Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How should Christians respond to the Arizona illegal immigrant law?

I don’t pretend to speak for all Christians, heck I barely speak for myself! I do think we need to think through this issue because it is generating an awful lot of heat. People in the church are lining up on both extremes and that is not healthy. Let me throw a couple of ideas out and see what you think.

First, the United States is a secular state but one that exists through the providence and sovereignty of God. There are no authorities except those ordained and permitted by God.

Second, Christians are to obey our rulers and submit to those in authority over us. Not just when we like the laws or voted for the politician in question. Not just when they are the right political party. So until repealed or overturned, the law in Arizona is binding.

Third, in that respect, there is a very real issue regarding illegal immigration in this country, something that the Federal government has failed to address for decades and is now epidemic. If I can get jingoistic here for a moment. Something needs to be done: either open the border completely or enforce common sense laws. The cost and effort to stem the tide of illegal workers is outrageous. Is this the right approach being taken in Arizona? Maybe, maybe not. I would prefer a punitive law that punishes those who hire illegal immigrants, making it too costly to do so. The penalties now are clearly not a deterrent given the numbers of illegal workers here. If you make it too expensive to hire illegal workers, if the potential penalties are too high, employers will stop hiring and that will solve most of the problem right there. The idea that there are some jobs that Americans won’t do flies in the face of 10% unemployment.

I think the big picture here is that for Christians, this is the law of the land in Arizona. You may consider it unjust. I don’t. Heavy handed perhaps but certainly not unjust. Regardless, within the confines of the government that God has placed over America this is the law.

The big caution here is not to go too far in the other direction. Keeping illegal immigrants out of America is not a Christian virtue. It may be a sensible policy decision and one that makes perfect sense from the perspective of employment law, drug interdiction and national security but it is not a Christian issue. The core idea behind defending the borders has everything to do with economic and physical security, defending our economic system and our national integrity. Those hold no interest for Christians. Our treasure is not here on earth and the nation we live in is not our kingdom. I get really worried when politicians start spinning the laws against illegal immigrants as some sort of Judeo-Christian principle. It is always a bad idea to blur the distinction between the flag and the cross, between the bald eagle and the Lamb.

What do you think? Am I way off base here? Am I making too much of this issue or too little of it? Should we take a stronger stand against illegal immigration or is this an issue that shouldn’t even be on our radar as the church?

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