Monday, June 20, 2011

Russell Moore, "Immigration and the Gospel": A Tale of Chagrining Theology

Russell Moore (bio here) recently published an article at his blog, "Moore to the Point" as well as publishing at the Christian Post entitled Immigration and the Gospel. Knowing Moore’s background and the influence of socially liberal trends in his circles, I was interested in what he would write on the subject. Moore, to his credit, is a thoughtful teacher so one simply cannot dismiss those with whom they may not share close theological proximity on all matters. He should be recognized and appreciated for the contributions he has and does make to the body at large. But in this case, he opted for self-distressing appeals which delivered a bag of illusions and fundamentally bad theology.

In his opening statement he draws the social and theological disposition of the average American Evangelical in a plea that oversimplifies and characterizes as buffoonish, their grasp and approach to the matter:
The Christian response to immigrant communities in the United States cannot be “You kids get off of my lawn” in Spanish. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission.
Well, I don’t believe most of those actively engaged in the process are so short-sighted. But for the moment let’s pretend Moore has a genuine fish on his hook. So he continues:
I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves.
Why? If they are illegally here and are draining our resources what should citizens be doing? Celebrating? Disdain you say? Again, what should legals being doing, be happy that what they have earned and contributed to is being taken away by others who, by providence were born somewhere else and while they are permitted to immigrate here, have violated the law instead and want what they refuse to gain lawfully? But who is speaking of immigrants themselves, personally? They are speaking of them as illegal immigrants, not those who abide by the law. And if you notice in the quote, Moore foolishly switches from calling them what they are, illegal immigrants, to mere immigrants.

Possibly the greatest mea culpa here by Moore is his claim about our Lord:
This is a gospel issue. First of all, our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called “illegal immigrant.” Fleeing, like many of those in our country right now, a brutal political situation, our Lord’s parents sojourned with him in Egypt (Matt. 2:113-23). Jesus, who lived out his life for us, spent his childhood years in a foreign land away from his relatives among people speaking a different language with strange customs.
 Is this really what Moore believes? That there is synonymity between the our Lord’s parents obeying the command of God to escape to Egypt where, for the record, they were not illegally present in that country and illegal immigration in America? Egypt and Israel at that time were part of the Roman Empire. There was nothing illegal about their traveling from one country to the other, they broke no empirical edicts or provincial regulations (this is not to say all human governmental laws are divinely sanctioned, some require believers to disobey God and at that point, if such laws conflict with the believer’s faith, the believer is bound to obey God  And more so their not obeying government does not construe they are to be seen or classified as “disobeying government” because government is not commissioned to exercise such authority, hence they have disobeyed no authority, but this is not the case here, rather a side note).

Secondly they had not immigrated to Egypt. They were sojourners (which Moore does also use to describe them but one is not both an immigrant and sojourner, he is conveniently mixing contexts) waiting to return home. They were temporary residents, again having entered quite legally. This oversight by Moore speaks to an eagerness to placate rather then research and is certainly disappointing.

Additionally Moore plays to the crowd by demonizing those who object to illegal immigrants by describing their contentions as “lashing out”. What a rather self-serving characterization that of course denounces with such labeling anyone voicing concerns. But even more stupefying his is rationalistic feat where he states:
But this issue is far more complicated than that. Yes, undocumented immigrants are violating the law, but, first of all, most of them are doing so in order to provide a future for their families in flight from awful situations back home. Many of them are children (as our Lord Jesus was at the time of his immigration).
But this is the sad state of affairs in Evangelicalism in many quarters. Some insist Moore is a conservative in his Evangelicalism, he may be but this kind of “the ends justify the means” thinking certainly does not display any such position. It is almost as if I am reading an article by former President Jimmy Carter and getting a moralizing lecture from someone who is adept as misusing the Bible to make his point and does so again, here. This is simply awful.

Finally, as if to place a rotten cherry infested with worms on the top of his cake of mud, Moore delivers a most bizarre conclusion:
There will be a day when the United States of America will no longer exist. And on that day, the sons and daughters of God will stand before the throne of a former undocumented immigrant. 
I simply am astonished. Moore runs in many circles and some of them are circles of men who claim to be conservative Evangelicals. I believe it will be discouraging to fail to find a vigorous response by at least a few of such men who claim the mantle of conservative Evangelicalism. Whatever convoluted hermeneutic Moore is using to concoct this elixir of poison the only label I can find to place on it is “Atrocious”.

I understand compassion for those fleeing difficulty in their country is necessary and we, as a country, must be active in prescriptively, wisely and practically addressing the concern. But conflating the issue by referring to our Lord and his family as illegal immigrants or magically removing the word “illegal” to those who are here “illegally” isn’t the answer and Moore simply contributes “more” to the problem rather than using honest language while allegedly pursuing answers.


Pastor David Pitman said...
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Pastor David Pitman said...

Well said. Moore's affinity for liberal political solutions manifests itself on crucial issues and this is a prime example.

Sojourner said...

You're essentially equally as guilty as Moore, not by creating a strawman argument for Jesus being an "illegal alien" (which i agree is a pretty big stretch), but by equating conservative envangelicals with absolute truth.

Although I would consider myself a conservative Evangelical, that too can become an idol and phrase that also leads to falsehoods.

Just because someone has a conservative approach to interpreting truth does not automatically place them square at the center of truth. Unfortunately, that misnomer has become a crutch for far too many "conservatives" these days.

The idiom goes something like this......If a "conservative", political or theological, speaks then it must be truth. Many Pharisees, were quite conservative b the standards of their time, especially relative to the Saducees. Both were dead wrong.

Not trying to preach here, but we have to be careful on this notion.....