An Unnecessary Conflict
We are a divided nation and we have been for quite some time. My personal observation (without any real study or analysis) is that in the early 2000’s our nation experienced a great unity (the most significant united front in certainly my own lifetime thus far) but beginning in about 2003 that unity has slowly eroded every year since bringing us to where we are now. While many try, blame cannot be placed on any one individual (i.e. specific presidents), any 0ne political party or system, or any one private or public group of individuals. Instead, it’s the personal convictions that have grown more vigorous and intense, fueled by a society who finds its primary interests and motivations from within itself.
With that history continuing to develop in our society, and dare I say devour our society, most of us were unsurprised when President Donald Trump’s actions this week sparked a conflict of anger mixed with alleviation. The responses made their way through all of the social media platforms to ensure that war was declared, every person had chosen their side, and weapons were drawn before the announcement had been completed. That in itself speaks volumes about the society in which we live. However, since its implementation, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been controversial. The emotionally-charged attitude has ensured that the controversy continues. So the fierce response this week was not only lacked surprise but was anticipated. For Christians, this discussion is difficult to navigate because it contains a mixture of moral issues contained within the Word of God that makes it hard to navigate. As a result, Christians are disharmonized, disorganized, debilitated and therefore require some points of consideration.
First, there is something that must be understood. The issue at hand is multifaceted, or segmented, and each of those segments requires due consideration. To point out the obvious then, the issue is extremely complicated. So much so, that it will take much discussion, much time, and much paper to sort it out. So this short little post isn’t going to solve it for you. Instead, the point here is to simply look at some guiding principles to help us draw biblically-oriented conclusions.
With that in mind, we must understand why Christians are conflicted about such an issue. The conflict comes from Former President Barack Obama’s implementation of DACA in 2012. In his announcement, he used language such as ‘young people’ and ‘dreamers’ to appeal to the emotional character of people, and it worked. People were moved and motivated by what is known as ‘the dream.’ However, there are two major things the come into play with this activity and action. The first is intention. The intention of DACA is often uncontested by many because desires to give an opportunity to others and see them move forward. This is an outward expression of love for people. Now, as a side note, it’s unfortunate that we must mention that here we are discussion intention, not motivation. Many are quick interpret and either exalt or criticize Former President Obama’s motivation in this act. However, we are not talking about his motivation here, and to do so is both highly speculative and unprofitable, because the reality is, very few people (if any) understand his motivation for such an act. Instead, we must agree that the intention of the act was right, after all, the Lord has urged us to show love for others if we are truly of God (cf. 1 John 4:8-19; Matthew 22:34-40).
With that said, the intention doesn’t nullify the legality. In the discussion of this week’s announcement about DACA, Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted Georgetown University Professor Jonathan Turley noting, “In order this blanket exemption, President Obama was nullifying part of the law that he simply disagreed with.” The Attorney General then went further to say “If a president can claim sweeping discretion to suspend key federal laws, the entire legislative process becomes little more than a pretense . . The circumvention of the legislative process not only undermines the authority of this branch but destabilizes the tripartite system as a whole.” As Christians, we recognize the importance of people and God’s call to love them. However, in this case, we also recognize that the Lord has established authorities and we are called to obey those (Romans 13:1-4). In this case, a process has already been established that is supposed to be followed, even if that process isn’t a great one. As a result of the combination of both the intention and the legality of DACA, a massive conflict exists in which Christians find themselves unsure of where they should be.
A Necessary Clarity
The intensity of this debate necessitates clarity on multiple levels. On a practical level, there is clarity needed on the issues, the law, and the process. On a personal level, there needs to be clarity in convictions. It is to the personal level that we look to at this moment, and while we could take a lot of principles from Scripture, there are five specific points that must be engaged in our life:
- Reverence: Scripture is quick to show us that knowledge and wisdom only come when there is a healthy fear, or reverence, for the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). A thoughtful, intentional, and respectful solution will never be reached without first having a reverence for the Lord. For Christians, they will continue to be conflicted over the issue until there is a yielding of one’s personal will to the Lord’s will.
- Regard: There must be a regard for others. This is a regard for others, or love for them, that is generated by a love for God as previously mentioned. There is a picture portrayed in the New Testament of Christians whose love for Christ causes them to seek out others with a will that desires to see God glorified to them and through them.
- Reprieve: There is a concept I learned long ago and often love to share (although more often fail to yield to it myself) and that is, we should err on the side of grace. The love of others initiates a grace to others. In this case, our love for people should be characterized by extending grace to them.
- Rapport: Additionally, love for others is characterized by empathy and compassion for them. The best way for this to come is by ‘walking in their shoes’ as the phrase goes. To a point, many of us will never find ourselves in the exact position as others, however, a deep reflection of some circumstances should force a level of rapport that is manifested by compassion for them.
- Responsibility: Finally, we come to responsibility or stewardship. The Lord has given us provision and dominion of land. It is a land in which humans are to exercise control over and yet at the same time should take responsibility to steward it rightly. This same concept comes into play when discussing immigration because it impacts the ability to steward such a resource. However, responsibility impacts something more. In God’s grace, we have companionship, friendship through relationships. Furthermore, there is the potential to reach people with the gospel and see them come to a saving relationship with God. As a result, we must also recognize our responsibility to people, exercising great care over them for the Lord’s glory.
These five principles, reverence, regard, reprieve, rapport, and responsibility should serve as biblical points in considering the immigration debate and how we treat people through that process.
I’ve walked through the immigration process in other countries and been with others as they have tried to walk through the United States process. It is a tense process to begin with. Add to that anxiety frustration that comes with inconsistencies, difficulties, and conflicting/changing information and people unsurprisingly respond with increased emotional charges. Certainly a change needs to occur. It is a change that must maintain the integrity of the law and the dignity of people. We must be mindful of others, exemplifying Christlikeness as our nation attempts to navigate its way through what will certainly be a difficult process.
Photo “Washington D.C. – The White House” courtesy of user Stefan Fussan and Flickr.