible, with the caveat that they are willing to embrace our generosity.

In Matt. 20:1-15, we read the parable of the workers in the vineyard. In the parable, Jesus describes (in details that sound ironically similar to the situations of Hispanic workers waiting in parking lots across our nation) the owner of a vineyard hiring workers who are standing around waiting for jobs. But, the twist is that the owner pays the same wage to those hired at the beginning of the day AND those hired at the end of the day. Naturally, those hired first feel cheated. But the owner says, basically: "You agreed to this wage. I want to pay these other workers the same amount. Why are you threatened by my generosity?" The parable challenges all of us - citizen and immigrant - to consider the reality that God's economy looks very different than ours. In the context of this current discussion, it suggests that those of us who think we are owed something more than others (whatever the reason) are completely missing the point. And, often, when I hear people talk who oppose relaxed immigration policies, it involves a lot of "they don't deserve it, until..." statements.

Jesus clearly extends the theme of generosity and grace in the gospels, and ties the reality of the kingdom of God directly to care for those who are on the margins, including the foreigner in our midst. Christ asks that we learn to become people who are willing to give of ourselves - our money, our time, and even our land/nation - in order that others might be blessed and come to know God. This is very challenging, but we cannot choose to ignore it simply because it's difficult.

Of course, a nation's laws are important, and as Christians we should respect them as long as they don't conflict with our call to follow Christ. Certainly there is nothing wrong with asking immigrants to obey the laws of our nation, and learn our customs (though I would argue that American customs are a lot more fluid than most of us want to admit - we are an experimental "melting pot" after all). But this, I would argue, is a two-way street. As long as we who are "good, law-abiding" American citizens remain unwilling to embrace immigrants - choosing instead to see them as criminals, or at best second-class individuals here to take our jobs - we are failing to extend the hospitality that will encourage them to join our way of life.

And, of course, this is exactly what has happened in America: we are a nation comprised of thousands of 'little countries', where people can spend their lives hanging out with others who are just like they are, and never have to really get to know the immigrants, or the poor, or those on the margins, who live right down the street. New immigrants pick up on that and do the same thing. Heck, I barely even know my neighbors - I'm part of the problem too, and I confess that.

I have no problem with our country telling immigrants that if they commit a crime, or refuse to be a part of our culture, that they should leave. But if our first and most common response is a lack of hospitality, that is wrong. And I haven't even brought up the issue of how America has systematically built up its own wealth while more or less ignoring the problems of other nations (except when they threaten our 'national interests' of course!). With mixed messages like that - Our country is the best place on earth to be, but we only want you here if you can prove you deserve to be here! - no wonder so many illegal immigrants attempt to fly under the radar.

As Christians, we ought to be trying to offer a different way, one that is hospitable, generous, and yes, demands responsibility. But in that order, not reversed. That's grace - it is given before we deserve it.


Thankfully said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this Geoff! This is exactly what I've been thinking for a long time, but was too lazy to put together in any kind of cohesive form. =} This is such truth and seems to be foundational of the way Jesus taught us to live. It really surprises me when people who claim to be followers of Christ don't have this attitude of humility and generosity.

Michael said...

While your post is very well written the core issue here is not helping the poor as your post seems to imply. The real issue is that the nation of Mexico instructs it's poor on how to illegally enter the U.S., providing them with maps, food, and water, which is a foreign invasion. Once in the U.S. the Mexican government via their many consulates helps their citizens to obtain false documentation so they can be employed and hopefully send money back to their families in Mexico. This isn't about helping the poor, this is one nation invading another nation to steal its wealth and prosperity. To say that we as Christians have to help the illegal immigrants because the bible says we have to help the poor is a disgusting perversion of God’s word.

If I remember correctly there is something in the New Testament about obeying the law of the land. All of the illegal immigrants along with everyone helping them are in violation of this nations laws and God's word. So I surmise by your post that true Christians will violate whatever laws they want to when they can justify it with scripture even if there is additional scripture that tells them not to do it. Romans 13: 1 & 2 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment.

America’s laws regarding immigration are very clear and we as God’s people have a responsibility before God to adhere to them. I would like to see how you can use the bible to justify Mexico’s plundering of America, which is the real immigration issue.

I’m all for helping the needy but Christians cannot commit these crimes in God’s name.

I find it interesting how easily progressive liberalism can pervert scripture.

Geoff said...

Hey Michael, I don't see any perversion of Scripture here. If you're going to claim that you'd better have a good reason.

I agree with you that if Mexico is deliberately trying to be deceitful, that is wrong as well. But I think we need to really get to know the people who are illegally entering the U.S. before we paint them all with the same brush. It's possible that many of them aren't even fully aware of what they are getting themselves into... they just want to escape a bad situation.

As for Romans 13, it's important that we keep that in context. Clearly Paul is not saying that we should obey the government no matter what. If that were true, Christians would have to support all sorts of corrupt governments. You have to apply Rom. 13 all across the board if you're going to appeal to it.

The question is, when do you support the government, and when do you challenge the government? Obviously, people disagree about that, but my point is that we have to begin with Christ, and Scripture, and not base our approval or disapproval of government on whatever our own political preferences may be.

Michael said...

Hey Geoff, The perversion of scripture is using the word of God to justify criminal behavior. Correct me if I’m wrong, I perceived your post to be in support of an act that is against the law and is therefore criminal. The immigration laws of the U.S. do not violate scripture therefore we as God’s people cannot justify the breaking of those laws.

If I were to apply your position on immigration, as I perceive your post, to my situation, I could biblically justify robbing a bank to escape my bad situation. That is perversion of scripture. Bear in mind that I’m applying your logic, as I perceive it, to various situations in which no one is comfortable living in.

God is not a God of situational ethics nor is he a God of lawlessness, and again, it’s my perception, that your post cleverly states such. I perceive your post to ultimately state that this crime is okay because it lets people escape a bad situation.

JonD said...

Alright... My brother Jiffy Geoff... here is my two cents on this one. I know we've had
discussions before on issues, but on this I totally disagree with you on this one. Michael I wish I posted sooner to agree with you.

Christ did not say "Take and you shall have, find and you shall keep, knock and you will be let in". It leaves the chance that things may not go the way you want it to. I joined a group on Facebook called Matthew 25 and their main purpose is to call people to help those Christ called "the least" and assume that everyone we help is "the least" or Christ "in disguise."
I think it is important to help those less fortunate and in need; that is the purpose of the church, our calling as people of the body of Christ or followers of Christ.
Here is my issues with people going off on the immigration law -
We are profiling and inciting racism. Police aren't that dumb; some might abuse the law, but that doesn't mean they will get away with it. We all know that God is the ultimate Judge, but that doesn't mean we should play possum or do the ostrech. Should we be allowed to go to other countries and live there for several years without having the proper documents?
If Americans went to France in large numbers and some had the proper papers and many others did not, then would it be wrong for French police to arrest any white person that spoke horible french? Other coutries have the same laws we do and they do a better job enforcing them. Jesus didn't expect us to be suckers and let others do what they want, even if it kills our family or hurts people we know. God didn't say to put others before your own family and it's safety. God loves both the rule breaker and follower, but it doesn't mean he won't shake them up a little to get them going in the right direction. We can still love the illegal immigrant and send them back to where ever they are from.

JonD said...

(part 2)
It's frustrating to see or hear that nothing is being done to protect citizens, people who belong in this country, and illegals(not all of them are fleeing for safety) still somehow are allowed to claim something just by being in the country and cheating the poor and suffering of America out of what could be theirs. I think people are too passive and don't want to think this is a big deal. What if you bought a ticket to raffle being held for employees only at banquet center and the only way win something is to be in the building and buy a ticket. Then some non-employees came in through doors and windows that were left open or unlocked, bought raffle tickets(maybe even the rest of them), and ended up winning most of the prizes. When people who were actually employed by the company and did what was required to be part of the raffle find out that someone took their chance to get something from them, how do you think they will feel? Right now there are people that have the chance to make their lives better, but too many others, that don't belong here are stealing their opportunities. And I don't believe that there are jobs the American people aren't willing to take; I think it's more of a greed factor on the part of companies lowering their costs.
Anyways, we give enough "hand outs" already, and turn a blind eye to all the cheats on welfare. That just shows you how inefficient government can be, but our constitution gives states power to control themselves and that's why we haven't seen the federal government do an all out law suit, because there is a higher percentage chance they will lose.
Why else do you think Obama met with the governor of Arizona, because he typically meets with people to work out a deal when he knows he can't force their hand.
Argh, I don't know if I'll get any sleep tonight. I'm too fired up now! :) I will say one thing... People are sharing their opinion more; that means we are waking up and seeing what's being done around us without our input. We are all tired of being told where we are going and the directions don't sound right or the street signs aren't familiar.
Go USA!!!

Geoff said...

Mike, you say "The immigration laws of the U.S. do not violate scripture therefore we as God’s people cannot justify the breaking of those laws."

That's where we differ. I am arguing that the immigration laws in the United States DO violate Scripture. I would say that they are opposed to Scripture, just as laws upholding slavery in this nation once were. When the laws of any nation contradict Scripture, Christians are compelled to oppose them.

This DOESN'T mean Christians should encourage people to break the law. It simply means that when and if we have to choose whether to follow Christ or that law, we have to follow Christ. We have to say, "I'm sorry, but Jesus doesn't want us to treat people that way. We aren't going to support this law."

Geoff said...

Wow, Jon, that's a really long response! :-) I'm not clear on everything you're trying to say, but, three things in response, quickly:

1. If you read Matthew 25, it should be clear that when Jesus is talking about the "least of these", he is talking about all sorts of people who are oppressed and on the margins, and many illegal immigrants would certainly fall into that camp.

Sure, some are going to be manipulative and take advantage, and that's not right, but that doesn't mean Christians can stop taking Jesus' words seriously. Jesus is pretty clear in the gospels that following him means sacrifice and suffering. If we are more concerned with self-protection than with caring for those in need, we are not following Jesus. It's risky, but Christianity is always a risk.

2. Are you a Christian first, or an American first? That is a very important question we all need to ask ourselves. It's good to support your country whenever possible, but as Christians we also have a responsibility to speak out when our nation is not following Christ. And just because it makes us uncomfortable doesn't mean we can ignore the call of Christ.

3. Most of the data regarding illegal immigrants "stealing" jobs from Americans is actually quite inconclusive. That argument isn't as strong as people think.

Michael said...

Geoff, your statement "I am arguing that the immigration laws in the United States DO violate Scripture." That's where you're perverting scripture. No where in the bible does God tell us to let anyone enter a nation to take what ever they want for whatever reason they want.

Again, I say, if we apply your logic to other circumstances we can biblically justify robbing banks or peoples homes. This is situational ethics and a perversion of God's word.

Michael said...

Geoff, in your response to Jon you wrote, "It's good to support your country whenever possible, but as Christians we also have a responsibility to speak out when our nation is not following Christ." I find it interesting that you had a completely different mindset during the same sex marriage debates.

When it comes to protecting the institute of marriage the church should just be silent but when it comes to justifying sin and criminal behavior we should stand up and speak out.

Progressive liberalism at it's finest.

Tatiana said...

I've been following this blog and topic and here are my two cents -

Let's just give Mexicans and AZ a break for a minute:

Why is it that a cuban can flee Cuba and land in Miami, be given access to Medicaid, Food Stamps, and temporary resident status? Oh yes, because it's Cuba, the big bad Communist country. And that person is fleeing for their life, a life of persecution, limited or no opportunity so let's open our doors and resources and give them the green light to the green card. Meanwhile, over there in that tiny ravaged island called Haiti, a truly POOR person in body and spirit (meaning his government does not provide him with the necessities of live and opresses him), gets on a boat and tries to make it to shore. Where, if he doesn't capsize, he is captured, turned back and if he is lucky he will be in Guantanamo where he can at least be fed and housed before going back to Haiti. Why one and not the other? Both are desperate, both are persecuted, both are poor to some degree but there is no equitable response. The government takes responsiblity for one but not the other. And not enough people question this.

Ever wonder just how bad it must be to enter into this country illegally? I mean truly wonder, because if you live here, have grown up here, and have never lived third-world-type poor, you can only wonder. And if you can get a glimpse of it you might be more compassionate.

I had to smile when I read a few example about France. Really? France? The reasons we comfortable-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-third-world people, including myself, would want to move to France have more to do with wine and cheese than water and electricity.

Should we let everybody in? No of course we can't. Should we provide endless handouts? Of course not.

Ask why more americans are not actively involved in projects that make those countries worth staying in. The answer to curbing or stopping illegal immigration lies there. Time to think about our global responsibility.

Michael said...

I agree that we should help to make other nations better for their people but since Haiti's entire economy comes from welfare I'm not really touched by your example. The Haitian people do nothing to even attempt to make their situation better so I'm not willing to waste time or resources on that situation.

During hurricane Katrina people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves made excuses as to why everyone had to give them handouts. During the Haiti disaster the Haitian people sat around dying waiting for America to show up with more handouts. People sat in the streets for days until they died rather than do something to help themselves. I'm not in any way bothered by the Haiti situation. Most of the Haiti issue both the disaster and the economic issues would not be so severe if the people of Haiti cared enough about themselves to do somthing to improve their situation.

Who is running to the South to help out in Nashville? If it wasn't for facebook or the internet most of America wouldn't even know what is going on in the South because they're not sitting around dying, they're working hard to fix a bad situation.

This entire issue, in my mind, comes down to this, it's the attitude of heart of the people. If anyone enters this country illegally to make their own life better we should remove them. It doesn't matter where they came from. By all means allow people to enter the country legally and help them to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Criminal activity of any kind should always be met with the same resolve and should never be rewarded.

One final thought regarding Haiti, the welfare state produces the attitude of heart we see in Haiti as well as Louisiana. People with no desire to attempt to make their situation better, just sit around waiting for others to take care of them. Also I find it interesting that the Haitian people will spend more money on the dead than they will on the living, when a casket costs more than the deceased persons home you have a major problem in your society.

I do agree that we have a responsibility as Christians to help those who are truly in need but we also have a responsibility before God to be wise and not allow the lazy to take advantage of us and steal the resources that the truly needy need.

Geoff said...

Mike, you're missing the point, I think. It's not about letting "anyone enter a nation to take what ever they want for whatever reason they want."

First, most immigrants aren't taking whatever they want.

But, second, and more important - national laws are NOT infallible! Why do you oppose abortion? I assume it's because you believe the Bible tells us that all life is designed by God and has value. There is no "law" in Scripture opposing abortion. But we believe God wants us to prevent abortion.

The same principle applies here. I oppose the immigration laws, NOT because I think immigrants should be able to do whatever they want, but because I think the laws go against what God tells us to do as Christians, namely, care for the oppressed and show grace to all people.

Again, this does not mean people shouldn't be held responsible. I know we need laws to bring stability to our country. I don't think people should be able to do whatever they want. But that doesn't mean we can ignore what God tells us.

Your comparison with the gay marriage issue is comparing apples and oranges. Why? Because I never said we should be silent. I think we should take Scripture seriously. But, the gay marriage issue is totally different, because people are trying to make it seem like Christian marriage and government marriage are the same thing. And they are not. It's a category mistake.

Christians don't have a responsibility to protect government rules; we do have a responsibility to protect people, especially those in need.

Geoff said...

Mike, you have no idea what you're talking about when it comes to Haiti. Sorry man, you're just wrong. You're so blinded by the "welfare" issue that you don't see what's really going on.

Michael said...

Geoff, I agree we need to care for the oppressed and show grace to all people. I disagree with on our immigration laws violating those principles. I also agree that Christian marriage and government marriage are not the same thing and the church should stop trying to pretend that they are.

We as Christians can help the needy of Mexico, Cuba and wherever without allowing them to enter our country and steal what belongs to the American people.

Illegal immigrants collecting welfare and social benefits are the cause for the border states public health care systems being broke within two months of the new fiscal year which causes deserving Americans harm, that's theft not compassion, not grace, and certainly not charity. Someone entering your home and taking what belongs to you is not charity. even the bible calls these actions theft. Please tell me more about how I don't understand.

In regard to Haiti, how am I blind? For decades Haiti has been collect aid in the form of welfare from multiple countries. How is that fact blindness? Did you read the New York Times piece on how the Haitian people need our help so they can purchase coffins that cost more than they would spend on food for a year? Did you read the many articles about the Haitian people refusing to help fix their situation so they just sat around waiting for handouts? How exactly am I blind? Please enlighten me to your truth.

Tatiana said...

Michael, after reading your post I don't expect you to be "touched" by my example. I base my example and opinion on my and my family's experience living in Haiti. Haitians should not be lumped in one category after reading a NY Times article. After the earthquake, some of my own family members sat and waited while the healthiest set out on foot, along with neighbors and friends to gather food and water. Some carried strangers to hospitals which were packed and overflowing. Many people knew this and chose not to walk 5 or 6 hours only to wait in what was an unsafe and unsanitary place. As for the Haitian people not doing anything for themselves, I think you are referring to an element which exists in every culture or country, including the US. The Haitian people I know opened up their land to house people they didn't know. The majority of Haitians are kind, hard working, and want to stand on their own two feet not rely on some handout. In a situation where over 2 million people were without food, water and shelter, can you not expect or understand the need for the aid?

Frankly I think you should go to Haiti, and then I guarantee you will be very bothered.

Michael said...

Tatiana, I see your point and yours and your families experience is why I shouldn't believe the main stream media. I agree that aid is necessary but no one can deny that Haiti has been receiving aid from other nations for decades so please understand my point. It is wrong for any government to steal what one of it's own citizen has earned to give to those who did not earn it, foreign or domestic.

Thanks for sharing your personal experience. I really had no idea. All I know of Haiti is what Geoff told me and what I read in the earth quake articles.

Justin said...

I probably have no place in this conversation, and I'm sure I won't get the support of anyone here, but I think I have a solution for you Geoff.

You seem to feel strongly that you must help your neighbors. At the same time I think you would agree that scripture says that you should obey the laws of the land.

These things are not mutually exclusive. I think if you search your heart you will find that you should do both.

So pack up your stuff, renounce your citizenship, and leave my country! Go help the needy in their country. I don't mind keeping the illegal immigrants who don't commit crimes here... but you should leave NOW.

Oddly enough I think that if you maintain your position on helping the needy, and REALLY walked the walk instead of just talking the talk, then this is what you should do.

So are you going to man up?

Like I said, I don't expect to gain any support here (since I'm an outsider and being more than a bit hostile), but I want you to think about it, and put up or shut up.

Good luck finding any scripture that condones ANARCHY while simultaneously committing a FELONY when there is a perfectly reasonable (and rather Christ like) alternative.

Tatiana said...

Michael, thanks for trying to understand. You might be more frustrated to know that many times the aid that we generously give does not make it to the people. It sits sometimes in a warehouse or container at the airport. Supposedly after the earthquake this has improved somewhat since there are more internationals monitoring the distribution of aid...

Back to illegal immigrants...understand that my compassion does not go towards people who move here, legally (cuba) or not, and find a way to get by on government assistance and never bother to look for a job. I find it easier to understand and empathize with those who work hard at whatever menial job they can find.

As for the last posting from someone telling Geoff to leave, I don't thing Geoff is saying we should break the law, but question it and fight to change it. Take it easy on the guy! :-)

Geoff said...

Justin, no offense, but your comment is entirely ignorant. Or maybe you are just a troll.

Michael said...

I think Justin has a good point. Geoff, you should take all the illegal immigrants with you when you go. hehehe bye bye

It seems interesting to me Geoff, that you are so willing to destroy America in the name of God by violating our laws and giving our wages that we've earned to those who don't deserve it but when someone proposes what I believe is a logical conclusion to your personal passion you call that person ignorant and a troll. Also, I think you are using scripture to further your socialist politics. I know how strongly you support the welfare state and I think this is just another example of you twisting scripture to destroy the American way of life. Your politics seem to be influencing your perspective of scripture when it should be God and scripture influencing your politics.

Tatiana, that does make me mad. Why would a government purposely harm its people by withholding aid that is sitting right there in the ship yard? It sounds to me like one of Geoffs counterparts is running that country.

HAHA Geoff is a fascist!

In all seriousness I truly believe that God and scripture should be influencing our politics and not the other way around.

Geoff said...

Ok, Mike, let's clarify some things:

1. The reason I dismissed "Justin" is because his post was misleading and illogical. He states that the only good solution is for me to leave the country. That's a complete false dichotomy. As Tatiana pointed out, sometimes it's better to try and change things within the country. Besides, his whole tone was one of condescension, as he even admitted.

2. I agree that Scripture should influence politics and not the other way around. But, if you think I am "using scripture to further [my] socialist politics," as you say, you need to back that up. It seems to me that you are using Scripture to further your politics more than I am!

I think I have done a decent job of showing that Scripture upholds my view of grace and compassion. If you want me to consider your view, you can't just say I'm using Scripture badly. You have to tell me why. And just saying that Scripture supports America's laws is simply not true. They are not the same. Scripture, whether you like it or not, supports treating immigrants better! This DOESN'T mean laws aren't important. But there is something greater than national laws for Christians.

3. I don't "strongly support the welfare state." That is an exaggeration. Heck, man, you were on unemployment on and off for years, while you bounced around from job to job, so I could say that you support the welfare state too!

I am sure your response would be that you earned that welfare by working, while illegal immigrants haven't earned it, so they don't deserve the benefits from our nation. Politically, that's true. I don't want anyone to take your benefits from you. But my whole argument has been precisely that Jesus teaches something greater than all this! As Christians, it's not about what anyone deserves. It's about GRACE. That includes grace for illegal immigrants.

Again, that doesn't mean I think people should go around breaking laws, or steal from others, or simply sit on their butts and do nothing. But the point, again, is that God isn't primarily concerned with America's laws - God wants us to follow what Christ tells us. And Christ was more concerned with making sure people experienced God's grace than with making sure everyone perfectly followed the laws of the land. That's all over the gospels.

In my initial post, I thought I made it clear that I do not think we should simply allow criminals to stay in our country. My whole point is that our current immigration law is not Christ-like, because it creates a "catch-22" situation where many people are law-breakers automatically, and then treats them as such. It's preemptive condemnation. That is not the way Christians should act.

Michael said...

Geoff, First, if you change things from the inside the way you desire you will create a socialist America that will destroy the American way of life. Second, this is why you are using scripture badly; you took scripture out of context to justify illegal activity. I already stated that once. The bible does not speak out against our immigration laws, you’re twisting the scripture to support your political beliefs.

I wasn’t on unemployment on and off for years, I was unemployed for years. If I was on unemployment on and off for years why was I taking any job available? You should verify the facts of my life before you state them. Not everyone that is unemployed collects unemployment.

If we just give grace to illegal immigrants we then have to give grace to all criminals. Use scripture to justify excusing one crime but not others. All crimes need to be punished and illegal immigration is a crime. By excusing illegal immigrants you are allowing foreigners to enter our country and steal from us.

People can experience God’s grace in their own country without sneaking into another country to steal what rightfully belongs to that nations citizens.

We have a legal and correct system to allow foreigners to come into our country and obtain citizenship. Those laws are designed to protect us from the catastrophe that the thirteen million illegal immigrants have subjected us to. Americans can’t get the social benefits that every American pays taxes for because of the illegal immigrants bankrupting those services.

Sell all you have, move to Mexico and start a mission to give God’s grace to the poor. You won’t do that though because your real agenda is socialism and the destruction of the American way of life.

Geoff said...

Ok, you didn't respond to what I said, you just repeated your same points with no support. You can believe what you want, but don't pretend you have Scriptural support for it when you don't. At least I've done that for my view.

"If we just give grace to illegal immigrants we then have to give grace to all criminals."
Giving grace to criminals is not the same as letting them do whatever they want. I thought I made that clear?

"All crimes need to be punished..."
If you really think this way, without any modification, then you need to ask yourself why you follow Christ, since Christ teaches that Christians should be willing to accept punishment on behalf of others, because of our love for God.

As far as I can tell from your comments, you're more concerned with protecting your "American way of life" than with taking Scripture seriously. Why don't YOU move to Mexico and start a mission? We both can play the 'put your money where your mouth is' game... :-) Following Christ isn't easy!

Michael said...

Geoff what scriptural support can I give you to show that you are using scripture out of context. No prideful and arrogant false teachers ever believe anyone but themselves. You are that false teacher. I bet you wouldn’t Jesus himself if he came and corrected you.

Christ doesn’t teach that we should accept punishment on behalf of others, this is another instance where your agenda supersedes the scriptural truth. Where does Christ say that you or I should take on the punishment of a murder or rapist or thief? He doesn’t. God is a God of justice not progressive liberal injustice. Neither God nor Christ ever called his people to be doormats.

I’m more concerned with God’s truth than the American way of life. However, the American way of life is a blessing from God.

This is clearly liberal progressivism perverting God’s truth. Again, your politics are influencing your perspective of scripture and again for the fourth time in our friendship I have to ask; Are you even a Christian? Do you even know God? Yes you have great knowledge of scripture but that doesn’t mean you have a friendship and relationship with God. You display excellent knowledge of the words written in the book but you appear to have no understanding of the context of those words or the character of God as God displays himself to us through the bible. You are promoting injustice on an entire nation while God himself shows us that he is a God of justice.

Michael said...

Hey Geoff, as I was driving home from work today God showed me the coolest thing. God is loving and kind and he would never force his truth and wisdom on anyone. I think you’d agree with that. I’ve been trying to do just that, I think you’ll with this too. I’ve been trying to force what God has taught me on to you and I’m wrong for doing so. I hope you’ll forgive me.

It’s not my responsibility to prove you wrong, that’s between you and God. I do hope that as you study and do your quiet time, that you would ask God to reveal himself to you. Ask God to teach you his truths and his ways. Ask God to reveal to you his personality and his character. Ask God to reveal to you his heart and his mind. I know you don’t think we can know God’s heart and mind but just as your dad has been teaching you his heart and his mind throughout your entire life yet you can never know it in its entirety so God desires the same thing. God wants us to desire to know him personally. God desires to show us his personality and character, along with the bits of his heart and mind that we can handle. God desires intimate friendship with us. God desires his children to be united.

Knowing God is very different from knowing of God.

God bless you.

Geoff said...

Mike, what are you talking about? Now you're just being belligerent. You're calling me arrogant and questioning my faith because you can't back up your statements? Weak, dude. At least make an attempt. As it stands you sound like a hypocrite.

Let's see -- I give you a view about how we should live as Christians, that is supported by Scripture, and you respond with rants about how my political liberalism is corrupting my view of Scripture, but you can't support what you say with Scripture?! Who's more likely to be the false teacher here?

How about this: Here are a bunch of important passages, regarding what it means to follow Christ. You tell me what they mean, according to you.

Matt. 5:38-48/Luke 6:27-35
Matt. 10:37-39/Luke 14:26-27
Matt. 16:24-26/Luke 9:23-25/Mark 8:34-36
Matt. 23:11-12
Matt. 25:34-40
John 15:12-14
Rom. 5:8
2 Cor. 1:5-6
Eph. 5:1-2
Phil. 2:5-9
Phil. 3:8-11
Col. 1:24
James 1:2-4
1 Peter 2:20-21

Reading all these verses, and reading various commentaries on them, gives me a picture of a loving God who suffers on behalf of others. Jesus Christ is a God who suffers for others, and he calls us to do the same. No, we aren't doormats, but we are called to sacrifice ourselves and our own agendas for those who are needy, poor, oppressed, and lost (that seems to include immigrants to me!). This is how we show our love for Christ - by sharing his love and grace with the world, even if it costs us a lot.

Yes, God is a God of justice, but God's justice is always equal to his love. God's love is God's justice. Only God contains both perfect love and perfect justice. And that justice does not automatically look like American legal justice, no matter how much you want it to. If you don't get this, I fear it is you who doesn't understand Christianity.

Again, this is NOT me saying it's ok to commit crimes. But, as Christians, the crime is a secondary issue. Following Christ is our primary issue. And that may mean trying to change our immigration laws, even if that means America will suffer.

Geoff said...

Hey just read your last comment. Ok. I apologize too for anything offensive I said. My last email was kind of heated. How about you just let me know what those verses mean to you, and we'll bring down the volume a bit. God bless man.


Michael said...

I love you brother, I'll study them and let you know. It may be a few days but I know you understand. If my attitude has been wrong this entire time pray that God would lead me in his truth. Growing in Christ is more important than winning an argument.

God bless you!

JonD said...

Okay, sorry again for a long one... so let's all take some deep breaths, relax for a second, and be sure we don't say things that will discredit who we believe we are and make ourselves out to be hypocrites. Opinions and beliefs are great, to be passionate about it has even greater value, but choose your words carefully. I've been told "You can catch more flies with a spoon full of honey, than a barrel of vinegar."
That being said, there are many people commenting on things and each has their own experiences, so let's not dismiss them over our own.
I would say that I've met a lot of hard working Mexicans, Haitians, Americans, and also the opposite.

Michael, I can tell you from my experiences in Haiti and the culture that they are mostly a hard working people. They are proud of their accomplishments, even though we may compare them to ours and say "I think we've done more." Americans may have, but I believe their hearts and passion for their people are so much stronger per capita. In our world we live comfortable lives, where most of them have never and may not ever experience what we achieve. A lot of their poverty comes from their internal politics and corruption; that's most likely why the Duvallier years ended in 1985-86.
Are the Haitien people always caring? I'd say no, but as with any people of the world, this is how it is... Christ came to save all people and draw them to Himself. "He came to his own, but his own did not receive him." A fallen world does not have a chance of being repaired. I love the Haitian people and I love the American people, but they are each their own people. People make up the nation, the nation exists becausethe people, and the nation falls because of people.
Should I say Geoff is right on the basis of scripture? Possibly so, because Christ came to save all people, especially the sinners... oh wait, that's all of us. ;)
So, Geoff I love you as a brother, and I want to agree, but it's hard to give away things that we've worked so hard for; hard to allow others a chance to experience a new life when you don't know if they'll do right by us(what we think they should do). When you don't know, it's easier to not take chances. It's even harder to want the country to take chances with a national debt of over 12 Trillion dollars, no real boarders, a welfare system that is broken, and many other things...

JonD said...

I was reading down and noticed the comment about catch 22 and it reminded me that we are in the same boat as people and then as Christians we are bound by forgiveness and Christ's promise that we are no longer sinners. The only thing I'm having problems with is if as Christians we are to live the new life and not fall back to our old way. I'm not sure how we are to take the illegals that come here and aren't willing to change their ways. I have heard of many Mexican's coming over and working for a while, maybe years, and then going back home. It's like they aren't wanting to assimilate to the U.S. melting pot. You can't really mix into the pot and then separate yourself again. That is an idea of what I am saying by not allowing the illegals to stay in the country, no matter where they are from. It just frustrates me to know that people would come to this country illegally, live a lie, and not care or think that there are consequences. Why would anyone think that they would be honest in any other thing they do?

There is a story of a caring old woman that wanted to help people and so she invited the homeless in, fed the poor, and they all took advantage of her. They ate all her food, and she ran out of money and had to sell her house; so she became homeless and poor and unable to help anyone else.

I just see the United States as the old woman, but you never know when we'll run out of money.

I want to be like Christ, but can never attain His perfection, will never have His wisdom, knowledge, foresight, and don't know that I can ever love like He did/does. His authority gave Him the ability to show extra grace to those who needed it and would not let it go to waste. I would like to be open minded and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but there is still part of me that doesn't want to be walked all over and taken advantage of, or swayed to some false belief.
That is why I don't buy the idea of letting illegals stay in this country, unless there is proof of them fleeing a life threatening situation or abuse.

Thankfully said...

I've read through your whole post twice now Geoff, after receiving much of the same criticisms, arguments, and amazingly heated anger on my FB page that I linked your blog to. I've also read through everyone's comments.

I still say that you did a wonderful job, thoughtfully laying out your position and the scripture that caused you to reach that stance. It really honestly boggles me that anyone could reach another alternative, after studying the lifestyle and attitude of Christ. Can you imagine Jesus saying "We shall defend the borders, lest any immigrants should come in to this nation we've worked so hard for, and take what's ours!" Or "We need to fight for the American Way and defend our country against terrorists who would seek to destroy us, possibly by illegally crossing the unprotected border!" ?? HA! Sorry that this may be a little offensive, but the idea that Jesus would have that attitude of possessiveness and fear is just blasphemous. Being a Christian essentially means being a "little Christ". How are we supposed to be Christ-like living in fear, anger, and hoarding what we think belongs to us? If we've truly turned from our sinful ways we can't. We must give without expecting anything in return, whether the "needy" deserves it or not. We must even turn our other cheek to those who have already stricken us. Justin, since I know you and know that you consider yourself quite far from being a Christian, I don't expect you to agree at all. You're not even trying to live as Christ. But for the rest of you....

Michael and JonD could you please write your own blog post stating your opinion on where Christians belong in the immigration debate? Using whatever scripture that supports your position in a thoughtfully laid out manner? That would be helpful.

May God give us all patience, wisdom, and above all else love.

Geoff said...

Just FYI, this is the most comments I've ever had on a post, by far... wow. Certainly has struck a nerve!

Michael said...

Hey Geoff, here ya go.

Matt. 5:38-48/Luke 6:27-35 I know that I will never turn the other cheek, I will however do my best to kill anyone that attacks me or those I love. You may view this as contrary to scripture but I believe I have a responsibility before God to protect myself and others. As for the rest I think we need to use wisdom and judgment, God doesn’t call us to be foolish with our giving. We have to take care of ourselves and if we give our entire paycheck to the “needy” how will we survive? How will those who are in full time service to the body survive when we give the tithe to the poor instead of the church? We live in a world where almost everyone will take advantage of you. There is no way anyone could live like this today and honor God. It’s completely foolish in the world of today and I think you know this. Thankfully we have grace. I believe that out of love for God we should give more than just a tithe but we must give wisely.

Matt. 10:37-39/Luke 14:26-27 My allegiance is to God and Christ, I take up my cross daily. I receive rejection from the Mormons and the heathens alike on a daily basis. I know I didn’t receive jobs that I’ve interviewed for because I don’t go to a ward. I’m cool with it. I have God’s love and I know that he is taking care of me. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to be foolish with what he gives me or throw away his blessings foolishly because people take the previous scripture out of context.

Matt. 16:24-26/Luke 9:23-25/Mark 8:34-36 I think I live this very well. The fact that I’m still in Utah, because God wants me to be here, speaks to this truth. I will go where God wants me go and do what God wants me to do. These last two scriptures are about our response to God and what he calls us to do.

Matt. 23:11-12 These scriptures have to remain in context with the previous following texts. Starting in v. 1 We are not to be like those who use the religion for their own benefit and to build up their pride or bank account or to gain power and fame. We are to humbly lead as servants. No task of service is beneath us. Further down in the text are the examples of the un-christ like leaders and how we are not to lead. This is about appropriate conduct for leaders.

Michael said...

Matt. 25:34-40 I agree we have to help those in need but we have to use wisdom. We can’t just give to all of those who ask, even wealthy people who are not in need will take from us until the entire church is destitute. In regard to immigration, if we did this our nation would be ravaged and left destitute as well. We have to be wise in how we conduct ourselves in regard to God’s business.

John 15:12-14 I totally agree with this, we should lay down our lives for our friends. We should also protect our friends from those who desire to rob and harm them.

Rom. 5:8 I know this and I’m very thankful for this.

2 Cor. 1:5-6 This is directly speaking about suffering for our faith, being persecuted for following Christ.

Eph. 5:1-2 This has to be followed through v.5 We are to be imitators of Christ, acting in love not foolishness.

Phil. 2:5-9 You have to start at v.1 to keep this in context. This is about being unified as one body, united in spirit, and being humble enough to treat others as better than you.

Phil. 3:8-11 Again you have to start at the beginning to maintain the context. This is speaking about our attitude toward our service to God and avoiding false teachers and doctrines. Starting in v. 8 Paul is talking about turning away from our old lives and the things in the past that identified us and to now be identified with Christ. To know Christ and to experience all that Christ has for us.

Col. 1:24 If we read this from the beginning we see that Paul is talking about being persecuted for his faith in Christ. This is again directly related to persecution for being a Christian.

James 1:2-4 This is talking about a proper response to God when we are going through trials. If God allows us to go through trials we need to respond to him appropriately, responding with the joy because God is working on us through the trial.

1 Peter 2:20-21 This is directly related to persecution because of our faith in Christ.

So what do you think about them?

JonD said...

Thankfully, I don't have a blog right now. Maybe some day, but life is too busy to setup one.
I was ask a question to all posting here; who all is married and has kids? Geoff I know your answer and I think I know Michael's.
Anyone else? I am married with two little ones. I would like to get the opinion of others and see if what I am thinking is normal. When you have a family to care for and defend, then you are more concerned, because you have a duty to family first. That will keep your focus and time from doing things that might help others more.

Thankfully said...

I am married and don't yet have kids. I am a teacher of many children though ages 2-7 via Sunday School, the Montessori I run, and dance classes. I'd like to think though that even when we have children that we will still be able to put God first *not* our families/children.

The heart of the matter, to me, is God's grace and mercy towards us and that we give that grace and mercy to the needy and oppressed around us. I think we can all agree on that. Yes, we need to defend the defenseless, but look at the news, in general we wealthy Americans are not the defenseless.

My mom forwarded me an email last night filled with photos of an amazing amount of weapons seized at the border. The email was full of fear and anger that these "illegals" were bringing this stuff into the US. Scary stuff right? The email said it happened 5 days ago, so I searched for information on the web. I couldn't find any US news sources but the bbc did have one. Guess what? Oh yeah, the firearms were being smuggled INTO Mexico, supposedly on their way to support the drug lords. (Notice where they were being smuggled FROM: The USA, the largest supplier of weapons). No wonder people are trying to get out of there.

But yeah, we have a totally different frame of mind Michael, I wouldn't kill anyone that was trying to hurt me or loved ones. I'd try to hurt and disarm them no doubt, but I don't see how it would make sense for me, a Christian who is going to heaven to kill someone and send them to hell. So there's that. =}