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Alabama Immigration Situation featured in the New York Times

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran an article yesterday on the situation in Alabama, specifically highlighting the Church’s reaction to the situation.

Among some of the more interesting bits were:

The politics of this are unusual, with those opposed to the law, mostly coming from the left, arguing that the statute falls short of biblical principles, and the law’s supporters, mostly from the right, arguing that secular laws and biblical law cannot always run on the same track.

An astute observation. The law has put people arguing from opposite sides than they would normally. What does that show? Either the arguments are not actually about Scripture at all and are instead about one’s unrelated political affiliation, or the Christian political world is a lot more nuanced than we thought.  The resolution regarding immigration reform issued by the SBC (from Arizona of all places, in fact) seems to denote the latter, but cynical as I am, oftentimes I am more inclined to suggest the former. Regardless, I will always hope that everyone has the more intellectually honest and best intentions.  What do you think? Are liberal or conservative Christians following their political party lines, taking up the Bible only when they need it?  or is it deeper and more nuanced than that?  Read the rest of this entry

Immigration Update

Governor Bentley, click for Birmingham News

Birmingham News is reporting that the State of Alabama has fired back at detractors to its new immigration law, issuing a 159-page statement to the courts on, essentially, why everyone who disagrees with them is wrong.  Governor Bentley’s document claims that HB56 does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity and that it does not conflict with the means and methods of the federal government in dealing with the issue of immigration. In other news, the law suit filed by the UMC, ECUSA, and the Roman Catholic Church has merged into a joint suit with other federal filings, including that of the United States Justice Department and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA).

Update: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Alabama Education Association, National Education Association, Alabama NAACP, and the Fair Housing Centers of North, Central, and South Alabama all filed amicus curiae briefs contrary to the one released by the State of Alabama. Read more here.

If Baptists are Baptists

From Birmingham News

In a recent news article, the USAToday reported that Alabama churches were leading the charge again the new immigration law, recently passed. Now, something like this should not be surprising, but it is — and that is a testament to the Church’s failure in the social arena in recent years, particularly the evangelical Protestant Church.

The moment was particularly poignant in Birmingham where the churches became notorious for failing to act on civil rights issues in the twentieth century.  The Birmingham City Council, too, another body not too enthusiastic about desegregation during the civil rights era, unanimously called for the repeal of the immigration law.

Of the Christian churches present, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Roman Catholic Church all had made statements condemning the law, or at least criticizing it.  Conspicuously absent were the Alabama Baptists.  While the Cooperative Baptists were involved, it was stunning how the mainstream Baptists of Alabama looked so different from their Christian brothers and sisters who opposed the legislation.

Out of anyone in Alabama Churches, Baptists should have been the first to speak up.

Given our history and strong emphasis on the separation of the Church and the State, I fail to understand why my fellow Baptists in Alabama were not (and are not!) chomping at the bit, getting ready to combat the immigration law.  The substance of the Alabama law forbids even giving so much as a ride to someone who might be an illegal immigrant.  It effectively prohibits ministry to the population of illegal immigrants in the state.  Bishop William Willimon of the United Methodists claimed that in the wake of the April storms and the passage of the law, many were reluctant to seek aid because of the new law.  No one and nothing should get in the way of Baptists performing the ministerial functions of the Church, especially not the State.  When did the government get to decide to whom the Church ministered?

Reverend Mike Shaw of First Baptist Pelham reportedly said that he thinks the law should be enforced. Specifically he said, “I think all laws need to be enforced.”  All laws?  Is there no unjust law?  Is there any room for opposition to the injustice of the State in Shaw’s perspective?  I may not think Christians need to be in office to draft legislation, but that does not mean by any means that they should just acquiesce to any law regardless of its content.  Where would we be if Baptists had always done that?  We would probably still have segregation and might even have slavery.  It is an abhorrent, devastating, and dangerous position to just assume that every law should be enforced.

But what about Peter and Paul?  Does not Paul say, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God…”?  Does not Peter also say, “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.”?

I hate to break it to you, but I am in no way sure that still applies.

Let me explain.  Peter and Paul did not live in a democracy.  They lived under the oppression of the Roman Empire.  They had no say as to what laws were laws and what were not.  We do.  Their instructions probably had more to do with discouraging open rebellion against the government, which was impractical and only resulted in violence and death (think what happened in 70 CE in Jerusalem).  Paul’s exhortation to nonviolence in Romans 12 also forbids such an uprising, and that makes swallowing Romans 13 a little easier.

What would Paul say to our current situation?  Obviously, I can’t speak for him, but he says something right before Romans 13:1 that people so love to quote: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  To comply and assent to injustice is to be overcome by evil (I admit, this is a weakness of those who only follow semiseriously the political philosophy I outlined last week).  Baptists, if Baptists are to be the Church, should join their Christian (and Jewish and Muslim!) brothers and sisters in Alabama in standing up for the rights of their family the government has labeled as untouchable.  For God knows no borders, no boundaries, no arbitrary demarcations of nations.  No wall, no law, no government can stand between God and his people.

Alabama Immigration

via AP and AL.com

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama’s governor this morning signed a tough new illegal immigration crackdownthat contains provisions requiring public schools to determine students’ immigration status and making it a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride.

The bill also allows police to arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant if they’re stopped for any other reason. Alabama employers also are now required to use a federal system called E-Verify to determine if new workers are in the country legally.

-Associated Press

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