It turns out that one of the nation’s fastest-dwindling Christian denominations has taken a predictably doctrinaire position on the hot-button issue of SB 1070.
While the stance of the Presbyterian Church in this political conflict isn’t that surprising, it’s disturbing nonetheless to see an almost unified front among purportedly religious institutions in the debate over Arizona’s recently enacted legislation. Not only are traditionally liberal, mainline Protestant denominations inveighing against SB 1070, but even the Southern Baptist Convention under President Richard Land-who likes to posture as a movement conservative-has come out in support of a full-fledged program of amnesty. Something tells me that he too is not a fan of Governor Jan Brewer, which is fine.
I simply take issue with religious figures, particularly those in my own Catholic Church, who present themselves as representatives of the Lord while endorsing a platform that seems to contravene some pretty basic biblical teachings of the New Testament. Now, I’m not an exegete per se, and don’t even pretend to be a particularly devout Roman Catholic, but one of the things I was taught growing up is to respect our man-made laws, one of which is a prohibition on entering this country without permission. This tenet is one that our Lord and Savior-and I apologize to those readers who are not Christian or theist, but for the sake of this argument I’ll be addressing the leaders of these churches-sermonized on at some length.
Somehow, this touchstone has been lost in the theological debate over how we should deal with people who remain here illegally with impunity, e.g. Elvira Arellano, the Mexican woman who used a Chicago area church as her base of operations as she launched a widely publicized, year-long campaign to remain in the United States, despite several outstanding deportation orders. The fact that she received unstinting support from not only the church that offered her sanctuary, but from most other ostensibly religious organizations and orders demonstrates several things.
1. That the concern for most of these churches is not serving the congregants they currently have, but in expanding their congregation to include millions of individuals who come here as a result of what they view as an inevitable amnesty.
2. That most of these churches view themselves increasingly through the prism of politics, and view their own role as that of political agents seeking to effect dramatic cultural change.
While you can make a plausible argument that pursuing the first goal is a logical step in self-preservation-especially when you consider the decreasing attendance at many of these churches-I don’t think it can be justified under any doctrinal standards. As to the second point, I don’t have any problem with churches transforming themselves into political entities-in this case, a sanctified version of La Raza, MALDEF, or LULAC-but in that case, I don’t think most Americans would view their current tax-exempt status in quite the same light.