`Open Heart` Methodists—Empty-Headed Immigration Activists



[Previously by James
Antle:
The Myth Of Minority `Natural Republicans`
]



“Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”
  Oh yeah? The

crack marketing team
that came up with this slogan
for the United Methodist Church should revise it to
include


“Open Borders”
and

“Empty
Heads”
.


Catholic Bishops
aren`t alone in maintaining that
lax immigration enforcement is a moral imperative.  It`s
a

Protestant problem,
too. Coming from a long line of
Methodists, I am appalled to report that, for example,
speaking on behalf of the nation`s largest mainline
Protestant denomination, Methodist bishops and church
agency leaders have joined the elite chorus denouncing
the Sensenbrenner bill (HR 4437).

That`s right, Methodists are
singing from the same hymnal as the WSJ and the
Chamber of Commerce—without regard for the opinions of
those people who fill the pews and the collection
plates, of course (see below).

On July 12, the Methodist Church`s
General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) held the “Faith
and Migration: Diverse Perspectives from Religious
Leaders
” conference on Capitol Hill.  Conspicuously
missing from these “diverse perspectives” was the
mainstream view that illegal immigration should be
curtailed by additional enforcement.  Instead, the

scheduled speakers
included Sen. Ted Kennedy
(D-Mass.), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) and a representative of the Bush White
House—all notorious proponents of amnesty.

This one-sidedness isn`t
surprising. Methodists have been putting together a
strong pro-immigration resume for some time now:

  • The Methodists Board of Church
    and Society had already issued a

    statement
    , celebrating “the movement for
    civil rights for the people who are undocumented
    ,”
    endorsing “comprehensive immigration reform
    (amnesty) and describing HR 4437 as unjust “anti-immigrant
    legislation
    .”

 

  • On the very day that Arlen
    Specter`s Judiciary Committee first sent an amnesty
    bill to the full Senate, the United Methodist
    Committee on Relief (UMCOR) was participating in

    prayer vigils
    to show support for true and
    comprehensive immigration reform
    ” and opposition
    to the House border-security bill.

 

According to a

report
by the United Methodist News Service (UMNS),

Bishop John R. Schol
[send him

mail
] of the Baltimore-Washington Conference stated
that the House`s pro-enforcement approach violated
church teachings as found in the

Social Principles
and

Book of Resolutions.

If passed, H.R. 4437 could
dramatically affect the way United Methodists do
ministry
,” Bishop Schol claimed. “H.R. 4437 would
punish United Methodists and others … who offer an act
of mercy or kindness to undocumented immigrants
.”

Of course, this familiar talking
point has been repeatedly debunked on VDARE.COM and

elsewhere
.

The section they are
misrepresenting is actually intended to target
smugglers—not soup-kitchen workers who hand out bread
without first checking the recipient`s green card.  And
many supporters of the House bill have been willing to
revise its language to further clarify this point.

Nevertheless, a January letter from
Bishop Edward Paup, president of UMCOR, and Bishop Joel
Martinez, president of the United Methodist Board of
Global Ministries, to their colleagues on the Council of
Bishops claimed that the anti-smuggling, anti-abetting
provisions “could jeopardize UMCOR`s Justice for Our
Neighbors Program
.”  Justice for Our Neighbors is a
Methodist-coordinated program offering free legal
services to immigrants.

Bishops Paup and Martinez, along
with the chief executives of the ministries they lead,
also came out against H.R. 4437 and endorsed what
VDARE.COM calls the Kennedy-Bush Amnesty/Immigration
Acceleration Bill.

They were joined by many of their
colleagues:

  • Bishop Roy Sano, executive
    secretary of the Council of Bishops, was

    quoted, echoing
    Catholic Bishop Roger Mahony`s
    call for civil disobedience if legislation like HR
    4437 is adopted.

 

  • Bishop William Willimon of the
    North Alabama Annual Conference also

    endorsed
    the euphemistic “comprehensive
    immigration reform
    ” and warned against the
    House`s “mean spirited” alternative.

 

  • Rev. Bob Edgar, the United
    Methodist minister and former Democratic congressman
    who serves as general secretary of the National
    Council of Churches, has charged that restrictive,
    pro-enforcement bills are the handiwork of “neo-conservatives
    who want to punish people
    .”

If only! Reverend Edgar is
painfully ignorant of the immigration stances of most
actual neoconservatives.

The UMC`s immigration position is
nothing new.  In 1988, the denomination published a
paper entitled “To Love the Sojourner
criticizing the United States` harsh treatment of
immigrants—as evidenced by the 1986 amnesty!

Apparently, even amnesty isn`t good
enough when accompanied by the threat of sanctions
against employers of illegal immigrants.  The

church`s paper warned,
It is apparent that the
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, for all the
hope it represents for a relative few, renders life much
more difficult for the vast majority of immigrant
peoples in the United States
.”

Since then, Methodist bishops have
spoken out against California`s Proposition 187 and
subsequent ballot initiatives to deny illegal immigrants
tax monies.

But after Prop 187 passed with 69
percent of the Protestant vote in 1994, there was a
brief moment when critical Methodist clergy seemed open
to debate on the subject.

At the time, the head of the UMC`s
California-Pacific Conference—Bishop Sano—admitted to
the Los Angeles Times, “We are not listening
to our own constituency
.” [
Prop.
187 May Show Clergy`s Political Role Is Dwindling
,
by John Dart. Los Angeles Times Nov 20, 1994, (Pay
archive)]

Twelve years later, we`re still
waiting.

In the meantime, Methodists have
condemned the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 at every single
General Conference since the law was enacted, calling
for its reform or repeal.  (Longtime observers of the
immigration debate may recall that this was the diluted
bill that passed after real reform, along the lines
proposed by Barbara Jordan`s forgotten commission, was
defeated in Congress.)

The UMC has even adopted
resolutions comparing the Immigration Act of 1965—the
very law that committed the United States to its current
disastrous policy of uninterrupted mass immigration—to
the much-denounced Immigration Act of 1924 and the
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

So what would constitute the “effective
and humanitarian border protection
” that the
Methodist church claims to support?  Are any limits to
immigration or enforcement measures acceptable to the
Methodist hierarchy?And why does the Methodist bishops`
compassionate
solution to our immigration crisis look
uncharacteristically like that favored by corporate
America?

There are cynical explanations for
the unlikely immigration alliance between

Big Business and Big Religion
.  But, as someone who
comes from a long line of Methodists, they just don`t
seem adequate in this case.

NumbersUSA Executive Director Roy
Beck—a longtime Methodist Sunday school teacher and
award-winning former associate editor of the United
Methodist Reporter
—blames “bad theology” that
interprets Bible verses about strangers and sojourners “literally
and completely out of context
” when talking about
immigration.

One proof text is found in Matthew
when Jesus offers the Parable of the Last Judgment.  The
key verses:

For I
was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty
and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and
you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did
not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not
look after me
” (Matthew 25:42-43).
[Vdare.com note:

Bible scholars might want to check out


Deuteronomy28:43-44
;
“The stranger that [is] within thee shall get
up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very
low”

But if every “stranger” at
the U.S. border is a potential Jesus, most any
immigration restriction would be difficult to justify.

This is of course a surprisingly
literal interpretation by theological liberals who
normally sneer at fundamentalism.  It is also an
impossible basis for a workable immigration policy when
almost

five billion people
live in countries where the
average per capita gross domestic product is lower than
Mexico`s.

Beck quips that adherents to this
post-national “sing
`Imagine`
instead of

“The Old Rugged Cross.”
`

Yet as John Zmirak has

written
in these cyberpages, “Christianity is
universal—but it accepts and works through the
particular: the baby in the crib, the family, the nation
.”

Many Methodist immigration
enthusiasts understand this—but make the opposite
mistake.  They have ample experience ministering to many
personally sympathetic migrants—legal or otherwise—but
little real knowledge of immigration policy in general.

Unfortunately, noble intentions
aren`t sufficient for good policy.

The Christian faith

knows no national boundaries
. But the

nation-state
by definition must.  The United
Methodist Church has certainly been enriched by its
overseas membership—including the

African Methodists,
who, like many Global South
Christians, are

orthodox
in faith and morals. But its bishops favor
an immigration course that will impoverish our country.

Tragically, through the pursuit of
racial and ethnic harmony, improved living standards for
the poor and a less balkanized society, misguided
Methodists are helping promulgate immigration policies
that

will accomplish the exact opposite.

The only thing worse:

John Wesley`s
progeny reduced to the cheap-labor
lobby at prayer.

W.
James Antle III (send him


mail
) is a senior writer
for
The American
Conservative.