Alien Southerners

Has it occurred to many that the same people who have major reservations about the Confederate Monuments generally favor amnesty for undocumented aliens? Sure, that might seem like an inconsistency but the nooks and crannies of citizenship for aliens have more square inches than a container of Thomas’ English muffins.

Consider, for instance, the recent statement by the American Historical Association, the (trigger warning) Cadillac historical professional bodies:

Decisions to remove memorials to Confederate generals and officials who have no other major historical accomplishment does not necessarily create a slippery slope towards removing the nation’s founders, former presidents, or other historical figures whose flaws have received substantial publicity in recent years. George Washington owned enslaved people, but the Washington Monument exists because of his contributions to the building of a nation. There is no logical equivalence between the builders and protectors of a nation—however imperfect—and the men who sought to sunder that nation in the name of slavery.

Thing is, historians do not have the power to determine who is an American citizen. After the Civil War, President Johnson and Congress had to walk a very delicate line between preventing rebels to resume power of state governments while also honoring that the southern states had never seceded and so their governments were still legitimate. Here‘s one angle of the tight rope, namely that President Lincoln advised leniency (more than the AHA):

Lincoln desired to hasten the end of hostilities and quickly reestablish the fraternity of the parted Union. After asking Lincoln what to do with the defeated rebel armies in March 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman remarked that, “all [Lincoln] wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes at work on their farms and in their shops.” Additionally, the Secretary of the Navy remarked after Lincoln’s last cabinet meeting that Lincoln “was particularly desirous to avoid . . . any vindictiveness of punishment.” Other members of Lincoln’s party were not so forgiving. Many felt that Lincoln’s policies and desires were too soft and wished to punish former Confederates more harshly. They feared that former Confederates, returned to power, would not accept the fruits of Union victory, namely emancipation, and would harass black and white former Unionists in the South. To this extent, The New York Herald on April 16, 1865, estimated that Andrew Johnson’s policy towards former Confederates would be “more tinctured with the inflexible justice of Andrew Jackson than with the prevailing tenderness of Abraham Lincoln.”

Here’s how amnesty worked:

It was under these proclamations that, from May 1865 to December 1868, former Confederates flooded the office of Andrew Johnson with thousands of amnesty requests, with the numbers eventually tapering off as the exemptions narrowed. Each request for amnesty included a signed copy of the oath certifying the individual’s compliance, as well as a personally-written request and a third party endorsement, generally by the governor of that person’s state. The personally written requests generally followed the same sequence: the individual introduced himself and his place of residence and often proclaimed his age. He then described his actions (and/or sentiments) before secession, his conduct during the war, the clause under which he was exempted, and whether or not he had any property confiscated from him. The petitions ranged from brief requests for amnesty to “long and well-prepared defenses” of their conduct.

Petitioners were “anxious” to have their amnesty requests granted and their rights and privileges as citizens of the United States resumed. Their exemption from amnesty precluded them from such activities as the “transfer of titles or properties” and the obtainment of copyrights and patents, making business very difficult. Some were even tentative to marry. Until these individuals were pardoned, they lacked civil rights and faced the prospect of having their property confiscated. Above all, they lacked political rights, and thus could not take part in the discourse involving Reconstruction, and were unable to participate in the future of the South. Thus, asking for pardon was the “sensible thing for these people to do.”

Imagine that. Wanting a working society rather than attitudinal purity.

Finally, President Johnson declared “unconditionally, and without reservation, … a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws …”

That pardon went to everyone but Robert E. Lee. He did not receive his executive pardon until Michigan’s own, President Ford:

Lee sent an application to Grant and wrote to President Johnson on June 13, 1865:

“Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto; I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Mil. Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April ’61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Va. 9 April ’65.”

On October 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he signed his Amnesty Oath, thereby complying fully with the provision of Johnson’s proclamation. But Lee was not pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. And the fact that he had submitted an amnesty oath at all was soon lost to history.

More than a hundred years later, in 1970, an archivist at the National Archives discovered Lee’s Amnesty Oath among State Department records (reported in Prologue, Winter 1970). Apparently Secretary of State William H. Seward had given Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir, and the State Department had pigeonholed the oath.

In 1975, Lee’s full rights of citizenship were posthumously restored by a joint congressional resolution effective June 13, 1865.

At the August 5, 1975, signing ceremony, President Gerald R. Ford acknowledged the discovery of Lee’s Oath of Allegiance in the National Archives and remarked: “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”

When will the social justice warriors be heading for Grand Rapids to show their rectitude on the facade of the Ford Presidential Library? If they go, they’ll find good beer.

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Rules for Who Gets In Are Complicated

Imagine if the U.S. government used for immigration policy Notre Dame’s reasons for not inviting President Trump:

The decision by the University of Notre Dame to invite Vice President Mike Pence to be this year’s graduation speaker and recipient of an honorary degree was surely not made lightly. The last six presidents have all been invited to the school’s commencement exercises, so the decision to invite someone other than President Donald Trump represents a change from the norm. And that is precisely why it was the correct decision.

The first thing to remember about the decision is that it affects not only the Indiana university’s standing, but the actual students whose families and friends will be gathering that day. There were some protests eight years ago, when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama attended the commencement exercises, but those protests were mostly on the internet and at the margins. The day itself was not ruined for the graduates.

Can anyone really think that Trump’s presence would not elicit a different kind of protest? Is it not likely that the protests would be so vociferous and widespread that the day would be marred for the students who should be the focus of the day?

I am sure that consideration weighed heavily on the decision-making process, which is not to say Notre Dame is likely to award a heckler’s veto to anyone. It is a mere acknowledgement that a man for whom a central campaign theme was the demonization of other people elicits a kind of visceral response, not because some people are too politically correct or thin-skinned, but because that visceral response is what Trump was after. He stoked the flames and cannot now wonder that people recoiled from the prospect of being burned.

Lots can go wrong if you invite POTUS. Nothing can go wrong with open borders?

But don’t forget welcoming the stranger.

Welcome the stranger.

Trump is strange.

Welcome Trump.

The Nation-State with the Ethic of a Church

What does it mean to be American?

“For the Catholic community, the Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ is a searing responsibility, not only in our personal lives, but also in guiding our efforts to create a just society in a world filled with suffering and turmoil,” San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy wrote in a statement about the executive orders.

“For this reason, the historic identity of the United States as a safe haven for refugees fleeing war and persecution is for American Catholics both a source of justifiable pride and an unswerving religious commitment, even as we recognize that at shameful moments in our national history prejudice, fear and ignorance have led our country to abandon that identity.”

We heard Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich state: “It is time to put aside fear and join together to recover who we are and what we represent to a world badly in need of hope and solidarity. ‘If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.’ Pope Francis issued these challenging words to Congress in 2015, and followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’ ” The cardinal’s statement got so many hits, the archdiocesan website crashed.

What does it mean to be Roman Catholic?

When it comes to religious affiliation, a distinctive pattern has emerged in President Donald Trump’s new administration: Most of the high-ranking appointees to military-related positions hail from a Catholic background.

That includes not only Gen. James Mattis, who was sworn in as secretary of defense in late January, but also the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly. The pattern holds with the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is also a general and grew up in an Irish-Catholic family in Rhode Island.

Other high-ranking Catholics include the Army secretary appointee, Vincent Viola, an Army veteran and major donor to Fordham University; and Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was tapped to serve as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under President Barack Obama and is viewed as likely to continue in that role.

That so many Catholics ended up in top military positions is not necessarily by design, but it is nonetheless significant, according to several military historians.

Lisa Mundey, a military historian at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, said the appointments reflect broader social trends. “I think what is interesting is how well Catholics are integrated into society [now] than they were historically,” Mundey said. A key turning point was the election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960, which especially paved the way for other Catholics to serve in key government posts, according to Mundey.

Another watershed moment was the end of the draft and the birth of the all-volunteer army, in 1973. Since then, more of those who serve in the military have been making their careers there, according to Mundey.

The armed forces provide an environment that is friendly to the expression of faith, according to William Leeman, a military historian at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, who formerly taught at West Point. “They seem very comfortable with their religion, in the sense that it seems to be a more conservative environment,” Leeman said.

For those in the military, their faith can help them get through the hardships they face, becoming an important part of their service, Leeman said.

The cafeteria is opening a franchise near you soon.

Why Doesn’t Mere Orthodoxy Take Heed of Full Orthodoxy

Matthew Loftus thinks conservative Christians have more in common with immigrants from non-Christian countries because of the civilizational angle:

If globalism and liquid modernity are the problem, then immigration restriction is cutting off one of the few sources of new citizens who might possible share your views on the priority of faith and family and the importance of religion in providing some moral undercurrent (or restraint) for the state’s actions. Both Putin and Trump appear to be happy to throw a bone to religious conservatives in order for their loyal support, but neither has any respect for human life in the eyes of the state and would happily preside over a fiefdom full of people lost in drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex as long as they stay in power. There won’t be much civilization left to defend because modernity will continue its corrosive destruction through the institutions we love and believe in– the individualistic atomism that is hollowing out our civilization is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped by an authoritarian state and closed borders.

The lesson for Trumpsters is apparently apparent, but why not for big city pastors who trumpet (see what I did there?) urban life as the kingdom coming? When oh when will the young restless sovereigntists ever see that modernity clings to very institutions that they consider to be “traditional” or conservative (like Gospel Coalition and Tim Keller New York City Inc.)?

Imagine if the head pastor at Redeemer NYC had to respond to this:

…resisting the corrosive and disenchanting forces of modernity is going to require solidarity across ethnic, national, and religious lines because there is a large bundle of assumptions about the self, the world, and God that we share. What’s more, intentionally assimilating people into otherwise racially and religiously homogeneous communities might be one of our best chances at building that solidarity and preventing these newcomers from becoming balkanized (or, God help us, Democrats). Whether you want real civilization that is communal instead of individualistic or genuine ideology that governs according to principle rather than power-grabbing, immigrants and refugees are conservatives’ allies.

Can Mr. Loftus ever imagine that Old School Presbyterians are closer to his concerns about modernity, community, and the self than New Calvinists who thrive in the oh so modern settings of the Internet, weekend conferences, and celebrity pastors and authorettes? If you want real solidarity among believers, try strong local congregations with clear lines of accountability who send commissioners to wider church assemblies to oversee the lives of officers and church members. It’s not magic and it’s often not as thick as village life in the Outer Hebrides, but Presbyterianism is as good a Christian effort as any to resist modernity. You sure won’t find it in the Big Apple unless you live in the ghetto.

Can Someone Explain Why A Nation Losing Population is Good?

Donald Trump may be wrong about building a wall between Mexico and the U.S., but doesn’t Mexico want to keep its residents and citizens? Would the U.S. like to see lots of its people migrate to Canada? Is California happy when its residents move to Colorado (I know the residents of Colorado aren’t)? I don’t understand the economics — GDP, taxes and so on. But it sure does seem that having more people is better than having fewer. If we had more people in Hillsdale, Trader Joe’s might set up a store here.

What got me thinking about this was Pope Francis’ remarks yesterday to Mexico’s youth:

You are the wealth of Mexico, you are the wealth of the Church. I understand that often it is difficult to feel your value when you are continually exposed to the loss of friends or relatives at the hands of the drug trade, of drugs themselves, of criminal organizations that sow terror. It is hard to feel the wealth of a nation when there are no opportunities for dignified work, no possibilities for study or advancement, when you feel your rights are being trampled on, which then leads you to extreme situations. It is difficult to appreciate the value of a place when, because of your youth, you are used for selfish purposes, seduced by promises that end up being untrue.

I know the magisterium is clearer than the Bible, but wouldn’t this suggest that the youth of Mexico are the wealth of that country, not the U.S.?

So how does that message to young Mexicans cohere with the pope’s pro-immigration speech to Congress?

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

If we applied the golden rule to Mexico, wouldn’t it mean encouraging Mexicans, the wealth of the nation, to stay there and not migrate to the U.S., just as we want residents of the U.S. not to leave?

Then again, I’m not convinced that pastors should speak about economics and immigration policy. Below their pay grade.

Congregationalism as Constantinianism

Peter Leithart wants to add to my work as clerk of session. First, he’s reading a lot of sociologists of religion (would John Milbank approve?) on the capacity of congregations to function like families and provide for members in similar ways:

This social capital is not merely intangible. Congregations offer material support to needy members: “When people in congregations talk about building relationships and creating community, they are talking about more than warm, fuzzy feelings. These relationships often take on a depth of mutual obligation that involves pain and sacrifice, as well as joy and celebration. Once having entered these communities, participants are challenged to care for each other, in good times and in bad, and most of this caring takes place informally, rather than through organized programs” (65). Tangible support is particularly beneficial to immigrants: “In Chicago we encountered a congregation whose religious roots are in Nigeria—the Holy Order of Cherubim and Seraphim. There we heard, ‘Our church has a lot of immigrants that are coming to this country. Some of them are very young families. . . . So, you have the church trying to be like a family structure. To be able to mend all of this together so they can have a life.’ Mending together a life often requires informal assistance, rituals of healing and mourning, and the timely visit of a pastor”

Next, he thinks congregations can contribute to a number of the policy questions before the nation:

The US faces policy challenges of gargantuan proportions. Immigration, social security, drugs, race, crime and prison reform, health care, Islamicism and other international challenges. I’d put same-sex marriage, the ethical issues surrounding biotechnology, and abortion high on that list, and some would add environmental issues to the short list.

For ordinary Americans, that list poses two challenges. First, each is a hugely complex, apparently insoluble problem. A health care reform bill has been passed, but many doubt whether it will improve health care or lower costs. The difficulty of formulating a policy on immigration that answers to all American interests and values is evident in the fact that no such policy has been formulated and legislated. There are limits on what a war-weary America can do about ISIS.

Second, ordinary citizens don’t have the capacity to do much about any of them. We can vote, but few have the ability or opportunity to do much else. At best, we respond by bitching about the state of the world or engaging in Facebook polemics; at worst, we throw up our hands and find some way to avoid thinking about it.

For Christians, there is an alternative approach that disaggregates the problems and opens the possibility of constructive action. Instead of treating these issues as questions of national or state policy, we can examine them as ecclesial questions, questions about the ministry and mission of the church.

I don’t mean that we stop debating the merits of policy proposals. Institutional and legal patterns are critical, and there are definitely healthy and unhealthy, good and bad ways to organize our life together. But public policy isn’t the only way to address social needs, and for the church, legislated policy isn’t the primary way to address social needs.

No group of citizens can build a wall along the Mexican border, and few contribute in any meaningful way to formulating immigration policy. But nearly everyone lives in a town with a Hispanic minority. In addition to (or before) asking, “How can America control immigration?” Christians should ask, “What obligations do churches have toward immigrants? What can we do to proclaim the gospel to them in word and deed?” We shouldn’t merely ask how Federal or State governments can make health insurance available, but how churches can provide affordable basic medical care to the poor in a local area. We may not have the policy answers to the drug trade, but many churches support or provide help for addicts and some have effectively intervened to reduce gang violence. We can’t stop ISIS, but churches can send and support missionaries in Islamic countries, and churches can mount targeted evangelistic campaigns to Muslims in our neighborhoods. We can think of Muslim immigration to the US as a threat to our Christian heritage; we can also recognize it as one of the greatest opportunities for Muslim evangelism since the sixth century.

Well, one relief is that the economy is so bad in this part of Michigan that we don’t have that many Hispanics, so that round of meetings is not needed (even if it means finding a good Mexican-restaurant is a challenge). But how in the world if congregations barely agree on the order of service are we now supposed to find consensus on drug treatment procedures?

Plus, I’m not going near Islam (except when having drinks with our Muslim neighbor). Hasn’t Peter seen any of those ISIL videos?

Just this morning I was reading an almost twenty-year old verdict on the effects of modernity on Dutch Reformed churches:

Whereas once (and still in some isolationist communities) there was considerable homogeneity of perspective on virtually all matters of faith — that is, the Reformed message was uniformly accepted throughout the Reformed community — that is no longer the case. Among respondents in each of the countries under consideration, there is immense variation in matters of belief. Whether considering new understandings of Scripture or new formulations of divinity or new attitudes about the fate of nonbelievers, consensus is rare. On matters of political and moral concern, Christians of the Reformed churches have significant differences of opinion. (Rethinking Secularization: Reformed Reactions to Modernity, 281)

So do members of most communions (Roman Catholics included where they put the “it” in unity). But now Peter wants us to take on social policy? How much free time does he have in his new position?

A Shot in the Arm for (some) Conservatives

Pope Francis may have aggravated those of his Mexican flock, but for Americans in the Southwest who are not wild about immigration, he may have given them leverage:

On Monday Mexico’s foreign minister, Jose Antonio Meade Kuribreña, complained–“with sadness and concern”–that comments recently made by Pope Francis had stigmatzed the Mexican people. The Holy See spokesman was forced to issue a “clarification” of those remarks this morning. So what did Francis say that so wounded the Mexican government?

“Hopefully, we’re in time to avoid ‘Mexicanization,'” the pontiff wrote to an Argentine lawmaker last Saturday. “I’ve been talking with some Mexican bishops, and the situation is terrifying.” Francis was referring to Argentina’s drug problem. According to the UN, Argentina is the third largest exporter of cocaine, after Colombia–and Mexico. The Mexican government was so upset that it hauled in the papal ambassafor to air its grief over Francis’s remarks. It must have come as quite a shock when the papal ambassador informed the foreign minister that Mexico has a calamitous drug-trafficking problem.

Of course, the use of a private message from Pope Francis is inappropriate. But if Pope Francis sees south of the border what American opponents of immigration do, why can’t the popes bishops or the United States immigration agencies?

Between Abraham and Jeremiah

Carl Trueman thinks that we live in a time of exile (I generally agree but I think the conditions for it extend well beyond the sexual revolution — back to Peter’s first epistle):

The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.

For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.

Trueman also thinks that Reformed Protestantism has the spiritual resources for Christians facing exilic conditions, among them Psalm singing:

This recognition of exile and the hope we find in the Psalms permeate historical Reformed worship and theology in a way that is not so obvious in other Christian traditions, even Protestant ones. For example, the worship of the American Evangelical Church of the last few decades has been marked by what one might call an aesthetic of power and triumph. Praise bands perform in churches often built to look more like concert venues than traditional places of worship. Rock riffs and power chords set the musical tone. Songs speak of tearing down enemy ­strongholds. Christianity does, of course, point to triumph, but it is the triumph of resurrection, and resurrection presupposes prior suffering and death. An emphasis on triumph, often to the exclusion of lament, will not prepare people for life this side of resurrection glory. It will not prepare us for a life of exile. I fear we are laying the foundations for disillusionment and despair.

So much of this piece makes sense and I risk getting bloody (because no one wins an e-knife fight with Carl) only because of the way he handles the Puritans and Dutch. He glosses something that does not work out so well for Reformed Protestants who would live in exile:

It is this consciousness of civic responsibility—and of a firm place to stand in Christ—that frames Calvin’s Institutes and has served to make Reformed Christianity such a powerful force for change in history, from the Puritans to Abraham Kuyper. There have certainly been excesses in the history of the Reformed Church’s engagement with the civic sphere, but Reformed theology at its best is no clarion call for a religious war or a theocratic state. It is rather a call for responsible, godly citizenship.

The thing is, if you wanted examples of Calvinists in exile I wouldn’t turn to the Puritans of the Dutch who were actually part of colonizing efforts and did not live like exiles with native populations in North America or Africa. The Calvinists who did live like refugees were the Huguenots and the German Reformed. They dispersed to places like North America and persisted in their enclaves or assimilated. But the English (and Ulstermen and Scots) and Dutch were engaged in a form of conquest and it is that transformational part of the English Puritan, Scottish Presbyterian, and Dutch Calvinist enterprises that inspires modern-day U.S. Calvinists to think about either taking every square inch captive (for Christ, of course — no self-serving here) or reaffirming America’s Christian origins. (If you want to see one of the odder parts of German Reformed history in the U.S., think about the exilic experience of these folks in Iowa.)

Instead of the Abraham option (transformationalism) or the Benedict option (withdrawal), Samuel Goldman (American Conservative, July/Aug 2014) recommends the Jeremiah option (sorry, it’s behind a paywall):

First, internal exiles should resist the temptation to categorically resist the mainstream. That does not mean avoiding criticism. But it does mean criticism in the spirit of common peace rather than condemnation. . . .

Second, Jeremiah offers lessons about the organization of space. Even though they were settled as self-governing towns outside Babylon itself, God encourages the captives to conduct themselves as residents of that city, which implies physical integration. . . .

Finally, Jewish tradition provides a counterpoint to the dream of restoring sacred authority. At least in the diaspora, Jews have demanded the right to live as Jews — but not the imposition of Jewish laws or practices on others. MacIntyre [read Benedict option] evokes historical memories of Christendom that are deeply provocative to many good people, including Jews. The Jeremiah option, on the other hand, represents a commitment to pluralism: the only serious possibility in a secular age like ours.

We might even call this the Petrine option, were it not for the last millennium of popes who fought infidels, patronized artists, ruled Christendom, and lost power only to speak on every single issue known to political economy and foreign affairs. After all, it was Peter who called Christians strangers and aliens. Were the French and German Calvinists more an inspiration to contemporary Reformed Protestants, Carl’s call to living as exiles would find a receptive audience. As it is, the lure of domination, even though gussied up with the mantra of Christ’s Lordship, that is far more the norm than it should be because it is a whole lot more inspiring to be on the winning side of history. (Who roots for the Cubs?) And for that reason, Carl’s call will likely go unheeded.

Update: Here‘s additional support for considering the French Reformed instead of the English or Dutch.

Christians Assimilated (but compromised?)

A terrific book review, now a little long in the tooth, of two books on Europe and its immigrant populations is worth pondering for a variety of reasons but it got me thinking specifically about the assimilation of Christians in a secular republic like the United States. Here is a striking passage:

PEOPLE WHO ASK whether better government policies could have made Muslim immigration to Europe less of a debacle tend to look at Britain and France as two ends of a spectrum of approaches. Britain has let immigrants go their own way. It has been multiculturalist, laissez-faire, tolerant of partial allegiances and unintegrated identities. If you are a Sikh policeman, you can wear your turban on duty. In immigration as in other matters, the United Kingdom is unusually disorderly and willing to run the risk that “parallel societies” will form; but it does offer immigrants more self-respect and freedom of religion. France, by contrast, favors the assimilatory pressures of the melting pot. It wants immigrants to embrace a single model of republican citizenship. France’s model may sound condescending and hypocritical, but at its best it can convince a newcomer that the country’s thousand-year-old history belongs to him as much as anyone. It is a fool’s errand to call either the French or the British approach “better.” Each is built out of thousand-year-old habits of political culture. But immigration experts tend to laud whichever of the two has led to riots less recently.

What was I thinking:

1) it is hard to assimilate people of diverse cultural backgrounds and religious heritages into a peaceful, moderately ordered, and free society. Americans often bemoan the size of the government, the disregard for morality, or the inconsistency of cultural expectations (myself included). But keeping very different groups relatively calm and peaceful is no mean feat (especially if you believe what Reformed Protestants do about human nature).

2) Where does the U.S. fall in this model? In some ways it looks more like its cultural grandparent, Britain. But we also have conformist expectations that resemble the French (which likely owes to our adopting a republican form of government under the influence of Enlightenment political thought).

3) If Christians who complain about the decadence of the U.S. only kvetch and do not riot, is their desire to follow God weaker than Muslims?

4) If Christians want non-Christians to fit in with American norms that stem from Christian convictions, are they doing the same thing as the French even though for religious as opposed to enlightened reasons?

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.”