Jon’s Soapbox Chronicles: On Immigration and Playing God

Social media has been and always will be a wildfire with people throwing gasoline at each other thinking it’s water.  Now everyone is on fire, the place is full of smoke, and people are slowly and surely starting to choke out.  I’m probably one of the guys watching the blaze, hopelessly looking to tame the fire with a squirt gun in hand.

It’s time to get on my soapbox again.  The hot topic of the past month or three (heck, even since Trump’s presidency) is the crackdown on illegal immigration.  I can’t seem to go five minutes on Facebook (30 seconds on Twitter) without hearing something about the topic.

This is what I know (try not to hold my ignorance against me):

  • Travel Ban: certain countries, especially the pre-dominant Muslim ones, have had their issuing visas frozen so the Department of Homeland Security can assess screening and vetting procedures
  • The Wall: A wall is being built along the Mexican border that someone is paying for.
  • DACA: Stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – Program started by Obama that protected “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrant children, from deportation so they can study, work, and live the American dream. Requires a 2-3 year renewal. DACA was supposed to have ended back in March.
  • Zero Tolerance: Those who have crossed the border illegally or through non-US approved entry points are being prosecuted as criminals.

I’m going to focus on the Zero Tolerance Policy for my soapbox.

According to the policy, if families are caught crossing illegally, children are separated and placed with HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) and the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement). They usually go to Customs and Border Protection facilities (the places with the cages you see in your social media posts – for no longer than three days), child immigrant shelters through the ORR (shelter facilities sponsored by nonprofits – fewer than 57 days, but some have been held for longer), and tent camps (one is in Texas, not a lot know what’s there).  During that time, the ORR tries to find family members, foster parents, or sponsors to take the children in.

The parents who committed any kind of crime, including crossing the border, is referred to the DoJ (Department of Justice), and at the end of the case, will be sent to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to see where they go from there.  Now, those being prosecuted as well as the children may seek asylum or other lawful protection.

Children are going through a lot while all of this happens.  They’re separated from their families, going through God knows what as they wait in these facilities.  They don’t know if they’re going to see their parents again, and they’re not certain of what’s going to happen to them.

Since then, Trump has signed an Executive Order, ending family separation and replacing that with detaining the entire family unit, unless keeping the family together would deem detrimental to the child.

By the way, you should take a look at our Immigration Court process.  It’s rather interesting.

Community

You preach, “This is Fake News.”  Stop it.  There may be few who are milking the cash cow by faking it, but it doesn’t mean that all of the children and families are faking it.

You preach, “This wouldn’t happen if they were to come in legally.”  That is true, and it’s a part of law, but what if immigrants are trying to flee from circumstances where their very lives are at stake, and America seems to be the safe haven?  Do you know how long it takes for someone to be naturalized?

(By the way, I don’t believe in open borders, but I wonder if the immigration process could be somehow simpler.)

Now, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (uscis.gov), there are several steps and a long wait before an immigrant becomes a US Citizen.  First, they must receive their Green Card, which enables them to live and work permanently in the United States.  Although they can live and work in the US, they are not official Citizens.

In order to get the Green Card, immigrants first must have a sponsor to petition for you and file the respective form (Alien Relative, Refugee Relative, Alien Entrepreneur, etc.).  Next, the immigrant must file the I-485 with the required documentation.  Processing of I-485, depending on workload, can take up to 8-10 months, according to current Fiscal Year.  If the application is approved and they get their Green Card, they must hold that status for at least 5 years, or 3 years if he or she is married to a US Citizen.

Then to be naturalized, the immigrant must be at least 18, be able to read, write, and speak basic English (not speak American), and be a person of good moral character.  Next is the 10 step naturalization process, and that involves filing the N-400 with required documentation, possibly attending a biometrics appointment, and being required to attend an interview with USCIS.  It takes up to 9-10 months for the approval process of the N-400.  If it’s approved, the immigrant must attend a naturalization ceremony (which could be on the same day as the USCIS interview), take the Oath of Allegiance to the US and complete the questionnaire on form N-445.  Voila! The immigrant is now a US Citizen.

You preach, “But these immigrants could be dangerous.” I get that too, but not every immigrant is a terrorist, gang member, drug smuggler, job stealer, lazy freeloader, or a combination of any and all of them.  Like I said before, they’re trying to find a new hope.

Can we treat them with kindness, respect, and dignity?  Why not treat them as human beings instead of animals or people with little worth?

You preach, “This happened through the Obama, and previous, Administrations.”  Okay, and?  If it was initiated by a previous Administration, the current Administration should have the power to end or revise it.  Stop the self-righteous indignation against people you don’t like and call your representatives.  It still doesn’t make separating children any better.

You preach, “If they want to get into America, they must conform to American law.  It’s biblical.”  

Just let me say this:

The Bible should never be used as a tool to fulfill and or justify your own personal agenda; that is never the Book’s intent.

We saw this with AG Sessions’ usage of Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (verses 1-2).

Who wrote Romans? Paul to the Roman church.

When? During the reign of Emperor Nero.  You know, the guy who fiddled when Rome burned and then blamed it on the Christians and their way of life.  Yet Paul tells the church to be subject to Roman authority.  Crazy, isn’t it?  He says later in the passage to also pay taxes, revenue, respect, and honor to those they owe; it’s an outward sign of inward submission to God, the ultimate authority.  (On a side note: Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you should just up and disrespect all authority).

Sessions’ interpretation of Romans 13 says that immigrants illegally crossing the border are disobeying God, His nation, and His authority and therefore incurring His judgment.  What he has conveniently forgotten, however, is the next part of Chapter 13:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (verses 8-10).

Love without condition.  Having compassion and empathy.  And who is your neighbor?  Anyone who is hurting (The Parable of the Good Samaritan).  You can’t choose who you unconditionally love.  Jesus unconditionally loved us; we should probably do the same.

Flags

I believe the heart of the problem, and the second part of my soapbox, is that we’re either trying to play the role of God or we’re worshipping the wrong god, and that leads to serious ramifications in how we treat those around us.  This deity power struggle has happened ever since the beginning of time when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Remember, God said eating of the tree would result in death, but the serpent said eating the fruit would make them become godlike (Genesis 3).

To Adam and Eve, what God gave them, everything under the sun and moon and closeness with Him, was not enough.

Sin.  It causes the weakening of relationship, the introduction of death, the destruction of trust, the ripping of innocence, and the belittling of the Imago Dei (the Image of God in which we are created).  And sin and its capabilities are in every heart.  We see throughout the Bible what happens when we try to become a god, worship the wrong god, or when we worship ourselves; it usually never ends well.  We steal, kill, destroy, enslave, injure, hate, blackmail, and violate one another to either fulfill our own agendas or our “god’s” desires.

Sin Quote

These gods are manmade and take multiple forms.  They are silent, blind, deaf, and lifeless, and those who worship them become exactly like them (Psalm 135:15-18), yet the more we give, the more they take and demand.  We don’t speak out against injustice because our “idol” feasts on injustices.  We don’t see the tears, the struggle, and the frustration of those around us because the “idol” has us looking the other way.  We don’t hear the cries, the screams, and the protests because the “idol” drowns it out with entertainment and the status quo.  Eventually, we will become lifeless.

When we worship our “gods,” people around us are seen as “less than” and subjects made to cater and bow to every whim and desire.  People become commodities, bargaining chips, chess pieces, expendable and replaceable pawns.  To them, people are only good for one thing; their bodies.  They don’t care about their minds, souls, stories, and spirits.

So when we mock, tease, and taunt immigrants, we’re saying that they don’t have any value or any worth, except to waste space.

Let scoffers scoff but let the willing consider the evidence: Madness has descended on our culture in a blinding fog.  Pure madness. Unreasonableness. Irreconcilability. Callousness. The devil has come to make animals of image bearers. This he does by convincing us we’re gods. – Tweet, Beth Moore

I submit to you that we are worshipping America, though it pains me to say.

We worship the Constitution, our rights, and our country, sometimes, at the expense of people’s rights and welfare. I mentioned in my first Soapbox Chronicle that there’s nothing wrong with loving our country (patriotism); it becomes dangerous when we worship it (nationalism).  Isn’t it funny that when you worship America, people end up getting hurt in the process?

Do we care for the homeless and poor, regardless of whether they’re veterans, citizens, or immigrants?  Are we looking out for the needs of others above ourselves?  What, or who, are our laws and statutes truly benefiting?

The curse of sin in our world has broken us, emptied us, made us shells of who we were meant to be, yet we try to fill that void with things that supposedly give us worth, which most will turn to grasping power, control, and money at the expense of those around us.  The things we are capable of doing for more money, more control, and more power…and right now, you’re probably thinking of those injustices.

What are we worshipping when we want to make America first, but sacrificing people in the process?  What are we worshipping when we go to the nations, but turn a blind eye to our domestic neighbors?  What are we worshipping when we do unspeakable things, up to and including murder?  What are we worshipping when we turn against those who are trying to make better lives for themselves and their families?

What we fight for, or defend against, show what God (or gods) we serve.

I’m getting off my soapbox.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:11-14).

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

 

– Jon Pannell

 

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Prayer in the Midst of Politics

Alright folks, let’s cut to the chase.

Election Day is on November 8, and this is the day we exercise our right to vote and make our voice heard.  I don’t care if you’re jaded to politics or if you’re deeply passionate about politics.  I don’t care if you want to Make America Great Again or if you say “I’m With Her.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or part of the Pizza Party, you have the responsibility to vote.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sick and tired of all the political posts and arguments on social media and like me, you’ve thought at least 1,000 times a day to deactivate all your social media accounts until a month after Election Day.  You know through my posts on this blog that I hate politics with the passion of a thousand suns and I especially hate the fact that we have frivolous and petty arguments that lead to unfriending, unfollowing, and blocking our former friends and acquaintances.

We just want peace, not strife.  Unity, not division.

I want to share 1 Timothy 2:1-5 with you.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The Apostle Paul writes this letter to Timothy around AD 62-64 in regards to instruction and conduct in the early Church.  This was during the reign of the Emperor Nero and before the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.

In this passage, Paul urges the Church to pray and intercede and be thankful for all people, especially those in places of authority.  Read the first sentence in that verse.  Slowly.  Multiple times.  Meditate on it.

Regardless of who is and who will be the President, we as the Church need to pray and intercede and give thanks.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Obama, pray for him.  If you hate Trump or Clinton, it doesn’t matter; pray for them.  People in authority that you respect and/or dislike?  Pray for them.  No exceptions, no excuses.

When you pray, it takes your focus off the worldly and engages you with the heavenly.  This world is not your home, and your Heavenly Father is available 24/7; why not pray?  Feel hopeless? Pray.  Need someone to talk to? Pray.  The next time you want to blast someone or complain about politics, use that energy to pray.

Prayer leads to a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Think of it as a diagnostic; a prayerless life leads to an absence of peace, a life full of loveless shouting, ungodliness, and a lack of respect or dignity to yourself or towards others.  How is your life right now?  I’m going to be honest; my spiritual life isn’t that great, mainly because I haven’t been living a life of prayer.  As a result, I’ve been stressed out and I haven’t had much peace (be praying for me).

Praying for the authorities pleases God.  And guess what?  Prayer is the driving and aligning force of His will.  He desires all people to be saved and to come to truth.  God can open Heaven on the people and situations you pray and intercede for.  Plus, God is God; He can do whatever He pleases and will even work despite your disobedience.

Think about it.  What would happen if instead of fighting with each other and complaining on social media, we prayed and lived a peaceful life instead?  We could possibly see those in authority figures come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior!  Sounds crazy, right?  Imagine if Trump or Clinton or anyone else came to know Jesus!

Jesus is still saving and transforming people.  What are we doing to encourage or hinder that?

AD 64 was the Great Fire of Rome.  All fingers pointed to Nero, but he instead blamed it on the Christians, leading to intense persecutions and horrific martyrdoms.  And guess what?  The Church still grew as her people prayed and lived peacefully.  I would submit to you that they even prayed for Emperor Nero as they were persecuted.

If our religious liberties are taken away, we must know that God is still good and on His throne, that we should still pray for the authoritative figures in our lives.  But seriously, you act as if the next Presidential candidate is going to put an end to Christianity.  Have you forgotten who really is in charge here?  God is not tied to a political party. He doesn’t take sides; He’s here to take over.  He wants to be glorified in the things we say and do.

Church History tells of what happens when Christianity becomes non-persecuted and protected by the State.  But that may be a post for another day.

So here’s my challenge to you.  If you have burned someone with your words and actions, repent and seek forgiveness.  If you have been burned, know that there is healing through Jesus Christ.  And pray, pray, pray for those in authority of our nation instead of complaining and debating all the time.  Live a peaceful and quiet life, and be clothed in dignity and godliness.  Now go and pray.  Hang out with Jesus.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! — Psalm 46:10

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. — 1 Corinthians 13:1

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. — Romans 12:10

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

Jon Pannell