The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote from his cell in the Birmingham jail, “I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’ … A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.”
Unless we wake up, our state is in danger of passing an unjust law.
The legislation which has been introduced will not help solve the problem — it will only create a whole new level of criminals and cause those people of faith who support the law to be more than just a little hypocritical in the practice of the faith.
It is a point of fact that such a law will give policing agency’s far more power than we want them to have.
This law is not written to hand out any kind of justice, or extend any kind of mercy.
Further this law is not written to prevent crime or to allow Georgia law enforcement folks to “serve and protect”. No, this law is written out of fear, bigotry and political opportunism.
Since 9-11, our fear of illegal immigrants has reach unprecedented levels. We are now justifying our fear of people and cultures we don’t know or understand by painting with a very wide brush that says if “you are not American then you must mean us harm.”
Of course lost in this kind of thinking is Tim McVeigh, the “Unabomber”, Eric Rudolph, John Wayne Gacy or Charles Speck, all who were white and as American as they come… but I digress.
This is of concern also because this is the same kind of fear used against LGBTQ people and through various laws attempt to control and crush or kill if need be those who don’t live out their lives from the correct biblical perspective and view of the universe.
We have heard all the arguments why “these” people must be contained, captured, and deported without benefit of legal counsel or trial. Why it is justified to destroy families and even kill those coming across the border with very little provocation?
These arguments have “collateral damage” by making the landscape ripe for “human trafficking and smuggling”. We don’t seem to care about the truckloads of humanity that have died in mass in the desert heat and without water or food because someone was trying to make money.
It is argued first, this is a matter of national security since we don’t know which undocumented person simply wants a job and food for their family or instead might be a terrorist sneaking into our country to blow off the very hand which feeds them.
When that argument doesn’t have the desired results the arguments added to the rhetoric is the rise in violent crime, theft, poaching and land destruction (property values). At the same time this is being spewed across the landscape, we hear the cry: “They are taking our jobs!”
Further, because of our ridicules drugs laws we have set ourselves up for more collateral damage with an unwinnable “drug war”, which also becomes part of the collar placed on the necks of all those who are un-ocumented …well you know, they are all “drug traders.”
Finally, when all else fails, the argument is made “these undocumented people are breaking our health care system.” Really? Our “health care system” was pretty screwed up long before and out of political expedience this jumped front and center in our “war” on those who are undocumented.
Now let me be clear that these concerns are things for which we must be aware of and at some level as with anything there is good with the bad.
However, all these arguments are being made and exploited without benefit of our faith connection being considered as our starting point for our conversation, questions and concerns.
Rev. Richard Nathan is the pastor of Columbus Vineyard Church and makes two excellent points in two different articles:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hardly a liberal organization, published an extensive report refuting often-cited myths concerning immigration (“Immigration Myths and the Facts Behind the Fallacies,” www.uschamber.com). Despite claims to the contrary, illegal immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes each year, and do not qualify for or collect public assistance or welfare benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or Section 8 housing.
Furthermore, enforcement-only policies are no solution. Deporting 12 million illegal immigrants is utterly impracticable. Not only would it cost hundreds of billions of dollars ($206 billion over five years, according to the chamber), it would destroy families and communities across the country.
The way forward is clear. We need to secure our borders, crack down on dishonest employers and require illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements, including learning English, working and paying taxes before they earn the chance to become citizens. Such practical reforms would strengthen our economy, serve the interests and honor the ideals of our nation, and provide immigrants with the opportunity to fully join our society.
His second point asks his readers to put on their “biblical spectacles” when confronted with the issue of illegal’s and your “faith response.” I would ask my readers to do the same:
I would hope that Christians would first put on biblical spectacles when approaching the issue of illegal immigration. The biblical Christian would:
1. Begin with the conviction that illegal immigrants are persons made in God’s image and are, therefore, worthy of respect and dignity (Genesis 1:26,28).
2. Appreciate the fact that many of our spiritual ancestors were themselves economic refugees. Thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved from the Promised Land on several occasions in search of food (Genesis 12:10; 26:1; 41:57; 42:6; 43:1-7). The story of Ruth is the story of an immigrant who continually crossed national borders in search of food. Other spiritual ancestors of ours were pushed out of their homeland because of war or persecution (Joseph, Daniel, Moses, David, and the baby Jesus). So immigration because of economics, war, and asylum seeking is not far from every Christian’s own heritage.
3. Specifically apply the Second Commandment to illegal immigrants: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
4. Care for immigrants since they had a central place in the laws and practices of ancient Israel. Israel was commanded to love immigrants because God loves immigrants. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).
5. Be hospitable according to New Testament teaching which literally means to “love the stranger” or the alien (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Jesus commanded his followers to welcome people who had no social standing, such as the poor, the sick, and the outsider (Luke 14:12-14).
I am fully aware that these considerations will not solve the challenge of those who are undocumented, but it will sure change the discussion from what is now destructive, punitive and life ending to something that more closely resembles “doing justice, acting mercifully and walking humbly with God.”
As Christians we are encouraged to “cast out all fear and replace it with unconditional love”…so then we must ask ourselves how does this pending Georgia legislation promote the love we are suppose to be living, the love we are suppose to be practicing, the love we are suppose to be sharing?
In our political world today the conservative and progressive’s seem to agree on very little but as a people of faith we indeed have some common ground.
Rev. Brain Clark, a conservative pastor of Calhoun First United Methodist, made an interesting post on his blog, which makes my point:
“Despite the fact that undocumented persons contribute to the State tax base, bolster the agricultural economy, and keep local businesses alive, the real issue before the committee isn’t economic. The real issue is that Arizona-style legislation is both immoral and unscriptural. The legislation is immoral because it threatens to tear families apart, destroy the lives of countless children and youth already living productive lives in our communities, and does nothing to advocate for a fair earned pathway to citizenship. The legislation is unscriptural because it ignores the biblical mandates to love our neighbors, to offer forgiveness, and to treat others the way we desire to be treated. God loves the undocumented persons living among us as much as God loves every natural born citizen and calls us to treat them with love and respect. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (NRSV)”
The full blog post can be read here. I only hope we heed his call.
So now we as a people of faith cannot hide behind separation of church and state.
We must consider where we stand…how do we love others? Is this love up to the standards set by Christ?
Brothers and Sisters, what is written in the scripture? Just this:
And a certain teacher of the law got up and put him to the test, saying,
Master, what have I to do so that I may have eternal life?
And he said to him, what does the law say, in your reading of it?
And he, answering, said, has love for the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;
and for your neighbor as for yourself.
And he said, you have given the right answer: do this and you will have life.
If we are be a state where justice prevails, mercy is a priority and we have true equality then we must not leave anyone behind; we must not leave any part of our community out.
Slicing and dicing families and turning them into fugitives from the law are not what our faith teaches in these matters.
Come on folks, it is not rocket science! There is no justice, there is no safety, and there is no protection until “all” really means “all.” This proposed law cuts out a huge chunk of “all.”
Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, The Church Without Walls, Sundays at 10:30am in Candler Park, first picnic pavilion. Open, positive, inclusive. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail Pastor Paul firstname.lastname@example.org.