On Patriotism and Immigration

So many times in our generation, I see and hear about this labeling, this banner-mark, of “Christian, Republican, and Proud.” It’s this complete mindset that directly links our faith with, not merely political ideologies, but rather to a direct political party. It’s this thinking that ties our theology to our political affiliation and suddenly, once we give into this mindset, our doctrines begin changing based on secular worldviews. Ultimately, it’s this very mindset that creates one of the biggest idols in all of Church history, patriotism. It creates a theology that looks very much like the “American dream,” one where the feeding of the hungry and the poor takes a back seat to lining the pockets of corrupt politicians and their corporate lobbyists. It replaces the tabernacle with the media and substitutes the priest for the anchorman. As things seem to become more and more bleak, we find ourselves ultimately turning to our savior and his apostles, the president and congress, for the answers to the things that ail the nation. We look to the government for our basic needs, as well as providing for others; relying solely on the compassion of the government to help those in need, thereby freeing ourselves of our God-ordained calling to compassion and love. We place our faith in elected officials rather than in the One who is truly capable of effecting our salvation and we pledge allegiance to a geographical location rather than the supernatural Body of Christ. The very people who go to Church on Sunday but consider their faith to be a “private, personal” matter will gladly stand anywhere screaming how they are “proud to be an American.”

Before I go any further, I would like to state this; firstly, I am in no way attempting to target or demonize America as a whole; I am sure that you could find a similar mindset in other nations, however, being from America, I feel as though I would have no ability to offer an opinion on any other nation. Secondly, this is in no way an endorsement nor indictment of any particular political party. I am not stating that the Republican or Democrat party is right or wrong, rather I am warning about the dangers of elevating either of those parties to the level that we all too often do. Jesus warned of this very thing when He commanded us to “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.” Finally, I ask of anyone who reads this, read it with an open mind, an open Bible, and read it to it’s completion before you either affirm or deny any of what is written herein. I know that, especially when broaching the topic of secular political conversation, it is very easy for one’s convictions to impede on one’s ability to see things from any other viewpoint. Before I began my study of Scripture, a lot of my opinions on topics was very different than they are now, having done many studies; and I expect many more will change before I fall asleep in the Lord. While I normally avoid any politically charged topics in my studies, a situation occurred recently which convicted me to study and write my findings on these topics. Between my recent exegetical breakdown of the Book of Romans and this situation that I will expound on momentarily, I just had to do more research on the topic.

I recently read a quote, one which I personally felt the highest degree of reverence for. It was concerning the topics of abortion and immigration. The quote was “What does it mean to be pro-life if you protect the life of a child inside the womb, but not the life of the child on the border.” I loved the contrast in the statement, because, unlike the comparison of abortion and capital punishment, the life of a child on the border is innocent. Regardless of opinions concerning the death penalty, the fact remains that anyone on “death row” has committed a heinous act, thus the argument could be made that their just recompense could be death. The life of a six year old child fleeing persecution in his native country, however, creates a completely different circumstance, in terms of the contrast here. And thus, when I shared this quote with some friends of mine, I was aghast at some of the responses that I got; not from unbelievers, mind you, but from those who claim the title Christian. Those who bore the name of our Lord Jesus. I was taken aback because, all through the Scripture, we see this idea that every human being is an icon of our beloved Lord and to shut the door on those in need is to deny Christ, as He Himself taught us. “Whatever you do for the least of these, you have done to Me.” (Matthew 25:40).

As I read these multiple responses to this quote, they all shared one common thread, secular patriotism. And, even moreso, secular patriotism that superseded Biblical command. See, I deigned to do a study on the topic after reading these Christians responding to this quote about the value of human life, and found (to very little surprise) that all through Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, nearly every book of Scripture mentions this idea of immigration. We see it in the form of figures from Scripture who were sojourners themselves. We see Abram fleeing to Egypt to live as a sojourner to escape from famine (Genesis 12); we see Lot fleeing from Sodom to Zoar to live as an immigrant there; we see Joseph’s brothers being welcomed into the land of Egypt (Genesis 47). In Exodus, we see Israel fleeing from Egypt to enter a land not theirs to live as refugees (Exodus 12). In fact, one command given directly to Moses by the Lord is “You shall neither mistreat a stranger or oppress him.” (Exodus 22:20). In Zechariah, we read a similar warning of the Lord, “Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, or the foreigner, or the poor” (Zechariah 7:8). The Lord commands us through Ezekiel that “the resident aliens who dwell among you and have sons in your midst…shall be as native born…and they shall eat with you in the inheritance.” (Ezekiel 47:22).

Given even these few examples, and there are many many more, it was enough to make me question how anyone who could ever presume to claim the name of Christ could gaze into the face of a six year old refugee seeking sanctuary from violence, hunger, and oppression, and deny them help.

And then, one response sort of resonated to me. It rang in my ears like the trumpets of war, echoing throughout the empty hearts of so many. The statement was this: “it focuses on the premise that we can solve all humanitarian issues by allowing everyone into the U.S. There are more than 65 million refugees in the world.” That rang a bell to me because it truly displayed the real issue. It would complicate our way of life, disrupting the entitlement that we, as Americans, have grown infatuated with. Much like the Jews that Paul is addressing in the Book of Romans, it becomes a matter of nationalism; as though only those born in a specific geography or to a particular lineage have the right to receive this salvation, this healing. In this instance, instead of spiritually, physically. That only those privileged to be born in a particular locale deserved the right to live free of oppression, free from violence, free from hunger and disease.

When we attach our theology to a political party, we are no longer abiding in the words of the faith, but rather in the party that slightly resembles that faith. Mainstream Christians look at an issue like abortion and say “this side supports abortion,” thus the other side must be the Christian side, regardless of how that party responds to other Biblically imperative issues; and eventually, they adopt all that that party represents. Suddenly, the party that opposes abortion but supports involuntary repatriation, the party that supports the death penalty, the party that supports gambling and alcoholism, the party that denies aid to starving families, becomes the “Christian party” that everyone aligns themselves with. Eventually, you end up with an entire Church whose philosophy is, “we love our God, and we love our guns.” As outlandish as it sounds, consider that there were churches in America where the pastors were encouraged to carry guns to protect their congregations.

So, how did we ever allow this to happen? The real issue at hand is that, as so often happens, we read the words of Scripture, we even affirm them; but we don’t live them out. And that’s the side effect of attaching our theology to our political views and parties. Our geographic patriotism supersedes the very words of Jesus and the apostles. Our faith is true in theory, but not in practice. In theory, we read Paul writing that “there is neither Jew nor Greek…but all are one in Christ.” (Galatians 3:28). We read Peter’s teaching that “you are a holy nation…who were not a people, but now are the people of God.” (1 Peter 2:9-10). See, we read these statements, we nod our heads, we scream our amens and claim to believe; and then we hear that the president wants to put up a wall to keep out immigrants and we begin to cheer; claiming that there’s no room for anyone else. Basically, in saying that, we are saying that no one born outside of our physical nation is worthy to be here. We claim to be “pro-life” because it looks good on social media, but in reality we’re pro-life while a child is in the womb, but once they are born, they’re on their own. I see this all the time in our culture. We demand that a child be allowed to live, but once they are born, we do little to nothing to help them, we complain about paying into social security, we complain about increased taxes to fund federal programs for relief, claiming that it’s not the government’s job; but then, we pass by homeless people offering little to no help on our own either. We become little better than the rich man who, when his fields yielded a greater yield, tore down his barn to build bigger barns to store the grain, rather than distributing that grain to the poor. And, when we do those very things, we prove by our deeds that we’re not pro-life, we’re just anti-abortion. We can check that nice safe little “Conservative Christian” box at the polls, or on the “Pew Research” survey, and then go back to the disconnect of not having to actually deal with any of those people whose lives we have destroyed. We look the family of refugees in the face, as they have worked and bled to get to a nation that offers the promise of opportunity, and tell them that they must go back to wherever they came from because we’re not comfortable with them here.

And, because of this disconnect, somewhere along the lines, we’ve forgotten, or consciously chosen to neglect, what our Lord told Moses; “You shall not oppress a resident alien, because you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:9). We’ve bought into this lie that the geographic location of our birth has somehow granted us this elite opportunity that we should actually have the right to deny others. Even worse, that the geography of our birth actually dictates our nationality. Again, we read the words of Peter, who proclaims that we are “sojourners and pilgrims in this world,” (1 Peter 2:11). Paul teaches us in his letter to the Ephesians that “at that time you were without Christ…having no hope and without God in the world…now…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:11,19). In Hebrews, we are reminded that “here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” (Hebrews 13:14). And when we hear these words, in theory, we agree with them, we acknowledge them; but do we truly live that way? Do we truly live as a holy nation set apart by God, regardless of our geographical background? Or do we cling to our despotic, patriotic nationalism? Do we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, or are we so concerned with asking who our neighbor is that we forget to love them, to help them? Do we see in each person, each suffering, hungry, persecuted refugee, our Lord in Whose image they were made? Or do we deny them the help, the love, the hope that they need? We must strive to remember the teachings of our beloved Lord, who exhorts us, “Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done to Me.”

I’ve got many dear brothers and sisters, from a multitude of geographic locations. And we are all one nation, truly, under Christ Jesus our Lord. I am neither democrat or republican, neither conservative or liberal, rather I am a disciple of our Lord Jesus and look into His Holy Scripture for the answers to all things, whether they be “secular” or “spiritual.” I am not an American and then a Christian; rather, I am a Christian who happens to have been born in America. And I pray, my beloved family, that neither I nor any of you would ever lose sight of that fact. Our kingdom is not in this world, this world is not our home, and I pray we never be so comfortable clinging to these government labels that we allow our lives to become otherwise. We were one nation, one people; and through our pride the Lord separated us when we built a tower attempting to reach up to the heavens. Then, on the day of Pentecost, He reunited His people, overcoming cultural and linguistic boundaries. I pray that through pride and patriotism, we would not recreate the very boundaries and divisiveness that He gave us the ability to overcome. Allow us to practice our faith, not merely theorize it. Let us value all life, both in the womb and out of it: the poor, the hungry, the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the alien; and “let us not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in so doing, some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:1-2).

May the grace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved brethern. Christ is in our midst.

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