Southern Baptists running away from immigration reform

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Logo of the Southern Baptist Convention

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Logo of the Southern Baptist Convention

Logo of the Southern Baptist Convention

Logo of the Southern Baptist Convention

In recent years, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has provided some notable support for comprehensive immigration reform. In 2011, the SBC passed a resolution calling on the government to provide undocumented immigrants with “a just and compassionate path to legal status.” Richard Land, the longtime head of SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and his successor Russell Moore have both served prominently on the Evangelical Immigration Table, the umbrella group that has lobbied for just such a path.

But since President Obama took matters into his own hands in the face of congressional inaction, Southern Baptist Pooh-bahs have done a U-Turn. The president’s executive action will “tear us apart,” huffs Moore. It “will endanger our constitutional experiment in government,” puffs Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

The pièce de evangelical résistance, however, comes from Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern, writing on this very site yesterday. He takes President Obama to task for associating his executive action with Exodus 23:9. (“Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”)

The president, declares Coppenger, “ran roughshod over context.”

Ancient Israel had open borders; we don’t. The “strangers” in Exodus weren’t “undocumented,” since there were no such documents. And Moses used enslavement in Egypt as his reference for oppression, hardly comparable to a flight back to Mexico City. And what of other passages, such as Romans 13:1-7, which honors the rule of law?

Ah, the perils of proof-texting. To be sure, among the whereases in that 2011 resolution, the SBC cites Exodus 22:21. (“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  And Zechariah 7:10. (“And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor…”) And Amos and Isaiah and Deuteronomy and many more biblical injunctions to help the least and the alien among us. And none of this is presented as being at odds with Romans 13, which is also cited.

Yet somehow, for Coppenger, the president’s invocation of Exodus 23:9 is “carrying contraband” across “the hermeneutical bridge.” I’d say that, for the Southern Baptist establishment, crossing the Republicans is the political bridge that cannot be traversed.

And speaking of Republicans, let us not overlook Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, another Southern Baptist, who on the morning of President Obama’s immigration speech visited MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said, “This idea, the rule of law, is really concerning a lot of people where I come from. And whether it’s factual or perceptual, it really doesn’t matter.”

Brother Tom, why not enhance the perception of your constituents by reminding  them that their state got its start when immigrants violated the rule of law by rushing across the border to grab 160 acres of “unassigned land.” Which is why, today, the people where you come from proudly call themselves Sooners.

How’s that for context?

  • Larry

    Now that conservatives can no longer pillory Obama for not acting towards immigration reform, they change their tune. How convenient.

    I swear, if Obama suddenly declared that he is the enemy of Satan and all of his minions, Republicans (and the SBC) will suddenly cite Biblical passages and arguments why they must embrace the Devil and his works. 🙂

  • Chaplain Martin

    Larry, I absolutely agree. At least concerning the media seeking wonks who claim conservative (i.e. fundamentalist) leanings. Your second paragraph is priceless and on target.

    Please be aware that the power of Al Mohler, and Russell Moore on the Southern Baptist laity is slight. Mark Coppinger, is paid to write as he did, forget ethics.

    Your statement: “I’d say that, for the Southern Baptist establishment, crossing the Republicans is the political bridge that cannot be traversed;” Is unfortunately correct.

    Do not confuse the so-called SBC establishment with speaking for the thousands of individual churches (and members) in the convention. Many, many SBC affiliated churches give a very little amount to SBC causes such as the Cooperative Program. Many churches listed as Southern Baptist are keeping up their membership in the local, state, and national convention only because of some, usually older members, who remember the SBC before the fundamentalist takeover. The number of churches may look good on paper, but they are suffering the same decline as other denominations.

    I get no pleasure in writing about the spiritual (even mental) sickness that has been eating away at the denomination I entered as a nineteen year old.

  • This article is embarrassingly silly. Two of the people quoted in it have made it clear that they embrace reform but that Obama’s usurpation of legislative authority will hurt the developing consensus. That is not a U-turn, that is hope that discernment will be exercised.

    And, the fact that you can name two others does not exactly constitute a landslide movement.

    I would say your scholarship is sloppy, but the fact is that there is no scholarship in you piece to start with. I suggest that you think more and emote less.

  • Larry

    That “usurpation of legislative authority” is just Congress trying to encroach claim on powers well within the purview of the White House since the beginnings of formalized immigration laws.

    Two REPUBLICAN presidents had done similar actions with no complaints of overstepping authority. This is simply “Obama Derangement Syndrome”. It matters because Obama is doing it, not because of the act itself.

    Fact of the matter is Mr. Silk has noted the flip/flop the SBC made on the issue.

  • ben in oakland

    Spiritual politics, eh?

    Who said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Whose parents were turned away at the inn? Who said “Treat others as you would wish to be treated.”

    no one important, not to modern conservative Christianity, at any rate.

  • Ben in oakland

    If you think they are spiritually and mentally ill on the subject of immigration, just wait till you hear them proclaim their holiness while they are slandering and reviling gay people.

    Or you can just ask them about Mormons. Prior to 2012, they were emphatically not christians. During 2012, it was all “I think I had a visitation from jesus, his brother lucifer, and the angel Moroni.”

    Nah. It was just RMoney

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  • David Farrar

    The true goal of immigration reform isn’t to address the needs, wants, or desires of 11.2 million illegal aliens presently living in this country, but to stop, or drastically reduce, illegal immigration from occurring, again, while strongly encouraging legal immigration.

    The American people have spoken time and time again over the issue of immigration reform and have yet to be heard by Obama or by Congress. They spoke again at the last election, again, their voices have been unheard by Obama and Congress. The American people know as long as Obama and Congress keep create incentives for those who have immigrated to this country illegally, it can never be STOPPED.

    ex animo

  • What a “silly” comment. Republians don”t want consensus or reform. They did nothing for two years. Whatever their “talk” of reform it is nothing more than an empty tomb.