Here's a somewhat more serious blog post about immigration (from 2007). The title is "Does Christianity Demand Open Borders?" (Answer: yes, the 20th-century social-engineering experiment of segregating humanity by place of birth, and still more so the separation of families that is necessary to enforce it, violates the letter and spirit of the Bible and of Christian ethics.) "Vanishing American" writes:
These days, in all the debate and rancor over mass immigration and ethnic division, Christians are getting battered from both sides: I have heard many people who are opposing multiculturalism and the breakdown of nations condemn Christianity as the cause of the West's self-immolation. And then the Open Borders fanatics and the multicultists have pummeled Christians with our Bible, telling us that God wants us to open wide our gates and welcome the immigrant, illegal or legal. Michael Gerson's article in the Washington Post, (H/T Lawrence Auster at VFR), excoriates Christians who are 'nativists' for their 'national chauvinism' and 'rage.'
Rhetoric watch: "fanatics" "multicultists" "self-immolation." To call people like me and Gerson who don't want to use violence against peaceful immigrants is plausible (if it is plausible) only because our views are different from the American majority, as opponents of slavery were. The connection between open borders and multiculturalism (whatever that means) is quite spurious.
Those of us who are Christians, with a traditional perspective sometimes find it difficult to give Biblical answers to the liberals like Gerson, who are brazenly Bible-thumping in support of their political agenda. I think they believe they can shame us out of our 'nativism,' and sadly, maybe their tactics succeed with many Christians who tend to go along with social trends. And believing in a soppy egalitarianism and universalism is popular these days, especially for many ostensibly conservative Christians who have fallen in with the 'emergent church' movement.
"Soppy." Hmm. As for "egalitarianism and universalism," well, there can be no question that Christianity is a universalizing religion. Egalitarian-- well, I won't go there, since Christianity is certainly egalitarian in some ways (Jesus died for all) while open borders isn't all that egalitarian ("equality before the law" is the most that it says). Much confusion here. However, here's something more like an argument.
But here is one Christian perspective on the Bible and immigration. Rev. Childress talks about the religious activists' support for illegal immigrants based on their interpretation of the world 'sojourner'. For example, there are Biblical passages which God enjoins the people of Israel to welcome the sojourner:The Bible is full of stories of sojourners, strangers without homes, whom God called people to protect. The Israelites "God's chosen people" were themselves sojourners for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt as they entered the promised land. God did not let the Israelites forget that they had been without a homeland for such a long time; the ethic of welcoming the sojourner was woven into the very fabric of the Israelite confederacy. It was more than an ethic, it was a command of God. 'Do not mistreat or oppress a stranger; you know how it feels to be a stranger, because you were sojourners in the land of Egypt' (Exodus 23:9)." p. 1
As these excerpts point out, the Bible in a great many places uses "sojourner" to refer to those who are in a location which is not their original homeland. However, it is clear that while a sojourner shares some characteristics with an immigrant, the two are in very different pursuits.
Using the term sojourner as a kind of proof-text for political statements about immigration clouds the issue because many people of faith find it hard to "argue against the Bible." Paul W. Lewis, an author on Christian engagement of social issues and a former missionary, admits "I have been greatly bothered by the way some people have used the term 'sojourner' to back up their own idea about immigrants. It was a totally different situation back then. We could also use the word 'traveler' today."
Childress says that the class of people called 'sojourners' were mainly temporary guests or travelers, in some cases refugees who were fleeing some troubles in their homelands. These sojourners who would be more like today's 'refugees' were not expected to stay permanently.
Nope, sorry, that's not going to work. Exodus 23:9 says "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt." The Israelites were in Egypt for 400 years. So the logic of the divine command clearly includes the possibility of very long stays. Also, it was possible for immigrants to join the Jewish people, as is explained in the Book of Ruth. And that's in the Old Testament, where the universality of God's plan was far less explicit and where more concession seems to be made to the violent ways of man in the world.
In fact, even in our country, refugees were at one time in our history considered only temporary guests until they could be repatriated to their homelands. It's odd how even in my lifetime the attitude has changed; it used to be a given that most people, given a choice, would prefer the land of their birth. It was just assumed that a people would be happiest and most suited to their homelands, among others of their own people. At what point did we discard that most basic human assumption? Don't we all feel, deep down, that home is the preferred place to be? We have so many proverbs and folk-sayings which indicate our attachment to 'home.'
What is he talking about? A refugee, of course, is almost by definition someone who wanted to stay home and presumably might like to return. But they might not be able to or might change their minds. And of course, millions came to America who never wanted to return. "Don't we all feel, deep down, that home is the preferred place to be?" No. Some of do maybe. Some don't. America was created by people who didn't. That is far from being a "basic human assumption," but that's not to say that it's not a perfectly good and admirable and desirable situation when someone does love their home and prefer it to anyone else. Why on earth would we impose that choice on the whole human race by violence? Also, there is a lot of internal mobility in America, which is a vast country, so that internal migration often involves longer-distance travel and provides access to as much opportunity as international migration would for others and elsewhere in the world.
Be it ever so humble... and 'East or West, home is best.' And in the past it was implicit that home meant not just the house we live in, which may not be a permanent address, but our homeland, and for many of us our home state, our hometown, where our attachments are. What happened to that regard we once had for the natural ties which bind us to our people and our homeland? Now, everybody, regardless of political leanings, seems to accept this liberal notion that people are innately nomadic, searching for the cushiest and easiest conditions. Home and kin are now regarded as trivial; what matters is, apparently, A Better Life, which it seems can only be found in our country. How did we come to this? We Americans are in the unfortunate position of living in a country which is seen as the world's cornucopia, the dispenser of goodies and Better Lives for the whole world. There is no longer any need or desire, apparently, for anybody in the less prosperous countries to better themselves there, or to improve their homeland; far better to get an airline ticket to America, or pay a human smuggler a bundle of money to bring them to the Promised Land. This situation is not what the Bible is talking about in those passages about 'sojourners.'
So many confusions here. People in less prosperous countries will very often not have the opportunity to better themselves there-- just as many bright Americans don't have the opportunity to pursue the careers they want in the small towns where they might have grown up. Americans are certainly not "unfortunate" that our country is such a cornucopia of opportunities; indeed the ingratitude of that remark is a bit shocking. People may not be seeking the "cushiest and easiest conditions": they often come here to work very hard and found companies, make scientific discoveries, acquire knowledge, practice their religion, reunite with their relatives, marry, or satisfy the basic needs of their families. It is the nativists for whom "home and kin are trivial": they want to expel by force people whose children live here, or who, though born abroad, have lived here almost all their lives and know no other home. VA goes on:
Our country is THE destination of choice for most of the world's covetous have-nots. And the last time I looked, the Bible forbids us to covet our neighbor's goods. Poor people don't get a pass on that; coveting is not justified by being less fortunate, and stealing and defrauding are also sins. Yet we excuse the coveting, stealing, and bearing false witness and defrauding of the illegals because they are poor. This is not Biblical; we don't have two sets of commandments, one for the wealthier and one for the poorer people. Wrong is wrong, and there is no respect of persons. And before somebody brings up the issue of charity, Americans can and do give a great deal of money not only by foreign aid, but via private charitable groups. We do our share for all the poor countries, and it is not our fault that their leaders often steal the aid or misuse it. It is not justice to demand that we take in all the world's peoples who are less well off than we are.
The Bible's commandment about covetousness is neither here nor there. America is no one's private property. Particular parts of America are the private property of particular individuals. No one is excusing illegal immigrants who steal, that is, who steal property; to call being on US soil without US government permission "stealing" is nativist newspeak. It may not be our fault if leaders of poor countries steal foreign aid, but it is our fault if we try to force people to stay in countries where corrupt governments or other conditions have created situations of desperate poverty. It is not justice to force out a person who has come here asking nothing but the chance to earn a living by contracts mutually agreed with private citizens and is willing to pay taxes if given any kind of legal status.
However, the open-borders zealots, religious and secular, always seem to imply, as I've said here before on this blog, that America has some kind of monopoly on 'democracy' and 'freedom' and 'a better life', and that it is our responsibility to spend our substance and our young people's blood to make other people free, regardless of their capability for it. And it is our obligation, so they imply, to essentially hand our country over to the masses of immigrants because we alone have the keys to the 'better life' and the 'American dream'. And it would be greedy and selfish to want to keep all freedom and prosperity to ourselves.
No, America doesn't have a monopoly on 'democracy' and 'freedom' and 'a better life'-- why is that relevant? There are many other places where immigrants many poor and oppressive countries could do better than at home. They should let them in, and so should we. Advocates of the liberation of Iraq, or Libya, are more or less calling on to "spend our substance and our young people's blood" (though of course, only the blood of soldiers who signed up for what is known to be a risky profession) "to make other people free," but advocates of open borders are demanding nothing of the kind. Nor are we asking Americans to "hand over" the country. The country is-- this must always be insisted on, it's what makes us different from pharaonic Egypt-- not "ours" in anything like the same sense in which a car or a piece of land is someone's private property. But the sense in which it is justly ours-- there is a sort of social contract among us which is in force throughout a certain territory, and we have administered law and order and protected natural rights well enough that others could not make a plausible prudential case that establishment of a hostile state on this territory would be conducive to justice-- is not diminished by accepting our lack of right to prevent others from coming here, as long as their intentions are clearly peaceful. No one is asking Americans to give that up, only not to do violence to foreign-born people who come to live peacefully among us. Vanishing American goes on:
Yet another Christian commentator, Steve Marr approaches the illegal immigration question from a justice perspective. After all, although Marr does not say this, the Bible tells Christians to obey the laws of the land. If our illegal invaders are such devout, religious Christians as their apologists claim they are, they are disobeying God's command to follow the laws of the land. And if some leftist Christians aid and abet the illegals, and encourage 'civil disobedience', they are disobedient to God's laws too.
Actually, the Bible is full of examples of people disobeying the law of the land, with God's approval. St. Peter escaped from prison: not legal. Daniel refused to bow to the idol of Nebuchadnezzar: not legal, either. The early Christian martyrs broke the law by refusing to practice the imperial cult. The Hebrew midwives in Egypt disobeyed the law by refusing to kill the new-born babies of the Hebrews. Moses's mother disobeyed the law by hiding her infant son, whom the Egyptians would have killed. The Bible and the history of the Church are full of civil disobedience. One ought to obey the law when it is just. And sometimes when it is unjust, too. But that's far from being the only consideration. I don't think illegal immigration is entirely morally unproblematic, but immigration restrictions are by far the greater sin.
When considering this issue, from a Christian perspective, I ask the same question I ask on most issues: are we wiser than our forefathers? My answer is almost always NO. How is it that today's Christians can see things in the Bible which our ancestors for the last 2000 years never saw? Did previous generations of Christians ever imagine that God wanted us to surrender our countries to any and all invaders in the name of kindness or charity? Did any past generations imagine that the Bible tells us to lay down our arms and passively let ourselves be conquered? Did our forefathers believe that God wanted to erase borders and create a single world system in which all peoples mingled willy-nilly together? If all these things are found in the Bible, why did our ancestors fail to realize that and abolish borders and nations 2000 years ago? Are we wiser than our forefathers?
This appeal to tradition very much misfires. Again, when Ruth migrated into ancient Israel, she did not apply for a visa. When St. Patrick went to Ireland to preach the Gospel, he did not ask permission of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It is not the advocates of open borders who are the innovators here. It is those who seek to enforce the global apartheid regime that was developed in the heyday of fascism and socialism in the early 20th century. No, the Bible did not tell people to lay down their arms and passively let themselves be conquered, and advocates of open borders are not saying that, either. The Bible presupposes that the sojourner can come, and commands that he be well-treated (though he is not automatically a full member of the community) and this is exactly what open borders advocates today say.
Here's another thought on the Bible and nations: God seemed to have divided us into nations, after the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11, as a way of keeping people from uniting in rebellion. Nations are a kind of system of 'checks and balances' to keep flawed human beings from excessive concentration of power. Most conservatives, religious or not, sense that the greater the concentration of power in the fewer hands, the greater potential for tyranny and evil.
Well, that's an Old Testament view, and the prophets and the New Testament are full of the promise that that sad separation will be undone. Be that as it may, nations have always historically lived side by side, mixed up together in the same towns and cities. The nation-state is a very modern invention. And it's a bit absurd to advocate the massive social engineering that is migration control in the name of avoiding "concentration of power in... fewer hands."
This writer is not as much of a clown as the "Castillo Chronicles" blogger, but I am struck again by how confused the arguments of the nativists are. It is easy to knock them down one by one, but it is so hard to get any clarity amidst all the misconceptions and misdefined terms, the side-effects of an ignorance which results from the simple fact that these people are never on the receiving end of immigration laws, never had to apply for a US visa, and so haven't been compelled by experience to think clearly about it.
It is a bit like battling with dwarves in a swamp.