Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Christians And Illegal Immigrants

I recently commented on a couple of fb statuses that were asking questions about illegal aliens. I was actually shocked by the emotional responses that I was reading. After this, a pastor friend of mine from Texas posted a question on his fb page. It said, “What should be the church’s response towards illegal aliens?” He received over 100 comments in four hours. I commented on his status question, and then because I was intrigued, I put it on my status as well. What should be the church’s response towards illegal aliens?

My fb people were not nearly as emotional as some of his were, probably because he and his church are in Texas, but two things jumped out at me on both of these statuses. First of all, the vast majority of the responses were answering a different question. They were answering the question, “Should the American government give free programs to illegal aliens?” People were talking about immigrants receiving education, health care, and other benefits without paying taxes. They were saying that the laws should be changed and enforced. This word, ‘law’, surfaced a lot. Remember the question, “What should be the church’s response to illegal immigrants?” That question by and large remained unanswered.

The second thing that jumped out at me was how so many people that did not know each other, people from various parts of the country, people with different levels of education, people that were not friends almost all said the same thing. These people were evangelical Christians, the people that you think would be on the facebook friend list of two different pastors, but other than that they had nothing in common. But their responses were like they were quoting each other. They all spoke of the vast amount of money being spent on welfare, Medicaid, law enforcement and education. In some cases, it was almost as if one person copy/pasted another person’s comments…but I know that these people do not know each other. You know the weird thing? I was at a friend’s house and he had Fox News on, and I saw the same comments being used. It was as if Fox News Commentaries got their information from our statuses. J

So, this blog is born. It is NOT POLITICAL, but I will refer to economics in the first part. This is because in one of my comments on my friend’s status, I said that I did not know, but that I thought maybe the ‘illegal aliens are taking all our money’ attack was a scarecrow. I did not know, but I wondered if illegal aliens really are syphoning our taxpayer dollars. In response I was told that I must not watch the news. On another thread I asked the same question and once more the response was about how ignorant I must be, all you have to do is turn on your television and you can see reports about how much money illegals are costing taxpayers.

So, I have done something rather weird. I have researched it on my own without listening to talk radio or having the television on. I looked at several sources as I googled to make sure that I did not report a slant either way. I honestly started off having no information and just wanted to know if illegals really are taking large sums of taxpayers money. This is not an official research paper, my only sources were the internet, but you can easily google and yahoo for yourself. I tried to avoid blogs and obviously biased articles and use only news sources, periodicals, scholarly journals and official government websites for my information. Here are my figures, but please do your own research.

Our total budget is $3.552 trillion. This is our budget, not our deficit or our debt, but estimated actual expenditures. Of that, we spent $10.4 billion on illegal aliens, however much of that was spent on the US born children of illegal aliens—therefore US Citizens. I did not try to factor them out. If you do the math, this is .0029, or .29%--less than 1/3 of a percentage. I arrived at this number using several sources and although there was a little variance, no matter what number you ended up with it was very, very small in comparison to our budget.

Do the numbers support that illegal aliens are taking our taxpayer dollars? No, they are receiving less than 1/3 of a percentage and that includes the legal children of illegal aliens. For argument’s sake, triple that number just in case some of my sources were erroneous. That would take it up to a whopping less than 1%.

So, why are all these people so concerned with illegal aliens taking taxpayer dollars and receiving benefits that they don’t deserve? Why was this the answer to the question of what should the church do? I don’t know. I can only speculate that we all receive our information from the same basic slant and then we just repeat it over and over. I think that I did not know the rhetoric or share the opinions of many people because I don’t watch Fox or CNN. I don’t watch television or listen to talk radio, conservative or liberal. I did not even know who Glen Beck was until a few months ago because I live in Bolivia. I am an ultra conservative Christian, and a proud American, but I am removed from the conservative or the liberal sources. I was just overwhelmed by the similarity of the responses and then by people thinking I was silly by asking if there really was a huge economic burden brought by illegals.

Now, I have NO IDEA what the American Government should do, what laws they should have, what policies should be enforced, or what punishments should be enacted upon violators of the law. I do not even want to argue the political aspects because it isn’t my passion or something that I know anything about.

But I am passionate about what the church, no, about what we Christians should do in regards to helping illegal or legal immigrants. I do not think that it is my job, nor my responsibility to enforce the law. I should obey it. However, I am a pastor and a missionary, not an agent for the US Department of Immigration. It is not my job to enforce the immigration law any more than it is to look at your 1040 to make sure you paid all your taxes or to set up radar and enforce speed limits. I am to obey the law, that does not mean that I must make sure that everyone else obeys it.

Think this through. If I limit what I do as a Christian only to those people who are NOT breaking the law, then in effect I am saying, “Our church will not help sinners. Stop sinning and then come on in.”

Should Christians help illegals cross the border? Wow. Tough question. I think not at this point, but I could see why some would disagree with me. People who appeal to the fact that this is breaking the law are correct, however is there a time when we should break the law? Is there ever a moment when breaking the law is the morally right thing to do? What if the law said you could only have one child so you had to abort your baby when you got pregnant with your second? Would it be right or wrong to obey the law? What about Christians preaching in countries where it is illegal to preach? What about missionaries getting a business visa to enter a country because missionaries are not allowed in that country? How about speeding in order to get to church on time? (I digress).

I do think that there are times when the higher good, the greater law of life is more important than human laws. I know it is a dangerous game to play when you start appealing to this ‘higher’ law, but nevertheless it is there. Is it in place now for illegal immigrants to the USA? I personally do not think so. I don’t think that the church or Christians need to be compelled to break the immigration laws because of following a higher law.

My question is, what should our response to illegal immigrants be? They are here. They have broken the law. I did not break it. I did not help them break it. I am not a coyote smuggling them into the country. But, here they are, so what do I do?

I believe that we do for them exactly what we should do for everyone. Meet their needs to the best of our ability. We should love them. We should serve them. We should bless them. We should help them. We should try to bring them to Jesus. We should disciple them. We should include them in our lives.

We should erase the ‘THEM’ and replace it with ‘US”. THEY should become part of US.

Here are a few verses just to think about.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Mat 28:19-20)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mat 25:34-46)

. . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luk 12:48)

Add all the verses in the Bible telling us to help the poor, serve the outcast, support the weak, and on and on and on.

We need to separate our political idea of what the United States ought to do in regards to making and enforcing immigration laws from our responsibility of loving people to Jesus.


What should our response to illegal immigrants be?

What should our response to legal immigrants be?

What should our response to US Born citizens be?

The answer to all three questions is the same. Love them to Jesus and then help them become more like Him.

7 comments:

A Future Metaphysician said...

Thanks for posing these questions, Joe! My own position on aliens, illegal or otherwise, is not popular with ANYONE I have met to date, so I may as well jump in here first!

If I lived in a country that was morally, socially, politically, and economically bankrupt, I would want to get my family out at any cost. That's what happened in various Marxist countries during the 1970s--"boat people" fled Cuba, Vietnam, and other Communist countries if they could. The same things happened in the 1930s when Hitler was in power--Jews fled Germany whether or not any nation would take them in. As a father, my first responsibility is to my children, not to the laws of any land.

I think it is immoral for any father to let his children starve before his eyes. That means it is right to flee a place where starvation (or worse) seems certain. I honor every father who flees an intolerable home for an uncertain future.

Having said that, I need to start with the exceptions, provisos, quid pro quos, and other lawyer-speak...

I have heard from American missionaries in Mexico about the harm that happens when the love of money lures young men away from home and family. They break man's law to sneak into the States and break God's law by serving Mammon. That's bad in every way.

God is speaking to the consciences of many people who are here illegally. When God is whispering, Christians need to speak very softly. At Christian Legal Aid, I have counseled aliens with visa problems. In many cases, I have had to urge them to put their trust in God instead of a green card.

When it comes to dealing with illegal alieans, I'm pretty sure that Jesus would offend Democrats, Republicans, and Tea Partiers almost equally. He wouldn't put ANY of our bumper stickers on His donkey. So maybe we shouldn't, either...

Sabrina O'Malone said...

Hey Joe,

Well said. I saw your status update; however I didn't have the time or mental clarity to articulate a response quite as well as you have with this post. Well done.

You might not know it, but I was among the first wave of believers to receive a calling to be an "Internet Missionary."

http://www.workingmom.com/aboutus.htm#mission

As a result of this calling, it is my passion and life's work to meet tangible needs while reaching the unsaved for Christ. Perhaps this may explain my perspective on this question.

In the case of illegal aliens or immigrants, we have people literally beating down our doors looking for help and hope... (and when I say "we" I mean THE CHURCH. And CHRISTIANS. And those who follow JESUS. I don't mean our government.)

What is the correct Christian response? Why, it's to offer a cool cup of water in His name! It is to tell them about Jesus...Aun en Espanol, si es necesario.

I'll be candid with you Joe, I typically find it easier to work with the unsaved than I do my own brothers and sisters in Christ. When unbelievers are cruel, unkind, selfish and filled with what can only be called the "ANTI-fruit of the Spirit" it doesn't really bother me or pierce the armor...I don't expect lost people to know any better. Furthermore I know who is most likely pulling their strings/pushing their buttons - so I'm prepared when venom spews out of them. That's just evidence to me that they need our Savior all the more.

But when well-intentioned believers fail to display a shred of love or offer no compassion whatsoever, with a haughty, puffed-up, critical and condescending spirit... it literally makes my stomach sick. It breaks my heart. For this very reason, I'd much rather be a missionary than a pastor. Evidence I'm just not cut out for or called to that kind of work I suppose.

I don't mean to offend anyone who feels differently. I too believe that entering our country illegally is a crime we shouldn't encourage. But to that end, I don't believe the correct response of the U.S. churches should be...reminiscent of the churches in Nazi Germany at the beginnings of the Holocaust.

And the comments I read yesterday...well, they were for the most part disheartening. It makes me think the Lord needs to call some missionaries to our U.S. churches if we cannot even conceive of a Christian response as to what to do with illegal aliens.

Bottom line, may I suggest we evangelize them? Seeing as how they're already here and as believers Jesus did give us the Great Commission...

Caris said...

Hmm. Well, if there's any political thing to which i'm more passionately opposed than national healthcare, it'd be massive immigration. However, i have to agree with your point that we are called to show God's love to everyone, legals and illegals, on a personal level. But i don't agree with the interpretation of the numbers. (Despite the "budget," $10 Billion is $10 Billion that the U.S. doesn't truly have, and regardless of the budget, it's too much). Anyway, i plan to post my opinions (both political and for the church) once i've thoroughly researched, written, and let the page cool off for a while. It is a hot topic indeed. :)

Anonymous said...

Joe,

Good thoughts! Even if illegals are a drain on our socialistic programs, the real question is why do we have such programs? While I'm not against having a process for foreigners to go through in order to enter our borders, the scriptures over and over again commands us to have a love for the "stranger." Rushdooney gave a great sermon on this topic. He talked about how the city of Salem, MA more than tripled in size during a short period of time due to immigration. Most of the immigrants were Roman Catholics, yet the town stayed predominately Protestant. Why? Because Christians would meet the needs of the immigrants in a host of different ways (English lessons, support groups, housing, etc.) all the while reaching out with the Gospel.

On the flip side to all of this, there are issues accompanying illegal immigration that are problematic such as crime. Justice for those that are being harmed by illegal immigrants cannot be overlooked.

Tough issue and haven't studied it enough to have a fixed opinion, nbut the above is just some initial thoughts.

Tait Zimmerman

Joshua said...

Leviticus 25:23
“‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.

Here's a very enlightening exercise:
go to biblegateway.com and enter "strangers" and "Foreigners".

God instructed the Jews through the Law to treat Aliens and strangers the same as they were to treat themselves...Legally and morally.

This is tearing the Church apart.

God Help us.

Thanks for the Blog

Melissa Patterson said...

If we as Christians consider our response in light of the Cross, we all have broken the law. Let us not wait until the law breakers stop breaking the law to join with them! Jesus saw fit to love us when we were not obedient to Him. How much more so should we be compassionate to those who do not obey man's law?

*Also, as part of ministering to them, we should encourage them as we would anyone to live right, which could encompass becoming a registered citizen.

Of course, this is to answer what the response of the Church should be, not the US. Thanks for this, Joe!

Joshua said...

regarding encouraging people who are without documentation to become citizens:


It is very difficult AND expensive to become a citizen. Sometimes just impossible, depending on the situation.
First they have to obtain some sort of legal status. Then they have to become a Legal permanent resident for at least 5 years (3 if married to a citizen).
Then citizenship is an option.

however, that first step (obtaining some sort of legal status) is often the either very difficult or impossible (legally) part.

I think unless the church is ready to retain an immigration lawyer (or hire one to staff), we should stick to what we know ;)