I just realized I had a column published today. It’s not my best, just a little response and analysis to some things that have happened recently in Milwaukee and how they relate to race relations. As always, when I am published, I check my firstname.lastname@example.org address, which is solely for the column (because the e-mail address is published on the JS web site, it garners loads of spam). Here is a comment I received from Pastor Mike:
Good article Laura but I have read articles like these many times before. I visited Milwaukee last fall for the promise keepers conferance and was impressed by the downtown and the apocolyptic look of the Marquette interchange. Two thoughts: First you will loose the readers I assume you are trying to convince by refering to illegal immigrants as “undocumented workers.” It immediately conveys a politically correct, who needs immigration laws, open borders mentality. I almost stopped reading at that point because I have heard this seemingly self righteous sermon before. Money is also a factor. A rich black, hispanic, or white person’s murder will always get more attention because in this media culture people with money are “worth more” than people without money. That is tragic not just in Milwaukee but in the entire world as well.
Well, I am sure many of you could predict my response to this. I am sure he had no idea what he was getting into, but here’s what the poor guy just received back.
Hi Pastor Mike,
Interesting that your biggest problem with my column is with referring to “illegal immigrants” as “undocumented workers.” How, exactly, is that “self-righteous?” I would call it compassionate. I am married to a former “illegal immigrant.” These are real people, with real families, real struggles. I wonder what Jesus would call them. I find it highly ironic that a person whose website is apparently escapetograce.com would take part in dehumanizing hard-working people, children of God perhaps you might say, in the name of upholding unfair laws of our NATION. Your attitude, excuse me for being upset, is the reason I have left the evangelical church.
I know I should be nicer, yes, I know that.
<<UPDATED @ 3:23 PM>>
Pastor wrote back:
Dear Ms Fernandez: I see that I hit a nerve. The Bible and Jesus clearly state what our attitude should be to the government. I studied history at the UW Madison and know a little about the Roman Empire and its attitude toward Jews and Christians. As an evangelical I must have biblical authority for my statements. In the gospels when Jesus is asked if the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar it was a politically loaded question. The Roman government was hated in Israel and it had a horrible reputation under the likes of Pontius Pilate. Yet Jesus’ response was “Who’s image is on the coin?” “Caesar’s they said.” “Then render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” So tell me who’s laws were more unfair. Rome’s or the United Sates? Latter in Roman’s 13 Paul reminds us that no government is in place except by God’s allowing it to be so I simply repeat the question. Finally I believe your problem is with the Bible and its proper interpretation not evangelicals. After reading your rather “judgemental” response I am glad you will not take my advice, nevertheless may God Bless you and your family as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Well, I wrote back from work anyway:
I am very familiar with this argument. I strongly believe that God is loving and compassionate, also just. The Bible clearly backs up these claims. While there are hundreds of verses in the Bible where Jesus talked about the poor and helpless of the world and ways Christians should minister to them, there are, correct me if I am wrong, only a few places in the New Testament, two of which you quoted, that can back up your argument for putting law above the needs of people.
I do not believe God looks at an individual and judges them for making the difficult decision to leave their beloved country to come to the US to make a better life for their families. The idea that the law trumps (almost) all is quite an American interpretation of the Bible. Christians all over the world break laws in order to practice their faith and do what they feel is right in the eyes of God. We are lucky to have religious freedom in the U.S., but what would you do if you lived in a country where being a Christian was illegal?
I am not exactly trying to equate crossing a nation’s borders to escape a life of poverty with religious persecution, but Jesus helped many “undesirable” people in his ministry. Would you consider a prostitute an illegal person? Certainly their work would be illegal in the U.S., but Jesus spent a lot of time with people who had did what were considered unsavory or illegal things. He never judged them or dehumanized them.
You may view undocumented/illegal immigrants as people who are simply acting in a way that affronts the United States, but that leads me to believe you have never encountered a person working here from Mexico or wherever on a personal level. If you dig into their personal stories, as I believe Jesus would have, you would find that when most of them come to the U.S., it is out of desperation and the legality of the situation rarely comes into their minds.
I’m sorry that you find me judgmental, but I find you the very same way. Anyway, because of my background in the church, I simply cannot pass up a chance to challenge someone whose mindset is much like one I used to have. I’m sure you also realize that many churches, even some evangelical ones, have been at the forefront of pushing for rights for immigrants.
<<UPDATED – 4.9.07 AT 10:00 AM>>
Dear Laura: Yes I think anyone who read your previous e-mail would call you judgemental when you characterize my attitude as “unhuman.” I see you also make erroneous assumptions about me and the people my church comes in contatct with but that is not surprising considering your attitude. You talk about these people leaving their “beautiful” country to come to this one with oppressive laws and inhuman evangelicals. There must be something wrong with their political system or cultural approach to make them so desperate as to illegally enter the United States. Maybe we should do something about that?
When God made His covenant with Noah to establish human government He knew human governent would be flawed. We are all sinners in need of Christ’s redeeming work. You hit the point on the head that Christians all over the world break laws to “practice their faith.” That was Peter’s point in Acts when he said it was better to obey God rather than men. It has nothing to do with laws outside of the practice of one’s faith.
I do not get the part about a prostitute being an illegal person. She is a person who has committed and illegal act. When the Pharasiees brought Jesus the woman caught in adultry they said she was caught “in the very act.” Which means they let the man go. Jesus’s act of compassion was based on the fact that all are sinners and the “selective” prosecution of this woman. But when He released her He said “Go and sin no more.” Adultry was still a sin. Entering the country without documentation is an illegal act it does not make you an “illegal person.” Illegal alien means a person not native born has entered another county illegally. If I entered Mexico without documentation I would be an illegal alien it would have nothing to do with my race, religion, or education.
I never said that the law trumps the Bible. You however have decided that you can choose which laws should be enforced and which ones should not. In this country if you find a law “inhumane” then work to pass legislation that changes that law. An opportunity that was not available to provincals in the Roman Empire. (Not even citizens like Paul could do that!) Just for the record when I went to the UW Madison I was the object of people harassing me in class because of my beliefs even professors that trashed Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular, it was by no means persecution that deprives people of life, liberty and blood but there were consequences for not towing the party line. By the way I will make reference to our civil correspondence in my sermon on I Corinthians 13 on May 6th. It was a busy weekend so that is why it took a while for me to respond to your prompt e-mail.
<<UPDATED 4-13-07 AT 2:30 PM>>
I don’t want to continue this conversation forever, but I wanted to say I most certainly agree that the U.S. as a nation and probably the church should do something to improve the economic situation in Mexico. But the U.S. immigration debate has been all about the battle between legal v. illegal, and very few people of significance in the debate have stopped to consider that root causes for this problem.
Here is an explanation I recently wrote: “response to a response”
I’m not sure where you got the idea that I called you or evangelicals in general “unhuman.” I said that the terms “illegals” and “illegal immigrants” dehumanize people, not that you were inhuman. There is a very big difference.
I’m also not sure what is the difference between a prostitute selling her body for money (quite obviously an illegal act, at least in today’s society) and an immigrant crossing the border to work in the U.S. Is one person “illegal” because of these acts? Or was it just an illegal action? FWI, under U.S. law, prostitution is a more serious offense than crossing the border illegally.
Would you feel differently if the subjects were an African couple who were persecuted (beaten, raped, tortured) for their pro-democracy views and had subsequently entered the U.S. with false U.S. citizen passports? Impersonating a U.S. citizen for immigration benefits usually guarantees a person will never be able to immigrate legally to the U.S. So should they have been deported as well? They broke the law. Thankfully, mostly because of media efforts and the work of one most excellent nun, they have been granted refugee status. Still, had the laws been strictly followed, they should have been deported.
Also, it would be nearly impossible for you to enter Mexico illegally. You do not need a passport or a visa. Your U.S. Citizenship guarantees that you can travel almost anywhere in the world, you can certainly move to Mexico and live there for a long time with no hassle. Just so you know, it’s not like the laws are equal nation to nation. But the real question is, does God care about the unjust U.S. immigration laws? Does he not love and forgive all equally? Is his compassion not supposed to defy boundaries?