Lopez: How America’s Churches are Harboring Criminals

Kathryn Jean Lopez, Austin American-Statesman, March 15, 2006

On the corner of a busy road in a New York City suburb recently, I noticed a sign outside a small Christian church welcoming day laborers—an apt image for the state of immigration in the United States today.

The day laborers the church is welcoming are, most likely, illegal immigrants. We all know they’re here and you may, like the churchmen, also know where. You may be one. You may employ one. You may even pass a group of illegal immigrants waiting for a day job on the way to your own job. Needless to say many illegal immigrants are good people just like you and me (in many cases just trying to care for their families) except for a problem that can’t be overlooked: They’re in the United States illegally.

While attending a meeting of some 30 pastors of independent Christian churches in Southern California, writer Christine A. Scheller of “Christianity Today” was told by one of the pastors that not only is his congregation 50-percent illegal, but that among the group assembled, “We have a lot of pastors who are illegal.” The attitude Scheller encountered among pastors was almost completely accommodating to lawbreaking. A former Texas pastor actually compared churches providing a safe haven to illegal immigrants to the Jewish asylums of World War II. The analogy is ludicrous on more than one level. For one: If enforcement of immigration laws were a priority in the United States, the aforementioned church sign would not be so transparent and unapologetic. If government were actually policing immigration, that sign would be read as: “Policia, aqui!”

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As it happens, one pastor told “Christianity Today” that although he “had crossed the border illegally as a young man to marry his Mexican American fiance,” he now “believes the current process for getting into the United States is ‘great’ and ‘necessary.’ ” He says that “When an undocumented worker responds to the gospel, ‘the Lord will not be glorified’ if that person continues to live a lie.” Could we put him in charge of enforcement?

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