Dr. David Jeremiah, the lead pastor of a mega-church near San Diego, CA, published a book titled “Is This the End – Signs of God’s Providence in a Disturbing New World”.
My observations for the purpose of this blog are focused on Chapter 2 of this book on the topic of immigration.
To Dr. Jeremiah’s credit, he revealed his mission and biases. His mission is to represent the Christian Church, and more specifically, the teachings of the Bible. His biases include the promotion of his many ministries to immigrants, both legal and illegal, in the greater San Diego area. Some might call his teachings concerning immigration based either on a conflict of interest or well-informed because of these ministries.
Nonetheless, he strives to give a balanced view of the current pros and cons of immigration in the US, both from a practical economic and social perspective as well as from a Biblical perspective. Whether he succeeds with that “balance” greatly depends on two things: 1) The experiences, knowledge and perspective of the reader concerning immigration and immigrants; and 2) The portions of Scripture and Christian doctrine one wishes to emphasize or minimize.
For example, he suggests “openness to outsiders” as a great Christian quality which indeed it is. But he fails to distinguish this quality applied to national immigration policy as distinct from personal relationships. It is one thing for an individual Christian be open and kind to everyone he meets. It is quite another thing for our national government to roll out the red carpet and accommodate anyone who crosses our borders.
There are a couple of trite examples he used as advantages of immigration: One was our love of Mexican and Italian food. This is a great hook for those who think with their stomachs instead of the brain or heart.
Another was of an immigrant (he didn’t say “legal” or “illegal” because that distinction does not matter to him as he stated) in his church who worshipped the Lord enthusiastically, who gave his whole “body, soul, and spirit” in his worship. Well, many Muslims do the same thing, even to the point of their suicide bombings – Christians don’t match THAT level of enthusiasm. So I didn't quite understand the relevance of that example to the current topic.
Dr. Jeremiah did lay out his presentation in a good, logical order, discussing both the benefits and the problems of immigration.
Regarding the problems, he thoughtfully considered the problems of both legal and illegal immigration - all standard stuff most of us understand.
One of the problems he noted for both legal and illegal immigration was the failure of various groups to assimilate. At the same time, in giving an example of the great numbers of immigrants he ministers to he pointed out that all the street signs in a number of neighborhoods in the region of his church are in Arabic. Assimilation, anyone? Apparently not. That is the fault of government being hell-bent on accommodation rather than assimilation.
The meat of the subject was titled “The Past of Immigration” based on verses he selected from Bible texts.
There were two primary focus points:
1) From Genesis 11, he pointed out that it is God’s will that there not be a one-world government with everyone communicating in one language to effectively compete with God. He reminded us that God dispersed the people, confused their ability to effectively communicate, and created numerous nations complete with borders to defend. From that, the essence is God is not a Globalist; God set the boundaries of every nation. We need to maintain these boundaries because they are of God.
2) We, as Christians, must assist the “strangers” and the “sojourners.” But he does explain, “not unconditionally.” Strangers and sojourners have a responsibility to obey the culture and laws of the land. They should not believe they have a right to cling to the old laws, beliefs and customs of their homeland, its religion or political ideology.
This is all good stuff up to this point.
Two significant points are mostly ignored:
1) Which portions of Scripture are interpreted in a manner that give one portion precedence over another in the context of the national/political/religious environment of the day? Does the personal one on one example of Jesus befriending the harlot supersede Paul’s admonition to obey the laws of the land? These are two entirely different circumstances: one personal, the other political/national.
2) This brings up the bigger problem concerning immigration: The role of government compared to the role of the individual Christian. The individual Christian can and should maintain the Biblical standard of how we treat immigrants, legal and illegal. But we have to ask: Is the Biblical standard the same for both the legal and illegal immigrant? The Bible DOES make the distinction if we don’t ignore Romans and other sections.
Here are two significant Biblical concepts that were not mentioned:
- Immigration of foreigners was used as a curse or punishment upon Israel. II Chronicles 36 describes the use of foreigners to exact judgment upon a disobedient Israel.
- The rising status of immigrants to a superior status was a curse upon Israel according to Deuteronomy 28: 43-44; 43 The foreign resident among you will rise higher and higher above you, while you sink lower and lower. 44 He will lend to you, but you won't lend to him. He will be the head, and you will be the tail.
Is it possible the same is happening in the US? I and many others think so. This is what happens when we jettison and ignore our religion and values.
Dr. Jeremiah chooses to ignore Romans in agreeing with Samuel Rodriguez that “a human being cannot be illegal.” Really?
His justification? The possibility of conversion of an (illegal) immigrant to Christianity. The hope of conversion justifies the the continuing offense by the illegal immigrant. But without repentance how can there be conversion? This smacks of Democrats desiring to ignore our immigration laws so there can be more Democrat voters keeping them in power.
What about all the hundreds of sermons we’ve heard that talk about repentance – turning away from sin turning away from lawbreaking? Are those of us who point out the importance of obeying laws guilty of being a “Pharisee?” (Accuse a cop of being a Pharisee the next time you’re pulled over.) Becoming a Christian does not eliminate the fact he continue to violate our laws. Are we to ignore the lack of repentance of the illegal immigrant who chooses to remain “illegal?” Dr. Jeremiah believes there is no such thing as an “illegal” human. Are we to ignore the Biblical concept of repentance? How can an ongoing transgression be ignored? Or are we to ignore the Biblical principle of obeying the laws of the land. Apparently Dr. Jeremiah has.
And finally concerning the role of government, our nation has become so diverse, so tolerant of everything (except Christianity) that it is not possible anymore to have a Biblical standard applied to government policy, even if there was a “meeting of the minds” of the correct Biblical interpretation. We might continue to blow in the wind and pretend to influence government policy. But it all boils down to what we do have control over: How we treat individuals we meet, and the standards we apply in condoning or admonishing their behavior.
Modern Church doctrine appears to be progressing toward ignoring all sin, whether sexual behavior or breaking the laws of the land. It is now in vogue to ignore violations of God’s word. Tolerate everything. The mainline churches already accept, condone, and defend same sex marriage and gay clergy. Scratch that rather large chunk of orthodox Biblical doctrine. Now Dr. Jeremiah wishes to erase a chunk of Paul’s teaching. Sweet. One begins to wonder what’s next – Jesus didn’t really resurrect? No one is really saved? It’s all a myth? This is not faith-building stuff.