We need to find a way to talk to each other, and not just at each other. We need to listen to each other, and not be so quick to respond with a put down or a label or an accusation.
Does the present state of journalism reflect our current attitudes toward “others”? Or does it drive our attitudes towards “others”?
Maybe its both.
We wouldn’t “buy” what they are dishing out if we didn’t want it. The biased, clickbait journalism that we consume is, sadly, just a reflection of who we have become. Maybe it’s who we always were?
At the same time, the hyped up “news” outlets of the left and right variety to a good job of stirring up the division among us and agitating us to fight with other. We toss meme hand grenades into the social media foxholes of our “enemies”, while we rally the troops hiding in the trenches, and they are fueled by a nonstop barrage of media assault.
What are coming too? Where does this end? Is there any hope?
Maybe, but we need to become better news consumers and demand more integrity from our news sources. We need to become more astute in our vetting of fact and eschew the clickbait headlines that dangle in front of our faces like garish posters advertising the wolf boy at a carnival.
We need to stop ourselves from posting knee-jerk responses on social media, labeling those we disagree with and parroting our talking points without really listening or engaging in independent thought. We need to stop the us-against-them mentality when it comes to politics and worldviews and see ourselves as neighbors who have different perspectives.
Yes, worldviews matter, but relationships matter more. No one is winning the social media debates. We are losing our connectedness in a sea of disjointed, clamorous rancor.
Followers of Christ should seek to set a better example. We should be salt and light. We should have a different flavor. We should not defined by the political positions that we hold, but by the love and character of Christ.
Wayne Gruden, a Christian ethicist, makes a case for building a wall. He cites to biblical passages that reinforce the idea that walls provide protection, peace and security to those inside the walls. These are good things, he says, and he cites to support for this proposition in the Scriptures.
The Psalmist prays (for Jerusalem) for “peace within your walls and security within your towers” (Psalm 122:7) and praises God for strengthening the bars of Jerusalem’s gates, making peace within its borders. (Psalm 147:12-14) David prayed to God to build up the walls of Jerusalem. (Psalm 51:18) King David built walls around Jerusalem, and King Solomon strengthened those walls after him. (1 Kings 3:1)
God used the Babylonians to visit judgment on the people of Israel by breaking down the walls of Jerusalem and burning down the temple and the palaces. (2 Chronicles 36:19. See also Jeremiah 52:14) The first thing the remnant did when they returned to Jerusalem was to rebuild the wall. (Nehemiah 2:17)
Indeed, walls and gates and towers are all pictures that convey the peace and security that the ancients hoped and prayed for from God. They stand for that very peace and protection for which they longed in the harsh world of the their time. Proverbs says, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28) Certainly, building walls in a hostile world is a prudent thing to do. On different levels, we do this (provide peace and security) for our families, our communities and our nations. Basic decency demands it. Therefore, Wayne Grudem concludes that “the Bible views border walls as a morally good thing”.
I agree with him, but I think he takes it too far. Few people, for instance, believe the Berlin Wall was a morally good thing. We also can’t view the moral goodness of providing peace and security in a vacuum. We need to consider the big picture, too.
Walls are not good or evil in themselves. They can protect and maintain peace and security for the people within the walls. They were a critical and necessary component of life in most centuries gone by. People who were not protected by walls were exposed to the vagaries of every vagabond with bad intent. But walls that are designed to keep people captive to an oppressive regime are not good.
Walls can be used to provide peace and security, but they can also be used for evil purposes like oppression. The issue isn’t walls, but purpose and intent. For Christians that means God’s ultimate purposes and intent.
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law is transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point he has become guilty of all of it…. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:8-10, 12-13)
The immigration issues in the United States are much on everyone’s mind, if for no other reason than Donald Trump and the media are making a big to do about it. Most thinking and empathetic people, however, have watched with some angst as the treatment of families and children crossing the border has brought a moral crisis to our daily awareness.
What should we do with these illegal immigrants and asylum seekers? How should we be treating them and handling the situation? As the videos, photos, stories and reports stream in day after day, we can’t help but notice what is going on and react to it.
How does a Christian respond to the immigration issues that face our country?
I recall a sermon preached back in the 1980’s in the church I attended at the time in New Hampshire. I don’t remember the scriptural passage or references, but I remember the gist of the message, and it has stuck with me ever since.
The gist goes something like this: As God’s people, we need to be informed and take our direction primarily from God and God’s will as revealed to us in the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are in the world, but we are not of the world, and we should be careful not to be influenced by the world in our thinking.
The key point that I remember, however, is that we can focus so much on trying not to be influenced by the world that we become reactionary to it. If the world goes right, we go left. If the world goes left, we go right. If all we are doing is being reactionary to the world, we lose our focus on God. In the process of trying not to be like the world, we allow ourselves to be defined by the world nevertheless.
If our direction is dictated by nothing more than going in the opposite direction of the world, we are no more directed by God than if we are going in exactly the same direction of the world. Either way, we are focusing on the world and allowing the world to influence our direction.
So here’s a thought, but first, consider these statistics:
In 2016, in 26 states, the number of non-Hispanic whites who died was greater than the number of non-Hispanic whites who were born in those states, according to an analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau that was released last week. The 26 states were a diverse group in terms of geography and demographics, from Maine to Alabama to California. Nationwide in 2016, there were 0.98 births for every death among non-Hispanic whites, a rate lower than that of blacks (1.71), Asians (3.87) and Latinos (4.88).
I have seen numbers like these before on a national scale. We are tottering on the edge of population regression. People get married less, marry later, have fewer children, and these factors contribute to our population decline – at least among white Americans. Most European countries are well beyond us in this population regression cycle.
Much of the positioning and politicking about immigration focuses on crime and fears that immigration brings crime into the country. Donald Trump famously said of Mexican immigrants, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” (Remarks from the speech by Donald Trump when announced his run for the Republican nomination for president at Trump Tower Atrium in Manhattan on June 16, 2015)
Crime is obviously a very big societal concern, and one we shouldn’t take lightly. Most Americans are in agreement on that point. Protecting law abiding citizens from criminal behaviors is a top priority, one that often justifies using a significant percentage of local tax dollars in support of law enforcement. If immigration increases crime in our communities, tightening up the immigration laws makes sense from the standpoint of protecting citizens from crime. But does it?
Does immigration increase the crime rate in our communities? Are immigrants more likely to commit crimes than citizens?
I wasn’t at all sure what the studies show so I set out to determine for myself the answer to the questions. These are important questions because our immigration policies should be informed by the facts. As Christians, especially, we should be guided by truth.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The parable of the sheep and goats and the explanation of it given by Jesus is relevant to the issue of immigration. This is not in the Old Testament, but the New Testament. This isn’t God talking to the nation of Israel (as if what God said to the nation of Israel has no bearing on us), but God talking to all of us through Jesus.
The bottom line is this: we will be judged by how we treat people.
A case can be made that God’s instructions to the Israelites on the treatment of strangers (aliens, foreigners, immigrants) doesn’t apply to us today, like ceremonial and dietary laws don’t apply to us today as followers of Christ. At least, that is the position taken by James K. Hoffmeier in the article, The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate, December 2011.
Hoffmeier argues that conservative Christians should not take a position in favor of immigration. He says that only secularists and liberals hold that view, and they misquote the Bible to support that position.
Before diving in to the issue, we should note that the discussion isn’t about whether immigration should be allowed, or not. We already allow immigration and always have. Few people are arguing that we should open the borders wide with no controls at all, and few people are arguing that we should shut the borders tight and not allow any immigration at all.
The issue is the extent of the immigration we should allow and the terms and conditions that we should attach to it. But, the debate sounds as if people are lining up completely in favor of open borders or completely in favor of closing them off. That perception isn’t accurate, and assuming an all or nothing approach is counterproductive.
Another perception we need to contend with is the notion that secularists and liberals have staked out the ground in favor of immigration. This notion is also false. Who is against immigration?! Who would refuse any immigration at all? Everyone but Native Americans are descendants of immigrants in this country.
But, what if those “secularists and liberals” are “right” in their policies that favor more compassionate immigration? Do we oppose things just because secularists or liberals ascribe to them? These are questions I ask myself as I consider the issues. Are we just reacting? I believe we should be guided, not by our opposition to positions taken by unbelievers, but by our own reading of the Scriptures and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I am neither a secularist nor a liberal. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe that we are responsible to God whose Word is preserved in the Bible. My reading of the Bible leads me to take the position that we have a holy responsibility to welcome strangers (immigrants) into our land because that is the heart of God.