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Joel Belz: A theology-based policy for immigration

Challenging thoughts for the "Church" on the issue of immigration.

If evangelical Christians in America don't get with it pretty soon on the subject of immigration, they may well end up as embarrassed and impotent as Republicans are in California when Hispanics happen to be in the room.

The California Republicans' plight is the result, of course, of the high-profile stand former Gov. Pete Wilson took in 1994 against the influx of Hispanics from the south. Some people say Gov. Wilson single-handedly guaranteed that Hispanics would refuse to vote Republican for the next generation or more.

But note this well: The issue for evangelical Christians involves a great deal more than political pragmatism. The real issue is compliance with God's standards—and thankful hearts for His mercy. The big fear for evangelical Christians should not be the ire of Hispanic voters, but the wrath of God.

There are certainly some public-policy issues (try NAFTA) where it may be hard to discern how to apply the heart of God. There are important aspects of immigration policy where it's tough to map out biblical standards. But a Christian's basic posture must be to show mercy to aliens. Just trace the terms alien and stranger through the Bible, and remind yourself how consistently one-sided God's instructions are on the subject.

Yet the basis for this welcome is never some mushy-minded, mealy-mouthed, softheaded, be-a-doormat-for-everybody way of thinking. The basis instead is a starkly theological premise—an argument that comes right from the core of the biblical message of redemption. "You shall not oppress a sojourner," God says bluntly in Exodus 23:9. "You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."

Read the rest of it. Can a Christian have a strong perspective against illegal immigration, and still follow these principles? I think so.

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