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Saturday, November 03, 2007

What influences the political choices of Christians? Immigration as an issue

A recent poll of likely Republican voters in South Carolina, my state, indicated that illegal immigration is the most important issue to such people. (To Democrats, it's the war in Iraq, and health care. I heard about this poll on the radio this week, but can't document it.) I wish I were surprised by this emphasis on immigration. What happened to the importance of abortion as an issue?

I'm not suggesting that the Republican party is the Christian party. (I don't think either major party is a Christian party. Both of them have Christian members, and also non-Christians.) However, my experience is that many Republican adherents among my friends and neighbors talk as if they believe that it is.

If, as many people used to say, abortion is a life-and-death issue, and opposition to abortion is based on the Bible, what happened to change the importance of the issue? I'm afraid that I know the answer, and that much of it is due to the influence of national commentators, such as Lou Dobbs of CNN. I'm also afraid that the sudden popularity of opposition to illegal immigration is motivated, at least in part, by prejudice, perhaps even hatred, toward those who are different. Another influence is that at least one of the leading Republican candidates is pro-choice, and some Republicans who used to claim to be strongly anti-abortion would rather forget about that issue than lose to a Democrat.

I'm not arguing that Christians (or anyone else) should be for illegal immigration, or that opposition to abortion should be the most important issue for Christians. I am arguing that the most important source of the political inspiration of Christians should be the Bible, not media personalities. For the Christian, there should be sympathy for immigrants, illegal or not, and concern for their spiritual and economic welfare. The Old Testament speaks about being kind to strangers. So does the New. Here's Leviticus 19:
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. . . ." (ESV)

Thanks for reading. I know -- I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but it's my blog . . .


Diane R said... asked for it...LOL. I live in So. to Los Angeles in fact. You should move out here. I don't think you would be writing this post. I am not on a hate rant by any extent. But, our basic services, way of life, housing (exhorbitant), low functioning schools and over-run hosptial ER's are just the start of the problems caused here by illegals. I do agree we need to be kind but we need aalso to guest worker program and change the constitution to reflect what other countries do and that is require a long residency before someone's children born here become citizens. When this happens in your area, and it will, you will understand...:)

By the way, speaking of the OT..what did God say to the Israelites about letting masses of foreigners into their country?

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Diane R.

Nowhere in the post did I defend illegal immigration. I'm sure it causes some problems, perhaps serious problems. (Although clearly some businesses seem to be prospering because of it.)

I also agree that we should rethink the laws that give automatic citizenship to children of illegal immigrants who are born in the US, at least without requiring, as you say, some length of residency more than a week or so.

And, yes, God didn't seem to be in favor of allowing masses of foreigners into Israel.

All that being said, I must not have made my real point very well, because you didn't address it. Let me try again:
Why did the "Christian Right" drop anti-abortion as its main issue, even, seemingly, forgetting about it entirely, and take up opposition to immigration as its main issue? Did the Bible suddenly change?

Thanks for reading.

Martin LaBar said...

P. S. I stand by this statement, from the original post:

"For the Christian, there should be sympathy for immigrants, illegal or not, and concern for their spiritual and economic welfare."

And submit that, however much or little illegal immigration impacts Christians in various parts of the country, that should be true.

Ken (Wickle) said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you speculated that it was media pressure.

Two years ago, almost no one was talking about illegal immigration. Now, suddenly, being soft on immigration is almost as bad as being a Communist.

For someone who is still moved largely (and primarily) by abortion as an issue, I share your confusion.

I don't have a lot of answers, but I appreciate you raising the question, and think it would be interesting to see more discussion of this.

ChrisB said...

What happened to the importance of abortion as an issue?
It's still there, though some have no doubt grown accustomed to it. Unfortunately there is very little we can do about it right now but wait for a couple of SCOTUS justices to retire and hope for better replacements.

As for illegal immigration, it can become a moral issue when one thinks about the poor treatment of illegal immigrants in the US as well as the hypocritical treatment of immigrants from some countries versus others.

If you're interested, I've written a bit on immigration reform and Christianity on my blog.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comments, guys.

chrisb, I agree with you about the moral aspects you raise. However, as I'm sure you know, those aren't the reasons many self-identified Christians are up in arms about immigration. They want the borders sealed, and all Hispanics moved to the other side of them.

cyn said...

An interesting question to ponder, Martin. And, I'd have to agree this time that it is the media attention, driven by the interests of consumers that has shifted the focus from gay marriage and abortion to illegal immigration.

I, for one, am glad that the focus has shifted from gay marriage and abortion. I would like to see election issues focus around the needs of the country as a whole: health care and social programs, like old age security. The state of health care is atrocious for such a wealthy and strong country like the US. But that is a whole other debate!

Thank you for showing me and other readers that you are a loving Christian. The Leviticus verse says it well, but how about the very basic "Golden Rule"? Too many professed Christians give a bad name to real Christians by railing instead of showing love and compassion.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Cyn! May I show the spirit of Christ, in this blog, and, much more importantly, in real life.

Frank Creed said...

Since Rudolph G (pro-choice), is leading the GOP this season, I wonder if immigration isn't a deliberate red herring to untite our subculture against a common enemy. The two party system is pretty neat and tidy.


Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Frank Creed.

Far be it from me to analyze the origins of all the currents in the US political system!

However, I doubt that the immigration issue, or, more realistically, the anti-immigration issue, is solely a red herring.