So I should bias my opinion about what’s best for my fellow citizens, to benefit strangers from another country because they belong to my church? I should try to fill up the emptying pews of my denomination, because our leaders can’t catechize or evangelize?… Christianity is not a civilizational suicide cult…
John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, June 14, 2017 – Worried Christian conservatives have fought for decades against the hijack of Gospel compassion on the subject of immigration. We rarely lose on the arguments. That’s not because we’re geniuses. It’s because our opponents hardly make any. They don’t rebut our assertions, dispute our facts, or even address what we’ve said.
Instead of engaging logic, history, precedent, church tradition, or even (for Catholics) the binding teaching of their own Church’s Catechism, open borders advocates tend to do something else.
They strike elaborate postures that seem to them Christ-like. They weave emotional word pictures, play on the sentiments, and in general fuss and preen to attain one focused outcome: They seem like better people.
So even when champions of open borders don’t make sense or get the facts wrong, too many Christians think that their statements are “coming from a good place.” From a fuzzy, blurry, purple Jesusy-kind of place. So open-borders fans lose the argument on points but win the battle for persuasion.
It’s exhausting. It’s like entering a fencing tournament, and learning that your opponent is armed with a bowl of spaghetti. He gets points every time that sauce splatters your suit.
So let’s change the rules. Here’s a model conversation between a defender of the classical Christian position on patriotism and sovereignty, and a proponent of what I call “promiscuous citizenship.” The speakers are named (not randomly) “Augustine” and “Pollyanna.”
POLLYANNA: I saw on Facebook that you shared that nasty article going after immigrant-friendly Christians, because some of them accept financial support from a progressive foundation.
AUGUSTINE: You mean the foundation run by anti-Christian, anti-family, pro-abortion globalist socialist George Soros? Yes I shared that. I hope you read it.
POLLYANNA: Well, of course as a Christian I don’t believe all those other things. But at least he’s trying to help people. Helpless, vulnerable, marginalized people. People like Jesus.
AUGUSTINE: How is it exactly that people leaving their native countries to go make more money somewhere else are like Jesus? Did He leave Israel to find better paying carpentry work in Athens?
POLLYANNA: No, but he was an illegal immigrant and a refugee. He crossed borders to flee oppression.
AUGUSTINE: Actually, his parents were more like fugitive members of a royal family. (They were both descended from David.) When they heard that Herod was looking for Jesus, they temporarily moved from one province of the Roman empire to another. There were no borders. They didn’t break Roman law. They went to the “first safe country,” Egypt. Where Joseph worked for a living. And then when it was safe, they went back home. So how exactly is that like Somalis flying over 10 Muslim countries to go on welfare in the U.S., attend Islamist mosques, and refuse to go home, ever?
POLLYANNA: You’re just being legalistic now. Focusing in on details and missing the bigger picture.
AUGUSTINE: A picture is made up of details. Get them wrong, and you change the picture. So we’ve established that Jesus had little in common with beneficiaries of America’s lavish, self-destructive refugee program. What else have you got?
POLLYANNA: Did you know that no American has ever died as a result of a terrorist attack by a refugee? I read that in Christianity Today.
AUGUSTINE: What about the Boston Marathon bombers? They came here from Chechnya.
POLLYANNA: I looked that up on Snopes.com. And you’re wrong. They weren’t admitted under the Refugee Act, but the Asylum Act.
AUGUSTINE: I see. I’m sure that’s a great comfort to the families of their victims. How about the Ohio State attack, where a Somali “refugee” admitted under the correct Congressional statute attacked American students with a machete? You know, to avenge the abuse of Muslims in … Burma.
POLLYANNA: None of those people died, did they?
AUGUSTINE: You’re right. They are slowly recovering. So forget them. And we should also forget all the children of refugees who commit acts of terror in Europe. People whose parents Western countries welcomed in and supported, while their kids drank in poison at Islamist madrasas. And we should forget their victims — except when we pause to celebrate how very diverse those victims are. The London police chief is mighty proud that the dead from the last terrorist attack came from eight separate countries.
POLLYANNA: Well, our diversity is our strength.
AUGUSTINE: So multiculturalism is a contest. The country whose civilian corpses are the most diverse … wins.
POLLYANNA: You are just so morbid and negative. That is not a Gospel attitude.
AUGUSTINE: You mean the same Gospel that introduced the idea of eternal hellfire — which wasn’t canonical in Judaism before Jesus? That Gospel? Or maybe you’re thinking Godspell, that 70s musical.
POLLYANNA: Again, you’re just channeling some angry white male antipathy that you must have picked up from Donald Trump or Breitbart. Are you part of the Alt-Right?
AUGUSTINE: Quite the contrary. Alt-Right racists hate Christians. They think that Christianity is a civilizational suicide cult. I’m afraid that you do, too. It’s just you want to embrace that act of self-annihilation. Jesus never asked us to nail up our children and grandchildren on a cross.
POLLYANNA: So now you speak for Jesus? Please. …
AUGUSTINE: No, but I can quote Him. He told the Pharisees “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” right?
POLLYANNA: Yes …
AUGUSTINE: So let’s try to see what is Caesar’s, shall we? On the most literal level, it clearly includes minting coinage, and levying taxes, yes?
POLLYANNA: Right. Progressive taxes!
So I should bias my opinion about what’s best for my fellow citizens, to benefit strangers from another country because they belong to my church? I should try to fill up the emptying pews of my denomination, because our leaders can’t catechize or evangelize?
AUGUSTINE: What else would have to be Caesar’s? What else belongs to the State and not the Church? Maybe, controlling the police and army? You’d agree that the Church shouldn’t have its own militias, wouldn’t you?
POLLYANNA: No, of course not. That’s like … the Inquisition.
AUGUSTINE: So what’s another thing that Caesar and not the Church should control? Should the Church control our national borders and grant or withhold citizenship? If so, which Church? The Catholics? The Baptists?
POLLYANNA: No, obviously not.
AUGUSTINE: Okay, so then it’s the State. The State controls the movement of peoples across our borders.
POLLYANNA: Yeah, but the Church can tell us that we need to welcome everyone. Then as Christians we have to honor that.
AUGUSTINE: And impose it on our fellow citizens, who aren’t even Christians? Why not impose the whole Bible on them, then? Why not force them to convert?
POLLYANNA: Because that violates the separation of Church and State.
AUGUSTINE: And the Church setting immigration policy based not on reason, prudence, the common good or the natural law — but on our readings of the Gospel? That’s not a problem? Should the Church censor movies too? Maybe run all our state universities?
POLLYANNA: But this is different. You know a lot of those immigrants you want to turn away are Christians. Most are Catholics just like you.
AUGUSTINE: So I should bias my opinion about what’s best for my fellow citizens, to benefit strangers from another country because they belong to my church? I should try to fill up the emptying pews of my denomination, because our leaders can’t catechize or evangelize?
POLLYANNA: I just think you should “welcome the stranger.” It says that in Exodus (22:21), and that is unconditional.
AUGUSTINE: Three verses earlier, in Exodus 22:18, the Bible demands the death penalty for witches. No exceptions. Should we implement that, too? Or maybe we shouldn’t cherry-pick the Old Testament for proof-texts to impose on our fellow citizens. How about that?
POLLYANNA: I believe in an absolute embrace of the Other. And that’s what the Gospel means to me.
AUGUSTINE: Okay. But you know that virtually no Christians ever believed that, right? Many of the first Christians to emerge from the Catacombs after Constantine joined the Roman army to fight the barbarians. The saint I’m named for, Augustine, prayed that Rome could stop those armies of immigrants from entering the empire. Because he thought they were bad for the common good.
POLLYANNA: Well plenty of Christians have perverted the Gospel over the centuries.
AUGUSTINE: Did every Christian country in history, up until the 1980s or so? Are your generation of believers the best Christians in history?
POLLYANNA: I don’t make any great claims. But on this, I know I stand with the immigrant.
AUGUSTINE: How many of them will you stand with? All of them?
POLLYANNA: Yes. It’s a principled stand.
AUGUSTINE: Okay, so in that column which upset you so much, some facts appeared. According to the Gallup Poll, “Nearly 710 million adults worldwide want to migrate to another country and 147 million of those specifically want to come to the United States.”
POLLYANNA: Wow. Okay.
AUGUSTINE: So do you favor allowing all 147 million of those people to come to the United States, and receive the same social support as citizens?
POLLYANNA: Well, that’s a little extreme.
AUGUSTINE: Ah, so you do favor immigration restriction.
POLLYANNA: I mean, there have to be limits of some kind.
AUGUSTINE: Finally! We agree. You and I both think that the government has the right to say “no” to immigrants. We’re just arguing over how many we should accept, and under what conditions. Right?
POLLYANNA: Er, okay.
AUGUSTINE: Or you could take all 147 million. Regardless of their effect on the American poor, on the environment, on jobs and wages, and civic order — because a lot of them will want to impose sharia, you know. A lot of them. So you want to take all of them?
POLLYANNA: Okay, no.
AUGUSTINE: Great! We’re on the same side. I’m glad we could reason together. Now, why don’t you come with me. I could use some help building a wall… .