Guest Blog by Josh Hanson
Under what circumstances is it acceptable for Christians to use violence? For most of us, this question barely requires any thought at all. We are all familiar with the exhortations to “love your enemies,” to “put away violence and oppression,” and to “turn the other cheek.” Of course, there are many Christians who accept the use of violence in self-defense, but surely this is as far as most of us would take it. As a Christian, as a libertarian—libertarianism being the political theory concerned with the proper use of violence in society—and as someone who left the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector, this is a question that I have always taken very seriously. It is for this reason that I find it very troubling that so many Christians so casually excuse and advocate the use of violence in their attempts to deal with the issue of immigration.
Perhaps the root of the problem lies in the fact that very few of us have a clear understanding of what violence really is. We can all certainly recognize it in its common forms of murder, burglary, vandalism, etc. Where we often lose sight of the issue, however, is in the appointing of a third party to engage in violence on our behalf.
To illustrate this, imagine that an individual resident of Chicago decides that he doesn’t like people from New York. One day, a visitor from New York comes to Chicago to see his family, and the Chicagoan encounters the visitor on the street, confronts him, and tells him to go home. When the visitor explains that he is merely in town to see family and has not trespassed on the property of the Chicagoan, the Chicagoan assaults the visitor, restrains him, dumps him outside of the city limits, and tells him not to come back. It does not take any rigorous thought to recognize that the individual Chicagoan’s response is unacceptable. No matter how much that Chicagoan may dislike people from New York, no matter how many other New Yorkers he knows who have committed crimes, and no matter how successfully other New Yorkers have been in competing against him for jobs, the Chicagoan has no legitimate authority to respond in such a manner. But how is this any different from a nation’s decision to act in exactly the same manner when it comes to a national immigration policy? At what point does what is wrong for an individual become right for a group? What magical transformation occurs when one man becomes 49% becomes 51%, or when the visitor comes from Mexico rather than New York.
When the majority of Congress decides to restrict the free immigration of individuals from another country, they are acting just as the fictional Chicagoan did in attempting to stop the free visitation of an individual from another state. The act of violence does not disappear merely because the task was handed over to a government or because the aggressor managed to get enough people to back him up. Surely most Christians would reject the idea that might makes right. Just as the Chicagoan does not own the property of the visitor’s family, the agreement of 51% of Americans does not give them ownership rights over the property of the other 49%.
As a Christian, I see the residents of all nations as my brothers and sisters, and would gladly welcome them to “come over for a visit.” While Christians are certainly called to submit to the ruling authorities, there is a deep gulf between peaceful submission and the participation in and advocacy of the violent actions of whichever mob has managed to gain power. National immigration restrictions are little more than the organization of violence against the peaceful activities of others, and Christians should begin to recognize them as such.
Josh Hanson is the Secretary of the DuPage Libertarians in the western suburbs of Chicago and was the Libertarian Party candidate for Illinois’ Secretary of State in 2010. He is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.
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