Tea Party activists and other conservatives are planning rallies next month in support of Arizona's tough new immigration law, which has come under attack from Democrats, Latino groups and some maverick Republicans.
But a growing chorus of conservative evangelical leaders has broken with their traditional political allies on the right. They're calling the Arizona law misguided and are attempting to use its passage to push for federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The group, which includes influential political activists such as Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy wing, and Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law, will soon begin lobbying Republican leaders in Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform under President Obama.
It does my heart good, as a liberal Christian of long standing, to see some of Jesus' teachings finally make it into a large segment of Christianity. It does beg the question, "what took you so long?" because frankly, any progress from marching lock-step with the elements of hatred in this nation is a good thing.
But the question will have to be asked at some point.
The question that cannot be begged at this point is why? What is it about this issue that finally got someone wearing a backwards collar, or at least pretending to, to sit up and take notice that Jesus would likely demand better treatment for these people.
This nation, this great and bountiful nation, not even half full, has plenty: plenty of room, plenty of resources, plenty of energy, plenty of moxie. We can afford to take more people in.
Hell, given immigration's role in the bounty that is America, right now we NEED immigrants. Immigration, first generation Americans who brought families and friends over to America, are the single biggest economic engine in American history. No other factor, anywhere or anyone, can be shown to have created as much wealth as our simple act of stamping a passport and letting someone work.
So we need people who aren't afraid to walk down a street to earn a paycheck, to pay their fair share of taxes, and to enjoy the rights and privileges of an American in full.
You'll notice nothing in that paragraph talks about illegal immigration. That's because if I had my way, there wouldn't be any. If you wanted in, and were willing to work towards your citizenship, you're legal. Period. And if you're here to commit crimes, you're out. Period. It's just that simple. Any other standard is a standard of fear.
And I don't engage in fear.
And you'll notice that the only moral component of that argument is the motivation to crime of the person in question. None of this speaks to the objections of anti-immigrant forces in the land, about fairness or legalities or discrimination. To me, these arguments are precisely why religious leaders of all stripes need to pick up the banner. World history tells us that most immigrants have been persecuted in other nations and that most persecutions have occured either as racial or religious discrimination, sometimes both.
If they can be tarred with hate, the thinking should go, then I'm next. Again, we look to history and the French Revolution to understand the zealotry fomenting in the far right Teabaggers. It can, and will, go to extremes if it is not combatted and halted at every turn.
If we can tear the evangelicals away, even a little, we can do a world of good for our nation. It starts here.