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website and blog of Dr. Kevin D Glenn

Of Walls and Borders: Pt. 2 – Financial Concerns

May 8, 2018
kevindglenn

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.” [1] 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. [2] 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. [3]

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.” [4] 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.

[1] Swain, Debating Immigration, 60

[2] Pilar Marrero, Killing the American Dream: How Anti-immigration Extremists Are Destroying the Nation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 194

[3] Stephen Moore, A Fiscal Portrait of the Newest Americans (Washington, D.C.: National Immigration Forum, 1998), 20.

[4] Tanya Maria. Golash-Boza, Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2012), 204

Why we need pastoral prophets instead of partisan pawns.

December 21, 2016
kevindglenn

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 Post piece 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.

Who’s with me?

I prayed, “How long, O Lord?” He answered, “Until you change.”

July 8, 2016
kevindglenn

This week has been filled with tragedy, the most recent being Thursday night’s ambush of Dallas Police officers protecting the participants of a Black Lives Matter protest. At this time, 5 officers have been killed and 11 injured in the worst attack on law enforcement since 9/11.

My heart breaks for so many involved in these troubling times. I grieve with friends, colleagues, and loved ones who are black have been so patient with me over the years. See, I grew up in an environment that proudly waved confederate flags and referred to minorities by their first name – only after inserting a “title” containing a slur. Some of my earliest memories of interacting with African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and even Native Americans involved learning terms like, nigger, spook, coon, spick, wet-back, chinc, slant, gook, and in’jun. It wasn’t until friendships were formed with “those people” that my prejudices were challenged and changed. It was long and hard work that involved a great deal of me shutting my mouth unless it was to ask a question, listening, learning, and seeking to understand the stories of these folks as individuals and as a people. In doing so, I learned how many areas of daily life are points of caution, contention, and even confrontation to them while being non-issues to me in my white skin.

None of this was to make me feel guilty. Guilt motivates one to little more than a self-serving act that removes the feeling, but does little to actually produce change. No, the stories of these friends was shared to make me aware of my responsibility. My responsibility as a member of a privileged part of the population to speak up and speak out in support of equality, dignity, and justice for the multi-ethnic members of our singular human race. This has required much of me. I can not only speak of change, I must act in ways that demonstrate change.

I also grew up around first responders. My dad was a firefighter, so those guys were like a group of second fathers to me. Since the police and fire stations were next door to one another in those days, I knew most of the officers. My childhood best friend’s brother was (and still is) a cop, and that same best friend grew up to become a cop himself. I saw these men and women risk it all to serve, protect, rescue, and help members of the community; even those I had been conditioned to despise. Fast forward a couple decades and once again, I’m very close with folks from the military, fire/rescue, and law enforcement. I’ve prayed at the commissioning of military officers, police academy graduates, and led invocations at memorials for fallen soldiers and police officers. As one of my closest friends and active police officer wrote this morning, “The police are the last line between good and evil (thin blue line).” I am grateful for and supportive of the men and women who put their lives on that thin blue line everyday to protect each of us, and I grieve with those who have lost brothers and sisters in blue.

However, I can see and understand that there is a need for serious evaluation and change in aspects of law enforcement regarding their connection to, relationship with, and performance of their responsibilities toward the African-American community. There are simply too many complaints, cases, and confirmations of interactions between law enforcement entities (police, prisons, judicial systems) and African Americans that have resulted in oppression and tragedy.

So here they are. Real people with stories, concerns, responsibilities, and most of all, common humanity. But something has gone very wrong, resulting in the violence we have seen. There are very real points of concern, tension, misunderstanding, and even malice among these folks. The way forward is not with political spin, not with premature speculation, not with misinformed blame, not with useless guilt, and for God’s sake, not with vindictive violence.

As the news was breaking, I wrote a single question in my Facebook status, “How long, O Lord?” It’s a question of lament. A question that calls for change.

Indeed, things must change.

Some advocate for change.

Some will lobby for change.

Some will demand change.

Some will campaign for change.

Some will protest for change.

Many will pray for change … in other people; in THEM.

And we will expect that change to take place … in other people; in THEM.

That kind of change won’t happen. Why?

Until I addressed my own racism, privilege, ignorance, and participation in the problem did God begin to answer my prayers for change. Not until we stop looking through the window at others and look in the mirror at ourselves is change possible.

We will see change not when we merely talk, advocate, lobby, demand, or offer prayers that others change. Only when we take responsibility to embody the changes we seek will anything actually change.

Change must be done. Like justice, mercy, and love, change is an act of the will. It is a decision – an action. I must be and do differently. Is there a prayerful plan of action for that? There is, but I wonder who is serious enough about change to pray it for this will be the most dangerous, uncomfortable, sacrificial, liberating, and effective prayer you will ever pray – because it is answered in your being and doing it.

This is a prayer that can turn red and blue voters to purple, bring gun lobbyists from both sides to the same table, bring black lives matter and blue lives matter to solutions that matter, and bring together diverse perspectives under the unifying hope of peace and common good.

But do we really want to be the embodiment of this prayer? The answer to that question is what will determine where we go from here.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.” – St. Francis of Assisi

Dare to BE this prayer.

 

 

 

 

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