What drives your view of immigration?by Brian Davis
Barrett Duke, vice president of public policy and research for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) addressed a group of religion, business and government leaders during the Americans for Reform Meeting on April 24. During this meeting, which was held at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, Duke addressed the link between ethics and public policy related to the matter of immigration.
“Most Southern Baptists are supportive of immigration reform; this has not always been the case,” Duke said. He explained the reason for Southern Baptists’ shift in support: “This has become a personal issue for us. More ethnic people are in our churches. Those churches that grow fastest are reaching ethnic communities. We not only lead immigrants to Christ but to follow Christ and connect with our churches.”
Duke acknowledged that many Southern Baptists have not invested time in prayerfully thinking about and studying the Scriptures regarding immigration. But he said that is changing as well: “They (immigrants) are no longer ‘those people’ but people just like us. We’re thinking differently about the ethnic communities and what people must endure to come here, live here, and raise families here. Southern Baptists are calling for immigration reform,” he said.
The Bible drives Southern Baptists’ change of position as well: “Scripture has certainly impacted my thinking. Sadly, I was like many others in the past, thinking, ‘People who’ve come here illegally should all be deported.’ I was an offended citizen. But God has challenged my thinking,” Duke said. He continued, “My citizenship in this land is not the most important concern, but my witness for Christ. “ As a result, Duke is calling for immigration reform. “We must call on our government to do what is appropriate before the Lord,” he said.
Compassion is also a significant matter in terms of Southern Baptist’s shift in support of immigration law. Duke reminded the audience that immigrants are humans beings created in God’s image; Jesus Christ died for all immigrants, and they deserve to be treated with dignity. “These are hard-working and loving people seeking to provide for their families just as I’m trying to provide for mine. If my family was starving, and all I needed to do was enter another land, especially if no one would try to keep me out, then I would probably do the same,” he said.
Duke also addressed the complexity of current immigration law during the session. He said, “Our government has allowed more than 11 million immigrants to live here. We must not place the blame solely on the immigrant when our government’s failures to enforce our laws are to blame.” Duke noted the lack of Christian ethics expressed through the enforcement of current immigration law: “We say we’re Christian and yet deport people back to abject property where their skills have no expression? God will not honor that. It’s below the dignity of people who call themselves civilized to fail to reform immigration.”
If you would like more information about the efforts of Southern Baptists to join other like-minded evangelicals calling for immigration reform, please visit www.evangelicalimmigrationtable.com.