Guest Blog by: Kirt Lewis

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].



3 Responses to Patriotic Evangelicals and the Rhetoric of the Immigration Debate

  1. Rod Johnson says:

    I agree with Kirt about the need to look at the immigration issue with facts, and make a judgement based on facts. I also am an Evangelical, and I also am a proud American, and a veteran.

    I am against comprehensive immigration reform because it will do little more than legitimize the residency of those who are already here without taking care of the issue of border security and issue of people who overstay their visas. If we create a path to citizenship without proving that we have the political will to close off the “leaks” in our immigration system, in 20 years we will again have to figure out what to do with 5 million or 20 million more illegal immigrants.

    If past performance is an indicator of future action (and I believe it is), once the path to citizenship is created, there will be no political will to follow through with the border security issues. Secure the borders first, then lets talk about paths to citizenship.

  2. I’m curious, Rod, how you would define securing the border? We’ve increased border security spending dramatically in the past few years, to the point that we’re now spending $7,500 per person that we apprehend, and unlawful entries are at a forty-year low. How much should we spend per apprehension before the border is secure? Because the economy is so bad right now, very few people are trying to enter illegally, and those who are often people who have already been deported, trying to get back to their families. In my mind, that’s the opportunity to fix the entire system–creating an enforceable workplace authorization system, establishing a flexible, market-based visa system (so that when the economy picks up again, there are legal visas available for the workers we need), and requiring those here now to pay a fine and, if they can satisfy certain requirements, be in probationary legal status to earn permanent legal ststus.

  3. Kirt Lewis says:

    I appreciate your thoughts Rod and understand your concern for policies that might encourage future violations of the law. The argument goes that in general if people feel they can “get away” with something now they will be more apt to act the same way in the future (and encourage others to do the same). The problem I have with this is in the characterization of the language itself. (I know you didn’t use this wording so hopefully you don’t feel like I am putting words in your mouth, but I think that’s basically what people who are thinking who support the position you stated above). I don’t think that most people in the country illegally are that delinquent. Most simply want to provide a living and future for their children, NOT to mock the concept of the rule of law. That’s the same motivation that led many to come to the “new world” and America in particular over its history. I think the point Matt is trying to make is that no amount of border security will ever fully stop those who are convinced that a better life for them and their children can be found on the other side of the fence. They WILL find a way. He and I would argue that comprehensive immigration reform would address the root cause.

    Matt how would you respond to that concern? How will the reform you outlined above not lead to us experience the same problem we are experiencing now in the future?

    To Rod: Border security aside, how do you feel you, as an EVANGELICAL, should respond to those who are ALREADY in the country illegally? Even if your position stays the same, what language would you use in discussing the issue that would reflect a biblical perspective on undocumented residents (particularly believers)?

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