The issue of immigration is much in the news these days. Questions are raised and must be wrestled with rather than answered in either a glib or nationalistic way. In the first installment of this piece, the issue of public policy was highlighted. After a further word on that subject, the issue of nationalism will be highlighted here.
A further word concerning public policy is in order. From a Christian and indeed sound economic perspective, in solving the immigration problem, particularly the illegal immigration problem, market solutions are generally better than government solutions. Sound economists tell us that it is not always worth spending public money to fix a social problem. Biblically, not only is government waste and inefficiency of concern, public money generally becomes public money through an increased tax burden on the public. Further, if the market does not offer a wonderful solution, it is doubtful the government will perform better. Not only do government officials rarely have enough knowledge to solve massive problems without creating unforeseen and awful ripple affects, their solutions more often than not tend to be driven by their desire to be re-elected rather than their commitment to the best solution for the people.
Perhaps border control could be privatized. Rather than military or citizen patrols or multi-billion dollar (liberty destroying) fences, maybe the government could give entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop an entire new industry of "renewable, performance-based border protection contracts" as one economist suggested. Such a move would not only benefit the economy and go a long way in solving a border patrol problem, but most terrorists, drug-dealers, and other undesirables would be weeded out.
The second issue is that of biblical perspective regarding immigration as a whole. As noted, legal immigration is desirable while illegal immigration poses problems. But, both of these issues should be fleshed out a little further.
Legal immigration is a problem for many people in America, including, unfortunately, some Christians. The problem here lies in two related areas. Rarely does a day go by when I don't here some Christian express a pejorative attitude toward "foreigners" and/or a nationalistic attitude toward America. Regarding disdain for foreigners, the sinful attitude of prejudice or racism is the issue. Regarding nationalism, the question for the Christian must be, "Am I an American first and a Christian second, or, am I a Christian first and an American second?"
Nationalism is simply a form of prejudice or racism and may be defined as an exalted view one one's country above all other countries with an attached attitude of superiority. The attitude manifests itself in the notion that because we are Americans, we are better than those who are not. The result is often blind allegiance to a country or its government at the expense of others regardless of the issue. Sadly, there are many American Christians who would defend an American pagan before they would defend a French Christian. The notion that America should propagate its culture and values (democracy) through conquest falls into this same category.
Nationalism is a problem not only from a biblical ethical standpoint, but from a biblical exegetical standpoint as well. Well documented is the fact that "nations" in the Scriptures refers not to nation states like America, Germany, England, or France, but to people groups within nation states. People groups are distinguished by language, culture, and ethnicity, not by location within the borders of a particular geo-political territory. The Great Commission is that we should make disciples of all the people groups. This fact is well established in missions circles.
By way of further example and explanation, the oft used 2 Chron. 7:14 to call for revival in America and the healing of our land has been abused as much as any verse in the Scriptures. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." This verse applies to national Israel and cannot be applied to America. It may be applied to the church as the church is the one nation in Christ comprised of people from every tribe and tongue on the face of the earth. We are a holy nation according to 1 Pet. 2:9. But, in no sense can America be called "my people." The church is that which is called the people of God, not America. The problem lies in the fact that too many Americans, and indeed American Christians, view America as God's people and better than the rest of the countries of the world.
To be plain, the concept of "nation" in the Scriptures refers not to political boundaries or territory. God is not concerned with the sin and repentance of America per se, but with the sin and repentance of people and people groups (nations) within the borders of that territory which is called America. It is inaccurate to say that God has blessed America because she is a Christian nation. It is more accurate to say that God has blessed those people groups within the borders of America who have honored Christ. Because those people groups were pervasive in the formative years of the country, God's blessing appeared to rest upon the country when in fact the country was simply comprised of a great number of God's people and people groups. Those who were not committed to Christ simply received the overflow of grace and benefit that abounded to the believers in that context.
Indeed, "Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov. 14:34)." But again, this verse applies to people groups, not geo-political states. People groups who honor God can and do exist in any geo-political state on earth. The church can exist within any political or territorial border. Christians are "strangers scattered" throughout the world (1 Pet. 1:1) and our citizenship is not here but in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We seek a better country, a heavenly country, for God has prepared a city for us (Heb. 11:16).
The implication, among others, in terms of immigration, is that we have no right or desire to be opposed to immigration. Territorial borders are irrelevant when it comes to where people ought to be able to live from a Christian perspective. We have no right to speak of foreigners who are different than we are in a pejorative way simply because they were born in a different geographical location. We are the foreigners. This world is not our home. We are simply passing through.
[Part III Monday]
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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