Guest Blog by Daniel Darling
Last week over dinner, I had a robust discussion on the subject of immigration with a group of fellow Christians. I was recording a TV interview in promotion of my latest book, iFaith.
I’m not sure exactly how the topic came up—I rather winced as we continued on in our discussion, knowing how deeply personal and emotional the topic can become. It was quickly obvious that we were on opposite sides of the issue. And we both had good reasons for it.
But as I left the restaurant and drove home, I began to think on something that is missing in the debate over immigration. In talking with people on both sides of the issue, from those who advocate comprehensive reform to those who are passionate about border control, I wonder if we have more in common than we think.
For those like me who are in favor of a comprehensive reform, including a just path to legalization for those already here, we are often branded as in favor of “open borders.” But in countless conversations and if you look at the public rhetoric of folks like World Relief and Richard Land, and others, you will find that everyone agrees we need a secure border. Nobody is advocating just rampant illegal traffic.
On the flip side, I have often had a stereotype of those whose priority is border enforcement. But in conversations and doing some research on the issue, I have found few of the strict border types actually want to bus up the millions of undocumented immigrants and send them home. What’s interesting, in this recent dinner conversation and many other like it, I presented the idea of a fair and just way to treat folks already here and the strict border types all seemed to think it was the best solution. Most are against “amnesty” but when I explained what comprehensive reform really was and that it wasn’t amnesty, they seemed in favor.
So what’s the problem and what keeps us from finding a solution? It seems we’ve allowed this issue, like others, to be so highly politicized and polarized, we’ve stopped talking to each other. It’s like folks on both sides are shouting talking points past each other. While the vast majority of folks on both “sides” of the issue might actually agree more than they disagree.
So what can Christians do? I’ve been deeply convicted that perhaps it is Christians who must be a part of the solution in changing the dialogue. That begins by not shouting past those who are concerned about border safety, to take their concerns seriously, and not automatically assume they are in opposition. And perhaps that will foster the other side to do the same. The truth is that with the exception of a few loud extremists on both sides (something that will always be present with every hot-button issue), you have common sense, concerned American citizens.
In other words, border hawks are not racist, don’t want to kick out people already here, and are reasonable in their approaches. And reform proponents are not irresponsible folks who like leaving the back door open.
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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