July 15, 2010

The Bible, the Rule of Law, and Immigration

Just saw this story on Congressmen arguing about what the Bible has to say about Immigration reform. Perhaps we can set aside the concern, for now, that we have elected members of our secular government trying to argue that their reading of the Bible is how we should proceed on this issue. But I found it quite interesting how many of those conservatives read the Bible.
But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, repeatedly cited passages from the Bible in support of a stronger crackdown on illegal immigration.

"The Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law," he asserted. "The scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities
with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers."

Smith cited, among other things, Romans 13: "Let every person be subject to governing authorities."
Just wondering, do you think that Lamar Smith has cited those passages when Tea Party activists have urged people to not obey the new healthcare law?

As you know, I have been toying with this idea of empathy, and that the lack of empathy from the right explains a lot of their policy solutions, but also reveals strong problems with their reading of the Bible. Smith addressed this
Addressing a passage from Matthew 25 about caring for "the least of these my brothers," Smith contended that it "advocates individual acts of kindness (but) does not mandate a public policy."
I see this a lot from conservatives, and don't completely disagree. But I would suggest that it allows them to disconnect their business and political decisions from their church life. Through their church, they can support their food kitchen and direct aid to the poor (good things, btw), but the disconnect allows them to vote for policies that make things harder on those same poor, or even pushes more into that population. That artificial divide lacks moral consistency.

Steve King (Idiot, Iowa), also weighed in on this issue:
King noted approvingly that "in the land of the Bible the leaders of today's Israel (have) built border fences to protect their citizens from terrorists or illegal job seekers alike."

There is a "greater and more immediate" moral obligation to take care of
U.S. citizens first, he said.
On this, I hate equating Netanyahu's government with the ancient Israelites, and still think that is a faulty connection, but I was struck most by his second statement about our first moral priorities being to take care of our own. On one hand, I don't necessarily personally disagree, if, of course, I believed that Steve King or Lamar Smith wanted to actually help Americans who are poor or brown skinned. But at a broader point, and since they are quoting from the Bible here or using it as their justification, is that consistent with Christianity? Is it consistent to say that you must take care of your own first and then others? I am not sure it is.


Dr. Bad Ass said...

It's only consistent with fundamentalism, which to me, is a distortion of Christianity.

Smitty said...

Just wondering, do you think that Lamar Smith has cited those passages when Tea Party activists have urged people to not obey the new healthcare law?

And that pretty much sums it all up.

In fact, some Googling can probably dig up plenty of bible verses that, under the right lens, explain why health care reform is a sin.

steves said...

Yes, the Bible is pretty clear on the notion that people should obey lawful authority. That doesn't mean that there is a need to get tough on illegal immigrants. The need/justification is an entirely different debate and one that the Bible is not clear on by any means. I think we can have this debate without idjits like Smith throwing in the Bible.

leighton said...

Yes, the Bible is pretty clear on the notion that people should obey lawful authority.

I don't think there are many issues where you could pick out a unified position when you're drawing material from the entire Bible. In fact, if you include the Deuterocanonical books accepted by the Catholic church, God (if you believe the authors of 1 - 4 Maccabees) endorses terrorist insurgencies against occupying empires like Rome. It may be best to say the Bible is irrelevant to public policy debates and leave it at that.

Monk-in-Training said...

Never turn a Monk loose with a post like this...

The Sacred Scriptures has quite a lot to say about aliens living among the citizens of a country, here is an example of just a FEW verses:

Exodus 22:21
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 24:22
You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God

Numbers 15:16
You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance.

Deuteronomy 24:17
You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow's garment in pledge.

I particularly like the 'loving the alien as yourself' line since I would consider all the 'tea-baggers' who push this anti-alien stuff being of immigrant stock themselves.