Theocracy When Useful

Are all the people on the left this unthinking? I know there are lots of people on the right who have trouble with logical thought (like Pat Robertson), but, seriously, this is ridiculous.

I am 99.9% sure (I haven’t asked him) that Anthony B. Robinson, a pastor in the UCC, is against theocracy in North America. I could be wrong, and I would gladly take back half of my criticism of his opinion piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But since I’ve never met a leftist who openly advocated theocracy in America, I’m guessing I’m right. So then, how is it that Rev. Robinson thinks the United States should uphold the position of any Scriptures, let alone those which adherents of another religion might find offensive? Or is it that upholding the laws of God is only good when they support my issues? Does Rev. Robinson also believe that the United States should stone homosexuals? Or children who disrespect their parents? Maybe we could play that game that lefty-religious types like to play with Dr. Laura and point out all the laws in the Old Testament that go against left-wing ideology. Why the selectivity when it comes to immigration or poverty or other issues that seem to be the favorites of Democrats and their friends? Come on, just admit that you want a theocracy too, and you and the Fundamentalists get on with arguing about which theocracy we should have.

Even more than the confusion over whether he does or does not want a theocracy is the confusion between Israel and America. Can you guys please get your story straight? Is America the Chosen People or not? If not, as the derision for “Jesus is Lord of America” types shows, why is Rev. Robinson making a connection between what God told Israel thousands of years ago and what America should do?

As for the first question, the answer is that God didn’t want the ancient Hebrews to forget where they had come from, or how they had gotten where they were, namely, the Promised Land. They had come from slavery in Egypt. They knew what it was like to be exploited and taken advantage of. Now that they had land and wealth they shouldn’t forget that hadn’t always been the case. Ring any bells? It should. Most Americans are the descendents of immigrants.

But wait: there’s more.

A second reason that the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity press their adherents to respect and not exploit the alien in their midst is especially pertinent to the contemporary American scene. Injustice anywhere leads inexorably to injustice everywhere. If there is a class of people without rights, without voice, without legal recourse and protection, it puts not just that group at risk. It puts an entire society at risk. It becomes a cancer that eats away at the whole social body. If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.

Another way to put this, and to bring it forward to the contemporary situation in the United States, is that we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly because it is in the best long-term interest of our own society and its health. It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.

The first paragraph sounds interesting, but in the second, the argument implodes from its own weight. Let’s think about this the other way around: Rev. Robinson writes, “If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.” But what if that “certain group” is the United States? Does not the lack of enforcement of laws lend itself to exploitation on the part of immigrants and foreign governments? Are the overall standards of justice and fair play “lowered and distorted”? I should think so, especially for those immigrants who are law-abiding and who do wish to play by the rules. In fact, in many cases, they are probably the ones who are being hurt because the rules are so extensive on how to gain citizenship.

The second paragraph would be great…if it had any relationship to actual reality. Rev. Robinson writes that “we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly.” Let’s see: do immigrants have legal rights? Of course they do! That’s why this argument is so stupid and self-defeating. Rev. Robinson is not arguing about whether immigrants should have legal protection. He’s arguing that illegal immigrants should have legal protection. While we’re on the subject, it seems to me that Old Testament Israel also had requirements for its “immigrants”–something about “cutting around” something with a sharp object.

“It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.” Indeed. Unless that group has itself willfully exploited the laws already in place for its legal protection, and, in effect, caused the society to be the group that is vulnerable to exploitation.

Rev. Robinson makes one good connection between the laws of the Old Testament and America’s immigration laws: The question that merits serious reflection is this:

Do we want to be a society of the rich and the rest, where a servant class is tolerated and required? The Scriptures of Christians and Jews argue for legal protection and respect for “resident aliens” because these faiths see the danger to the whole society in an unprotected servant class. Do we?

This is absolutely right. We should not have an “unprotected servant class,” and employers who do exploit illegal immigrants are sinning. But what is the underlying problem that the situation exacerbates? Illegal immigration! Obviously (or so one would think), if there are no illegal immigrants (as opposed to 12 million, or whatever the number is), they can’t be exploited. Rev. Robinson’s motto (along with most of the other pro-illegals in this country) seems to be: We can leap amazing gaps of logic in a single bound!

Should Christians love immigrants, whether legal or illegal? Of course. What does that have to do with the United States protecting its citizens and offering ways recognized under the law for non-citizens to become its citizens?


The Shifting “Base”

President Bush is “losing his base,” or so we’ve been told. (I’m sure it’s in other places as well, but this is one of the latest.)

There are a number of things at work here. First, politicians pandering to their constituencies. Is the President doing that? He doesn’t have any re-election worries, other than keeping the Republicans in the majority. I hardly believe that he’s making a play to raise his poll numbers. He hasn’t seemed too concerned about that up until this time.

Second, the Republican base vs. the Democratic base. This kind of story highlights a major difference (although, no doubt, David will disagree with this!) between the supporters of the two parties, i.e., Republicans support issues, while Democrats are about people. I can’t say that Democrats support people, because I think it’s much more about opposing people they dislike, rather than continued support of people they do like (although, the Clinton administration, as beacon of glorious light in the darkness of Amerika, poses a counter-example). Republicans are not afraid to oppose a fellow Republican if he or she appears to betray a cause which they support. This is often pointed out with a knowing smirk, as if it somehow proved something. What does it prove? That Republicans care about particular issues, not necessarily the person with the (R) behind the name.

A “conservative base” may have gotten President Bush elected, but that doesn’t mean that an election can keep that base from pursuing its chosen agenda.