Constructing a Biblical View of Government, Part II: Implications for immigration
Oct 21, 2009 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 1 Comments
In the last posting we discussed in part how Christians should rethink the role of government and its laws from a more comprehensive biblical perspective. Let me be clear: I am not advocating ignoring the laws of this country. What I am saying is that Christians should be willing to question and change the laws, if they are deemed to violate divine ideals and mandates, and be involved in the elaboration of other legislation more in accord with what God might want.
It also is obvious that immigration legislation is necessary for all kinds of pragmatic reasons: the educational and health systems, law enforcement, social services, labor practices, border crossing and the like. A major problem with many Christians is that they too easily default to Romans 13:1-7 in these debates and say, “The law is the law, and it must be obeyed, full-stop” without considering whether those laws are just, coherent, and constructive for all involved. Laws also have a history, and immigration law does as well – and it is a very complicated and, in many ways, checkered history. The uninformed assumption (uninformed biblically and historically) is that the present laws on immigration are right, simply because they are the law and U.S. law at that. On other matters, however, such as abortion, these same Christians vehemently oppose national and local legislation and work against it. Perhaps the reality of law in this country is not as simple as it may appear.
What Christians need, therefore, is a more thoroughgoing theology of human government that can appreciate both its potential for good as well as its limitations. The last posting mentioned two foundational ideas that arise from the first nine chapters of Genesis: the role to protect its citizens and the call to promote human flourishing. Another important foundational concept comes from Genesis 10-11. Chapter 11 recounts the efforts of humanity to build a tower that could reach the heavens; this is an echo of 3:5 and the temptation to be like God, now playing itself out corporately, not just individually. When humans, at whatever level, assume to take the place of God, nothing good can come of it. This is what 11:6 communicates: the potential for evil would now know no bounds. So, God scatters humanity and multiplies their languages (11:7-9).
Chapter 10, which in the plot line of Genesis is out of place (it is a huge parenthesis that details which peoples came from the three sons of Noah mentioned in 9:24-27) that lists the nations and peoples according to their languages and regions (10:5, 20, 31-32). Chapter 11, then, explains where all of this began. Biblically, Babel is the mother of all the nations of the world. And, in the biblical scheme, history begins with Babel and will end with the final Babel/Babylon of the book of Revelation. That is, a heart of arrogance and rebellion against God are embedded in the heart of all peoples and nations. This can manifest itself in all kinds of ways, of course: wars, racism, exploitation, misdirected nationalism, etc. Laws, too, can be designed for improper reasons with wrong motives because of this trait. Legislation, therefore, is at its deepest a moral and theological matter; it is not just about economic data and the like (although that is obviously important).
The point to be made is this: The Genesis account serves as a warning about idealizing any government, its laws, and its behaviors. It helps us appreciate that ultimately we serve another King and have another citizenship. Our values and loyalties, at the end of the day, may not be the same as the nation within which we live. This is not to say that there is no good thing in this country or that the government is irredeemably bad. No, this country is an amazing place in many ways and merits our respect and appreciation.
At the same time, however, what is revealed in the Bible does mean that we need to have a strong dose of biblical realism as we engage legislation on immigration.