Christians are people who live as if the kingdom Jesus preached is a present reality.
By Alan Bean
Last week I was in the Mississippi Delta with my wife, Nancy, participating in a couple of civil rights tours. We heard Margaret Block, a retired school teacher from Cleveland, Mississippi who worked with the amazing Fannie Lou Hamer in the early 1960s, address a group of high school students from Albany, New York. Margaret remembered participating in a voter drive in Meridian, Mississippi, less than a year before three civil rights workers were brutally murdered in nearby Neshoba County.
“There was a bunch of Klansman standing around watching us,” Ms. Block remembers, “and they were singing a little song, over and over, ‘Jesus loves me ’cause I’m white; I kill a nigger every night.’ The worst part of it was that none of them could sing a lick.”
We are appropriately horrified by these despicable sentiments and the language in which they were expressed. But don’t we believe, deep in our hearts, that being born in the United States of America gives us a seat in the lifeboat-of-the-elect and gives us the right to knock the undeserving “illegals” back into the shark-infested waters with the precious oar of citizenship?
And don’t we believe that Jesus signs off on our special status?
What do we do with the unaccompanied children, some say as many as 100,000, who have surrendered to American border officials in the last few months? (more…)
By Alan Bean
I met Kent McKeever several months ago when I spoke at a worship service highlighting the need for immigration reform held at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Kent had just arrived in Waco to work as an immigration attorney in cooperation with Jimmy Dorrell’s Mission Waco. I knew immediately that Kent was one of those rare individuals Jesus had in mind when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8).
A few weeks ago, law professor Mark Osler celebrated McKeever’s selfless odyssey in a Waco Tribune column:
A Baylor grad, he had gone on to get a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary before entering Vanderbilt’s top-flight law school. His credentials could have opened the door to many high-paying jobs, the kind of work (and pay) that students dream of. But his hope was for something very different. He wanted to return to Waco and provide legal services to the poor.
I saw Kent again last week at the Christian Community Development (CCDA) conference in New Orleans. He has been cooperating with a variety of evangelical groups working for immigration reform, most recently a diverse group calling itself Bibles, Badges and Business. The Waco Tribune has published an illuminating conversation between the Tribune editorial staff and this group, and McKeever was part of the discussion. (more…)
By Alan Bean
As comprehensive immigration reform wends its tortuous way through the legislative process, we have witnessed a lot of hand-wringing from politicians concerning “border security,” spiking welfare costs, crime, and fairness to those who became citizens the legal way. Rarely do we hear from the men and women who work with immigrants and advocate on their behalf. ICA, Immigrant Communities in Action, is a New York-based coalition of immigration reform groups. Today, they released a response to Senate Bill 744. They don’t like it. I am sharing the heart of their statement with you because it captures an emerging consensus within the immigration reform community. Some organizations worked so hard for so long to get a bill through the Senate that they are willing to hold their noses and live with a deeply flawed piece of legislation. But most of the reform organizations I monitor are deeply disappointed with the Senate’s immigration bill and this statement explains why.
Statement on the Senate Immigration Bill (S.B. 744) July 10, 2013
Immigrant Communities in Action
New York City
“A Call to Immigrant Organizations, Workers Centers, and Allies:
Building for a Just, Humane and Inclusive Immigration Reform, and Beyond”
On June 27, 2013, the Senate voted to pass its immigration bill with a bipartisan vote of 68 to 32. While the bill includes provisions that seem to benefit some segments of immigrant communities, we are disturbed by the many provisions that undermine the basic premise of a just, humane and inclusive “comprehensive” immigration reform:
1. S.B. 744 creates an onerous labyrinth of a gauntlet instead of a just a path to citizenship. While the bill seeks to offer a path to citizenship, and allow the millions of immigrants to come out of the shadows and become a recognized part of the social fabric, the specific provisions place many “thorns on the road” by making the process overly complex, financially unaffordable for many, and with an excessively long waiting period of 10-20 years. As these provisions would exclude millions of immigrants, either from the outset or due to the various obstacles, we will continue to have a large population of immigrants who would become even more marginalized and excluded than the current situation. (more…)
By Alan Bean
We face two unsettling truths. 1. The immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate is essentially a make-work project for the military-industrial complex. 2. The Senate bill is unacceptable to the conservatives who control the House of Representatives because it includes a path to citizenship.
Cram both those facts into your head and you will understand why a spit-the-difference moderate like Barack Obama can’t move his legislative agenda.
Immigration reform advocates face an ugly Catch-22. If we say no to a fruitless militarization of the border, are we ensuring that no immigration legislation will pass?
There are two strategic responses to this dilemma. Either we shame Congress into passing a reform package free of additional pork for the private prison and military industries; or we make our peace with bizarre new levels of border militarization (with all the misery that entails) as the price for getting some kind of reform bill to the president’s desk.
Conservative senators were willing to sign off on reform because they want to win the next presidential election and their buddies in the defense industry need a new war. House conservatives, desperate to placate the base, are willing to cede the White House to the Democrats. How can a reform agenda survive this kind of political opportunism?
If you question the wisdom of pouring billions of dollars into enhanced “border security” please read Joshua Holland’s article in Salon.
With two wars ending, the “defense” industry sets its sights on its next chance to hit pay dirt: The U.S. border
SATURDAY, JUL 6, 2013 02:15 PM CDT
Last week, John McCain gleefully announced that the Senate immigration bill would result in the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Indeed, an amendment authored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., authorizes a massive increase in border security dollars — including $30 billion for hiring and training 19,000 new border patrol officers over the next 10 years, and over $13 billion for a “comprehensive Southern border strategy” (including 700 miles of high-tech fencing).
What the senators didn’t tout was that the wall is both functionally useless – and will enrich some of the largest military contractors in the world. (more…)
By Alan Bean
Reaction to the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate has been mixed. The Evangelical Immigration Table has heralded the legislation for striking an appropriate balance between national security and compassion.
But the bill’s provisions calling for a massive buildup of immigration forces at the border caused the Detention Watch Network to conclude that “The private-prison industry and other enforcement industry contractors stand to gain the most from the legislation while families and communities will suffer.”
The Centrist National Immigration Forum focused on the defeat of a series of “poison pill” amendments that would have rendered the bill unacceptable to progressive senators. Since this bill was the best outcome we could get from this Congress, they argue, it is a good bill.
Bill Mefford, speaking for the United Methodists’ General Board of Church and Society, has refused to either endorse of oppose the legislation. Noting that none of the progressive provisions of the bill will go into effect until immigration officials can document a secure border, Mefford lays out a depressing scenario: (more…)
By Alan Bean
When the for-profit giant Geo Corp insisted a few months ago that they would stay out of the immigration reform debate I was suspicious. These people are in the money-making business and real reform would have a disastrous impact on the bottom line. The industry wants the US government to lock up as many people for as long as possible because that’s what a decent ROI demands. The private prison people don’t care about the families that are ripped apart by the draconian policies they advocate or whether the punitive approach makes a lick of sense. They aren’t in the making sense business; their in the money-making business. Which is why they should not and must not influence the political process. As this article from the Nation makes clear, the private prison industry is deeply invested in the political process because the shape of reform emerging from Washington is a make or break proposition. It is particularly significant, as I have frequently noted, that the for-profit prison boys are big supporters of the the Gang of Eight (more on this below).
Earlier this year, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country sent out a statement to reporters claiming that it would not lobby in any way over the immigration reform debate. A new disclosure shows that the company, the Boca Raton–based Geo Group, has in fact paid an “elite team of federal lobbyists” to influence the comprehensive immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress. (more…)
By Alan Bean
“Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”
This question was originally scrawled in the margin of an Alabama newspaper by an exasperated Martin Luther King Jr. The church was once a thermostat “that transformed the mores of society,” King told the white clergymen of Birmingham, but it has degenerated into a thermometer that merely reflects the “ideas and principles of public opinion.”
Organized religion takes a dreadful beating in the final section of King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. From the earliest days of the civil rights movement, King alleges, most religious leaders have “remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.”
In the midst of “a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic justice,” white clergymen have stood on the sidelines mouthing “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.”
Preachers have preached the heretical notion that the gospel is unrelated to social issues. They have concocted “a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, unbiblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.”
The comes the most chilling indictment of all:
On sweltering summer summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward . . . Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?”
A thermometer church speaks for a thermometer God who reflects “the ideas and principles of public opinion.” Fifty years ago, the church was, to use King’s phrase, “the arch defender of the status quo”. Now we can’t even manage that. While the larger society inches graceward, we cling to our cherished bigotries. Our thermometer God lies shattered on the floor and no power on earth can put the pieces back together.
When the Richmond Baptist Association refused to discipline Ginter Park Baptist Church for ordaining a gay man to minister to persons with disabilities and special needs, it was simply acknowledging a change in the social temperature. Ginter Park wasn’t taking a principled stand on gay rights or marriage equality; the congregation was simply recognizing the gifts of God in a particular believer. The Richmond Association was neither condoning nor condemning the congregation’s action; it merely decided, albeit by a slim margin, to sweep the matter under the ecclesiastical carpet.
Conflict avoidance worked just fine when the church served as a social thermometer, but those days are gone.
And that’s just fine. In fact, it’s great! Only a thermostat God can save us.
When was the last time you heard a Baptist minister, conservative or moderate, talk about God’s love for undocumented immigrants?
I don’t want to hear partisan politics from the pulpit anymore than you do; but the gospel of the kingdom transcends politics because the biblical God transcends borders, skin color, language, gender, nationality or any other arbitrary human distinction.
Our preaching must reckon with a thermostat God who is eternally fiddling with the social temperature. But what can a thermostat God do with a church that, having lost the power to reinforce the moral statues quo, stands on the sidelines mumbling “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.”
Not much of anything, it seems.
The church will leaven the social order when the gospel of the kingdom leavens the church. Light generates heat. A thermostat God can’t thaw a frozen culture without cranking up the temperature in the Body of Christ.
By Alan Bean
The immigration reform debate is dividing politicians and pundits on both sides of the ideological divide.
At the liberal end of the spectrum, activists fear that the “seal the border” rhetoric emerging from the bipartisan “gang of eight” will be a boon for the private prison industry and a disaster for civil rights. Moderate democrats (President Obama among them) respond with the argument that asking for everything could mean getting nothing.
On the right, as Jennifer Rubin’s column in the Washington Post suggests, the fight is between pro-reform Republicans who realize the GOP can’t afford to be labeled anti-Latino, and hard line partisans who have built careers on a foundation of white racial resentment. The extreme ideologues oppose immigration reform for the simple reason that Barack Obama (the arch liberal in their view) is for it. The Democrats can pander to their minority base with give away and amnesty programs if they like, the conservatives say, we’re on the side of hardworking, honest, decent (that is, white) Americans.
The consistently conservative Rubin is particularly alarmed by a recent Heritage Foundation report that laments the prospect of millions of freeloading Mexicans overloading the American welfare system. This approach isn’t just insulting to Latinos, Rubin says, it unwittingly embraces the liberal heresy of a static economic pie. Since there are only so many human and natural resources to go around, liberals say, we’ve got to conserve resources while adopting Small is Beautiful economic policies.
Rubin rends her garments in horror. Because the economy is a dynamic and growing organism, she says, millions of motivated Latino workers taking jobs, paying taxes and building homes is a sure-fire recipe for economic expansion.
Posted by Jennifer Rubin on May 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm
In what was almost certainly an unprecedented press call, top fiscal conservatives from Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute, the Kemp Foundation and the American Action Network took what had once been the premier conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, to the woodshed for its immigration report that sees trillions in cost and no benefits from immigration reform.
With a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, Josh Culling of ATR said that while Heritage was a “treasured ally,” its work was a rehash of a flawed 2007 study that ignored all the benefits of immigration reform. Cato’s Alex Nowrasteh was even more outspoken saying “how disappointed” he was that Heritage abandoned conservative dynamic scoring (i.e. the impact a piece of legislation’s impact on the economy). He accused Heritage of not following years of their own work, which has striven to look at the impact on behavior of changes resulting from reforming the tax code and other innovations. “They ignored GDP, they ignored productivity,” he said in reeling off the list of items in the Gang of 8 legislationleft out of Heritage. Cato’s study, which did use dynamic scoring, found that immigration reform would add $1.5 trillion in growth over ten years while forcing out 11 million immigrants (the Heritage solution) would lower GDP by $2.6 trillion over ten years. (more…)
By Alan Bean
Hope and Nazry Mustakim will be speaking at the kickoff event for our Common Peace Community on Saturday. If you live in the DFW area, we invite you to join us at 12 noon in Room 302 at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Hope didn’t have to worry about the Department of Homeland Security until she married a man from Singapore. That simple decision opened a door to a strange and frightening world.
PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 22, 2012
Armed immigration agents woke Nazry Mustakim and his wife, Hope, as dawn broke on March 30, 2011, banging on the door of their North Waco home. Even as they handcuffed 32-year-old Naz, as friends and family know him, agents promised the arrest was merely administrative. He’d be released within hours, they said. “His case had just been flagged for some reason,” Hope said. “I was told he’d be out in no time.” Naz texted his call-center boss, saying he’d be late for work.
Days later, however, U.S. Immigration and Customs officials told Hope that Naz would be deported to Singapore and he was sent to the ICE detention center in Pearsall, south of San Antonio, to wait. (more…)