Sunday, January 31, 2010

By Invitation Only

This morning after church I was handed a copy of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin of January 1, 2010, which purports to analyze "What the Bible Really Says about Immigration Policy…(" by Bruce and Judy Hake, who associate themselves with the advocacy of “merciful” immigration laws—and asked to comment on what they have to say.

The Hake's are contrasting the pro-open immigration policy supported in a book by Donald Kerwin and Jill Marie Gerschutz (You Welcomed Me: Immigration and Catholic Social Teaching) and an article for the Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder: A Biblical Perspective on Immigration Policy by James R. Edwards Jr., Ph.D., that is opposed. The Hake's also refer to an article they wrote in 1998 that supports open immigration.

Obviously, I haven't read the Kerwin book, which is available on Amazon. com and has a single five star review (and no others). I wouldn't recommend it on the strength of the Hake's discussion. 

Both the Hake's and Dr. Edwards look to the Bible for guidance on the issue of illegal immigration into the United States (I know I will be chastised by open immigration advocates for using the term "illegal," but it seems straight forward and factual to me).  Edwards' discussion allows some hedging: "On some matters of public policy, the Bible speaks clearly," he points out, "On other issues, there is less clarity and more room for prudential judgment. The rub comes where there is a lack of scriptural clarity on a particular issue."

Lack of clarity may very well be the case here, although the Hake's appear not to believe so. The strength of their argument is "many passages from the Old and New Testaments regarding the imperative of generosity to foreigners." They also speak of "a mainstream Catholic social justice view" and cite catechism. The extent of their conviction (or might I say prejudice) is the statement that "[o]ur own instinct is to regard the CIS article as discredited before even reading it."

Their argument is further spoiled on a number of occasions by attempts to slur Edwards and those who disagree with themselves as "nativists," perhaps even "racists" (note the quote from the Southern Poverty Law Center  on the third page). The Center for Immigration Studies is an "anti-foreigner propaganda outlet," while, oddly, a site associated with the American Immigration Lawyers Association is recommended as "genuinely neutral." In fairness to the Hake's they do footnote Mark Krikorian, executive director of the CIS, writing that "Free Speech is Great, But...The open-borders lobby's attempt to silence its critics."

But what about the arguments? To be generous to strangers or foreigners? Clearly this admonition appears throughout the Bible, beginning, the Hakes suggest, in Genesis when God says to Abraham: "And to you and to your descendants after you, I shall give the country where you are now immigrants, the entire land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity." But I wonder, "to own"? Does not ownership imply control over?

The Hake's also cite Matthew 25: 

"The the King will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. /For I was hungry and you gave me food,  I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me."

But skeptic that I am, I think that the kingdom prepared for believers is in Heaven, not on Earth. And food, drink, clothing, care...compassion? Yes, I'd say--but residency, citizenship??  This is not at all clear, the Hake's further recitation of the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Golden rule notwithstanding. 

Edwards provides, to my mind, a useful distinction: government is required to exercise justice, and occasionally to act with mercy. The two are "complementary," but not synonymous. 

Writes Edwards: "Government's exercise of mercy is more challenging that its role in ensuring justice. Examples of mercy in public policy exist; for instance, granting a criminal a pardon or parole before he serves out his prison sentence, having proportionality for punishment of a crime (e.g., an eye for an eye, rather than a life for an eye). But most such policies aim in a rifle-shot fashion at individual cases, and often they involve some level of merit."

He adds: "When considering mercy as public policy, however, an important distinction must be drawn. Nor every moral or ethical teaching in the Bible fits cleanly or applies equally to both individuals and societies...Legislating mercy requires prudence, restraint, and good judgment...[because] the practical consequences of civil government's 'mercy' are actually borne by the citizenry." 

The consequences here could and honestly have included lawlessness (gangs, drugs), a drain on the public treasury (education, medical care), and the taking of jobs from citizens (especially the least educated). There has also been the tendency (in opposition to Biblical passages Edwards' cites on immigration into the Biblical Jewish state) of recent illegal immigrants to resist assimilation into the host culture. Of course there is also the history of immigration enriching our nation over the course of centuries, but there remains the difference, the need for assimilation that is lost in the chorus for multi-culturalism today. The Hake's assert in their own article that "there is no evidence that the American melting pot has stopped working." It's an assertion that is coming under increasing negative scrutiny in this country today.

Personally, like most Americans, I am conflicted on the immigration issue. I recognize that I am the granddaughter and great-grandaughter of immigrants (albeit legal entrants). As a Christian I do want to alleviate suffering in the world, but as a practical (former) New Englander, I don't believe open immigration does much of anything permanent for the rest of the world (for example, Mexico) as the U.S. tries to absorb its brightest or its most discontent. Better (more practical), I think, is putting pressure on the Mexican government to improve; better is pushing for a decent government in Haiti or ending the genocide in Sudan than attempting to receive all the world's hurting. 

The Hake's do admit in their own position paper from 1998 that "The United States has been far and away the most generous nation in world history in its treatment of foreigners"and "Compared to other countries, current U.S. policy is angelic." At the same time, it's true, I think, that current U.S. policy is ineffective: protecting neither American citizens from potential security breaches nor improving the lot of foreign populations. We should do better.

Last night Dale and I watched a National Geographic documentary (God Grew Tired of Us) that tells the story of three "lost boys" of Sudan, raised in a refugee camp in Kenya, who are brought to the U.S. to begin new lives. Of these three, one receives his bachelor degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh, marries a childhood sweetheart, finds his brother, and plans to return to Africa to start a school. A second, brings his mother and sister to this country and supports them, sends money to other family members in Africa and to the refugee camp of lost boys, forms an NGO to build a medical clinic in Africa and along with holding three jobs, goes to the University of Syracuse to earn a bachelor's degree. The third is unable to locate family members and remains working gainfully in this country.

This is the kind of seed immigration we need to support. This is the kind of immigration that spreads benefits here and abroad. The Hake's cite "the enlightened perspective" of The Wall Street Journal in favor of an open immigration policy because the modern, globally interconnected world requires free movement of goods, capital, information...and thus labor. But this perfect balance has certainly not arrived, and some of the policies (free movement of goods, for one) are stridently opposed by the same people who are pushing an open immigration policy. Rather than an open policy, we need a common sense policy that promotes continued U.S. strength: economic, cultural, constitutional. And, believe it or not, that's best for the poor nations of the world as well: that we should be strong enough to offer effective aid to their peoples.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Teaparty Opportunity Missed?

Life certainly interrupts good intentions. I intended to blog on Sunday and decided to put it off until Monday, but then spent Monday morning from 1:45 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. with Dale in the emergency room. He had puzzling chest pains and had to remain in the hospital himself until 8:45 p.m. Monday night with many blood draws and tests, little sleep, and nothing to eat until dinner time. And the result was inconclusive, but of course that's good news: not a second heart attack (his first "baby" attack was in 2002).

I did get to go home and keep my scheduled appointment with the oncologist at 9 and after that flailed around for the rest of the day on the strength of a one hour nap.

But I had pursued my better intentions on Saturday and gone to the Washoe County (NV) Republican Precinct meetings, all held in a beautiful new high school on the current fringes of the city. I needed to look up directions to get there, and apparently many others didn't do that because the caucuses were sparsely attended. I looked in vain for all the teabaggers that I'd heard had been urged to attend local precinct meetings, but I saw no wild-eyed revolutionaries in evidence (myself excluded, I guess). I was the first of two in my  precinct (out of 2 or 3 hundred registered GOP voters) to show up. Thus, I became precinct captain. Dale says that makes me officially a politician, but I think one has to run successfully for office to achieve that distinction.

So I will be attending the county convention on March 13, and I've even expressed an interest in the state convention in April. But I'm nevertheless uncertain about all this, as was my companion attendee. I want the Nevada Republican Party to stand for something. Eight or so years ago, I abandoned participation in the Lyon County Central Committee because I didn't believe it did  (anymore, of course, than the state Democrat Party of the time). Has anything changed? I think the Democrat Party has become even more Las Vegas centric and even more at the beck and call of the Service Workers Union. So why didn't more teabaggers show up for the nitty gritty work of moving the Republican Party toward their goals?  Please don't tell me that's not possible because I think that sentiment is a cop out.

I attended two teaparties in Reno and Fallon last summer and fall. It was great fun...especially the sunny and hot Reno outing (it was freezing in Fallon). It was terrific to join with people who noisily (but orderly) shared my opinions on the issues of the day (healthcare, national security etc.). I missed them on Saturday, but it is possible some were present in the rather humdrum process of party organizing. This wasn't a time when party platform or even candidates (beyond a straw poll for governor and U.S. senator) were discussed, but it was the stepping stone to the county and state conventions where these will be on the agenda.  It seems a little odd to me that on the same weekend as the Washoe County meeting, sixty national teaparty leaders were meeting in D.C. with Dick Armey's FreedomWorks group and specifically targeting Harry Reid in the Nevada senatorial race as a must defeat while Washoe County Republicans stayed home or enjoyed Saturday's beautiful sunshiny break from the gloomy, wintry grey we've been suffering through of late.

However, there will be a competitive group of Republicans running in the June 8 primary for the party endorsement in this race...despite the fact that the national media seem to mention only Sue Lowden. Teabaggers and everyone else should be following these candidates and becoming involved in the campaigns now and should plan to register and vote in the Republican primary to choose the best candidate. I hope there is no intention to raise up a third party contender. Harry Reid, as unpopular as he is in state, has a huge campaign chest...and probably a lot of political favors to call in. It's not a given that Reid will be defeated, and teabaggers need to work with conservative Republicans to choose a candidate that will embody their principles and a candidate who can win.

On principles, most important, in my mind, is solid fiscal conservatism. This is the keystone issue both for teabaggers and independents, and the latter are essential to ending Harry Reid's dynasty. Social conservatism, of course, is not unimportant. Respect for our constitution, knowledge of our history, and embrace of the traditional virtues of truthfulness, honor, self reliance and self respect really are essential to a strong free-market economy. And participation in the political process is essential to educating and shaping public opinion and successfully electing principled candidates.

Friday, January 22, 2010

God Forgive Us For We Have Sinned

    But when Jesus saw it, he...said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.           Mark 10:14

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and below is telling commentary from today’s edition of  Erick Erickson’s Redstate morning briefing:
Almost four decades later, somewhere around 50 million unborn children have been victimized by the breathtaking arrogance of the Court. They committed no crimes, were afforded no due process or trials at all, and every appeal made on their behalf has fallen on deaf ears. They have been killed in the most brutal ways imaginable, unceremoniously sucked from their mother’s wombs, and carelessly discarded without even the dignity of an unmarked grave. Every reasonable effort to curb the abuses of the system that has produced these gruesome results has been summarily rejected by society’s robed masters. And so the carnage marches on.
The truth that these children are biologically human and biologically distinct from their mothers is beyond question to anyone who believes in the most basic tenets of science. Why, then, are they declared so totally bereft of rights in our society? The fact that a woman can, with the protection of the law, kill her child on the day of its planned full-term delivery, indicates clearly that the only answer to this question is “physical location within their mother’s womb.” If a child is in this place, it may be killed with impunity; if it is in another, to kill it is murder. Even the more generous (but less accurate) characterization of the Court’s jurisprudence as respecting “stages of development” rather than physical location provides us no more satisfactory answer. If a child can be kllled with impunity because it has not reached 24 weeks’ gestational age, why may it not be killed because it hasn’t reached its first birthday? Or puberty? Logic and reason provide no defensible answer to these questions, because in the legalized abortion regime, logic and reason - like science and law - have been sacrificed on the altar of self-aggrandizement and convenience at any cost.
The evil Roe v. Wade has wrought has cheapened and weakened our society. It has decimated minority population growth, especially among African-Americans. It has caused us to devalue the handicapped and less fortunate, as mothers who carry these precious children to full term are now somehow thought to be less responsible for the decision. The damage to the fabric of the family itself - the most basic building block of our society - has been incalculable.

The good news, I suppose, is that more and more women, particularly young women are turning from the evil of abortion and having their babies. They deserve our praise and support. But for redemption as a society, a nation, we need to condemn and end the legal killing of God's most innocent beings, and we need, practically, to provide loving homes with a father and a mother so much as possible for all our children. 

Although the ideal two parent family is not universally obtainable, we need to affirm it as our goal at the same time as we reach out with compassion to help single mothers and fathers and children who are orphaned or not able, for one reason or another, to live in their parents' home. Christians are called to be child centric, and good people of any belief need to recognize and support the vulnerable child's need to be loved and secure in a stable home.

    ...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.         Matthew 10:4

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

God Bless America!

Here's a great way to start a day. Listen to Denyce Graves singing at the National Service of Prayer and Remembrance following Sept. 11. May our nation continue to be united as we were that day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Here's my first "oil painting" (click for a close up) using Corel Painter Essentials 4...which I can't take a great deal of credit for since it was done from one of my photos entirely on the auto setting.

 The subject is my granddaughter on the occasion of having just finished a piece of her first birthday cake. She is entirely without chagrin over wearing some of the frosting on the end of her nose: what aplomb!

Toddlers have such a wonderful capacity for sang-froid. A few days ago we walked down the block, and Ione stopped dead in her tracks (clutching my finger as usual) in front of a group of four older teenagers who were bouncing around in the somewhat chilly air, giggling and smoking cigarettes. Of course they said "Hi" to Ione and "Isn't he so sweet," but Ione responded with not a word to them (although "hi" is definitely in her vocabulary)...and not, I think, because they'd mistaken her gender. She simply stared and stared and stared some more, recording many new tidbits of information through her mental synapses, before responding to gentle tugs from grandma to return up the street.

I really hope she carries her self-possession along with her through life, and especially through that dire challenge to sanity, the teenage years. But already with my gentle tugs, I am teaching her that staring is unsociable. She'll learn other marks of unsociability as she grows and will refrain from making fun of people (at 4 1/2, her brother knows that is wrong), and hitting, of course, and pouting and a whole hosts of other infractions. All this is necessary, but at the same time, I hope she will retain the confidence to be herself, to be original and creative, to stand up for her beliefs, to go her way and not the crowd's way, to be a good, generous and giving person. Knowing her Mom and Dad, I think she will.


I stopped blogging last September, discouraged, I guess because no one seemed to be out there reading my blog (oh, vanity). I thought I needed to find a new direction. And that turn in the path eluded me.

There were, also, a few other obstacles. My leukemia/lymphoma reasserted itself and worsening blood counts left me with less of my normal energy, plus a great deal of time was spent at the doctor’s office in the infusion room receiving therapy. Therapy will continue again next week as I become one of the first people to receive the recently approved Arzerra (ofatumumab…what a name!) treatment.

Then, yesterday, I was surprised to find an email in my inbox inquiring about my absence from blogging…about my health or other reasons for being a laggard (my phrase). It was from Lisa Rosewell, who blogs at  Over the past year, Lisa’s blog has grown slowly to express the variety and depth of her many interests. One of those, membership in a very small (in my case very, very small) traditional Anglican congregation, we share: hers in Texas and mine in Nevada. Lisa’s site also reflects beautifully her interest in music and participating in people’s politics, i.e. the 9/12 freedom march in Washington D.C., and her blog expresses her faith in God’s grace.

Lisa’s email has re-energized me to begin blogging again. I’ve thought I had no more to say and have been instead forwarding what others say, about politics mainly, to a list of friends, whom I hope I am not burdening with so much insightful commentary.

But I do really have some things I want to say. For example, right now I am looking at the sky as the sun rises over Reno. It’s red, purple, and pale blue, etched against the rugged outline of the nearby, snow frosted hills…even though I can see only a swatch through the office window. Of course, red-in-the-morning means sailors-take-warning. It will be a stormy day, grey again later, and we will have wet in some form because, as my daughter told me so many years ago when she was three: “The trees are shaking.”

And there are tales of my wonderful grandkids. Maddox is now 4 ½, still jumping through life, so full of energy; he will be a rock star (as he believes he is already) or a skateboarding/BMX daredevil if he continues on his present path…or maybe, Spiderman.

Ione is almost 17 months now, with a smile and charm that can erase any trace of grumpiness in her world, which, however, doesn’t preclude an occasional, comical and short lived display of temper when regal charm meets the word “no.” She clasps my finger (and her granddad’s) and leads us around. On walks now, we stop and investigate melting piles of old, dirty snow and rocks and whatever other small treasures appear along the sidewalk. She still doesn’t have a lot to say in English, but she chatters emotively in her own tongue.

And then there are those who pray for me because of my health. I find it a little disconcerting to be prayed for, which is not to say that I am not very very grateful for the prayers, which come from family and friends and people I don’t even know. But it’s been a little bit like accepting a gift I believe I haven’t merited.

I remember my mother telling me and my brother and sisters frequently, “T’is better to give than to receive,” but also telling me at a later date that it’s important to be able to receive a gift graciously. She didn’t put that in a religious context, but it is the essence of Christian faith, really, to receive the gift of God’s grace that not one of us can ever “deserve.” 

And it’s like that with prayers. So I thank all those who pray for me, and I try imperfectly to pray for others. I am not systematic about this as I feel I should be, so if someone forgets to pray for me, I can certainly understand, and honestly, sometimes I hope that they do forget as I do, so I shall feel less guilty for my neglect. I haven’t yet been able to hang on to living as a faithful Christian throughout an entire day…or perhaps even an entire hour, so I know how needy I am of God’s all-inclusive love.