This is the first of a two-part post. Tomorrow please return to read, Terrorism: a religious dimension, which will demonstrate how the self-revelations offered below expose me as a proto-terrorist.
There is some portion of basic bigotry in how the immigration issue can be engaged. The us vs them, insider vs outsider sensibility that well-served our species for millenia persists. This perspective can be inflamed by a variety of factors.
But it is another kind of us-vs-them — or I/IT — dismissal to only see bigots where there are, instead, self-critical moral agents seeking to find and abide by a set of principles, even a shared vision of justice, goodness, and truth.
James Carafano and Edwin Meese have written, “The key to an intelligent immigration policy is to remember one central truth: Immigrants who unlawfully enter and remain in the country are violating the law. An amnesty program that ignores this criminal behavior will only contribute to a general disrespect for the law. This is the wrong message to send. We want immigrants to follow the laws of the United States and take them seriously. The United States must continue to be a beacon to the world. The challenge is to create practical policies that can be fairly implemented and that make our national security a priority.” ( Please see: Rule of Law at Stake in Immigration Debate)
I am a self-defined conservative. I am sympathetic to the logic of the argument set out by Meese and Carafano. In this I almost certainly demonstrate an embrace of the “Strict Father” prototype proposed by George Lakoff. There is a Moral Order. There is right and wrong. It is crucial to clarify, as best we can, the difference between right and wrong, rewarding right and punishing wrong. The rule of law must be preserved. All of this describes my fundamental political predisposition.
Yet I have rejected the logic of my predisposition.
Over the last five years or so my lifelong and continuing identity with the Republican Party has been shaken as more and more of my party’s candidates take what I perceive to be an us-vs-them, I/IT, position relative to illegal immigrants. In over thirty years of voting I had only cast two non-Republican ballots. But in recent years I have several times voted for the Democrat mostly because I was repulsed by an otherwise qualified Republican candidate seeming to demagogue the immigration issue.
I am increasingly self-aware that this has become a classic single-issue test for me. I will listen carefully for nuanced positions on most other political issues and will accept all sorts of policy compromises, except when I perceive (rightly or wrongly) that a candidate is going after illegal immigrants. (I am, by the way, entirely in favor of strong employer sanctions, but this wrinkle doesn’t have much to do with being a proto-terrorist, so I will not explain further.)
How did this happen?
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow and who loves strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
The gospel of Luke tells us of Jesus and a lawyer discussing another verse from Deuteronomy. They agree that the essential religious rule is, “To love the Lord your God with all your soul, and all your strength, and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Then the lawyer, being a lawyer, asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers the question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. You can access the whole response in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verses 25-37.
As I read it, whoever is in need is our neighbor. The scripture concludes with Jesus asking, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
As a matter of general principle, I do not perceive that religious arguments are sufficient for reaching political judgments in a secular pluralistic democratic republic. But on this particular issue, my personal experience of faith compels me to an attitude of love for strangers and mercy towards neighbor that — with surprising passion — trumps every other argument. On this topic, for me, the non-religious argument is hypocritical and entirely misses the point. Immigration is fundamentally an issue of love and mercy.
I am a white, male, privileged, graduate-educated, third generation proud American of English-Scot-French Protestant extraction. Yet in regard to our relationship with immigrants — especially the poorest, strangest, non-English speaking — I have become a religiously inspired zealot.
For further consideration:
Evangelicals join Obama on Immigration (New York Times)
Churches eye immigration’s upside (Politico)
Letter on Immigration (Most Reverend David Zubick, Bishop of Pittsburgh)