Something’s Rotten in the State of AZ

A friend of mine subscribes to the Sojourner’s email. In a recent missive, the religious magazine took on Arizona’s SB1070, recently passed into law. The email said:

Perhaps the most offensive aspect of the Arizona bill lies in the implications for the church. Under this law, those who “knowingly transport or harbor” undocumented immigrants will be at risk of arrest. Daily ministry activities like driving people to and from church or offering shelter or food to those in need will be unlawful. This law is a direct attack on the body of Christ, because it makes it illegal to love your neighbor and care for “the least of these” in Arizona. Many church leaders have already told Arizona politicians, “we will not comply.”

It would, in my opinion, break the faith between the Church and the faithful if we had to demand that they show us their papers or talk to the police before we administered to their needs. Too many churches do that, in other, less obvious ways. There are churches where charitable recipients must swear some fealty to Christianity before getting food from the pantry or a ride to the clinic. It’s as if those churches want to make sure that those to whom we give are “Worthy” of the contribution.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a dollar (all I had in cash at the time) to a man who asked, because he said he was going to buy gas. My friend warned me: “You know he’s going to use that to buy beer, right?” I told him I didn’t care; Christ commanded me to give, to provide for the “least of these.” What that man did with the dollar is between him and God. I gave it in good faith. The best thing about my faith is that Jesus never asked me to be worthy of his sacrifice before giving it. He didn’t ask to see my credentials. I could take that grace and waste it, we learned in last night’s Beta Bible Study that the Israelites did just that when they entered the promised land – they took a surplus of grace (God delivering them out of Egypt) and squandered it into a deficit of faith.

Should the Church get to operate outside the law of the land? If the law of the land demanded that we do something against the law of God, would we have no recourse? No argument? This isn’t the same as laws that require us to wear seatbelts or prohibit us from jaywalking. This law in Arizona demands us to abandon our Great Commission; it demands that we break with our call to serve others; it demands that we ignore the Constitution AND the New Testament and the Koran and the Torah and other religious texts that emphasize our duty to help the poor, needy and spiritually seeking. There are betters ways, Christian ways, HUMAN ways to address the problem of illegal immigration, but hassling churches for answering their call and Christians from helping their neighbor – without documentation, without justification, by reason of their sanctification, is an abomination.

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11 responses to “Something’s Rotten in the State of AZ

  1. He also says to obey the laws of Rome. Helping people is right and should be done all the time, however if it breaks the laws we live under that is also an issue with G-d.

    Illegals should be helped to find legal entry and work in the USA, not helped to illegally enter and thus work illegally.

    • But the church doesn’t want to illegally employ people…the church wants to help them, provide them with food or shelter if they need it, minister to them. The church is not helping them to enter the country illegally.

      Legal or not, they are our fellow humans, fellow children of God, and it would be un-Christ-like to choose to minister to only those we have arbitrarily decided are “worthy” of our help.

  2. Jesus himself ministered to the unlawful. Nobody said the churches should help people enter the country illegally. What the problem is, is that those who are trying to show Jesus’ love to those who are already here could be prosecuted under this law. Our country needs immigration reform. Now. Not band-aid laws that target people based on the color of their skin.
    Wonderful entry, K.

  3. As I understand the church’s work, they are simply ministering to individuals without reference to their origin or legal status. The church isn’t personally ferrying individuals across the border from Tijuana, and therefore I fail to see the relevance of your post.

    For thousands of years, churches have been places of refuge and sanctuary. I am pleased to see that some Christians still take that role seriously.

  4. The problem with Sojourners is that it’s a political mouthpiece concerned with promoting a progressive agenda under the guise of being “Christian”. In that sense, it is a liberal pharasitic publication. To characterize a state’s public policy efforts to control its borders to protect its citizen’s rights as “offensive” is to call the good “bad”.

    Brian Holle

    • Thank goodness Christ was a progressive liberal in the first century or we wouldn’t have Christianity to begin with…

      Christ calls all to give freely without taking applications for citizenship or social status. The Church is not committing a crime and should not be harassed as such under the law of any land if it is providing food, shelter and the Word to it’s flock. God’s Word transcends borders and laws.

      Honestly, I’m a populist who often is irritated by illegal immigration. That being said, I would never assume such pompousness as to think that my personal public policy endeavors are greater than the greatest commandment.

      If we ministered to only the lawful, oh what a pitiful sight our Church would be.

      • Brian Holle

        David,

        At first I thought your characterizing Jesus as a progressive liberal was tongue in cheek. But are you really saying that Jesus endorses a massive State apparatus that can forcibly take private property away from one individual and give it to another? Or maybe that He endorsed no private property, that all property should be controlled by a State of some sort? Or, even, that Jesus love for us equates to being a progressive liberal? Thereby implying if one subscribes to a different political philosophy then one is not loving his neighbor as Christ did?

        That’s my pompous point, along with the one on the top of my sinner’s head: Sojourners puts politics above Jesus. Jesus is a means to an end. And, Sojourners is not alone in using Jesus.

        People can have honest differences of opinion on how to address political and social issues, i.e. how best to love our neighbor, which is not the greatest commandment, but the second greatest commandment. And if we ministered only to the lawful, we wouldn’t minister to anyone.

        Brian Holle

      • Brian,

        Christ was a progressive liberal of his age. He sought to change the social norms. Eating and communicating with adulterers and tax collectors…the horror! I wasn’t referencing Christ’s progressiveness in the modern sense. Although, one could argue that Christ still would be left leaning (anti death penalty, social justice, etc.). Let’s refrain from party bashing, as that was not the topic of the author’s post, and was not my intention within my original reply.

        Since you seem to be of the opinion that the Sojourner article is wrong or biased, do you believe that the state should harrass churches that feed, shelter and minister to the poor regardless of immigration status? I don’t believe that churches should be prosecuted for ministering to whomever walks through their door…whom should we turn away? Do we need to be punished if we feed an illegal alien? provide them spiritual nourishment? Regardless of modern political posturing, I’m fairly certain I know how Christ would answer.

        With regards to the greatest commandment, the quote actually reads as follows…

        Mark 12:29-31
        “29”The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'[b] 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”

        Christ places equal emphasis on the two by saying “there is no commandment greater than these.”

        Further substantiating this is the following…

        Matthew 25:37-40
        37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

        40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

        I just don’t want to say that I placed my political biases ahead of Christ’s command, be it first or second.

  5. David,

    But you are putting your political biases ahead of Christ.

    You are making an idol out of progressive liberalism, which is, as you describe, seeking to change social norms. You have Christ being “left-leaning” as if the higher good is seeking to change social norms and Christ has considered all the human arguments on all the issues and found that political philosophy the one that is “correct”.

    You are also confusing a policy viewpoint and personal contact with others. Both are ways we can love our neighbor. An Arizonan who believes that Arizona should enforce immigration restrictions between it and Mexico should not be demonized (not agreeing with Jesus). That Arizonan believes that that public policy is for the good of everyone. And that Arizonan likely also ministers to the poor and needy through her church, or more primarily, through her daily vocations.

    That Sojourners is politically biased, self righteous, and cynically uses Christ is quite obvious. Should the church minister to the poor without checking immigration status? Yes. The church is under no obligation to check immigration status. Should the State harass the churches? No. However, should some churches knowingly assist drug smugglers and human smugglers and call it ministry?

    Brian

    • Brian,

      I guess I’m still not making myself clear for you. I said Christ was a progressive liberal for his age, not in the modern sense or definition of the word. While I mentioned how one could argue that he would be left leaning from my aforementioned examples, I could have just as easily tossed out the examples that would lead one to think that he would be a conservative if he walked the earth today (pro life, etc.).

      I’m not a raging liberal, if you didn’t catch that from the previous posts I have made. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t step back and point out problems in a piece of legislation that I would overall agree with.

      If you agree that churches should not be harrassed by the state while ministering to illegal aliens, then we are on the same page.

      I have plenty of conservative friends, and I don’t believe they are any less of a Christian than I am, eventhough I’m a moderate.

      With regards to confusing public policy with one’s personal actions, I would say this… We live in a representative democracy. That being the case, we are responsible for what becomes public policy.

      Enforcing illegal immigration laws is one thing…threatening to prosecute churches for ministering to illegal aliens is another.

      Instead of trotting out the usual political banter, we should bring this blog back on topic and not be counterproductive. If we love others through Christ, and the Church is allowed to minister to whomever we so choose, then all is well, correct?

      Peace in Christ,

      David

      • Brian Holle

        David,

        My point exactly, Jesus transcends politics.

        In contrast to the Sojourners quote, the AZ governor and Senate have expressed sensitivity to making sure enforcement doesn’t involve racial profiling or prosecuting churches. There was never any threatening to prosecute churches.

        Yes, we are responsible for the laws and society we have, I agree.

        I never trotted out political banter, the political banter was in the referenced Sojourners email. I only responded to the main idea of the post. And, I do not agree that this dialog was counterproductive, but was, instead, quite productive.

        Also Christ’s peace to you,
        Brian

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