Wednesday, May 25, 2011


    I confess that the debate bothers me because I think we end up losing some basic principles in all the rhetoric.  There is something in us that doesn't like "cutting in line."  We Americans really don't like people jumping in front of us, or others.  We can become very legalistic about it.  I can understand that.  Many of us don't like the idea that people might lose jobs because someone slipped into the country illegally, and they might take less money, and not allow economic forces to shape better pay and conditions so settled Americans can and will take those jobs.  It seems to me the debate becomes fixated on certain things we find repugnant to us, and we lose sight of other factors.
   I can't really speak to xenophobia or racism since it is hard to use reason or logic against those emotions.  If someone doesn't want immigrants here because they are black, brown, yellow, etc. then we can't ask them to have a compassionate heart; they already made a choice to be hardhearted.  When you add politics to the hardhearted you get the pig-headed, so reason and argument don't seem to help.
    The discussion has to be with those caught in the middle, and I hope there are more of them than others, just for the sake of votes.  I think we have to call ourselves to our first principles, and then we have to figure out a pragmatic way to implement them so that our principles are preserved and our people protected.  What are those principles?
   Can a people made up of immigrants despise the immigrant?  Can a nation that called on other nations to give us their tired, their poor, their huddled masses yearning to breathe free become infamous around the world for our callousness, our meanness, our obtuse maze and exploitative cost of immigration rules, visas, laws, and penalties?
    Those of us who are Christians have an even greater mandate and conscience than national heritage and legacy of freedom and hope for the desperate.  We have a word from God that we must care for the stranger, the alien, the person displaced.
    We need to stop using the word amnesty as if it were a dirty word.  We need to combine our principles with some desperately needed practical application to get some sense into our disgraceful national practice of dealing with immigration.  That won't happen as long as partisans are allowed to use fear and stake out extreme positions so lawmakers remain paralyzed in taking remedial action.  Our government has done some amazingly stupid things to people as if we were a people who didn't know the difference between hospitality and hostility.
   People who want to move here are not our enemies.  It is to our honor that many people want to come.
Poverty is a valid and good reason to want to move here.  It is ambition and aspiration that we want from those wanting to live here, and most immigrants have that in abundance.  We want people to obey the law, but not all laws are equal.  Administrative law is not moral law, and much of it in this context needs to be changed because it is bad law.  Our present immigration laws create criminals where none should exist, it separates families, it creates legal twilight zones of detention that should never be allowed in America; it can be arbitrary and draconian and that usually to satisfy some lawmakers constituency or lobbyist group.
    We should repel the criminal, we should expel the criminal, but not use minor infractions or misdemeanors as an excuse for deportations.  This is a stupid and mean policy and takes kids who have grown up here to a culture of which they have no knowledge.  We should have a clear fast lane for guest workers for those who only want to work but don't want to become citizens, and a really good system to make sure those rules are kept.  We should have a way to ascertain aspiration rather than huge monetary deposits for visa applicants from the third world.  Just because someone has property in another country doesn't mean we can trust them.
    We need to wake up to the fact that Americans are getting older, we need younger workers, and we are not producing them from our own marriages.  We need to deal practically with those who are already here but administratively illegal, and we need to do it comprehensively  and systematically and soon.  We need to spend more money on judges and the system for clearing cases, and we need to make sure those INS people understand their role isn't to disqualify everybody who applies.
     Why in the world wouldn't we want to ask young people who are already here to prove their loyalty to this nation by national service of some sort before being allowed to become citizens?  It seems to me if you were raised in this country illegally, but then join the military or some multi-year voluntary service then the door to employment and schooling should be open to you.  Not just for the immigrants sake, but for our sake.  The conservative side of me doesn't see any sense in offering free schooling to someone (anyone) who isn't willing to give something back to the nation.
   If we don't get a grip on this we are hypocrites, as a whole nation.  We are also shooting ourselves in the foot, and the hand, and the head.  If you want to come here, yes, you should get in line, but it should be a fast line; just, reasonable, well managed, and as pleasing in its application as in its destination.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reflections on Recent Voices Lowering our Expectations

  I recently heard a commencement speaker emphasizing the need for young believers to commit themselves to the local church and think about the "long haul" of living for Christ.  I then read an article that in some ways echoed the speakers application for Christians to not pursue the "world changing" mentality and passion, but to live out their daily life for Jesus in, well daily life.  Let me clarify that much of what both of these men have articulated I can applaud and to which I can say "amen."
  However, I am a bit bemused that they seem to posit the idea that there is some rush for young believers to be radical for Christ, heroic, and self-sacrificing.  Where is this happening?  Maybe we suffer from different definitions of radical, maybe we suffer from different standards of impact, I am not sure.  I certainly don't judge the migration of young evangelicals to urban areas to be radical, not in the forms that I see it.  I don't assess "mercy tourism" to be the same as mercy involvement let alone mercy effectiveness or mercy that leads to life and community changing development.  Contrasting with their call I confess that I don't see the maintenance of a middle class life-style with an obsession for a good quality of life/education for our children to be self-sacrifice, though certainly many of us make financial sacrifices to get the best for our kids.  If it is for our kids it is still about us. Though this is not wrong let's not confuse this with laying down your life (and risking the lives of your family) for the glory of God.  Raising our children in the faith does give glory to God, but again this is not sacrifice, it is just simply expected of good parents.
    As a pastor I couldn't agree more that young adults need to understand the pivotal role of the local church in the concept of the Kingdom of God.  I concur that all believers need the disciplined commitment, involvement, participation and long term taking of responsibility in a local church to really understand community, love, submission, and discipleship.  Consumerist tendencies in our culture, (the sense of entitlement to being entertained sufficiently while at the same time not being inconveniently obligated), which I see in too many people, tends to leave me muttering as a pastor.
    While the speaker warned against activist burn out in attempting too much, too soon, and not digging in for long term commitment he seemed to assume this was a big problem.   Certainly in some individuals, but these speakers and writers seem to assume that this is a problem with this generation.  Maybe they object to the rhetoric of altruistic and extreme challenge but I do confess that I think Jesus spoke in just those terms.
   I just can't apologize for calling on people to give up their lives for God.  I do want all of us to learn to live for the Lord in the small things, on the mundane kind of days.  I am sure that when the Apostle Paul was making tents he tried to be faithful in having the right material on inventory, the right needles, etc. and that he saw that work as giving glory to God.  This of course as he adjusted his posture to let the wounds on his back heal from his last whipping for preaching Christ.  Without heroes, without the blood of martyrs, without incredible risk taking in going where "normal" and "sane" people never go, just where would the church be, and what would it be?  Oh yes, the typical self focused and self indulgent congregation that makes absolutely no difference to the culture or the neighborhood around it.  Sorry, I only mean to offend the complacent.