Thoughts on immigration

“Mr. Obama, tear down this wall.” Can you imagine Enrique Peña Nieto, the 57th President of Mexico, giving this speech?  How would Americans react?  Don’t we have the right and responsibility to protect our land?  To keep our people safe from invaders who would take our jobs and abuse our social systems?

I am old enough to remember when in 1987 then President Regan issued a similar challenge to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall.  Interestingly not many folks took notice when the speech was first delivered; in time this became the prophetic moment of the Regan Presidency.  Within a few years the wall came down and western style freedom spread like wildfire through much of Eastern Europe.

Last week Mennonites from all over the USA gathered in Phoenix, AZ to discuss where they are as a denomination and where they are headed.  The theme was “Citizens of God’s Kingdom.”  I believe that this theme also has the possibility of being a prophetic moment, not only in the life of the Mennonite Church but also in the life of the American Church.  It was a theme which affirmed citizenship in the kingdom of God and the notion that Christianity and the Christian community crosses all borders.

Without a doubt immigration is a controversial political issue.  I sort-of get why, but as a Christian matter I am not sure that there is much controversy.  After all, Jesus calls us to a new understanding of family.  Blood lines no longer define relations.  It possible to say, “Our unity in Jesus trumps blood, borders and anything that would separate us from one another.”  As we all know families need to connect, get together, and fellowship over meals.  Anything, including politics, which prevents this from happening, needs to be called out.

So maybe it is time for a new speech, this time from people of faith – “Mr. Obama tear down that wall.”

It’s time to declare a “War on Broken Bones”

It was on October 14, 1982 President Ronald Regan declared a “War on Drugs.”  It was a time in our country’s history when less than 2% of Americans viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the country.  By the 1980’s the number of arrests for all crime rose 28% while the number of arrests for drug related offenses rose 128%.  In 1999, crime statistics show that blacks were the most likely group to be arrested for drug crimes.  In some states in the mid 90’s 90% of those admitted to prison for drug offenses were either black or brown. Let’s reimagine this for a moment.  Let’s suppose the in 1982 “broken bones due to sports” was declared the new war.  In order to get this epidemic under control the government declares all broken bones due to sports activities a felony with a new mandatory minimum sentences and an additional “3 strikes and you’re out” law.

Seems silly doesn’t it?  You don’t fix a broken bone issue by sending the person to jail.  You get them medical attention and then develop more effective pads and game rules.

Why then do we think that the drug problem can be solved by stiffer mandatory jail sentences?  Drug addiction is a problem, but putting people in jail for addiction is silly at best and morally wrong at worst.  Drugs like broken bones are best dealt with by medical professionals.  One of the more embarrassing realities of this War on Drugs is that Christians have more often than not allowed politicians to define who is criminal and what activities constitute criminal behavior.

Maybe it is time to call the War on Drugs what it really was – a political ploy designed to motivate people to vote for and support a particular President.  It is important to note that every presidential candidate since has used some form of “get tough on crime (read drugs)” rhetoric.

According to Matthews’s gospel one characteristics of Christians is how we treat the prisoner.  I can’t help but wonder if he included this in his gospel because deciding who is bad and who is good is something we will get wrong more often than right.