Why the Arizona Law Will Not Affect the Drug Wars

I will get back to the fine print of the Arizona law (I know you just can’t wait) but I have been informed by a friend living on the Mexican border that I can’t make any argument at all about illegal immigrants without including the drug cartel wars. I alluded to it in the previous post, but I will be more explicit about it here.

The drug war is one of the reasons the Arizona law is wrong. There I’ve said it. Those of you who don’t want to hear why (and you know who you are) can change the channel now. For those who have asked for an explanation and those who want one, stay tuned because here we go.

There is nothing in SB1070 that will do anything to stop the violence on either side of the border. At best, a drug runner or cartel operative might get pulled over for a broken tail light or coasting through a stop sign and get put through the Arizona system. If he has a gun or drugs with him, ICE might even deport him. For the drug cartels this is merely a cost of doing business and not a very expensive one. SB1070 is not going to build that much dreamed of impenetrable wall along the 1969-mile length of the border. It will not even build one across the 350-mile length between Arizona and Mexico.

In terms of stopping traffic between Arizona and Sonora, SB1070 will do nothing. The border is still the jurisdiction of the federal government. All Arizona is doing is trying to make them not want to come to Arizona. The drug traffickers and people traffickers don’t care whether Arizona allows illegal immigrants to get welfare benefits. The kind of work they are doing is not going to be affected by the new law making it explicitly illegal for an illegal to work in Arizona. SP1070 is not going to increase their visibility to Arizona law enforcement officials, who are supposedly going to be doing what they claim the federal government and federal law enforcement authories won’t do. The people traffickers are not going to lose any business, because the people they are trafficking are not trying to get to Arizona. They are trying to get to the United States.

This now leads to the moral issue. Why are all these people trying to get to the United States? Is it just so they can kill American ranchers? If you honestly believe that, then I have some ranch property on the Moon I’d like to sell to you. If you lived in a place where more than 20,000 murders have taken place since 2006 and both the police and army are incapable of even reducing the rate, not to mention come close to actually stopping it, would you not be trying to get away at all costs? Would you not be seeking refuge in a country where the white people don’t like you, and the authorities might harrass you, but you have a much bigger chance of staying alive?

The drug wars on the border – which are much, much worse  – astronomically worse – on the south side than on the north side – are a reason that we should be letting people into the US.

If I may analogise to all of my friends who have NRA bumper stickers, if immigration is outlawed, only outlaws will immigrate. In other words, just in case I haven’t made it clear enough, people who are coming into the US with criminal intent are not going to be stopped by laws saying they can’t be in the US (or Arizona). Those with crminal intent are not going to stop at border check points and hand over their weapons, drugs or people.

There is a much published and circulated explanation by Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen regarding why she voted for SB1070. She was heavily motivated by all of the violence within 60 to 80 miles of the border, including the rancher who “In the last two years he has found 17 dead bodies and two Koran bibles.” (I have no idea what a Koran bible is, or why one would find it in the Arizona desert – perhaps it is an al-Qaeda conspiracy terrorise the border region.) She is very clear about how the federals cannot/will not control the border, even though she is certain “We have the technology and we have the ability to stop this invasion.” She never explains what this technology is or how SB1070 will now allow Arizona (which she admits is not only out of money but in the red) to use this technology.  If anyone will read Sen. Allen’s open letter carefully, they will see that it is all fluff and no substance. Please, someone actually show me the substance.

Sen. Allen and others bend over backward to assure everyone that SB1070 only allows Arizona law enforcement officers to stop someone due to reasonable suspicion of committing a crime to see if they are an illegal. If they are stopping someone on suspicion of murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking or related crimes, whether or not that person is an illegal is the least of their worries! And whether Arizona officers are investigating these crimes should have nothing to do with whether they were perpetrated by illegals. Violent crime is violent crime – something they are supposed to be addressing anyway. SB1070 does not give them any additional powers in the actual interdiction of crime.

That’s the problem with everything I’ve read by the pro-SB1070 people. It is all sword-rattling rhetoric. When it comes down to it, people like SB1070 because it appears to be doing something. Form over substance. Smoke and mirrors. No one can tell me anything about it other than, “Well, at least they are trying.” So what? What difference does that actually make, beyond creating an ephemeral feel-good factor of camaraderie amongst like-minded individuals? At the same time, it is not conservatively politically correct (yes we have a PC problem as well) to suggest that we address the problems that can be addressed and face up to the real moral questions.

Again, I challenge any reader – and yes, my stats show that there are some of you out there – to show me how SB1070 is actually going to deal with the issues of border violence, drug trafficking, and all of the nerfarious things that are happening.

A Matter of Principles

I haven’t seen the rhetoric flying like this for a long time. The battle lines are drawn. Ideologues on either side will truck no dissent. If there is one thing of which we as conservatives can be sure, liberals are always wrong about everything. If there’s a liberal is favoring a particular policy, we don’t have to know anything about it. That tells us enough to know we’re agin’ it.

I keep writing about the matter of illegal immigrants, even though I get very little blog traffic or Facebook comments about it. My liberal friends have written me off years ago and my conservative friends have by and large shunned me. Sadly, that includes most of my conservative Christian friends. But for Christians is it an area where the ideological rubber meets the theological road.

More than anything, this issue has highlighted that when it comes to politics for a lot of conservative Christians, they are conservatives first. If it is possible to eisegete their square Christianity into the round conservative hole, all the better, but if not, it can be silently left outside.

I consider myself a conservative. I’ve always been on the right wing of the Republican Party. At one time I was very active on the right wing of the Republican Party. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a conservative. You do however, have to be a Christian to be a Christian.

Christians are not called to be politically conservative. Neither are they called to be politically liberal. They are called to be Christians. Where being salt and light, even in political participation, intersects with being politically conservative (in the very limited meaning that term has within the very specifically American context, which most Americans assume is the only context), that’s great.

Time and again I have read and I have been told that we should be compassionate individual Christians, but that when it comes to the State it is a whole different matter.  The State, just like any other God-ordained institution, is nothing more than a collection of individuals. As such, it has – we have – a responsibility to act righteously and compassionately without assuming roles not delegated to the state. Should we not as the Church be compassionate? Should we not as members of families in whatever capacity we find ourselves – father, mother, child, sibling, or collateral – be compassionate? Likewise, we have a responsibility to look to the Scriptures for guidance with regard to how we treat others as a body politic.

A lot of Christians seem to be concerned with the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law to get into the United States. Now most of these people would not have been involved in the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t mean that they were too young to have been involved, but rather as conservatives they would have seen the whole thing as a big liberal conspiracy. I wonder how many of these people were involved in Operation Rescue. After all, I’ve never heard of OR folks being labelled as liberals.  And how many are old enough to have homeschooled in the 1980s when it was illegal in many states? For many Christians, it was imperative – it was a matter of conviction – to educate their children at home. In some states it was illegal to have an unlicensed private Christian school, especially one that did not have state-certified teachers. Nonetheless, otherwise law-abiding citizens opened them. To a person, these folks were committed to the right wing of the Republican Party and self-identified as very conservative.

I have heard complaints that these illegal immigrants are getting welfare benefits. Most of these people complain that anyone is getting welfare benefits – that, in fact, there should be no state-funded welfare benefits. I can’t disagree with the last bit. There is no biblical mandate for the state to be engaged in the financial support of individuals. That’s good conservatism. However, if the state chooses to provide benefits, it cannot biblically discriminate between the citizen and the stranger. To do so is to violate the mandate of Leviticus 19 – a civil mandate to love your neighbor as yourself including the stranger among you.

But let’s look at Leviticus 19 more closely. While there is no provision for the State to collect and distribute welfare, there is a provision requiring individual property/business owners to provide welfare in the form of unharvested produce. In other words – or in modern, non-agrarian application – to provide work and remuneration. And for whom is this provision made?  The poor and the stranger. This idea of providing for the alien among you is so important that it appears three times in the Torah (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:21). Biblically speaking, non-citizens are not only entitled (I know, a liberal word, but hard to get around) to work-based welfare, they are one of the principal intended recipients.

And while we are at it, it is unbiblical to choose your neighbors, stranger or citizen. Neighbors are yours because they see you have a desirable society and settle among you. Once among you, they must follow the rules – not any more strictly or with any greater consequences than citizens – but there’s no biblical provision for discrimination.

And finally for those repulsed by the theonomic tone in setting out what is biblical and what isn’t – those who say forget the Old Testament and ask WWJD – there is no evidence that the conservative views incompatible with the Torah are somehow more compatible with the New Covenant.

Theologically conservative Christians must begin to discerne where poltical conservatism merges and diverges. The current hot button issue of illegal immigration provides such an opportunity. It is then a matter of choosing which principles take priority.

Why Arizona is Wrong

I know that most of my friends, enemies, and passing readers will disagree with me. When the Arizona legislature passed a law allowing the stopping and questioning of anyone suspected of being an illegal alien and made it criminal trespass for an illegal alien to be present on any public or private land in Arizona (thus helping to facilitate their detention and deportation due to the commission of a crime), they did the wrong thing. For once (and probably only once) I agree with President Obama and a lot of Democrats. I don’t necessarily have the same reasons for supporting the same policy, because I think the Arizona law is in violation of Biblical principles and the economic free-market principles that made America great.

The Arizona law does reflect the views of the majority of Americans. Sad, but true. In fact, it reflects the view of the majority of Americans for most of the 20th century as well as this first decade of the 21st. It reflects attitudes of isolationism (not so bad) and protectionism (a bit more bad). This idea of coming to America and shutting the door behind us first reached fever pitch in 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was made to look a bit more like the current Arizona legislation by the Geary Act in 1892. Almost all Asians were barred from entry in the Immigration Act of 1917.

The Emergentcy Quota Act of 1921 limited the number of immigrants to 3% of the number of persons living in the US at the 1910 census who had been born in that country.  The purpose of this was to keep out eastern and southern Europeans and allow in more northern and western Europeans. The Immigration Act of 1924 reduced this to 2%. Interestingly, it did not restrict immigration from Latin America. No one was worried about Mexicans then. Rather it was an effort to keep out all those Italians.

Then along came the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). This allowed for anyone in the country illegally, even with an expired visa, or guilty of the tiniest crminal offense, to be detained for deportation. It was only because the Supreme Court intervened in Zadvydas v. Davis that the detention cannot be indefinite, though the Court held that “Despite the constitutional problem here, if this Court were to find a clear congressional intent to grant the Attorney General the power to indefinitely detain an alien ordered removed, the Court would be required to give it effect.” So Congress can decide that without any criminal proceedings, those with expired visas can be given an effective life sentence. In addition,  IIRIRA imposes draconian sanctions on re-entry to the US after overstaying a visa.

There’s the review of US immigration law. Now how does it hold up to Biblical principles? Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Torah and in the Prophets, it is very clear how the Israelites were to treat strangers and aliens who settled among them. For the sake of space, and because it succinctly summarises the teaching of Holy Scripture, I will just refer to Leviticus 19:34 – The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

The first part is obvious. You should treat aliens (which is what the term stranger means) as someone native to your country. How you treat him is indicative of whether you are following the second great commandment given by Jesus, to love your neighbor as yourself. However, that last bit of the verse is very instructive, especially for Americans. It applies to us because it reveals the reason we should be generous with immigration.

“…because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” is a powerful statement. It is so hypocritical for the children of immigrants to deny immigration to others. Unless you are entirely of Amerindian descent, then at some time since 1607, your  ancestors washed up on these shores, probably without a visa, and made a life for themselves. The law of Moses was not given just to the first generation of settlers in the Promised Land. In fact almost all of those to whom it was originally given died before getting there. It wasn’t the readers and hearers of Leviticus personally who had been strangers in the land of Egypt, but rather their ancestors. Because their ancestors had been immigrants in Egypt, they were to treat their own immigrant peoples as they would want to be treated. They were to love their immigrant neighbors as themselves. Now you can argue against the applicability of the Law of Moses to civil law, but in this case you argue against the teaching of Jesus, Who said this same thing.

IIRIRA and the INA, just like the Immigration Act of 1917, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and the Immigration Act of 1924, fly in the face not just of the Mosaic Law, but of the teaching of Jesus.

But let’s de-spiritualise it for a moment and just look at our nation’s history. Hardly was the bronze plaque fixed to the Statue of Liberty before the words of Emma Lazarus’ sonnet were eroded – worn down now to the point of of being meaningless. We all know them:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Just like in 1917 and 1924, the US employs quotas. We still only want people from certain countries (if you are from the UK, for example, you can’t even enter the green card lottery). Most of the quota allotments are reserved for PhDs, professional athletes, researchers who are recognized internationally, business executives, and investors. We also let in a few Filipino nurses. The others don’t fit our protectionist, anti-capitalist, anti-free market model.

But for me the standard by which immigration policy and law must be judged: you shall love him as yourself. Does the new Arizona law meet that standard? I don’t think so.

Why I am a Reactionary

It is a term that is generally meant as a perjorative.  Reactionaries rebel against all the wonderful progressive ideas that all right-thinking people know make the world a better place. In a word, liberalism. Well, I am a reactionary. I react against all of the ideas that see separation from God as progress. That it because these ideas are not progress at all. Progress is to move toward God’s desire that creation be reconciled to Him.

In being a reactionary, I follow in some pretty big footsteps. When someone called me a reactionary recently, I began to think of other reactionaries among whom I am not worthy to be counted.

I think of that young Jewish boy 3000 years ago, not old enough to be drafted into the army, reacting against the challenge of a giant man who had defied the armies of the living God. He reacted with a stone in a sling.

I think of Elijah in the midst of a government that had rejected the historic worship of God for worship of Baal. He reacted by calling down fire from heaven.

Elijah was but one of the prophets who reacted against the apostasy, injustice, and bad governments of the day. The people still chose captivity, but it was reactionaries who warned them and showed them another option. Being a reactionary has long been a thankless task.

Then I think of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – usually known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  The government said bow to the statue. It’s not a big deal and you won’t notice any real difference to your everyday life. Just bow and everyone will be happy. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were reactionaries. They just weren’t willing to buy into the spirit of the age.

They had a friend called Daniel. When the government said all petitions must be made to the state and not to any god, Daniel reacted by opening his window the exact same way he always had (conservative that he was) and knelt down and prayed the same way he always had. It cost him a trip to the lions den, because the state doesn’t like to be defied when it has set itself up as the font of all blessing and the focus of worship.

And there was that carpenter from Nazareth. He reacted against “you have heard it said” with “but I say to you”. But wasn’t this progressive? No, quite the opposite. He peeled back all the Talmudic layers of Pharisaism and brought it back to the revealed truth. And when it came to moneychangers in the temple, He was very reactionary. You might even say He was reactionary after they killed Him. He reacted by rising from the dead, trampling down death by death. That was the ultimate reaction.

So while I will never be as significant or successful a reactionary as David, Elijah, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, Daniel, or Jesus, I will be a reactionary nonetheless.

Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.
Also, I set watchmen over you, saying,

‘ Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, you nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.
Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
The fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words
Nor My law, but rejected it.

Ontology and Sacraments

I’ve been continuing to ponder things sacramental, which is always likely to get me into trouble.  I realised recently that I have been teaching the Orthodox view of ordination all wrong, mixing it in with the Catholic view. In this discovery, I realised that opposition to the ordination of women has a different basis on either side of the Great Schism. From this I realised that there are significantly differing views on the ontology of (at least some of) the sacraments.

No doubt there will be theologians, professional and amateur, most of who would never bother to visit this blog, who would say (if they were to visit it), “Well, duh.” Those would of course be Valley Girl theologians, but there would be other theologians who would have a similar, if less blonde, response, incredulous that I have not already explored this in some depth and embarrassed for me that I even feel the need to write about it and demonstrate my ignorance.

I already knew that Orthodoxy did not subscribe to the Catholic idea of the indelible priestly character. However, I hadn’t thought about the implication of this being that in Orthodoxy a woman may not be a priest, whereas in Catholicism a woman cannot be a priest.

I suppose this is why the idea of deaconesses is considered seriously in some Orthodox circles. If it were demonstated (as some attempt to do) that deaconesses were the female equivalent of deacons at some time in the ancient past, then the precedent has been established in Holy Tradition that could eventually lead to such an equivalency being re-introduced. It seems to follow from this that the only thing preventing women priests in Orthodoxy is that it has never been done that way. Admittedly, this is a pretty high wall when it comes to Orthodoxy.  It does however, remove the ontological impossiblity. (While I have been writing and editing this, there has been a related discussion on Deacon Steve Hayes’ Khanya blog.)

One thing I don’t get is how the Catholic Church only sees three of the sacraments as unrepeatable, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. I seems to me that Marriage should fit in this category as well. After all, Catholic theology does not recognise remarriage after divorce. Does this not make the sacrament of marriage unrepeatable? It also seems like there should be an indelible married character, that there is an ontological (as opposed to a merely economic) aspect to becoming one flesh.

I don’t know if Orthodoxy considered ordination, not being indelible, to be unrepeatable. Can a laicised Orthodox cleric be re-clericised? I’m sure there is a textbook answer to such a question.

When is a Sacrament a Sacrament?

I was listening in on the conversation of a couple of Charismatic preachers a few weeks ago. There was some discussion about how certain ministers seem to be conduits of the power of God (they have “the anointing”, to use the common parlance) despite a significant lack of personal character.

Those with a sacramental theology will recognise this as similar to the view that the validity of the sacrament is not afffected by the holiness of the person administering it. The difference is that “the anointing” is a personal thing, bestowed upon an individual, whereas the sacraments are entrusted to the Church.

However, this did bring my thoughts to something that is no doubt considered a long-settled matter regarding the sacraments. What makes a valid or real sacrament? Or more particularly, what are the implications of partaking in sacraments that aren’t valid.

The Roman Church generally recognises the sacraments of the Orthodox Church as valid and grace-filled. Opinion in the Orthodox Church ranges from a similar view about Roman sacraments (as ennunciated by Archbishop Hilarion [Alfeev]) to a not surprisingly very uncharitable view.

For those who deny the grace of Roman mysteries, when did they lose their efficacy? Though 1054 is a symbolic date, as a practical matter there was a lot of concelebration and cross-pollination for centuries after, even as there was open rivalry before. It is easy to look with the eyes of the present, see a clear divide with battle lines drawn and trenches dug, and declare that we are the Orthodox Church and you’re not. We know where the grace is. It seems to me, if we start parsing out the history very carefully, it becomes very difficult to declare when the other side became the other side and lost their grace.

I also find it interesting that for both sides, all that matters is what is decided at the highest hierarchical level. The epiclesis of a pederastic priest is unconditionally granted because his hierarch is on the right side of the Great Schism. On the other hand, God ignores the holy priest (ordained with the same intent and using an equally valid rite) who may be rather oblivious to the decision of medieval synods and not realise that his fate was decided somewhere between 500 and 1000 year ago (given the murkiness of the historical situation), thus leaving him to spend a lifetime in fruitless faux-sacerdotal prayer.

But setting aside the debate regarding Roman sacraments, I have been mulling over the matter of Protestant sacraments as they relate to Orthodox theology. After all, neither Rome nor Orthodoxy recognise the validity of Protestant sacraments. And futhermore, many Protestants don’t even recognise the validity of any sacraments.

So the first question is: if Protestants do not have real sacraments, can they participate in their act of Communion without fear of bringing judgement upon themselves for partaking unworthily? Or rather, are their fears unfounded even though they take it in faith? In other words, do the warnings of St Paul in I Corinthians not apply, even if the person receiving thinks they do? Is it all much ado about nothing?

Following on from this, if someone in Communion within the Orthodox Church receives an invalid communion, have they received communion outside the Church at all? It would seem that the Orthodox would have to recognise Roman sacraments as sacraments at least to the point of saying that someone is no longer in communion with the Orthodox Church because they have communed with Rome. However, if it be no sacrament whatsoever, not even putatively in the case of some Protestants, how is it possible to consider it communion for the purpose of excommunication from the real sacrament?

Anyhow, these are just a few thoughts I’ve been mulling around in my head.

Pat Robertson, Haiti, and Urban Legends

It is another natural disaster, so clearly it is time for Pat Robertson to explain the Divine cause and effect. As if on cue, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake the next edition of The 700 Club featured Pat’s prophetic view. And just as predictably, there was the mostly liberal Christian and secularist backlash as soon as Pat expounded how God’s wrath was triggered this time. This, then, entrenches Pat’s supporters and probably a few other conservative Christians (who hate secularists and liberals more than they worry about Pat being increasingly bonkers)  into the battle against the forces of evil.

I have no problem with the idea that God can and/or does mete out judgement on individuals and nations. This does not mean, however, that every natural disaster is an act of God’s judgement and wrath upon a particular group of people. It doesn’t even mean that any natural disaster has to be an act of God’s judgement. Rather it is presumptive to assume that it is.

Certainly there are some Christians who are emboldened by their faith in their own gift of prophecy – or their faith in someone else’s. However, most of the time I’ve found that prophecies about the cosmic significance of newsmaking events fit neatly in the theological presuppositions of the prophets and their hearers. For those expecting everything to point to the “end times”, amazingly everything does. For those expecting to see God’s justice done for this or that evil, sure enough God comes through. It may not directly effect the evil doers, but it shows that God is angry nonetheless.  The propensity of some to live from one “prophetic word” to the next only enhances this perception.

We know from Pat that Hurricane Katrina was a result of legalised abortion in the US. Katrina resulted in 2,500 deaths, though not especially those of abortionists or even people who support abortion. I would suggest that in fact, southern Lousiana, Mississippi, and Alabama would be areas of the US with a particularly low rate of abortion and with elected officials that are opposed to it.

Likewise, I wonder what caused the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 with over 6,000 deaths. Must have been something worse than abortion. It would seem that the pact made with the devil by the Haitian leaders who were trying to get out from “under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon III, or whatever” was even worse that abortion in America, because it has and will result in somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. After all, God’s judgement must be just.

Some people have pointed out a key flaw in Robertson’s view is that Napoleon III came to power in France in 1852 and the Haitians revolted against the French in 1791. Napoleon III’s uncle Napoleon I didn’t even take control of France until 1799.

We will set aside for the moment whether it could have been verified that the devil said “Yes” as affirmed by Robertson. Pat presumes that if anyone or any group of people offer to enter into a pact with the devil, the devil necessarily agrees to it. We’ll also set aside the issue of whether or not some 18th century revolutionaries could bind the whole of the country into a league with the devil. Further, we’ll have to set aside whether the actions of these handful of revolutionaries has caused God’s wrath to be extended to tens of thousands of people 219 years later.

We have to set all of this aside because the biggest problem is that there is no historical evidence that any such agreement was attempted. It’s an urban legend. That right, forget all the dodgy theology, even if you wanted to get wrapped up in it. There was no pact, no agreement, no curse, no whatever.

Nonetheless, I wonder if Pat Robertson is familiar with the words of St Issac the Syrian, “As the grain of sand cannot be compared with a great amount of gold – the same way God’s need for justice cannot be compared with his mercy. Because man’s sin, in comparison to the providence and the mercy of God, are like a handful of sand that falls in the sea and the Creator’s mercy cannot be defeated by the wickedness of the creatures.”