Immigration: The same but different (a true you Yogi-ism)

1892 immigration

“The culture of poverty has some universal characteristics which transcend regional, rural-urban, and even national differences…..

-Oscar Lewis, “The Culture of Poverty” in Four Horseman

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants.  Immigrants like the Irish in the 1840’s who left to escape starvation and would later in the 1860’s welcome the Civil War as a job opportunity with guaranteed meals and a roof over their heads.  Whether it is the Italians, Scandinavians, English, Scottish….you name it, let’s face it, they were not “European nobility”  upon their arrival by any stretch of the imagination. Immigrants were struggling, often times impoverished. Now, we are faced with what has been labeled our current “immigration crisis”.  Numerous immigrants are arriving from our southern borders and they are coming to America for the same reasons Immigrants have always arrived here; opportunity.

A lot of people are motivated by the American dollar. In many Latin American countries the American dollar is one of the main sources of income with remittances accounting for up to 15% of some Latin American countries total G.D.P. (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/11/15/remittances-to-latin-america-recover-but-not-to-mexico/ph-remittances-11-2013-1-03/). These immigrants actually provide a weapon against inflation.  The value of the dollar has remained strong because of these immigrants coinciding with the fact that American’s wages have decreased as a percentage of our total G.D.P (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?_r=0). This pinch on the blue-collar middle class has unfortunately helped restrain inflation and the remittances from immigrants have helped as well. The immigrant contribution is the siphoning of the American dollar outside our borders which serves to help maintain the value of the dollar by making it more scarce within our borders.  In addition to their resource as an anti-inflation tool, these siphoned American dollars then also provide an important source of income for countries just south of our border.  These countries are often impoverished, in desperate shape. These exported American dollars not only provide a restrain on inflation, but serve as an aid package to countries close to home and their political/economic stability is in the best interest of the United States.  Therefore without a doubt, Immigration is good but….

…I do understand the need to document and regulate immigration.  What was once the land of opportunity remains as such but unfortunately the bureaucracy and guidelines for immigration are not the same.  The process has now become lengthy, clumsy, and inefficient (http://www.cfr.org/immigration/us-immigration-debate/p11149).  There is a definite need to streamline the process for those immigrants whose primary reason is to work, while exporting their dollars. Documentation would also provide these immigrants with a level of protection allowing our law enforcement to share information on the identity of these workers  (although sharing information seems to be a huge obstacle at all levels of government which is bewildering in and of itself in this day an age of cloud computing and shared data bases).

I also sympathize in part with Arizona, specifically regarding their struggle to identify who is responsible for immigration as our federal government and state responsibilities are not clearly defined.  Regardless if you support President Obama and his latest efforts to reform immigration, or if you are a conservative who believes that immigration is the responsibility of congress, or a conservative who is a state’s rights advocate in regards to immigration; one thing remains the same and that is we would all benefit by the clarification of our immigration policy that would ultimately refine the process making it much less cumbersome.

We were all immigrants and at one point the system did work for our ancestors.  Our current system needs fixing, so let’s get beyond partisan politics and do something but beware… it will involve compromise.

Old Testament Law and Jesus

As a practicing Christian, I decided to read the Bible in its entirety.  If you have done this and even if you have not, one of the challenges is developing a working mental paradigm to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.  This was one of the challenges for the apostles as well (circumcision or no circumcision in the Book of Acts for example). This challenge even led to some splits within the early church when the Gnostics refused to reconcile the God of the Old Testament and Christ as one and the same.  With this post I am focusing just on the concept of the law as it exists in the Old and New Testaments not the nature/actions of God in the Old and New Testament which is a much bigger undertaking.  In order to better illuminate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New in regards to the law, I looked to the teachings of the early church,  the words of Jesus, and my Protestant faith.

Old Testament law can be a bit overwhelming, when you begin to read the Bible. There are many laws that are clearly not binding on our lives as Christians.  I looked to St. Thomas Aquinas for clarification on all the different types of rules/regulations (a.ka. Old Testament law).  Aquinas dividend the Old Testament law into three categories; moral, ceremonial, and judicial.  Moral law is dictated by natural law,  while ceremonial law is affiliated with divine worship and the judicial precepts are determinations of the justice maintained among men.  St. Thomas Aquinas then determined the only law applicable to Christians was the moral law.  The ten commandments would be an example of moral law, while the book of Leviticus contains many other examples of ceremonial and judicial law.  As a Christian the law has been sharply reduced in light of Aquinas and the early church, so now we can look to the New Testament and specifically the words of Jesus to further develop our understanding about the law and its relationship to the New Testament.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus directly addressed his relationship to the Old Testament law when he said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”.  Clearly the moral law is applicable but Jesus has fulfilled the law perfectly on our behalf.

Further in the book of Matthew (22:34) the Pharisees were attempting to trap Jesus with his answers when they asked him, “Which is the greatest commandment”?  Jesus then replied…..”You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This is a very powerful quote from Jesus and it relates directly to the relationship between Old Testament law and Christianity.  These words also serve as a practical guide for Christians on how they should approach their daily lives as well as their relationships with others.  Jesus has made the law even easier to understand by providing a further simplification of what the law really means.  First, love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Clearly a daunting task!  We should seek the Lord daily through his word and prayer.  With all of the distractions around us today this is always a challenge, but if we seek the Lord daily we are off to a great start.  Secondly, to Love your neighbor as yourself seems to be much more approachable in many ways.  This should guide all of our interactions with other people.  This can also be challenging when that certain someone is very difficult to love.  In relationships such as those, we must also remember that all of humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I also believe that these two commandments from Jesus clearly direct us to genuine Christian service to those who may be in more difficult or less fortunate circumstances.

My Protestant faith has also developed an understanding of the law (and when I refer to law I am referring to the moral law only).  The law serves as a mirror to show us our sin (Romans 3:20). The law makes sin recognizable to us and it is easy to recognize because the law is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15).  Now it does all come together, because when we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind, we are made aware of our sin, and through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit we hope to avoid sin with an understanding that we will never be sinless.

As Christians we can hold onto the actions of Jesus as having fulfilled the law but realize the law serves to show us our sin.  When we are aware of our sin, we are then moved to repent.

In closing, I have to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer at length to provide even further clarification for the daily grind of the Christian life…. “Everyday Christ’s followers must acknowledge and bewail their guilt.  Living as they do in fellowship with Him, they ought to be sinless, but in practice their life is marred daily with all manner of unbelief, sloth in prayer, lack of body discipline, self-indulgence of every kind, envy, hatred and ambition” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship).

As Christians we will continue to fight the daily battle.  But we live in hope because in the end we know Christ has won that battle for us and that all the law and prophets come down to seeking Him with all our heart, soul and mind while loving our neighbor as our self.