The Newer Colossus

Let me begin by saying that Christians can, in good conscience, disagree about what can and should be done about national immigration policy. Christians come in all political stripes and that is actually just fine, despite what some would have you believe. Christians have voted for Trump, and I do not think that disqualifies you from the faith any more than voting for someone else does, even though we all know Jesus is a Libertarian (it’s a joke, calm down and chuckle). There are some policies that Christian can not support in good conscience however. Those policies are such things that go against the Kingdom we belong to. (In case you missed it, that’s the Kingdom of God.) Yes, Christianity is political, by necessity, but can not be partisan and still claim to serve the Kingdom of God.

Recently, Ken Cuccinneli, who is Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, offered his own version of the famous poem by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus”.

“Appearing on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Cuccinelli was asked by host Rachel Martin if the sonnet, which reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” would still be part of the “American ethos” under the new rule.” They certainly are,” Cuccinelli replied, before offering a revised version of the sonnet: “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” he told Martin. “That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the first time the first public charge law was passed.” He went on to say “All immigrants who can stand on their own two feet, be self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, again, as in the American tradition,” he said. “My Italian-Irish heritage looks back at that. Most people in America look back at that, and that’s what we expect going forward.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/08/13/trump-immigration-official-cuccinelli-offers-own-take-new-colossus/1995205001/ )

These ideas dear brothers and sisters are exactly the types of policies that Christians can not, in good conscience, support. Consider these words from the second chapter of James: “For if there comes a gold-fingered man in fancy clothing into your assembly, and if there also comes in a poor man in shabby clothing,  and if you have respect to him who has the fancy clothing and say to him, You sit here in a good place, and say to the poor, You stand there, or sit here under my footstool;  Did you not make a difference among yourselves and became judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him?  But you dishonored the poor one. Do not rich men oppress you and draw you before the judgment seats?  Do they not blaspheme that worthy Name by which you are called?  If you fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.  But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors.  For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.   For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” But if you do not commit adultery, yet if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.  So speak and do as those who shall be judged by the Law of liberty.  For he who has shown no mercy shall have judgment without mercy, and mercy exults over judgment. ”   If the words are not enough, consider wise words from those who have discerned the meaning. “An are become judges of evil thoughts?— That is, Who pass judgment from your own evil thoughts, as considering the rich worthy of respect in judgment, for his gorgeous attire and outward appearance, and the poor fit to be despised for his outward meanness. ” (Thomas Coke) 
“Judges of evil reasonings; that is, judges who reason wickedly; who, in effect, say in your hearts, we will espouse the cause of the rich, because they can befriend us; we will neglect that of the poor, because they cannot help us, nor have they power to hurt us.” (Adam Clarke)
“And are become judges of evil thoughts – There has been considerable difference of opinion respecting this passage, yet the sense seems not to be difficult. There are two ideas in it: one is, that they showed by this conduct that they took it upon themselves to be judges, to pronounce on the character of men who were strangers, and on their claims to respect (Compare Mat_7:1); the other is, that in doing this, they were not guided by just rules, but that they did it under the influence of improper “thoughts.” They did it not from benevolence; not from a desire to do justice to all according to their moral character; but from that improper feeling which leads us to show honor to men on account of their external appearance, rather than their real worth. The wrong in the case was in their presuming to “judge” these strangers at all, as they practically did by making this distinction, and then by doing it under the influence of such an unjust rule of judgment. The sense is, that we have no right to form a decisive judgment of men on their first appearance, as we do when we treat one with respect and the other not; and that when we make up our opinion in regard to them, it should be by some other means of judging than the question whether they can wear gold rings, and dress well, or not. Beza and Doddridge render this, “ye become judges who reason ill.” (Albert Barnes)
I could go on and on with examples of Biblical scholars who have interpreted the verses.

Let’s not lie to ourselves here. None of us has “pulled ourselves up by their boot straps” in the church that Christ is the head of because we have realized that our entire worth is naught unless it is rooted in Christ. We have realized that we are to be a people of God and not a people of gold. We have realized that the value of a person is not determined by wealth but determined by the love of God which is infinite for each and every one of us. This is not to say that Christians must have the same ideas on civil immigration policy, but it is to say that we are accountable to a different Kingdom than the empires of man, and in that Kingdom, the thoughts brought forward by the current administration about immigration are anathema, and if we are loyal to that Kingdom, they must be anathema to us as well.

Saint Paul gives us a beautiful illustration of Christ in 2 Corinthians chapter 8. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, for your sakes He became poor, in order that you might be made rich through His poverty.”  Now to be sure there is a spiritual element to this, but there is also a very physical state of being poor as well. Adam Clarke sums it up well. “That, though he was rich – The possessor, as he was the creator, of the heavens and the earth; for your sakes he became poor – he emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross; that ye, through his poverty – through his humiliation and death, might be rich – might regain your forfeited inheritance, and be enriched with every grace of his Holy Spirit, and brought at last to his eternal glory.
If Jesus Christ, as some contend, were only a mere man, in what sense could he be said to be rich? His family was poor in Bethlehem; his parents were very poor also; he himself never possessed any property among men from the stable to the cross; nor had he any thing to bequeath at his death but his peace. And in what way could the poverty of one man make a multitude rich? These are questions which, on the Socinian scheme, can never be satisfactorily answered.”  To put it as blunt and plain as I possibly can, Citizens of the Kingdom of God can not, in good conscience, support policies that exclude their King. You can not claim to love and serve the living Christ while at the same time supporting policies that keep Him out. Let those who have ears, hear.

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