Sour Grapes: Illegal Immigration & the Book of Ezekiel

The campaign season is once again upon us, and we are bombarded with opinions, talking points, debates, and discussion on important issues from every side. By it’s very nature, it is a polarizing time, as we choose our candidate or issue of choice and dig in.

Most of you know that politically I am fairly conservative. I lean heavily toward limited government. But within the areas to which it is limited, I like that government to be powerful. Now, I want you all to take a deep breath, because I don’t believe I’ve ever written a political post, and I do not intend to start today. The only reason I bring up my political proclivity is to show my bias before I enter into the following discussion.

Yesterday I was reading one of the many news aggregation websites I frequent. One of the headlines was something to the effect of “Texas Teacher calls Tea Party Leader a Nazi.” Like headlines are meant to do, it caught my attention long enough to click on the link and see why they considered this recent batch of name-calling important.

Needless to say, it wasn’t important. But what was the reason that Texas Teacher was so riled up? He asked if the Tea Party leader would advocate sending some of his students, who have lived here the majority of their lives, back to country of their birth? To which to Tea Party leader responded, that if they were here illegally, he would. Honestly, nothing was out of the ordinary in the exchange. Everyone acted according to the well established roles set by the media and society. But it bothered me.

At first it bothered me enough to type a status update on facebook. Before I submitted that update, however, I was bothered much more than a simple status update could satiate. So now you’re stuck reading this post (you’re welcome).

I believe in the rule of law. I believe that it must be upheld or it cannot support society. If laws are unenforceable, they are ineffective. This extends to speed limits, immigration law, copyright law, and the law about donkey’s and bathtubs. But recently, my faith has been screwing with my politics in the area of our immigration laws.

I do not have a solution to offer, and I do not know enough about proposed bills to verbally propose that we support one of them (bills are tricky things that often hide unpleasant elements behind the pretty clothes of emotionally charged issues). But the strong undercurrent of “kick them all out” that flows through the discourse surrounding “secure borders” and “immigration reform” is a poor solution that will only bring grief, not only to those whose residency it effects, but to all of our society.

In my minds eye, I picture a scenario:

A young couple with a toddler, fearing what lies in store for them if they stay where they are, packs up in the middle of the night and steals across the border. That child grows up in the new society, he or she knows nothing other than that culture, and can speak nothing but that language. Now educated, that child tries to enter the work force, but lacks the proper documents. If this productive adult tries to legally acquire documents, they are told to leave their home, and travel to a place that is perfectly foreign to them in order to “do it right.” More commonly, that person opts to stay invisible, to work for cash from less than reputable employers, who likely pay them far less than they deserve. They are oppressed by the system, and kept in poverty by our laws.

They are condemned for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18). This above all is what disturbs me. Certainly this is a difficult topic to address. There are so many variables to consider:

  • What duration of residency is sufficient to provide a path to citizenship?
  • How old must they have been on arrival to qualify?
  • If they are still school age, do we deport the whole family?
  • How do the first two questions effect the third?
  • If the children are dependent on the parents, how can we, in good conscience, deport the parents?

Sadly, this isn’t a cut and dry issue, and there are many difficult decisions to be made. What we should all understand is that our immigration policies are complex, costly, and confusing. It is not an easy thing to “do it right.” Additionally, for as long as we’ve had immigration laws on the books, they have left a lot to be desired. In short, we, as a nation, have a horrendous track record with immigration laws.

So what is the answer? I’m not yet sure. But I can’t shake the thought that the scriptures listed below should directly influence our beliefs as Christians.

And I can’t help but think about another couple, who like the ones mentioned before, stole across the border in the middle of the night with their toddler.

“The Flight into Egypt” by Gustave Dore

What The Scriptures Say:

The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, what is the meaning of this proverb you recite in the land of Israel:

“Parents eat sour grapes,
but the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

As I live—oracle of the Lord God: I swear that none of you will ever repeat this proverb in Israel. For all life is mine: the life of the parent is like the life of the child, both are mine. Only the one who sins shall die!

If a man is just—if he does what is right…that man is just—he shall surely live—oracle of the Lord God.

But if he begets a son who is violent and commits murder, or does any of these things, even though the father does none of them…this son certainly shall not live. Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely be put to death; his own blood shall be on him.

But, in turn, if he begets a son who sees all the sins his father commits, yet fears and does not imitate him…this one shall not die for the sins of his father. He shall surely live! Only the father, [who] did what was not good among his people—he will die because of his sin! You ask: “Why is not the son charged with the guilt of his father?” Because the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to observe all my statutes—he shall surely live! Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. Justice belongs to the just, and wickedness to the wicked.

But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die! None of the crimes he has committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the justice he has shown. Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked—oracle of the Lord God? Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live?

And if the just turn from justice and do evil, like all the abominations the wicked do, can they do this evil and still live? None of the justice they did shall be remembered, because they acted treacherously and committed these sins; because of this, they shall die. You say, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair? Are not your ways unfair? When the just turn away from justice to do evil and die, on account of the evil they did they must die. But if the wicked turn from the wickedness they did and do what is right and just, they save their lives; since they turned away from all the sins they committed, they shall live; they shall not die. But the house of Israel says, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Is it my way that is not fair, house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not fair?

Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel, all of you according to your ways—oracle of the Lord God. Turn, turn back from all your crimes, that they may not be a cause of sin for you ever again. Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel? For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies—oracle of the Lord God. Turn back and live! — Ezekiel 18

You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God. — Leviticus 19:34

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Judge with true justice, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the resident alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts. — Zechariah 7:9-10

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the resident alien, the orphan or the widow of justice!” And all the people shall answer, “Amen!” — Deuteronomy 27:19


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3 thoughts on “Sour Grapes: Illegal Immigration & the Book of Ezekiel”

  1. Wonderfully thoughtful. For all my liberal bravado, I don’t have much by way of a solution either. But whichever policy one decides on, I think it should be formulated with the points you make in mind.

  2. There are many aliens in the USA who are here legally. I do not disagree with most of what you’ve said. However, I think it takes a deeper search to differentiate how scripture sorts out legal alien vs. illegal alien. Re-read these same scriptures through the lens of assuming aliens are legally here. Caring for the alien (legal) among us still calls us to reject racism and cultural bias. Then address the admittedly complex issue of dealing with children here through no deception on their own part. These scriptures in no way negate a nation’s right or responsibility to deal with ILLEGAL immigration.

  3. The idea of “Illegal vs legal” aliens is a fairly new one. It certainly is not differentiated in scripture. What we see in scripture is a differentiation between “Stranger, Alien, and Sojourner.” Based only on the observable context, and on a super quick scan of the original words using the Strong’s Concordance, these three appear to be used to show the difference between those foreigners who show no observance toward the culture, those who show a respect for the culture, and those who desire to totally assimilate.”

    What bothers me about the issue is the lack of any option for the illegal alien to make it right. I’m not saying they need to be able to “jump to the head of the line” (as some radio hosts would say), just that they need to be able to get into the line.

    Especially those who, through no action of their own, have been placed in an impossible situation.

    Moreover, I sincerely doubt that most people who speak about the rule of law, as it relates to this issue, have much of an idea of how convoluted our immigration law is (and how ugly it has been since 1882.) If you take a look through the history of US immigration laws and reforms, you’ll quickly find blatant racism, propagandized nationalism, and even a long partnership with the eugenics movement.

    Thankfully we are past the eugenicists involvement, but the path to citizenship for those who are not born here is costly and convoluted (watch the movie “terminal” for a trivialized reminder).

    At the very least, we as Christians must be mindful of the scriptural principle in Ezekiel 18, and not punish the children for the sins of the parents. And just maybe, we should push a little harder and look to see if any of our immigration law is based on “rule of law” or if it is simply disguised nationalism.

    Again, I don’t have the answers, but all of the great philosophers throughout history have only concerned themselves with asking the right questions. I hope this is a right question.

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