STRAIGHT LINES WITH CROOKED STICKS An Evangelical Response to the State of the Union Speech

STRAIGHT LINES WITH CROOKED STICKS    An Evangelical Response to the State of the Union Speech

Parents of young children need eight hands, I thought as the mom and dad juggled tiny baby, luggage, diaper bag, car-seat, boarding passes, and ID while shepherding their toddler through Phoenix Sky Harbor security. I wish they’d hurry up. Then the agent slowed things down even more by starting a conversation with the little guy.

“Is this your daddy? Uh huh. No, you don’t have to take off your shoes. Is this your mommy? Uh huh, you can hold your bear. Is that your baby sister?”

C’mon dude! Any idiot can see he’s their son! Stop harassing these people and let us in so we can all go home! If TSA agents could read minds I’d be in jail.

Then I remembered a recent news report: Human-trafficking is everywhere all the time and it is not all about sex. The Hispanic, and Romanian house-keepers in my hotels, the Moroccan Uber driver in Austin, the Russian donut shop clerk in Williamsburg, the Asian and Latino cooks who work seven-days-a-week in local restaurants. All might be in a form of slavery, working themselves to death to pay off enormous immigration debt to ruthless traffickers. Some surely are.[1]

Then there are the so-called “sex-workers”: Children, even infants, stolen, smuggled, sold into the sex trade to grow up—if they live that long—with no identity, no power, no voice, no skills and no hope. People who want to do immoral things often plan to do them on vacation. Susie Harville, who fights trafficking in Biloxi, Mississippi casino culture, told World Radio: “We had a person come down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on a convention and um, while he was here he actually ordered a 12 year-old and a 16 year-old. One was a boy and one was a girl. What we found out was this Montana man was a deacon in his church, was married and had two children at home.”[2]

Twenty years after NAFTA—which George H. W. Bush negotiated and was ratified under Bill Clinton—killed our local textile economy, our still-struggling region is considering Casino gambling to create jobs. Really.[3]

My gut clinches in anger and grief at such stories. Doesn’t yours? But that’s not all. Scripture commands more than sympathy. “Welcome the stranger,” said Jesus. “Provide for the poor and the sojourner,” wrote Moses. Protect the immigrant, the fatherless, and the widow,” preached Jeremiah.[4]

All these ideas and one more simmered in my mind as I read the State of the Union Speech. (I no longer watch. The circus takes too long). God draws straight lines with crooked sticks. Trump the former casino owner advocates for a border solution that will choke entry points for traffickers. Who isn’t for that? Trump, who said “They have to go …” during the campaign argues for fair treatment of the dreamers while fixing our decades old immigration problems. Trump the thrice-married adulterer who has feasted on the fruits of the sexual revolution advocates for that revolution’s greatest victims—the unborn—because we are made “in the image of a holy God.”

Presidents “learn as they go” on the job, said the Arizona sheriff who called Trump’s campaign concrete wall idea a medieval solution to a 21st Century problem. “I support his current position.”[5]

Whether his policies indicate a shift in his personal morality—and I pray they do—is irrelevant. Franklin Roosevelt broke the law by providing covert support for Great Britain from 1936 to 1939 and died in the presence of his paramour in Georgia.[6] Serial adulterer John F. Kennedy[7] solved the Cuban missile crisis, preventing World War III. Rabid anti-communist “Tricky Dick” Nixon ended the Vietnam war and normalized relations with Red China, stifling communism and laying the foundation for global trade which brought billions of Chinese out of poverty and made Dollar General possible.

God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.

That’s why evangelicals like me voted for Donald Trump. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We pray for his soul while we pull for his policies. If he succeeds in choking the flow of human trafficking and building a barrier wall against abortion, we will rejoice. Hillary Clinton would have done the opposite. It’s that simple.

I’ll try to remember that the next time TSA grills a toddler and Trump tries to privatize air traffic control, which I think is insane. Will you?

[1] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/01/listening-in-raleigh-sadler/

[2] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/02/protecting-children-on-the-gulf-coast-part-1/

[3] https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/southside/a-casino-in-danville-it-could-happen

[4] Matthew 25:32-40; Leviticus 19:33-34; Jeremiah 7:5-7.

[5] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/01/washington-wednesday-border-security-2/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Mercer_Rutherfurd

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/post/jfk-intern-mimi-alford-shares-story-of-her-affair-with-kennedy-in-new-book-relevant-historian-robert-dallek-says-yes/2012/02/06/gIQAFgF1uQ_blog.html?utm_term=.d3b02518f54c

BIBLICAL THINKING ABOUT IMMIGRATION

Sofia[1] smiled as she greeted me and asked for the birthday that pharmacies use as identifiers. Then she frowned and said, “I don’t see that one yet,” in gently accented English, “but I will check.” Coming back to the counter she smiled again, “They are filling it now. I’ll just put your other items to the side and take care of these customers, then call you when its ready?”

“Yes, that’s fine,” I said and stepped back to watch her work. We’ve known her since she arrived as a fourth-grade student in my wife’s art class, unable to speak a word of English. My oldest daughter, home from college at the time, became one of Sofia’s first friends by using her rudimentary Spanish to help the young immigrant understand assignments. Later, she gave her life to Christ through the ministry of Young Life, which our church supports.

The pharmacy was busy, but Sofia—now a junior college student and pharmacy tech—gave each customer the same cheerful smile and professional service. It never occurred to me to ask how she got here. I was just happy to see her doing so well, enjoying her work, and learning the business from the bottom up as she pursues her dream of becoming a doctor.

That happy story can be repeated millions of times all over America, as can the unhappy ones, like the increased drug trade, murders, welfare abuse, and human trafficking stories associated with illegal immigration. President Trump was elected in large part because he—famously or infamously, depending on your point of view—promised to bring illegal immigration to a screeching halt by building a wall and “making Mexico pay for it.”

Thinking Biblically about immigration means more than taking sides based on the latest heart-warming or inflammatory headline. It requires sorting through the balance between justice and compassion.

Scripture commands compassion for the stranger, as in Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”[2] Mary and Joseph, too, “found no room in the inn,” but did find refuge from the tyrant Herod as strangers in Egypt. Yet it also emphasizes justice: 20 “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” [3]

Empathy is easy. It comes naturally to us when we see others struggling. But empathetic compassion without justice, without something to keep it in balance, creates chaos and perverse incentives for criminal elements. Like Felix, my Uber driver earlier this month, who paid a smuggler $12,000 to get him across the Mexican border. “It’s a lot of money,” he said in a thick Cuban accent, “but safer than the Florida Straights in an overloaded boat.”  He’s working with a sponsor now to try to obtain permanent legal status, but the threat of instant deportation dogs his heels.

Barak Obama bypassed Congress when he created DACA (Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals), a clear overreach of his executive authority. Some call it a compassionate move, but not if it creates incentives for more illegal immigration. Senator Ted Cruz, in a response to WORLD Magazine’s Evan Wilt on questions about DACA, explained: “Any action on the individuals in the DACA program could potentially lead to chain migration of 3, 4, 5 million additional people here illegally.”[4] In other words, if Congress doesn’t bring justice to bear on Mr. Obama’s attempts at compassion, more chaos will ensue.

Americans, including some Christians, have a checkered past when it comes to welcoming immigrants. Even though most of our ancestors were once émigrés dreaming the American Dream, we are no strangers to bigotry. How soon we forget.

We are also oblivious to more pragmatic considerations. Birthrates are at historic lows, which is no surprise.[5] Since Roe V. Wade, we have killed 58 million babies, each a potential taxpayer. The Social Security Administration says that the fund is healthy, and fears of its collapse are unsubstantiated, but it also says benefits may need to be reduced by 25% by 2035 and taxes increased to keep it solvent.[6]

Some complain that immigrants take American jobs, but fewer Americans are willing to do the “dirty jobs” Mike Rowe made famous. Many business owners report that it’s because of our too liberal welfare system. Why work when you can eat for free? Most immigrants—even and perhaps especially the illegals—see dirty jobs as opportunities. Those kinds of jobs have always been the first step up on the multi-generational ladder of immigrant success. And the legal immigrants who work them pay taxes.

Historically, America welcomed immigration and immigrants helped build America. Biblically, we are commanded to treat them compassionately without ignoring justice and order. Politically and economically, it seems like common sense to create a path for illegals to become legal, and to reopen the doors to immigration once the injustices created by unwise compassion have been addressed.

[1] Name changed to protect privacy.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ex 22:21). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Dt 16:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Marvin Olasky, Here to Stay? WORLD, Sept. 2017. https://world.wng.org/2017/09/here_to_stay

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/health/united-states-fertility-rate.html

[6] https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v70n3/v70n3p111.html