Current Conversation:  Reforming Political Discourse

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Truthfulness, Exclusion, and the Church

Christians in the US have played key roles in the creation of that creatureliness-denying freedom, and they've also played key roles in surviving it, challenging it, and witnessing to faith within it. When we tell the story of Christianity in the US, which of those stories do we mean? Which ought to be at the center? Which most informs our action now?

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Creating Opportunity in a Changing Economy

There are few questions about economics that garner as much attention as those surrounding inequality. Over the last 30 years in particular, as we have watched income and wealth inequality rise in the United States, there has been considerable scholarly and popular attention to questions about fairness in our economic system. This attention is well-warranted. Christians, in particular, live in a tradition that has long questioned the morality of wealth and poverty, and has prioritized concerns about justice in the economy. Moreover, there have been dramatic changes in inequality in our lifetimes, both in the U.S. and globally, that are worth paying attention to. In this first part of our conversation I would like to set the stage by describing some recent trends in economic inequalities, then examine a range of explanations that are given for these trends, and then finally offer some suggestions for Christian thinking about inequality.

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Subtopic 8: Wealth and Poverty in America (April 2018)

Leading Questions: America is increasingly divided between rich and poor. What are the root causes of poverty and wealth disparity in America? Is there a connection between wealth disparity in America and disparities in the rest of the world?  Is there a biblical and Christian ideal for the distribution of wealth, both nationally and globally? How should Christians respond personally and politically to national and global poverty and wealth disparity?

Conversation Partners: 

  • Kelly Johnson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Dayton 
  • Steve McMullen, Associate Professor of Economics, Hope College 

Closing Comments:  Immigration

If you would like to comment on the March topic as a whole, please do so below.

Thinking about Immigration as Citizens of Heaven

I readily concur, though, with Robert’s last point, reflecting on a biblical theme:  immigration is used as one of the central metaphors for the Christian life. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and on this earth we are (depending on the English translation), aliens, strangers, exiles, and sojourners (Hebrews 11:13, 1 Peter 2:11).

For those of us who are followers of Christ, our primary identity ought not to be as Americans, nor as Republicans or Democrats, nor as “citizens of this world”—but in Christ. All other allegiances should be secondary, without any that could even come near to rivaling our primary identity.

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Democracy, Justice, and Immigration

The point I have been trying to make in these essays is that immigration law, once adopted, ought to be enforced. Ultimately, the most effective means of enforcing rules excluding individuals is to exclude those individuals. That’s what immigration rules do. There may be good reasons to change the rules (and Congress has the constitutional power to make those changes). But unless the rules are changed in accord with the rule of law, the rule of law itself is threatened by our collective failure to abide by immigration rules we’ve adopted. And then, as history reveals, everyone loses.  

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Changing the Question - Changing our Calling

My main concern with Matthew’s argument is that his use of the Bible detracts from one of the most important themes of all of scripture. The gospel message powerfully unites all people. Christ died for all, and all who believe in Him are united in His church. The church transcends national borders. And we who believe are called to life in a new Kingdom.

In the words of the Apostle Peter, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (I Peter 2:10-11).  

As Christians, we are called to more than welcoming strangers, sojourners, and exiles. We are called to live as exiles in the world.

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Moving Beyond Rhetoric & the Theoretical: Toward a More Just Immigration Policy

Reading through Robert’s initial post on the topic, there was little I would actually disagree with and much with which I can readily agree. What I was left wanting, though—and might find with the next post—was more specificity: we agree that immigration law and policy are extremely complex and not served well by simplistic rhetoric. We can both acknowledge that policy responses to the challenges of U.S. immigration will be imperfect and almost certainly have unintended consequences. We can also agree that the questions and terminology themselves are limited, debating what is meant by a “just” policy or practice. But questions of immigration policy are also far more than theoretical: they directly impact millions of people, and my conviction is that my faith compels me to do all within my power to grapple with the complexity and pursue more just policies on behalf of these neighbors whom I’m called to love, even while acknowledging that no changes to U.S. law will result in a perfect (or perfectly just) reality.

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Moving Beyond Immigration Rhetoric

As an initial matter, then, I want to make clear my understanding that the point of this conversations is to move beyond rhetoric in the immigration conversation. Progress in this conversation calls on us to engage reason, and by reasoning together about the questions we’ve been asked to discuss we just may make discoveries leading us to greater understanding. Along with Matthew, I seek to gain more knowledge in this conversation. As we share our thoughts, informed by the knowledge we have already acquired, in pursuit of greater understanding of issues pertaining to immigration law and policy the conversation may lead us to discovery. Ultimately we seek together to discover something true. Discovery thereby produces knowledge, and knowledge is a crucial part of wisdom. In the words of Proverbs, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Prov. 18:15 ESV).

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Immigration, Justice, the Bible and the Church

To be clear, the Scriptures do not prescribe a U.S. immigration policy, nor do I believe that the laws God established for Israel in the Pentateuch should be simply transferred over to U.S. law. The Bible’s many descriptions of and teachings regarding the treatment of immigrants, though, reveal a great deal about the unchanging character of God and of how he defines justice, including, specifically, for the immigrant.

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