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.