The National Association of Evangelicals will be running an ad in the May 13th edition of the Washington newspaper Roll Call promoting immigration reform (see the Yahoo! News article about it here).  As I read the NAE’s 2009 document on immigration, I thought I might comment on it, but it quickly became obvious there were too many comments to be made.  I’ll have to break this up into several entries so that you and I can digest each of these without choking.  When we’re done with all of these points, we can consider the efficacy of religious organizations making such public pronouncements.

In any event, I invite you to make the journey with me and think it through.  Don’t accept my thoughts as infallible, but let’s be careful in our approach.

In the 2009 statement, the document says the NEA feels the need to speak out “boldly and biblically”, mining “Scripture for guidance”.  Therefore, “A biblically informed position provides a strong platform for the NAE to make a contribution in the public square that will be explicitly Christian.”  This assumption that their view is “explicitly Christian” is interesting since many Bible-believing followers of Christ would not come to the same political conclusion.  But we’ll get to that.

Following the opening paragraph is a section entitled “Biblical Foundations”.  The first point under this heading is “Discussion of immigration and government immigration policy must begin with the truth that every human being is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28).”  No Christian would have a problem with that, I think.  But I don’t ever recall in being forced to think through the issue of illegal immigration having to decide if immigrants were human or not.   Is this a human rights issue or a rule of law issue?  That seems to be the real question.

The next statement again is solid.  “Immigrants are made in the image of God and have supreme value with the potential to contribute greatly to society.”  That’s how America got where it got.  Few of us are from here originally.  Immigration is a great thing and American history bears that out.  It’s strange that we have to even avow this. 

To their credit, the writers offer some history of immigration in the next section (“National Realities”), but only twice is the adjective “undocumented” paired with the word “immigrant” and never is the adjective “illegal” seen.  The closest they come is “Due to the limited number of visas, millions have entered the United States without proper documentation or have over stayed temporary visas.  While these actions violate existing laws, socioeconomic, political, and legal realities contribute to the problematic nature of immigration.”

Never do I read anything about a responsibility on the part of the immigrant to respect or obey the laws of the land they’ve come to.  The blame seems to fall on America’s shoulders only: “Most undocumented immigrants desire to regularize their legal status, but avenues to assimilation and citizenship are blocked by local, state, and federal laws. This has generated an underground industry for false documentation and human smuggling.”

Wrapping up the “image of God” argument: “Jesus exemplifies respect toward others who are different in his treatment of the Samaritans (Luke 10:30-37; John 4:1-42).”  OK, all people are made in God’s image and should be respected.  But when making a case for a Christian political position on immigration, it’s a good idea to include all so-called “national realities”.  We live in a dangerous time in which America is being attacked by several sources originating in several cultures – a fact this document does not address.  

Being created in the image of God does not give any person the license to decide whether they will follow a law or not.  You may have objections to a law, and America’s immigration policy may be an encumbrance and an inconvenience, but there are better ways to change law than to coerce the government by breaking that law, then claim moral high ground by blaming the government.  That’s how men have justified bombing abortion clinics.

If Christians are to point our world to Christ, we must let Scripture speak for itself and be honest about its application to real-life issues.  I would argue (as I do in just about every post) that the church should intentionally pour more effort, resources, training, energy and emphasis on our mandate to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  However, I realize there are times when we need to instruct our society what the Scriptures say and apply it to current situations.  When we do that, though, it must not be colored by any political motivation.  And we can’t consider it the highest form of impacting our world.  The world’s ultimate need is Christ.