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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Balanced Approach To Activism

An old saying goes like this: 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' However, the trick here lies in knowing when the times are desperate.

Some have been calling for revolt, rebellion and civil disobedience for a while. Chris Hedges, for example, has been call for people to rise up since at least 2012 with his book Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt (click here for a link to the book). He has continued to call for revolt since then (click here and there). Here we should note the word 'revolt' alone will prevent some people from even considering what he has to say. That is because that word implies the use of desperate measures. And for too many people, their state of comfort tells them that these are not desperate times. And if the call to change appears to take the form of desperate measures, then the call will fall on a lot of deaf ears. 


That is why a recent article on becoming a sanctuary church by David Gushee is an important read (click here for Gushee's bio). In his article, Gushee tells of the decisions he had to make as an interim minister regarding whether his church should join the sanctuary movement (click here for the article). Here we should  note that with the combination of both Obama's and Trump's immigration policies, times are certainly desperate for many immigrants and thus perhaps for those who plan to help them as well.

Now here is the spoiler alert: I like Gushee's approach. I like it because it is a balanced approach, and I say that as one who has some disagreements with him. I say it is a balanced approach because in the biggest decision Gushee had to make regarding his church becoming a sanctuary church, Gushee has to weigh the tradeoffs between helping those who need shelter from the law and what the Scriptures say regarding our duty to the government (see Romans 13). And here is the point, desperate measures do not usually include making balanced decisions. Instead, desperate measures are comparable to trying to complete a 'Hail Mary' pass at the end of a football game. Just like desperate measures are only appropriate for desperate times, a Hail Marry pass is only appropriate for certain times in a football game.

To quickly summarize Gushee's article here, he agrees to directing his church to be a sanctuary church in the following ways

  1.  His church teaches the dignity of each person so that all people in the church, including immigrants, are safe from isms like racism while in the church.
  2.  Any baptized member, including immigrants, are full members of his church
  3.  Each person is eligible to receive all ministries that the church has to offer regardless of a person's citizenship
  4.  That the church would give only the legally defined minimum of cooperation to law enforcement officers who seek to enforce immigration laws.
  5.  His church would provide legal aid to those who would be pursued by immigration law enforcement officers.
 But there is one point in which Gushee could not in good conscience direct his church into joining the Sanctuary Movement. Gushee could not direct his church either as an organization or as individual members to 'harbor' immigrants who are fleeing from immigration officials. Such would be a violation of the law.

Now it isn't that Gushee would not necessarily be against breaking an unjust law. But Gushee believes that nations have a right to legislate and enforce laws that control who crosses their borders. Thus, the tradeoffs of illegally hiding immigrants from immigration officials did not warrant his church's concealing of immigrants.

And though we should always appreciate those who are currently taking desperate measures to resist to the point of engaging in civil disobedience against our government especially with the direction it has taken under President Trump. At the same, those who take such desperate actions should appreciate, rather than condescendingly judge, the lesser actions that comes from people making balanced decisions. And they should do that for at least one practical reason. It is more likely that one's cause can draw far more people to participate in balanced responses than they can in attempting desperate measures. And right now, the greatest need for the current resistance against the direction of our nation is great numbers of people. 


So I respect Gushee's decision making here. For he shows that there is more than one way to resist injustice than trying to complete a Hail Mary pass. At the same time, I question his analysis of our government's right to control its southern borders. Why? It is because much of the illegal immigration that is occurring is due to American foreign policies. Those foreign policies include supporting coups before and/or after they occur as America did in Guatemala and Honduras. And in another leading nation from which illegal immigrants come, which is Mexico, had to endure the economic turmoil caused by NAFTA.

The point being is that if our nation is significantly responsible for creating the need for people to emigrate, then any laws that prevent them from doing so are unjust. And this brings up the need for our nation to always tightly tie together foreign policies with immigration policies.


Finally, what we are witnessing in Trump's America is an acceleration of an Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged coup. Have we reached desperate times yet? It is hard to say. Nevertheless, this coup started with Ronald Reagan who, as President, began to make government a servant of business to a greater degree than had been done before. Clinton followed this servitude to business in an effort to get his Democratic Party to compete with the Republican Party for the attention of big business. Then we should remember that, like the attacks of 9/11, the economic collapse of 2008 occurred on George Bush's watch as necessary regulations to hold Wall Street in check were either not passed into law or not enforced. Then came Barack Obama with his negligence to criminally prosecute Wall Street executives while prosecuting whistleblowers at a rate greater than any of his predecessors. In addition, his signature health care plan was written by the health insurance industry and he tried to force the TPP through Congress. And despite all of that competition, Trump has accelerated government's servitude to business with the gentleman's agreement that if government takes care of business, business would take care of America's people. But we should note that history teaches us to avoid such gentlemen's agreements.

And what is ironic with this Any Rand coup is that it is nothing more than an imitation of the rhetorical question Cain posed before God: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' And that coup was orchestrated by a political party that has prided itself in believing that America is one nation under God.




 


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