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Immigration: Christian Courage Or Cowardly Conservatism

Don Schanzenbach comments
| Politics

In order to have justice we must have courage. It is indisputably biblical to link these traits. This idea dodged around in my mind waving from a distance almost daily but never sat down to talk until seven days ago. That was when I began reading all the references to justice in the NASB:

On the other hand I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the LORD—and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:8) (Emphases added)

Micah says, “on the other hand” (so that’s where we get that phrase) he is filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and courage. It must be that in every age it is justice and courage that are “on the other hand.” Our sinful human nature leads us away from these virtues. The natural man is unjust and cowardly. It takes a man that is “filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord” to resist cowardly behavior.

Unbiblical Evangelicals

Christians filled with God’s Spirit and power and courageously seeking justice are now in shorter supply than ammo at the Alamo. We are proving ourselves mindless, soulless, and impotent to affect even simple righteous works. Our leaders reach into their theological ammo bags but find them empty. They stumble dumbfounded before the microphones mumbling idiocies we are urged to accept however distant they may be from biblical direction. Concerning immigration, the pressing issue of the day, Franklin Graham is quoted bleating passively and unchristian:

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue.” (Emphases added)


We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. (Emphases added)

If we are looking for leaders who will courageously seek justice, Graham and many other evangelical leaders will not do the work. Notice how Graham asserts that immigration is “not a Bible issue.” This is not a Bible issue? I’ll bet this is news to God. We typically talk about the idea with the phrase, equal treatment under the law, which is a Bible idea. Scripture emphatically insists that the laws of the land are to be the same for the citizens and for the aliens and sojourners. This quite obviously would mean that we cannot simply select large numbers of people for deportation based on random ideas. This is the very point of God’s many instructions.

The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you. (Exodus 12:49)

In case we (and our graduate school educated ministers) might miss the directive God gave here He also insisted:

There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you. (Numbers 15:16)

You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. (Numbers 15:29)

Scripture contains numerous references like these. We could say they are repeated repeatedly (and often, frequently, ever and anon, regularly, time and again) and without number but that begins to exaggerate. Nevertheless, men who have gone to the schools, sat through the classes, read systematic theology, written thousands of words about the Bible, and been payrolled to teach sound doctrine certainly know this simple stricture from God’s law. We are not talking about words their eyes never saw on the page. Why then would they want to make silly assertions like Graham did that “this is not a Bible issue’? Seriously? Yes it is a Bible issue. It is a Bible issue. We need to keep that straight.

Graham mentions that we have laws about immigration. Yes we do, but what we need to be asking is if those laws uphold God’s ideas of justice or only our own random ideas. We are busy trying to figure out how to either keep people out or how to throw people out. There is nothing in the Bible indicating these are good ideas. What we actually read in God’s Word are commands to treat foreign travelers and visitors with considered kindness. We are to apply to them the same laws we apply to ourselves. As a nation we are finding this to be difficult so this is where the nexus of justice and courage meets us.

Justice and courage are not where our conservative politics may take us. We think that our right-of-center politics will save us more surely than obedience to our Creator, but our conservative ideals will not save society. Conservatism is not the same as Christianism (not a word I know but it rolls off the tongue so beautifully). We shouldn’t confuse the two terms. Conservatism is what we get from talk radio and alternative media. Christianism, in other words, Christian thought and behavior, is what we get by studying Scripture and learning to apply it to current life and culture. It used to be called Christendom, a real word. Deciding to resist the direction of current culture or politics is what takes courage. Anyone can flow with the current but courageous people must turn the tide. We are supposed to be like the prophet Micah and seek justice—justice and courage. The need for us to exercise these virtues extends far beyond questions about immigration but immigration is the conversation of the hour, so this is where we make application.

Immigration Justice vs. Socialism

It takes courage to talk about immigration biblically because cultural realities clash with biblical ones. Scripture repeatedly instructs us to show kindness to aliens and travelers among us:

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (Proverbs 31:8–9)

On the other hand (that phrase again) American society affords, or ill-affords, most poor people a government-sponsored tether to the good life. It is not only our native born who receive tax-supported education but immigrants as well. Immigrants also seem to be tapping into food stamps, low-income housing, emergency medical care, and a host of other benefits available to Americans. It appears that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is refilled by Uncle Sam no matter what the storms of life may send our troubled immigrant neighbors. By choosing to obey God and show kindness to the aliens and sojourners among us, we get our pocketbooks lightened. The more we obey God the broker we get. Maybe Jesus knew what he was talking about when He said we cannot serve both God and mammon.

On the other hand (thank you prophet Micah) maybe it is our sins that are finding us out. Where in Scripture did God command civil government to hand out any of that mammon in the first place? If you have never looked, I have, and the answer is no place. God never once instructs the government to give poor people anything. He does tell individuals, families, and churches to help the needy but never is the government supposed to do this work. It is due to our national disobedience to this principle that we are then made to feel we cannot allow open borders for the immigrating poor. The sins of our fathers who set up the welfare programs redound to the children of impoverished nations. It is an odd twist on God’s promises.

Clamoring for Justice

Much of the clamor we hear about stopping the immigrant hordes seems to rise from the practical results of our previous disobedience. Obedience under God is always this way. If we are not faithful in a small thing how will we be faithful in a larger thing? Initially those government welfare programs were designed to assist the poor. Now they are a source teaching us to mistreat the poor and to tell them to go back home. Disobedience is like that. We gaze straight into God’s compassionate eyes while kicking Him in the shins. If we are going to be just and merciful toward immigrants we have to work up the courage to manage our mammon according to biblical principle. We should be clamoring to get the government out of the mammon business and return that work to the individuals and institutions God ordained to handle them. It takes courage to call for such an overturn, but we should not be cowards.


Don Schanzenbach

Dr. Don Schanzenbach is the author of five books all dealing with the rebuilding of Christian civilization. His many articles may be found at his ministry web site Currently he is working on a series of articles on biblical justice targeted, Lord willing, to become a full length book (sponsorship for that book could be available for the right party.) Dr. Schanzenbach holds a masters degree in Applied Biblical Studies and a doctorate in Political Philosophy and Government from New Geneva Seminary in Appomattox, Virginia. His most recent title, The Liberty Book, is co-authored with John Bona and was published by Broadstreet Publishers.

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