Are immigrants a fiscal drain on public resources?
In addition to the job concerns raised in my previous post, immigration specialist and devout Christian, James R. Edwards, explains another economic concern often raised by Christians seeking to understand and respond to the immigration issue. “Immigrants who pay few taxes and draw heavily upon public services have been a significant burden on the communities in which they have settled.”  Such a problem is met with a mixed response from researchers. One study observes that immigrants do not pose an overall financial burden on the citizenry. However, the same study says in contrast that in a localized context, a concentrated immigrant population can and often does prove to be a financial issue for the community.  Such a burden is attributed not to the immigrants themselves, but to an insufficient appropriation of resources to these particular geographical areas. However, in many of these locations, immigrants and natives often live in close proximity. The lack of coordination between local, state, and Federal authorities results in insufficient federal funding to these locales. Unfortunately, such problems result in negative perceptions toward immigrants.
In contrast to Edwards’ assumptions regarding the taxes paid by immigrants, Stephen Moore, an economist with the Cato Institute, observes that many immigrants do indeed contribute tax revenue toward the public services they use. In fact, Moore finds the average immigrant pays nearly $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their lifetime. This is based on the immigrant paying an average of $105,000 more to the federal government than benefits received from the federal government while receiving on average $25,000 in benefits more from state and local governments than is paid to state and local governments. 
The data collected from naturalized immigrants suggests they generally have a positive effect on public resources and nation-wide economics. As one author states, “immigrants do not further split up the pie; they enlarge it.”  The glaring problem in this comparison, however, is the missing factor of undocumented immigrants. One can do little more than speculate on the extent to which undocumented immigrants impact the economic well-being of native and naturalized citizens. This is a very important consideration for which information is limited. No doubt the factor of undocumented immigrants fuels the debate since that unknown factor skews existing data. Proposed immigration reforms must account for and address the problem of undocumented immigrants. Such options will be discussed later in this series.
Christians will differ on how to address the economic issues related to immigration policy. But believers can certainly agree that no person, immigrant or native should be measured by their potential capital output, but rather by their status as bearers of God’s image.
Civility Clarification: This post is pointed, aggressive, and personal. It is intended to be a redemptive rebuke. As such, some may question how I can call for civility while writing in such a manner. It’s simple; civility is NOT the absence of conflict and conviction, nor does it demand one’s rhetorical tone to be constantly perky. Civility deals in honesty, which at times requires some hard truth to be spoken. For more, refer to this post of mine from June 2015, Do Unity and Civility Sacrifice Conviction?
Okay, on we go!
Two articles came across my Facebook feed this morning, each reflecting facets of our divided political context. One expressed worry over pastors of politically divided churches but revealed in the end, a one-sided concern; the plight of pastors dealing with fear from potential victims of Trump, but nothing about the fear and concern from folks over the appointments, policies, and other results from a Clinton presidency. That piece from Christian Century is here
The other was an article on the pushback against Russell Moore, of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore was not only an outspoken critic of Clinton during the campaign but also voiced concern and criticism over the efforts of many Evangelicals and Southern Baptist leaders for their rationalization of Trump’s words and behavior. Pastors like Robert Jeffries, of First Baptist Church of Dallas, openly endorsed the Republican candidate and encouraged other Southern Baptists to do the same. Moore pointed out the inconsistency and faulty logic of those who, like Jeffries, sought to make a vote for Trump a matter of spiritual fidelity, while explaining away rhetoric and actions by Trump that blatantly defied principles of Christian faith.
With the election over, Russell Moore is now being challenged by Jeffries, as well as Jack Graham, of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX. Veiled insinuations of de-funding the ERLC or of having Moore resign are now the stuff of Social Media outlets and church hallway discussions. That piece from The Christian Post is here.
I am worried about the role and responsibility of pastors in this context, but my worry is about the extent to which pastors are not seeing and seizing their role as a prophetic voice in these times. The voice of pastoral prophet is easily silenced when seduced by the promise of political power. My post will address the specific groups with whom I’ve served over the past couple decades, The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
After serving in exclusively SBC churches, exclusively CBF churches, and churches with more than one alignment, I’ve seen that much of the issue is the pastor’s posture toward politics (totally unintentional alliteration there!).
In order for pastors to be a prophetic voice to all sides of the divide, they must follow Christ’s posture toward political power. He resisted a simplistic posture, refusing to “come down on a side” when confronted by the unholy alliances of Pharisees/Herodians and Pharisees/Sadducees seeking to trap him with false dichotomies. Jesus also refused to allow complacency by demonstrating knowledge of and engagement with the political systems of his day. This is important since some problems are issues of justice for which we must advocate in hopes of legislative action. Finally, Jesus did not allow for a view that sees political power as the primary way to affect change, since many of our issues cannot be solved through political legislation, but through redemptive cultural engagement. In this way, politics is indeed downstream from culture.
So, what must the pastor do? In an admittedly generalized statement, but one I will stand by after 20+ years and five elections of alphabet-soup (SBC/CBF) observation and involvement; It is time for SBC pastors and leaders to get out of bed with the Republican party. It is also time for CBF pastors and leaders to get out of bed with the Democratic party.
While these two Baptist groups continue their 20+ year feud, I see them doing little more than mirroring each other’s errors in a way that continues to ignore the potential for unity in Jesus Christ and continues to damage our external witness toward a world needing community, compassion, care, and conversion.
So, what to do? For God’s sake, pastors, preach Christ!!!
When did preaching Christ become politically insufficient? When the grace of Jesus confronts human brokenness, such grace will be a redemptive rebuke to the deficiencies in the platforms and policies of the Left and Right, as well as serving to strengthen what honors God and people in the platforms and policies of both Left and Right. I believe it will take pastors modeling this approach for church folks to learn how to do it themselves. Such pastors will take heat for it from all sides since the present and previous elections have demonstrated that Christians display a greater devotion and trust in political systems than they do in the real-world, real-time redemptive power of the Gospel.
Princeton Theological Seminary President, M. Craig Barnes, author of the Christian Century piece makes my point in his second to last paragraph when he speaks with prophetic intensity about Trump’s sins while being oddly silent about Clinton’s. I agree with everything he wrote about Trump’s behavior and am sickened by the pass so many Evangelicals gave him. No doubt, the witness of the church has been damaged from this election. So yes, speak truth to Trump. However, the author’s prophetic credibility diminishes when he fails to deliver on the very thing he spent the article calling pastors to do. He does not speak about or to Clinton’s sins; especially since her policies, practices, and pronouncements were the reasons many Christ-followers chose not to vote for her. This element is as important for ministry as binding up the wounds and listening to those in fear over Trump’s election. But now, the author’s hand is tipped, his bias is revealed, and his message falls flat; precisely what happens when one attempts to speak with moral authority toward politics from the bed of their partisan mistress.
The Christian Postpiece demonstrates the extent to which the old-guard Christian Right is unwilling to de-tangle their politics from the Gospel. I agree with the observation of a young pastor named James Forbis (@jforbis), when he says,”they’re (Jeffries, Graham and the like) worried about losing control within the SBC and Southern Baptists losing cultural relevancy,” he continued. “By all means as a young, informed, and engaged pastor within the SBC I’m fine with losing cultural relevancy,” he concluded, adding that he would rather the SBC be counter-cultural.
If you want to know what a prophetic pastoral voice sounds like, you’ve just heard it from James Forbis. In contrast, Jeffries, Graham, Falwell Jr., and others who think like them will find no prophetic voice until they leave the altar of their Golden Elephants.
So, I am worried. I am worried about the unwillingness of my pastoral colleagues to admit, avoid, and call out partisan idolatry. I pray and hope for a change, but I’m encouraged by the folks at my church and by next-gen voices like James Forbis who inspire us to BE the change.
I was at home recently, when the doorbell rang. I was not expecting a visitor, so I looked out the window to see who was there. Two young men were at my door. Was I concerned? Yes. Was I curious? Yes. Was I cautious? Absolutely.
Before opening the door, I looked both young men up and down, checked to see where their hands were, what was in their hands, how they were standing, and looked for signs of aggression in their countenance. There are tell-tale signs of aggression in one’s facial expression, body language, and clothing.
Seeing nothing to alarm me, I opened the door slightly, maintaining forward leverage on the door. My foot was planted behind the door as well – both actions preparing me to close the door should they try to rush. Why was I thinking they may rush the door? Because I am aware of situations where unexpected visitors rushed the door and invaded the home. Having that in mind, I was cautious.
The young men said they were from the Cross-Country Team of a local High School and were selling raffle tickets to raise money for travel to the State championships. I asked to see the tickets, asked about their coach, and about the dates of the State meet. Since I know students in the school and on the Cross Country Team, I asked about them and their events, all the while looking and listening for hesitations, conflicts in their story, or other signs of deception. In other, similar scenarios, I have asked to see to see a business card, letterhead, or some other type of credentials.
It turns out one of the young men was the boyfriend of a student I knew quite well. All was well at that point, my caution was satisfied and I invited the guys inside. I had my son, an aspiring cross-country runner, come out to meet them. We all chatted and I purchased several raffle tickets, after which the boys went on their way. Sadly, I didn’t win the PS4 offered in the raffle.
Was I afraid? No. Was I cautious? Yes. Was I compassionate? Yes. Would I do all that again? Absolutely.
BOTH compassion AND caution need not be mutually exclusive practices. Any sensible parent of a teenager is keenly aware of what it means to “trust, but verify.” We hope for, strive for, and even pray for the best from people, but we should also be prepared to respond to the worst in people.
To ignore caution is reckless and naive, but to forfeit sensible compassion is cruel and inhumane. BOTH caution AND compassion are possible.
In the aftermath of the shooting in San Bernardino, and from the still smoldering embers of concerns over the arrival of Syrian refugees, Donald Trump’s suggestion Muslims be banned from traveling to and from the US has served as rhetorical lighter fluid, igniting a firestorm of response from condemnation to commendation. The span of response demonstrates how complex these issues have become, and how vital it is for wisdom to prevail. I think such a path is possible if we all can approach these issues with a humility recognizing that no single party, person, or platform alone has the capacity to fully engage these issues. We need each other. Together, we can do better than the base mob-mentality to which Donald Trump is appealing.
I will concede that as a follower of Jesus, it can be hard to walk the line between Christ-like compassion and sensible security. However, closing the border based on religious affiliation violates the very religious freedom (among other freedoms ) upon which our nation was founded. It also sets a precedent that could just as easily be applied to Christians. As Russell Moore wrote in his Op-Ed for the Washington Post, “Make no mistake. A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies. A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians.”
In addition, to punish all Muslims because of the actions of radical jihadists will only serve to confirm the worst radicalization propaganda and swell the ranks of jihadists – making the problem even worse. The Muslims I know personally are just as disgusted with the actions of radical Islamic Jihadists as my fellow Baptists are at the actions of Westboro “baptist church.”
I do think a better plan for screening and vetting refugees is essential. I see no conflict between being BOTH compassionate AND being cautious. If there is already a good plan in place, it needs to be better communicated to the American people with verification of its effectiveness.
These are important times we live in! The best advice I can give is to be vigilant in our watchfulness and faithful in our witness; striving to be BOTH cautious AND compassionate.
The second republican debate featured some memorable moments and statements from the 11 candidates. While Trump entertained, while Rubio, Christie and Carson were solid, and Bush showed a bit of increased energy, only one candidate stood out in my opinion – Carly Fiorina.
The highlight of her performance was an impassioned challenge to Hillary Clinton and President Obama to view the now famous Planned Parenthood videos.
“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes, watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation. And if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of her statement. I am pro-life and believe Planned Parenthood’s actions to be both legally and morally deviant. Fiorina stood out among the other candidates for her passion on this issue. However, she also stood for her lack of precision in what she stated.
I’ve watched the videos, particularly the one in question. While Fiorina is correct in saying that practices represented in the video are actually occurring, her description does not take into account that the footage in the video is not of the event she is referencing. It is disturbing footage to be sure, but is added in order to provide a visual representation of the experience being described by a former employee of StemExpress while she was visiting a California Planned Parenthood clinic. That particular section of video was not footage from the undercover project. Florina also conveyed as a quote from that employee the following statement, “someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” a statement not found in any dialogue on the video. The frustration for pro-life supporters like me is that Fiorina’s error provides an escape route for Planned Parenthood defenders to get off on a technicality.
This raises at least two important points regarding the interdependence of passion and precision.
Proper research requires one to correctly cite their supporting source in both content and context.
Planned Parenthood defenders are right to point out the inaccuracy in Fiorina’s description. However, they are wrong to proceed as if Fiorina’s misspeak somehow dismisses the issue. What Fiorina described is in fact occurring every day, even if it technically did not occur in the way she described the particular portion of the video. This is like a convicted criminal being released on a technicality. Their guilt is not in question, but the process by which they were found guilty was flawed. Such is a miscarriage of justice, not a triumph. That the left is fixated on the technicality indicates a failure to either grasp or address the focus of what the videos are exposing.
That one misspeaks in the delivery of source material does not necessitate a collapse in the strength, accuracy, or importance of one’s overall position.
Fiorina’s defenders are correct to point out the atrocities of the videos, as well as to expose the inconsistencies and outright lies Planned Parenthood has spread in their efforts to bury the fact that they are engaged in the trafficking of human body parts, which are harvested from viable fetuses. These facts alone should be enough override political talking points. However, Fiorina and her defenders are wrong to ignore that her description, as accurate as it may be in the overall narrative of this issue – being based on confirmed accounts by former and present Planned Parenthood personnel, is not directly and technically represented in the video she references. Her present failure to correct her description could weaken the impact of future statements. It also offers to her opponents, be they pundits, opposing candidates, or a media that continues to carry water for Planned Parenthood, the very misdirection needed to keep her and pro-lifers running defense over her technical error instead of running forward with her overall message, where she is most certainly correct.
As we stand up and speak out, may we endeavor to be as precise as we are passionate.
For information on the Planned Parenthood scandal, begin with the links below: