I’m a patriotic guy and I can prove it!
My evidence goes beyond that of voting faithfully, displaying the flag on appropriate dates at my California home or even getting a bit weepy-eyed (yes I’m man enough to admit it) on the 4th of July as fireworks explode against the soundtrack of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” or Ray Charles’ rendition of “America, the Beautiful”. At the risk of being self-aggrandizing, a little less than 1 in ten Americans can say that they have joined me in this expression of national fervor. And if you add another criteria, that drops to 1 in 100!
You see, I’m a veteran of the Armed Services (Army) and a combat veteran of the war in Iraq (tour of duty in 2003). Most of us feel honored and even a bit proud (in a healthy way I think) to have served our country in this way. My dad and I share a unique bond as veterans (Army – 1964-68) and many other relatives of mine have served over the past century to include combat in most major conflicts.
Specifically, I was one of many who were inspired to serve in the aftermath of 9/11. On that day, now ten plus years ago, in which nineteen invaders caused such a horrific loss of life and damage, a love of country was stirred to an extent probably not seen since my grandparents experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years earlier. It moved me enough to set aside my young career as a pastor and to risk my very life along with many others to protect the country we love. Eventually my service would include a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. Upon my return, I personally carried the caskets of two fallen soldiers (I’m the last soldier on the top right side) and served on the rifle squad to honor a third.
So, let there be no doubt that I love my country, cherish its freedom and way of life and understand the cost of keeping it. And anyone who seeks to destroy it is going to get on “my bad side” along with many other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
Which leads me to a concern.
The Rhetoric of Controversial Issues
In the faith tradition I have come from and still modestly cling to— the conservative evangelical tradition—I am concerned with the political position and language associated with most evangelicals when it comes to the issue of immigration. Specifically, most communication stirs up resentment (and at worst anger) towards a people who are largely here in the US on peaceful terms. We label them “illegal aliens”. The term “alien” in our popular culture conjures up images and emotions associated more with alien invaders who have come to destroy or enslave humanity than it describes a people who simply now live in a place where they were not born.
Sometimes this community is simply referred to as “illegals” leaving behind an impression that “those people” have no respect for law and order. In the end, we are left with a depiction of a faceless army of lawless invaders who seek to undermine “The American Dream” for our children and grandchildren.
Let me be abundantly clear. We should not dismiss legitimate concerns about issues of national security (terrorism), public safety (e.g. border violence) or upholding the essential principle of the rule of law or our economic quality of life that can be adversely effected by an increasing number of people living in the shadow of unlawful residency. But, I and other veterans have met the enemy and, by and large, those in the country illegally (I’m not overlooking that) are NOT the enemy.
A Challenge to Evangelical Leaders
Whatever policy solutions we discuss, debate and promote as American citizens, let those of us in the Evangelical Christian community (and especially its denominational leaders and local pastors) at least be known for painting an accurate picture of undocumented (illegal) immigrants. Let us demand from the political leaders who seek to woo our votes that they do the same. Then, perhaps, we will be known not only by our patriotism but our compassion and integrity of speech as well.
Kirt Lewis serves as Church Mobilizer with World Relief Sacramento and Lead Pastor of Life Station of Antelope in Antelope, CA. You can “friend” Kirt on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/kirt.lewis or read some other writings on the church’s blog at www.lifestationantelope.wordpress.com.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, contact [email protected].