Why Our Evangelical Leaders Need to Shut Up About Immigration
There is a certain Intelligentsia-class of evangelical leadership in America, the type and kind that wax eloquent their postulations not from local church houses, but from ivory towers of academia and twentieth-floor suites of 501(c)3’s in the Beltway. Our evangelical overlord-types quote Flannery O’Connor more than Jesus, drink Starbucks with their pinkies stuck out and refer to themselves as being a “prophetic voice to our culture” with smoother skin and whiter teeth than any actual prophet ever did. Their mastery of nuance and whimsy aside, their recent lecturing of the POTUS sounds nonetheless like nails down a chalkboard to Christians more familiar with their Bible than they are NT Wright. Simply put, and speaking for actual pew-sitting (and pulpit-preaching) evangelicals, our evangelical leaders need to go back to golfing and spend less time speaking to matters on which they are utterly unfamiliar or intellectually unprepared to opine with moral clarity.
Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Texas, wants us to know that Jesus was a refugee (which is only slightly better than Russell Moore calling Jesus an “illegal immigrant”). That sentiment, comparing Jesus’ midnight flight to Egypt to escape infanticide to illegal aliens swimming the Rio Grande with kilos of Cocaine in their intestines, has been repeated ad nauseam by evangelical leaders (for example, John Piper), as though Christians aren’t familiar with the biography of Christ and as though there’s no difference between Jesus’ prophecy-fulfilling flight to Egypt and the one million immigrants entering the U.S. legally each year (and untold numbers illegally). The Southern Baptist’s ethics guru, Russell Moore, has already published his rebuke to Donald Trump, and sent it to the president this morning. Moore, speaking for Southern Baptists (explicitly and repeatedly in the letter) issued some vague moral platitudes about compassion, said a lot of things Trump already knows (and nobody disagrees with) and laments the price of protecting America upon those who may be potential threats to our safety. Ed Stetzer lectured us in Christianity Today about our responsibility to “stick up for refugees” (he said little about the government’s God-given responsibility to stick up for its citizens).
The lectures from the Evangelical Intelligentsia are entirely unnecessary, unneeded, unhelpful and often dangerous. In short, our evangelical leaders need to shut up about immigration.
Forgive the colloquialism, and if it sounds too harsh in tone, insert one of the following: hush, shush, be silent, quieten, button up, clam up, pipe down. You get the point.
Lectures from evangelical leaders can be categorized basically two different ways. First, their platitudes are as vague as they are obvious, and serve as a lesson in pointlessness. Or, their advice is a senseless excuse to hear their own voice to share Christian obvious-isms, but provide downright dangerous suggestions that are long on zeal and desperately short on wisdom.
Consider the vain, babbling truisms that Moore shares when attempting to harangue the evangelical masses on why we should be – like him (Moore serves on the Evangelical Immigration Table that is funded by George Soros) – be for amnesty for criminal aliens, against enforcement of standing immigration law and against a border wall (he has called a border wall a “golden calf,” likening it to idolatry) or anything resembling sovereign national borders. Moore has written, “And, most importantly, we must love our brothers and sisters in the immigrant communities.” Deep thought, right there. I guess most Christians who want to enforce immigration law hadn’t thought of that. Where would we be without Moore to remind our President to love our neighbor or without Ed Stetzer lecturing us that refugees “are also made in the image of God” (to which all God’s people rolled their eyes, like we didn’t know that).
While the Evangelical Intelligentsia’s hashtag slacktivism over immigration may play well at the cool kid’s table on Twitter, the rest of us are glad that Donald Trump, and not Moore, Stetzer, Chandler or Piper is in charge of immigration policy. While all of those men may be able to preach a stirring sermon on the Gospel (and unlike Trump, are surely able to define it), none seem to be able to get past an offering of pithy but elementary truisms or a few general Christiany axioms about love; things that don’t tell us anything new and don’t actually help us do a darned actual thing when it comes to the complexities of immigration policy.
Furthermore, for men who are convinced that they are the smartest ones in the room, their offerings of advice have habitually proved that they are unable to think deeply about the matter of immigration from a thoroughly Biblical worldview. As they say, “Love thy neighbor,” do they consider that it’s not loving to put the entire neighborhood at risk to give boarding to a potential, un-vetted threat to said neighborhood? While they exhort us from Old Testament law about being kind to the alien and sojourner, do they look more deeply into the Scripture and realize that at least as many solemn warnings were given to the commonwealth of ancient Israel about the negative, worldly and ungodly influence of pagan peoples? Do our evangelical leaders know the whole story, that Israel fell into exile precisely because of the influence of Canaanite idolaters from within the Body Politic of Israel? Should that not, in an equal way, at least help inform their opinions on immigration and provide at least some measure of caution?
Do our deep-thinking evangelical leaders realize that God is the one who created (and demanded) the concept of clear national borders (Genesis 15:18, Genesis 17:8)? Have they thought about the fact that a major theme of one entire book of the Bible is the construction of a wall to keep out the foreigner and protect their strategic interests (Nehemiah 1:1 – 7:73)? Have they stopped to consider that refugee status is Biblically and historically linked to curses and not blessings, and that it is far better to help take care of their problems at home than have them flee to a new land? Have they stopped to consider that Jesus’ “refugee family” went home at their first given opportunity, or is that taking the Biblical comparison too far for the socially progressive? It’s simply too much fun to shout into the wind a bunch of stuff we already know like “Love thy neighbor” without any helpful advice in regards to how to apply it without getting everyone killed.
There’s something else that’s lacking from our evangelical leaders’ blathering forth as they wag their finger at us for daring to support the American government putting America first (forsooth!), and that’s a consistent support for the separation of church and state. While most of the Evangelical Intelligentsia signed the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration to tell the government to get out of our business, they inconsistently demand that the Civil Magistrate do the job of the church in loving the alien and sojourner. While these same leaders decry a judiciary that doesn’t care about the Constitution, dollars to doughnuts says that they can’t demonstrate where the Constitution makes charity toward non-Americans a legal role, right or responsibility of the United States Federal Government. Why are they insisting the government neglects its job to protect citizens in order to the job of the church, which is acts of kindness and charity? Simply put, our evangelical leaders’ time would be better spent using their fortunes of Cooperative Program money and charitable dollars to relieve the pain of humanitarian crises overseas rather than to create one of our own here at home.
Finally, it seems that our evangelical leaders have a poor grasp of recent history and very selective outrage. Do you recall Moore, Stetzer, Piper and so forth being incensed when President Obama halted the Iraqi Refugee Program for an entire six months (twice as long as Trump)? A Google search reveals that these same leaders were stone-cold silent about Obama’s nearly-identical policy. Why are these types perpetually outrage-lecturing conservatives, but as quiet in their criticisms of liberals as Russell Moore was of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election? Methinks that the ability to preach the Gospel does not exactly translate to either common sense or to a Biblical worldview.
While our evangelical leaders are busy about the tough business of managing their Twitter accounts, the Trump Administration is trying to manage the business of American security (which is their God-given responsibility according to Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2). If Russell Moore and his intelligentsia cohorts knew what was good for them, they would stop adding static to the airwaves with their pointless and unhelpful droning on of pithy and unhelpful slogans.