Outlawing the Gospel

It strikes me as bizarre that in this most Christian of countries, we are insisting that health care reform must prohibit Christian behavior! No illegals may benefit.

Does this compute somehow with “Love your neighbor as yourself”? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, in fact, the roles are reversed and it is the alien who cares for the citizen. Does legal status matter when someone is in need?

In fact, the Old Testament also requires that we care for the stranger in our midst. To cite one passage among many:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

It is, however, an old American tradition to ignore the Scriptures. Before the Civil War, the Congress attempted to reconcile the deep divisions in the country by passing a “Fugitive Slave Act” requiring citizens to help arrest suspected fugitives.

Parker Pillsbury, a leading New England abolitionist, called it “as impious and blasphemous a document as was ever drawn and acknowledged by any body of men” because “The law of God required us to succour and protect the destitute stranger” while the Fugitive Slave Act required us to send the slave back to suffering and bondage.

Jesus, Pillsbury pointed out, offered blessings to those who responded to human need. “I was a stranger,” Jesus said, “and you took me in; I was hungry, and you gave me food; naked and you clothed me . . .” But the Fugitive Slave Act provided fines and imprisonment for those who so acted. And health care reform must now in the same way rule out fulfillment of Jesus teaching.

A fugitive slave was also an “illegal.” Yes, but “slavery was wrong,” you will tell me. Yes, but what justifies the boundaries that protect our wealth and condemn others to poverty? Where in the Bible does it suggest that we have no responsibility toward the alien in our midst, legal or illegal? Or have we so perverted the Gospel that it absolves us from any need to be concerned for human need on our doorstep?

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