Why I Wouldn’t Sign (if I were evangelical)

Would you sign this expression of empathy with people who are not citizens of the United States? Here is how it begins:

The United States has experienced a contentious election and post-election season marked by fear, polarization, and violence. The current political climate reveals longstanding national sins of racism, misogyny, nativism, and great economic disparity. As faculty members of Christian institutions of higher education who represent varying degrees of privilege and power (but who are not representing those institutions in this document), we, the undersigned, join our voices with those who are most vulnerable.

We affirm the dignity of every human being as created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). We submit to the sovereignty of Christ who humbled himself unto death. As members of his body, we strive to consider others above ourselves (Phil. 2:2–8); to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15); to serve one another in humility (Matt. 20:26–28); and to honor and steward God’s good creation (Gen. 1:28). As one body, if one member suffers, all suffer (1 Cor. 12:26); if one weeps, the body laments with them (Rom. 12:15); even creation groans in bondage to decay (Rom. 8:19-23).

I wonder if these Christian faculty would be inclined to sign a man-made creed, say like the Westminster Confession or the Book of Concord? I thought evangelicals were supposed to be anti-creedal.

Oh well.

Here‘s why Chris Gehrz signed (even though he admits he hesitated):

Indeed, I think most Christians would affirm them, whatever their theological, political, or other differences. While hardly an exhaustive list of Christian beliefs, these convictions are nevertheless foundational to Christian faith, community, and mission. And, as the statement goes on to explain, such commitments need to be restated and acted upon in a time when there is “falsehood that seeks to undermine truth and any propaganda intended to obscure it,” when a “large portion of our communities is weeping” and there is genuine anxiety and fear among many of our neighbors.

A concern for truth is obviously important for academics, whatever their religious beliefs and doubts. Why our role as Christian educators would compel us to acknowledge “pain and woundedness” and then “entreat Christian communities to seek healing, reconciliation, and justice” may be less evident.

Here‘s why his colleague, Ray VanArragon (what a Dutch-American name), wouldn’t sign:

First, the petition is unduly expansive, covering a range of topics that include racism, economic disparity, the environment, and our lack of neighborliness. At the same time it does not offer any recommendations for concrete responsive action.

Second, it employs language that tends to put off people who live outside of academic circles. It speaks vaguely about “structural injustice” and “degrees of privilege and power,” without explaining what those terms mean. It slyly suggests that Christians ought to share the priorities of the political left – a suggestion reinforced by the fact that, expansive as it is, it makes no mention of abortion. Right-of-center Christians, even well-meaning ones, may be inclined to dismiss the petition as pompous, disingenuous, and one-sided.

Here’s why I’m not.

This statement:

The current political climate reveals longstanding national sins of racism, misogyny, nativism, and great economic disparity.

Does not go with this statement:

we affirm our deep resolve to pursue truth, to reason carefully, and to rely on sound evidence.

Outrage is easy. So is moral posturing. Thinking carefully so that you don’t exhibit moral overreach is a challenge. I’d have thought educators would know this.

Kingdom Sloppy: Southern Baptists and Immigration Policy

‘Tis the season of thinking about the relations between evangelicalism and political conservatism thanks to the release of From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin. With such heightened sensitivity come examples that show fuzziness on the differences between the kingdoms of redemption and providence.

I begin with the reaction of Jerry Salyer to the recent Southern Baptist Resolution, “On Immigration and the Gospel,” a statement that in itself is a grab bag of truths that do not cohere either theologically or politically. Salyer writes:

One defender of the new SBC policy is Southern Baptist Seminary theologian Russell Moore, who declares in “Immigration and the Gospel” that “[t]he Christian response to the immigrant communities in this country cannot be ‘You kids get off my lawn’ in Spanish.” Up until now I have had nothing but respect for Moore – anyone who appreciates Berry and Genovese can’t be all bad – which is precisely why his trite and thoughtless remarks pain me so. Does he really mean that no Christian can offer an argument against mass-immigration better than that of Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace? Can one really dismiss so quickly classicist Thomas Fleming, or philosopher Roger Scruton? What about journalists like Tom Piatak, Patrick Buchanan, and Peter Hitchens?

Whether one ultimately agrees with the positions taken by immigration restrictionists is beside the point. The point is that the Southern Baptist leadership hide from their flock the fact that such positions even exist. Should we be concerned about, say, the socioeconomic consequences of a vastly expanded labor pool? Soaring crime rates? What about the implications of perpetual war with the Muslim world even as mosques simultaneously sprout all across the Midwest? How seriously should we take those activists who celebrate the Reconquista of “Aztlan”?

In other words, opposition to open borders may not simply be an expression of nativist prejudice. It may actually stem from plausible political considerations, such as these that Salyer quotes from James Kalb who recognizes that the motivations for unrestricted immigration may stem less from what is true or good or noble and more from economic and political interests:

Ruling elites . . . are concerned with the power and efficiency of governing institutions, the status and security of those who run them, and maintenance of the liberal principles that support and justify their rule. It is in their interest to expand the human resources available to them, even at the expense of those who are already citizens, and to weaken the mutual ties that make it possible for the people to resist rational management and to act somewhat independently.

The practical result of such influences has been the suppression of immigration as an issue in the interest of an emerging borderless world order. Restrictionist arguments are scantily presented in the mainstream media, and concern with cultural coherence, national identity, or even the well-being of one’s country’s workers is routinely denigrated as ignorant and racist nativism.

Whether you agree with Kalb’s skeptical analysis, it is a reminder that beyond the calls for making the gospel relevant or pursuing social justice are political considerations that religious idealism ignores. In which case, the book of redemption (which is silent on immigration policy) tells the book of nature (which has much to say) to “shut up.”