Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cheap Grace and Easy Amnesty

Some of my favorite experiences in the past few months have involved visiting Spanish-speaking families with our local missionaries, including some families that are here illegally. While I'm uncomfortable with our porous borders, I can understand their quest to find something better for their families. I'm happy for them in general, but there are some nagging issues to face.

In thinking about President Bush's apparent desires to placate Mexico versus the legal path to citizenship and the Constitutional duty to protect our borders (especially in times of war - isn't there some kind of war going on?), it occurred to me that some of my problems with his approach are similar to my problems with what what some call "cheap grace" (in one form, this could be just repeating a prayer to be instantly saved regardless of any prior or subsequent behavior).

Becoming a citizen of the United States has a few things in common with becoming a citizen in the Church. Both require meeting some qualifications, making a covenant, and receiving a change in status through properly authorized personnel. Receiving the blessings of forgiveness and citizenship in the household of God through covenants to follow Christ and the ordinance of baptism is a manifestation of true grace, grace that is offered in a covenant relationship, with some requirements from the recipient (e.g., repentance, faith in Christ, etc.). When the blessings of citizenship are extended to immigrants who meet the requirements, it is also a form of kindness from the United States, though the gate to legal citizenship is much narrower than the Lord's gate.

Some of the same problems that I see with "cheap grace" also seem to apply to the "cheap citizenship" that is essentially being offered by de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants (excuse me - I mean the undocumented illegals - sorry for the lapse into politically incorrect speech) in the guise of President Bush's temporary worker program. To me, some forms of "cheap grace" lessen the appreciation of the recipient for the gift, and often fail to transform the life and behavior of the believer, in contrast to those who accept and live covenants based on following Christ and repenting of our sins. Likewise, I worry that simply granting amnesty and citizenship to those who have flaunted the law and sought for shortcuts will not instill respect for the gift of citizenship and will not transform the recipients into fellow Americans who share respect for our principles and our liberty. And of course, those who waited years to become citizens or even to enter our borders legally will feel robbed and cheated. And then others will be angry to be paying social security and higher taxes and insurance to cover millions who came here illegally and have now brought their families under President Bush's "cheap citizenship" program. It's not a way to build a unified society, that's for sure.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're right to call it amnesty. Bush says it isn't, but amnesty it is.

Some valuable comments on Bush's failure to listen to Americans on this critical issue:

http://www.conservativehq.com/

Eric Nielson said...

I like your thoughts on this Jeff, thank you.

Ryan said...

I'm going to have to put in a plug for the other point of view here...

First, the "narrow gate" of immigration is exceedingly narrow. A great many of the illegal aliens I worked with on my mission (southern CA, Spanish speaking) had made every possible attempt to follow legal channels with no luck. Some had been waiting on applications for citizenship for 10-15 years.

Second, I sometimes wonder whether the reason it's so hard for Mexicans to immigrate is because U.S. companies would rather hire illegal aliens -- no benefits, no retirement, no insurance, lousy wages, and no legal recourse to resist exploitation. Perfect!

Third, the argument that illegal aliens are an unnacceptable burden on society (especially the areas of social security and medical care) stems largely from the fact that illegals cannot receive insurance or have wages witheld. If they weren't being paid under the table things might be just a tad different. Besides, we citizens are doing an excellent job of overburdening the system all by ourselves. Should we apply the same argument to inner city section 8 denizens? (Not quite comparable, but you get the idea)

Finally, I don't think the "cheap grace" argument quite works here. It often seems to me that native-born American citizens are no more likely (or even less so!) to appreciate the blessings it brings to them. Besides, convenants in the gospel are much more fair, and cut both ways. Anyone who repents can be accepted, and children of Abraham who fail to keep the commandments can lose their blessings. We have none of that fairness in citizenshiph issues.

Stacey Pokorney, the "Party Crasher" said...

Hello, all,
Just a word about fairness - here in Dallas, and in San Antonio, where I'm from, illegal aliens are a severe problem.

Speak of kindness to those in need if you want, and the difficulty in obtaining citizenship legally. Those are indeed issues one can discuss.

What is not debatable is that illegal aliens are a HUGE drain on our social services. No one denies that social services, such as welfare, free hospital care, etc., are necessities for some. However, most illegal immigrants (not all) pay absolutely no income taxes, so they do not help to pay for the services they use.

This leaves the legal immigrants and US citizens footing the bill. No matter how kind we may be, no matter how much we care, we really can't afford to pay for those who will not assist in helping cover their own costs.

Floyd the Wonderdog said...

Is a person who is breaking the law by being in the country illegally allowed to be baptized while continuing to break the law? They aren't observing the fifth article of faith.

Are they required to either apply for legal status or leave the country?

Anyone know?

Walker said...

I served in San Diego--to my knowledge you must have some kind of legit paperwork, green card, visa, or full on citizenship. Otherwise, you cannot be baptized.

Josh Cummings said...

Thanks for your valuable insight, Jeff. I think that there is an interesting side discussion on "cheap grace" when it comes to citizenship, both in America and in the Kingdom. That is, the issue of those that inherit their citizenship by birth.

I am interested in the fact that immigrants must go through a rigorous process to prove themselves loyal upholders of liberty, productive citizens, etc., but we do not require it of those who are born in the country. This "cheap grace" approach causes a couple of problems including the mother-to-be illegal who has her baby within the United States borders.

However, I believe that the "cheap grace" doesn't only affect the immmigrants and their children. I believe that it affects us and out children, too. Have you ever noticed that you were never required to go through any kind of process, rigorous or not, to prove your loyalty to libery, productiveness, etc.?

Imagine if this "cheap grace" that is given to we "free-born" people were given in the Church. What if, because my parents are LDS, I didn't have to be baptized, didn't have to make sacred covenants, etc., but instead my ticket to citizenship in the Kingdom was free by virtue of their citizenship? I'm so happy that the Church does not perform this way, but that they require each person of the age of accountability, regardless of birth, status, intelligence, righteousness, etc. to make these coventants and show their loyalty to the Lord.

So, the discussion of "cheap grace" applies to all. We give it quite cheaply to our children (myself included) because they automatically become citizens of our great nation. I think that it would behoove us to consider how we might not give this gift cheaply to anyone, including the free-born.

Eric Selin said...

I want to know what the position of the Church is with regard to its treatment of illegals. Now just to let you see what I am thinking to myself:

Marion G. Romney in “The Rule of Law,” Ensign, Feb 1973, 2 said:

“The law of Christ” is all-inclusive. It concerns not only rules that shall govern beyond the grave, but also the law of nature here and
now-local, national, and international. Latter-day Saints should strictly obey the laws of the government in which they live. By our own declaration of faith we are committed to do so, for we declare to the world that “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (A of F 1:12.) This we do in harmony with the Lord’s command: “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. “Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:21-22.) “Civil authority is of divine origin. It may be more or less adapted to the needs of man; more or less just and benevolent, but, even at its worst, it is better than anarchy. Revolutionary movements that aim at the abolition of government
itself are contrary to the law of God. …” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary [Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 339.) When the “rule of law” breaks down in a family, a community, a state, or a nation, chaos reigns.”

Uh yeah and that’s precisely what is going on today.

This is increasingly becoming a point of discussion among LDS friends in light of the chaos at the border, political, public health and economic problems posed by illegals and increasing presence of illegals in our communities here in NY. The discussion centers in part on the apparent ambivalence of LDS authorities regarding the illegal status of people taught by missionaries. The problem is that few if any mambers here seem to know what the policy of the Church is regarding baptizing illegals but there seems to be knowledge of areas where the Church leadership at least local leadership seems to be very aware of the status yet baptizes them anyway.

I have read some stuff recently by at least one GA who said that this is an issue of government not of religion but that strikes me as completely ridiculous and nearly as bad as the position Catholic priests are taking on border issues. The law is the law. If an LDS bishop knows that a candidate for baptism is a law breaker and is currently breaking the law (not just in the area of immigration) unless that person first repents how can the Church authorize that he/she be baptized? And further, from what I am hearing some of these bishops know full well these candidates for baptism are illegals.

Isn't repentance first, fundamental to baptism? In light of President Romney's remarks which are fully consonant with my understanding of membership requirements it seems very clear that at a minimum potential members ought to be showing by walk and talk as the D&C states that they are worthy of it. Blatant, purposeful, chronic lawlessness doesn't seem to be consistent with membership in the Church. I would take the same position with regard to members baptized in their own countries (say in Brazil) who come here illegally. Why should they be members in full fellowship? And similarly it would apply to members baptized in the US who illegally enter and/or remain in other countries.

The current policy from what I gather seems to be don't ask don't tell. But I wonder to myself, why should the Church cooperate in lawlessness with an apparent don't ask don't tell policy? Such a non-policy seems intentionally and diametrically opposed to the principles of righteousness and basic things like honesty, it's like whiting the sepulchre. "Matt. 23: 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited bsepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness."

It seems to me like if there is a reason to inquire, inquiry not only can but should be made before baptism. Smokers and coffee/tea drinkers have an inquiry and those activities are not even criminal. In fact should they quit, get baptized and start their habits again their membership isn't even endangered. But getting arrested and convicted could easily get a member disciplined, and rightly so. I guess I am just not a fan of wilful ignorance when it comes to this kind of thing. Actually to tell the truth wilful ignorance generally is something that I truly detest. It's a weasel position and it's not moral.