Immigration Policy, Declining Population Growth, the Economy and the Sheep and the Goats

As Christians, should we be more motivated by what Immigrants can do for us? Or what can do for them?

The article, Why U.S. Population Growth Is Collapsing, by Derek Thompson in a recent issue of the Atlantic reminds me of a trend I have been following for quite a few years, now, of declining population growth in Europe and the United States. I first became aware of the trend maybe 8 years ago, and most European countries were already (at that time) at unsustainable growth levels. The US wasn’t far behind.

The article linked above picks up the story as it has advanced in the last two years with COVID. Changing societal norms and expectations have led to significant declines in population growth as younger generations are getting married later in life, having children later in life and having fewer children or no children at all. COVID has rapidly accelerated the decline.

One interesting note from this article is the statement that “America’s bias against immigration is self-defeating in almost every dimension.” The article asserts (with no citation to authority) that immigrants are vital to our national economy, but I have read the studies and know the beneficial affects of immigration on an economy.

Anecdotally, I know a young woman who is a “Dreamer”. I will call her Sofia. She is the daughter of two undocumented immigrants who found themselves on the “wrong” side of the border with an infant (Sofia) after 911. They figured things would go back to pre-911 conditions when people came and went with no documentation required. That never happened, of course.

She shared with me that her father is a businessman. He has multiple businesses. He employs many people, and he teaches other people to be entrepreneurial. He pays taxes. He pays into Social Security, but he will never reap any benefit from it.

He doesn’t qualify for Social Security, and he never will. If he overpays his taxes he gets no refund. He is always afraid of being found out and deported to a country that he no longer considers his home.

Sofia grew up with the same fear. She grew up with the burden of having to be a perfect citizen. Any negative attention could expose her to to deportation to a country she has never known. She told me she knew from an early age that she would never qualify for student aid or student loans, so she would have to earn way to obtain the education she aspired to.

I didn’t realize this, but I have since learned that the IRS will assign a number to anyone, with or without a Social Security number. The IRS doesn’t care, as long as people pay taxes.

When I met Sofia, she had graduated from high school in three years with a perfect GPA, and she was on pace to finish college in three years. She had a perfect 4.0 GPA, and she planned to go to law school. She was exceptional in every way. (Since then she went to law school where she currently is.)

This story is anecdotal, but it’s indicative of the data that shows that undocumented immigrants are not a drain on our economy. Undocumented immigrants pay into the system, but they don’t qualify (in most ways) to take from the system they pay into. The statistical difference (on average) is $80,000 per person paid into the system more than what is taken out.

We actually make money off of undocumented immigrants. They shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, pay real estate taxes, pay income taxes, pay into Social Security, provide labor for our employers (who are happy to pay them minimal wages), and more. (The popular assumption that immigrants commit more crime turns out to be false also.)

Not only are we turning our backs on the boost to our economy that more generous immigration policies would provide, but we are entering a “population danger zone” according to the author of the article cited above

All of this is to bring me to the point in writing this article, which is a little different than the points made in the article. I borrow these things from the article and from my research to get to a different point.

How should Christians generally view the issue of immigration?

Continue reading “Immigration Policy, Declining Population Growth, the Economy and the Sheep and the Goats”

Breakfast in America: A Litmus Test for the Church?

We can forget that we are ambassadors for Christ everywhere we go, in everything we do, and to each and every person that we meet

I was listening to an interview of Kevin Finch. He is the nephew of the well-known pastor, author and thinker, Eugene Peterson. Kevin comes from a long line of pastors going back generations, and he is the founder of a ministry to people in the food industry called The Big Table.

The food industry may seem like a strange idea to target for a ministry, but Kevin’s eloquent explanation of his call to this ministry, and hearing the clear voice of God in it makes sense. The website provides some further insight.

The restaurant and hospitality sector of the workforce is the largest sector of the American workforce, doubling any other industry. It is also growing faster than any other segment of the workforce. The Big Table website describes it as a “catch basin” for “all of the most vulnerable demographics” – single parents, at-risk teens, immigrants, ex-felons trying to turn their lives around, etc. It is a filed ripe unto harvest.

Perhaps, one reason for the vulnerable demographic is that anyone willing to work can get a job in the restaurant and hospitality world. It is often the first place people look for entry level jobs and the last place people look when all else fails.

“[P]ut so many at-risk individuals together under one roof and it is not surprising that this industry has the highest rates of people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, massive amounts of divorce and broken relationships, redline stress levels, job instability, rapid turnover, and almost no safety net.”

Restaurant and hospitality workers get paid (often not very much) for serving others with smiles on their faces, while a large portion of them suffer in their own lives more than the average person. The website reports the following:

  • Forty three percent (43%) of workers in the restaurant and hospitality industry fall below the “survival” line – DOUBLE the rate of any other working population;
  • Workers in the restaurant and hospitality industry struggle with drug and alcohol addiction more than any other working group; and
  • Benefits, like health insurance, vacations, sick time, etc. are largely not available for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

In my own experience, I see that workers in the restaurant and hospitality industry are often exploited. They don’t get paid overtime. Bosses often schedule them part-time to avoid overtime pay. They don’t have to be paid even minimum wages, so they most rely on tips. They sometimes get paid “under the table”, and that usually means they get paid even less.

Restaurant workers are very likely to need multiple jobs to make ends meet. Working conditions can be extremely stressful in a hot kitchen or full restaurant, under the pressure of demanding bosses, expectant and often ungrateful patrons, and ever changing conditions. The lowest paid workers are often the first target of angry customers and critical bosses.

I was as a busboy in a popular restaurant in high school. Some of these factors I have experienced firsthand or through friends and family in the hospitality industry. I also worked retail, which includes some of the same pressures to perform with a smile under the hot light of customer interrogation and store bottom lines.

As a young bus boy, I noticed (and can still see in my mind) that every seasoned waitress, Maître d’, cook, and kitchen worker smoked like chimneys. The stress of performing in that pressure cooker environment showed in the worry worn faces of those veterans on which smiles often lost their battle with the struggle of simply getting through the night.

So, what does any of this have to do with the Church in America? In the course of the interview, Kevin Finch said something that made my ears perk up. That is the point is the point of this article, but a little background is necessary to set the stage.

Continue reading “Breakfast in America: A Litmus Test for the Church?”

Evangelicalism and Injustice Part I

Evangelicalism has been very good at preaching the good news, but falls a bit short on doing justice.


I am taking a break from considering the difference between “the righteous” and “the wicked” in Scripture to return to a related topic that erupted publicly in recent weeks: racial injustice. It is related because God’s character is righteousness and justice at His core.

As an attorney, I have had the privilege (and sacred duty) to devote some time to a local organization known as Administer Justice that serves the poor, vulnerable and under-privileged in communities around the country. A great many of “those people” are minorities, immigrants and “the working poor”. I’ve had the honor of getting know some real servants of the Gospel in the process, like Bruce Strom, the founder and executive director of this organization.

I am reading through his book, Gospel Justice. I’ve owned the book for a long time, probably years. I started it a long time ago, and I am still not through it yet because ( I admit) that other, more “interesting” subjects and diversions have distracted me from the seemingly mundane subject of justice.

If I truly want to know God’s heart, to follow Jesus and to work out my salvation as God works within me to will and to act according to His good purpose, though, I need to be concerned about justice – because it’s at the foundation of God’s throne. (Psalm 89:14)

We can’t talk about justice in the United States in the 21st century without talking about racial disparities resulting from centuries of racial injustice. The recent events following the killing of George Floyd (and others) have focused national attention on the issue. As the national dialogue continues, we in the Body of Christ need to engage.

There is a great need for the Body of Christ collective to participate as God would have us get involved in the discussion, action and changes necessary to address racial injustice. My own neighborhood in the Body of Christ is the American evangelical church. Thus, I write this with my evangelical brothers and sisters in mind.

The following passage in Bruce Strom’s book inspires my thoughts today:

“The division between Jews and Gentiles was the great divide of the first century.
“In America that great divide is race, and it remains a leading contributor to injustice. In their book, Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith examine the role of white evangelicalism in race relations. Based on extensive interviews and study, they conclude that the evangelical church, with its focus on individual salvation, not only misses the opportunity to break down the great divide between the races, but also contributes to it.
“This view is shared by my friend Ed Gilbreath, who wrote Reconciliation Blues. ‘A sad tendency of evangelical faith is to elevate the act of evangelism over the humanity of the people we want to reach…. Apparently, any time an ethnic minority speaks out against race-related injustice, he risks being branded a malcontent in need of therapy.’
“Racial injustice is real….
“We must not walk on by [like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan] as if racial injustice does not exist. We should listen to our neighbors of color who understand well the injustices in their community. And our friends of race should not give up, but seek opportunity to lead by example.”

I am reminded that the evangelical tradition is informed by people like Luther and Wycliffe. They championed the principal that salvation is by faith in the grace of God, not by works that we can do. That and the primacy of Scripture and the need for individual members of the Body of Christ to read Scripture for themselves and to pray to God our Father – not through some intermediary, but directly – one on one.

These things have driven the evangelical church to seek and save the lost, proclaiming the Gospel with the message of salvation to individuals who believe, repent of their sins and put their faith in the lordship and salvation wrought by Jesus on the cross. These are hallmarks of evangelicalism. They are indeed central to the purposes of God.

I am reminded further that, when Jesus stood up in the Temple to announce the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4, he read this from the Isaiah scroll:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel…. (v.18)

When the evangelical church considers the Great Commission –  “[G]o and make disciples of all nations….” (Matt. 28:19-20) – preaching the Gospel comes primarily to mind.  Evangelicalism has been a champion of preaching the Gospel. 

But, I think that sometimes we forget that Jesus didn’t stop there. The passage in Isaiah from which Jesus read continues on well past preaching the good news (quoting from Isaiah 61:1):

He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

Continue reading “Evangelicalism and Injustice Part I”

Generosity

lightstock_94875_xsmall_user_7997290


I spent a couple of hours today handing out candy for donations for the local Lion’s Club. It was a glorious fall day. I got a little exercise; and I raised some money for a good cause. The Lion’s Club provides hearing aids and glasses for those who cannot afford them and gives to local causes.

I am a multi-tasker, so every time I walked the line of cars before the light turned green, I picked up bits of litter on the way back. It did not take long to clear my little section of the world of litter, so I began to observe and think about the people who gave and the people who did not. Continue reading “Generosity”