Saturday, July 29, 2006

Immigration: A Plea for Redescription

I'm quite surprised by the Evangelical voice in the immigration debate. Yes, I know that it is a conservative voice. Yes, I know that it is a voice that's often nationalistic. But I'm still surprised. The language they use is not the right one for a Christian.

Evangelicals talk of illegal immigration and often say of illegal immigrants that they're criminals. They say they have no respect for law.

Evangelicals talk of the need for border security. They talk of the economic drains on the U.S. economy - health care and education are the two mentioned most often. They talk of the threat of terrorism.

I don't wish to dispute the truth of any of this. Some of it seems true to me. Some false. But let's put the issue of truth to the side. Instead let's redescribe the situation and ask whether the Evangelical ought to change her views if she adopts this redescription.

Let us say that the great majority of illegal immigrants are Christian. Let us say that they come from poverty, and that their sole reason to enter the U.S. is to make a better life for themselves and their families. Let us say that they work very hard. Let us say that they love their families deeply - indeed that their culture seems to value family greater than our own.

What is the Evangelical to say? I think it obvious. Illegal immigrants are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They live out the Christian ideal of love of family and of God. They are, like all national heroes here in the U.S., risk takers who sacrifice for the sake of those they love.

Evangelical, I say this to you: if you really do believe what you say you believe, you must change how you speak - and how you think - of illegal immigrants. In Christ, there is no nation, there is no race. Rather there is only humanity. Treat the illegal immigrants with the respect their humanity demands. Recognize in them their great virtues. Know that they're precisely the sort of people you wish to live and work here in the U.S.

If you do not change, you make those around you suspect that you are racist. You give lie to your proclamation of your faith. You make your faith seem like a cover for your racism.


Doctor Logic said...

Well said, Franklin.

Christianity is a fear-based religion. Or rather, it is a fear-based phenomenon in the United States. Its conservatism and authoritarianism spring from fear that's not counterbalanced by optimism about human endeavor. It's all about protecting what little we have, recoiling from the unknown, and lashing out at what we fear.

I don't think it's a coincidence that American Christianity is so reactionary. If you believe that humans can make the world a better place, you don't need God on a day-to-day basis. However, if you think humans are doomed to fail without God's authority, guidance and protection, then you're naturally going to be obsessed with worship and obedience, and fearful of anything new and "unnatural."

Franklin Mason said...

There is a middle way here - not all of Christianity in the U.S. is so reactionary. There are some Christians - the more mature Christians in my view - who hold that God has set us the task to make the world better. I identify with these progressive Christians. They are the ones who will speak out against discrimination. They are the ones who will talk of the evils of racial and sexual discrimination. They are the ones who will not condemn the immigrants and not call for their expulsion.