Call it coincidence. I was perusing my Twitter feed this morning and came across this declaration from left-wing Christian activist Shane Claiborne:
“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m devoted to Jesus & the poor. That’s why I find welcoming refugees & immigrants so important.”
Leaving aside Claiborne’s somewhat specious claim that he is “not a Democrat” given that his feed is consistently full of calls to use the gun of government to loot from the middle and upper class to give to the poor in the name of Jesus; that isn’t what stood out at me.
Right as I glanced past his tweet about the compassion of “welcoming immigrants,” I saw this story:
An illegal immigrant from upstate, New York, has been arrested for repeatedly raping a young girl when she was 12 and 13 years of age. The illegal immigrant living in Geneseo, 37-year-old Fernando Alvarado-Perez, has been “charged with first-degree rape, a class B felony, rape in the second degree, a D felony, criminal sex act in the second degree, a D felony, and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child,” reports the Livingston County News.
The Genesee Sun claims the man had sex with the minor in front of a baby. The suspect has been arraigned and is currently being held without bail at the Livingston County Jail.
In one sense you can call this fighting emotionalism with emotionalism. For every story Shane and other left-wing political activists can point to of the suffering faced by illegal immigrants desperate to escape into the United States, one of the pain and carnage suffered by innocent American children at the hands of illegal immigrants we “welcomed” can be offered in response. If Shane points to the suffering illegal immigrant child and says to me, “How can you as a Christian allow this and think you are following Jesus’ command to care for the least of these?” I will point to this repeatedly-raped little girl and ask him the same.
For every story of the plight and economic misery faced by illegal immigrants in their home countries, one of the economic devastation faced by black, inner-city, American youth because of the influx of cheap, illegal labor can counter. If Shane points to the squalor of the Guatemalan family desperate to escape and accuses me of sentencing them to poverty, I will point to the homeless black youth turning to gang violence in Los Angeles and accuse him of the same.
None of this is productive, of course. The far more important question Christians should be asking one another is how we can respect the law that is dutifully written to protect the innocent in our own country, while simultaneously providing compassion and care for those in terrible circumstances outside our borders. In some cases that will involve accepting refugees into our country; in a majority of cases, however, it will involve carrying help and hope across our borders to them directly.
But imperative for us as Christians is to remember that all our acts of goodwill and charity are ultimately meaningless if we do not carry with every bottle of water, every morsel of food, every dollar of relief, the life-liberating message of salvation in Christ alone. Reaching out to save someone’s physical life is kindness; reaching out to save someone’s eternal soul is Godliness.