INDEPENDENCE—I had the privilege Saturday to meet former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, both of whom addressed a crowd of about 5,000 at the Independence Events Center here.
It was encouraging to hear both speak openly about their faith in Jesus Christ. They also espoused views that followers of Christ should embrace: abolishment of abortion, responsible stewardship with American taxpayer dollars, personal responsibility, efficient government, fighting poverty, traditional family values, and religious freedom.
Also among the topics was one that, unfortunately, engenders more heat than light: immigration. Amid the fire and fury over the law passed by the Arizona legislature and signed by the governor, thoughtful Americans—and particularly Missouri Southern Baptists—need to think biblically about this issue.
Despite the political antics by activists on either side of the coin, Christians must not be distracted from two facts: 1. America’s laws are to be obeyed (Rom. 13:1 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God”). 2. We must lovingly tell the lost of their sin and that if they repent, there is a Redeemer, named Jesus Christ, who will save them for all eternity if they put their trust in Him.
Southern Baptists, with our growing multi-ethnicity, must resist the sinful temptations scaring the immigration debate. Being a huge baseball fan, I was troubled to see Adrian Gonzalez, the talented, influential first basemen of the San Diego Padres, express unhelpful comments, calling the Arizona law racist and declaring he would not attend the 2011 All-Star Game scheduled for Phoenix (so is the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting). Race baiting on numerous fronts, fed by the liberal news media, is unhelpful as our nation grapples with immigration.
Americans have always been aware of foreigners’ desires to make America their home—and why shouldn‘t they? They are us. We have been called a nation of immigrants (I am of German and Scottish descent). God has allowed us to become the most free and prosperous nation in the world. Extending a helping hand is in America’s DNA.
Welcoming the “tired,” the “poor,” the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to our abode strikes me as being thoroughly Christian. But so is respecting the laws of our land—including those addressing immigration. Such laws protect America’s sovereignty by ensuring immigration maintains a healthy pace. It does no one good if, in the process, we injure America’s economy by putting additional strain on our health care system and government programs that result in job-killing tax increases.
Immigrants must properly assimilate into American culture so they become prosperous. The role Christianity plays in this process cannot be over emphasized. We must give them the Gospel of Christ while clothing, feeding and teaching them basic skills needed to succeed in America.
Unfortunately, United States immigration policy has not always produced desirable results, especially since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration Act of 1965. It abolished national quotas and substituted hemispheric caps: 170,000 for the Eastern Hemisphere and 120,000 for the Western, with a limit of 20,000 annually from any nation. But as Congress and presidents often do, they included exceptions that allowed the limits to be exceeded by expanding the categories of family members who could enter. This caused what demographers call “chain migration.” The bulk of the 22.8 million immigrants who entered between 1966 and 2000 were family members of recent immigrants and then those arriving immigrants made still other family members potential future immigrants. It should be noted there were both Democrat and Republican presidents during this period.
There is another fact to consider. In 2008, for the first time since 1972, the United States fertility rate fell below the replacement level of 2.1 babies per family (the rate needed to maintain the nation’s current population level long-term). Once a nation’s rate drops below 2.1, a drop in population—and the problems it causes—is inevitable.
There are 10 million less people in Generation X (those born between 1965-1984) than there are in the “Baby Boomer” generation (those born between 1945-1964). Can you imagine the stress put on government services like Social Security and Medicare with the loss in tax revenue if there were 10 million less taxpaying Americans? America’s dropping fertility rate (because of abortions and “Boomer“ moms not having enough babies) would put us in peril were not for the 30 million immigrants entering the United States since 1966.
However, danger lurks: the oppressive nature of government can instead ruin such a blessing by satisfying its ravenous appetite for excessive revenue and growth. The government can deceptively prey on the poor (welfare), making them too dependent on government instead of on their own ability, the generosity of their fellow citizens, and in a God who loves them. The government, while necessary, can rob us all of our freedom. Christians must think biblically about immigration. Such thoughtfulness should be accompanied by prayer and reliance on our Creator for the answer.