I’m currently working on a project which includes a chapter on the prolife movement. As a committed prolifer myself, I liken the maturity and success of the defense of the unborn to William Wilberforce’s successful crusade against the slave trade in 19th Century Great Britain. Polls are consistently showing that a majority of Americans, even women, are against the practice of abortion. And younger generations are even more prolife than their parents.
But I wonder if the immigration issue will become part of what is an expanding prolife portfolio for younger evangelicals. Today’s young evangelical activists are not only passionate about defense of the unborn, but they are equally as passionate about the scourge of human trafficking, the problem of child nutrition in developing countries, the problem of child poverty at home, and the need to care for AIDS victims around the world. Here’s hope that support for the undocumented worker in the United States follows.
Now, before you deluge me with a bunch of anti-immigration rhetoric, know that most evangelicals, myself included, support stepped up border enforcement. Which is why we’re happy with the Obama administration’s unprecedented commitment.
But where we split from the rank-and-file conservative movement is that we don’t view the undocumented immigrant as the enemy. We don’t view them as a threat. Yes, they did break the law and we believe there should be penalties for that. But our faith demands that we find a humane way to treat with dignity and respect the millions who are already here in our border.
Many of them live in the shadows, in poverty and in fear that their families might be broken up and that their children, Americans by birth, born and raised here, might not get the opportunities to succeed that other immigrants receive. Their worst fear is that they might be sent back to a violent situation (such as is now too often the case in Mexico) where their lives would be threatened.
I find it personally interesting that we have had such compassion for adopting or sponsoring children from around the world through organizations like Compassion International and others, but some quarters of the conservative movement want to strip the rights away from immigrant children in our midst, children who are here because of the sins of their parents. There is a growing concern in the evangelical movement to move away from the standard, boiler-plate talking points of the conservative fight and stand up for the refugees within our borders.
Furthermore, Christians who take seriously the Great Commission must view the increasing immigrant population in our communities not as a threat, but as a great opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission. God is literally bringing the nations to us. Studies show that they are highly likely to be open to an evangelical gospel presentation.
So our generation’s question must be, Will we extend our hands or will we show them a clenched fist? Will we side with the inflammatory anti-immigration rhetoric or will we follow the Scriptures and affirm the dignity and worth even of the “illegal” that might live next door?
I’m hopeful that as Americans continue their steadfast support of the unborn, they will demonstrate that their hearts are big enough to hold another type of refugee, the undocumented immigrant.
Daniel Darling is the Senior Pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. His writing has been featured by Christianity Today, Focus on the Family, and On Faith (Washington Post/Newsweek). He is a regular columnist for Crosswalk.com, Enrichment Journal, and Lake County Journals and is a blogger with patheos.com. He is also the author of several books, including, most recently, iFaith: Connecting with God in the 21st Century (New Hope Publishers, 2011).
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