God's Politics

God's Politics


Jim Wallis: Politics Isn’t Working

posted by gp_intern

Legislation for comprehensive immigration reform collapsed in the U.S. Senate yesterday as an effort to move to a final vote was defeated, leaving the future in serious doubt. It’s the perfect example of an observation I’ve often made – that most people I talk to around the country think that the political process isn’t working in America; it is failing to resolve the big moral issues of our time.

In this morning’s Washington Post, in an analysis of the Senate action, Dan Balz wrote:

The collapse of comprehensive immigration revision in the Senate last night represents a political defeat for President Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the bill’s most prominent sponsors. More significantly, it represents a scathing indictment of the political culture of Washington.

The defeat of the legislation can be laid at the doorstep of opponents on the right and left, on congressional leaders who couldn’t move their troops and on an increasingly weakened president and his White House team. But together it added up to another example of a polarized political system in which the center could not hold.

The partisan blame game was already at fever pitch as the bill was going down yesterday. But to those far removed from the backrooms of Capitol Hill, what happened will fuel cynicism toward a political system that appears incapable of finding ways to resolve the nation’s big challenges.

While we will continue to advocate for comprehensive reform, when the political system proves itself incapable of change, it is time for the community of faith to lead. And once again, that is what is happening. In the 1980s, as thousands of refugees were fleeing the wars in Central America, people of faith stepped up. We offered services, advocacy, and when necessary, sanctuary. Congregations all across the country hosted refugees and protected them from efforts at deportation.

Now a New Sanctuary Movement has emerged. The initial impetus was in Chicago, where a mother’s plight revived the sanctuary movement:

Sanctuary, in antiquity the practice of providing refuge in a sacred place, has been revived in a rather dramatic fashion by an undocumented Mexican cleaning woman trying to evade deportation by holing up in a Chicago church.

Elvira Arellano, 32, said she invoked the ancient right of sanctuary in a desperate effort to avoid being separated from her 7-year-old son, Saul, an American citizen.

That was nine months and 18 days ago. Since then, her act of civil disobedience has helped spark a new sanctuary movement and transformed her into a leader in the effort to create a path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

The movement is now growing, as Congress seems unable to act, and surprise raids are separating more and more immigrant families. People of faith are taking Leviticus 19: 33-34 seriously:

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

We will continue to advocate for justice in immigration reform, but we will also act to serve those who are being oppressed. Our faith demands no less.

 



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anoniass

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:31 pm


I seriously pray we are up to it. Civil disobedience may become the only way left.
The disgrace on both side of the aisle is great indeed. All those trumpeting security concerns left the floor with nothing. All those crying for the American worker, got nothing. Any one concerned for the “Rule of Law” got nothing. All those concerned for human rights and the heart and soul of America got nothing.
The Hispanic/Latin American and anyone else who came here out of need got blame and abuse.
It will obviously take more than mere politics to tackle this issue. Courage and Faith can be stronger, but…



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moderatelad

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:38 pm


It will just take more time to get things straightened out – sooner or later. If we would just enforce the laws that are on the books we would not have as big a problem as we have today. No – we would still need to make improvements for the future but we would not have the problem that we have today.
Have a great weekend!
.



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Wolverine

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:46 pm


Actually, the immigration “reform” bill does not represent the inability of the center to “hold” as much as it represents the inability of the center to think straight.
Bush-Kennedy was the compilation of the worst ideas of the left (effective amnesty) and right (the temporary worker program) to create a proposal that was ultimatley too dumb for Congress.
What is needed is a program that adopts the best ideas of the left (openness to legal immigration) and right (stronger enforcement, especially at work places) to create a workable, humane resolution.
A thought occurs to me: Our politics are such a mess right because our political centre is as stupid as it has been at any point in our history.
Wolverine



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Don

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:33 pm


Not only can’t the center hold here, but our representatives are incapable of seeing the forest for the trees. The immigration system is broken and is unenforceable. The only reasonable fix is to make some provision so that those who want to come here and work can. We also need to keep families together. It’s not rocket science.
But too many special interests are interfering with the need to fix the broken system. It won’t happen until we elect legislators who are more interested in doing what’s right for the nation than in making sure they win the next election.
Moderatelad: enforcement isn’t an option. The current laws are unenforceable.
Wolverine: Bush-McCain-Kennedy was a compromise, not a repeat performance. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have been better than what we have now.
I don’t know whether my congregation would consider amnesty–we tend to be non-political. But I would be willing to help protect someone from an unjust separation if I could.
Thanks, Rev. Wallis for standing up for the unaccounted.
Peace,



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Don

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:35 pm


I wrote:
“I don’t know whether my congregation would consider amnesty…”
should have been:
“I don’t know whether my congregation would consider SANCTUARY…”
Sorry!



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Sarasotakid

posted June 8, 2007 at 5:22 pm


The compromise that failed was a mish-mash of conservative and liberal positions that ended up pleasing nobody. Certainly the legalization aspect of it was positive but the guest worker program was unworkable with the two years in, one year out, two years in, etc. The point system would have been a disaster, and the compromise would have eviscerated a very good tempoarary worker program- the H-1B program that allows us to recruit some of the best and brightest.
I think that your next best hope would be to wait for an administration change in Washington for us to have a more workable solution. I am heartended by the fact that the debate in Washington (not on this blog necessarily) has moved from “ship’em all out” to “what do we do with them, now that they’re all here? A net improvement from the days of HR 4437 in late 2005.
Having said that, the American people deserve to know that this is not going to be an occurrence every 20 years or so and there must be some sort of mechanism to ensure that employers do not hire undocumented workers going forward. If the word “amnesty” were properly used, those who pointed that term at the undocumented aliens should have used it against the employers who have employed them all these years. Talk about getting away scott free, they were not being asked to pay so much as a dime in fines or penalties.
Sanctuary is an extreme measure and I laud Jim for advocating it.



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Anonymous

posted June 8, 2007 at 6:15 pm


“when the political system proves itself incapable of change, it is time for the faith community to lead…” Sojourners seems to be getting more and more political, and less and less faith oriented. Why do we start with politics? Shouldn’t the faith community be challenged to lead first? Wouldn’t we need a lot less political action .if the Church simply lived out the commands given to us love God and love our neighbors? Rev. Wallis, you seem to be placing more and more of your confidence in the institutions of man, with faith as a ‘back up plan’. Hold the Church accountable, not polititians pandering to the Church (from either side of the isle.)
Jamie



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Ngchen

posted June 8, 2007 at 6:38 pm


Well, I believe that taking the rules in Leviticus to mean that we should be lenient on illegal immigration is taking it out of context. Yes, we are to treat aliens similarly as citizens. A principle of law is that lawfully admitted aliens are to be treated well, similarly to citizens. But no, that doesn’t mean we should be giving people who enter and/or stay illegally a free pass. (Not that the failed proposal would do that, but anyhow…)
On the other hand, I don’t see why we can’t simply loosen up on the granting of immigrant visas. As is marked on the Statue of Liberty “Give us your tired, your poor…” If such visas are more readily available, there would be little incentive to immigrate illegally. Have a background check, and exclude those with bad records. Let all the rest who want in, in. Maybe add a probationary period where those who commit crimes and such can be speedily deported. As to those who would enter and be productive individuals, I don’t see why they should be kept out.



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neuro_nurse

posted June 8, 2007 at 7:11 pm


“this is all bananas” I’ll second that! The change was made without warning.
My quotation marks and paragraph breaks disappear into what appears to be a diificult to follow stream of consciousness.
I don’t like it!



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anoniass

posted June 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm


What a great example of the problem…
“I believe that taking the rules in Leviticus to mean that we should be “LENIENT” on illegal immigration is taking it out of context.”
One group sees thousands of dollars in fines for a misdemeanor offense imposed on poor hardworking individuals who simply wanted to earn what we have been given freely. Thousands of dollars for an offense which years of lax law enforcement certainly made look like we did not take seriously.
The other side sees an open door “amnesty” given to thieves and robbers who raped their grandmother and display nothing but disdain for our country.



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Robert H. Smith

posted June 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm


The qoute from Leviticus concerning aliens indeed gives us some insight into God’s view of immigrants. There are other verses in the Old Testament laws that talk about aliens. However, if we use the passage from Leviticus 19 as our rule for treatment of aliens, are we not obligated to follow the same guidelines for the statements in the rest of Leviticus 19, along with those in chapter 18? To do otherwise would be inconsistent.



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LonewackoDotCom

posted June 8, 2007 at 11:08 pm


I posted this on the earlier Haloscan version; sorry for the retread but here’s a question for Wallis or his remaining followers. Won’t the amnesty he supports increase the numbers of people trying to come here illegally, and won’t that increase the numbers of border deaths as many don’t make it?
How can Wallis oppose border deaths, yet advocate policies that will increase the numbers of border deaths?
Is it that he doesn’t really care, or that he’s simply unqualified to understand everything involved in this issue?



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Don

posted June 9, 2007 at 7:01 am


And I answered on the earlier Haloscan.
I’m not sure why you question Rev. Wallis’ “qualification” to speak on this topic and why you feel you must disparage those who support him. He understands the issue quite well. He and others have proposed solutions that will decrease the number of deaths.
“Amnesty” (your words, not mine–paying up to $5000 in fines and back taxes isn’t *amnesty* according to my understanding) is not the reason people are coming here; economic desperation is. They won’t stop coming until economic conditions at home improve. That’s not something we have a lot of control over, is it?
Increased border deaths are caused by our overzealous militarization of the border. Increasing “border security” hasn’t reduced the numbers of crossings in the past and it won’t now. Between 1989 and 1998 the border patrol’s budget increased 6X and the number of agents doubled. During that same period, the number of undocumented immigrants also doubled. (Source: http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/myths.html)
The problem isn’t lack of security. The problem is lack of legal avenues for desperate people to come here to work. The only thing that will decrease the number of border deaths is some kind of workable guest worker policy, coupled with demilitarization of the border regions.
Peace,



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Anonymous

posted June 9, 2007 at 12:39 pm


Not that Jim Wallis is necessarily among this group, but the temptation for many will be to take Leviticus 19:33-34 and apply it directly without any thought to changes that have taken place in recent millenia.
The question that pops in my mind is: what is there that seperates this from the thinking of the “Dominionists”? I Sojourners going to call for the stoning of homosexuals next?
No, it’s not that simple. Leviticus is something we all need to bear in mind, but it’s hardly the high trump card that automatically takes the trick.
Wolverine



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Sarasotakid

posted June 9, 2007 at 2:11 pm


I would agree that Leviticus is not the “high trump card” that would cause us to treat the alien in our midst with respect and dignity. The “high trump card” would be the example of love shown through Christ himself. It is as simple as that.



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Jeff Gordon

posted June 9, 2007 at 2:40 pm


Are you people serious? Just open up the border for EVERY uneducated alien who wnats to get on US welfare benefits? Secure the border first, enact tough penalites agains hiring illegal aliens, and deport those who are caught.
Then set up a system where educated and productive immigrants can come here nad be contributors to society, instead of economic parasites.



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Anonymous

posted June 9, 2007 at 2:47 pm


sarasotakid,
If it were simply a matter of basic respect and dignity then we wouldn’t have much to argue about. But the Leviticus passage is being cited to question the legitimacy of any distinction between immigrants (legal or otherwise) and citizens, and that is opening up a huge can of worms.
Wolverine



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Wayne

posted June 9, 2007 at 3:36 pm


“Are you people serious? Just open up the border for EVERY uneducated alien who wnats to get on US welfare benefits? ”
Wloverine
The real question is, “Are you serious? Where did you find any of this in S1348?
It would be harder on wages to have more educated high skilled people. At least that is what Simi Valley CA workers think.
Again California crops went unpicked. Poor people are being picked up off the streets and at at factories few American citizens want to work for.
All of this has been cited and referenced many times before… but you keep on this track. You sound like Jeff Sessions and Cronyn and their “Lets keep telling untruths until we are blue in the face.” tactics. I think they are about as serious as you.
No one in the Senate is for an unregulated border. Nothing in s1348 calls for, or allows for anything you have cited.
No one is helped by the delay of this bill except political arch conservatives who cater to the “mynoote men” and their ilk.



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Anonymous

posted June 9, 2007 at 5:40 pm


Wayne,
I think you have me confused with “Jeff Gordon”.
It’s not my contention that all, or even most, illegal aliens come here for welfare.
It is my contention that an uncontrolled flow of illegal aliens undercuts the wages of unskilled US workers. It also allows employers to chisel on basic wage/hour and workplace safety laws.
In essence, it isn’t that illegal immigrants take jobs Americans won’t do so much as they can work at wages and in conditions that we wouldn’t allow Americans to work in.
Wolverine



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wayne

posted June 9, 2007 at 7:13 pm


Wolverine
Sorry, My mistake!



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Don

posted June 9, 2007 at 7:47 pm


Wolverine:
You are correct about employers taking advantage of unskilled, undocumented workers. So let’s crack down on the employers instead of giving them a virtual free pass. Make them pay fines for mistreating undocumented employers or looking the other way when applicants can’t prove they’re legally able to work here.
Our current enforcement effort is wrongheaded, because it focuses on deporting undocumented workers after they are discovered, not the employers who illegitimately take advantage of them. I think focusing on enforcement of labor laws would be more effective than rounding up undocumenteds and militarizing the border with walls, fences, and self-appointed posses of border vigilantes. And strengthen this policy with a workable guest worker policy so desperate people don’t have to live in the shadows to come and work here.
Peace,



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 9, 2007 at 7:51 pm


This started out being somewhat of a blessing , know the left had strong believers promoting politics in the democratic party . Now it is becomming evident that believers here have to all believe the same things regarding illegal immigration, socialsim , excuses state paying for abortions and providing tax benefits for homosexual relationships .
If that is even a concern that your dollars do promote it , I
But its obvious this Jim Wallis sees some denominations having congregations being more sincere then others . I doubt you will have the hatred and attacks on your integrity and beliefs in the degree those on the right have found , mainly because they come from the side of politics you support . And the religious right was quick to promote doctrinal political agendas , and failed to consider the responsibility of having dialogue and relationships .
I would not claim that to be a sign of righteousness of the “world ” ignoring the particpation ofd the religious left .
The test will be when you disagree with the main secular views on an important leftist political issue , the cause to worry among yourselves is why you do not disagree with any secular political agenda issues ?



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letjusticerolldown

posted June 10, 2007 at 12:12 am


Agree completely on failure of Congress to govern.
Disagree it is because of partisan extremes. The “extremes’ were arguing questions and positions fully within the mainstream of American political culture.
My kitchen counter is a mess. It is not a mess because of the differing opinions around the house regarding appropriate care of kitchen counters. It is a mess because I have chosen to leave it a mess.



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Donny

posted June 10, 2007 at 12:18 am


Let’s try a little old fashion honesty shall we?
We treat “Mexican” aliens more than well. Far better than Mexico treats those traveling “through” their lands.
The problem is guys,
“Mexicans” do not treat others they way they want to be treated. Americans do not want to be Mexicans.
They (Mexicans) refuse to speak english and they refuse to see America as their new country. That green white and red thing they fly so proudly, represents a country that is so empty of value, that they had to leave it for a better country.
Yet, you can’t tell that the way “Mexicans” fly their pride. It looks more like a declaration of war by an invading army. The floods of phone calls, that our political representatives in the Senate and the House received, is from Americans that know an enemy when they see one. Americans that are tired of “Mexicans” demanding constitutional rights. Let them go back to Mexico for their dosage of civil rights.
Just look at La Raza (The Race) and El Conquistador (The Conqueror) newspapers, that liter the streets in machines around the United States of America. If any American tried that they would be labeled racist in less than a second.
“Mexicans” are not treating Americans the way they should be treated.



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Wayne

posted June 10, 2007 at 12:47 am


Donny thinks that Mexicans are being mean to US citizens.
I think Mick believes that the Religious right is being persecuted. (Maybe I got that wrong Mick but that’s what came through to me.)
Jeff Gordon thinks Mexicans are coming here for our excellent welfare system.
Wolverine thinks that the political center is “as stupid as it has been at any point in our history.”
I guess that makes Donny, Jeff and possibly Mick the political center. Now if I have this correct, and if my logic holds here, Hmm….Donny and Jeff are in the center,…I get it! Logically this means that Wolverine really is Stalin! Wow!



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Sarasotakid

posted June 10, 2007 at 10:01 am


Wolverine,
It is hardly opening a huge can of worms to use that passage in Leviticus to argue for equitable, just policies towards undocumented aliens. The “can of worms” that you refer to is the fact that you do not like Jim Wallis’s application of the principle embodied in the verse, i.e. legalization. We have been down the road of this discussion before and suffice it to say that we embrace vastly different values and most likely “never the twain shall meet.”



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Sarasotakid

posted June 10, 2007 at 10:05 am


Donny, yes, let’s do try a little honesty.
How many Mexicans do you know? Have you ever tried to relate to any of them as your brother or do you simply look at them as your enemy. Do the words of Christ, “Love your enemies” mean anything to you?



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Chuck

posted June 10, 2007 at 12:26 pm


Hmm, let’s not get taking anything in Leviticus too seriously lest we end up giving up seafood and start feeling an obligation to kill witches.
I think a wiser solution, that no one is willing to talk about, is just to abolish the border and unify the continent in one country. In the long run we all would benefit.



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wayne

posted June 10, 2007 at 1:08 pm


How about we penalize them 20% of their annual income per person in each family and make them pay all their back taxes.
In addition we could make them go through background checks to prove they are not criminals and terrorists. Then we could make them get health insurance and earn 150% of above the poverty level so as to not burden our education, Healthcare systems and go on welfare.
We could also make them wait umpteen years before they could even think about citizenship just so we could make sure they don’t harbor any ill will toward us, and/or jump ahead of anyone else in that so-called line we have all been dreaming about.
Then we should increase our border security so that we could repel any future invasion led by rabid welfare crazed Mexicans.
Oh, wait. That’s the bill currently before the Senate which no one will allow to come up for a vote.
I am so sorry, that couldn’t possibly work. My mistake.



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Claude

posted June 10, 2007 at 1:54 pm


I agree with a previous poster who said the “grand compromise” was the worst of both liberal and conservative ideas. One of the terrible ideas was designating hundreds of thousands of people as “guest workers.” Guest workers would be doing agricultural labor at rock-bottom wages. The way you get people to do difficult work at very low wages is to deny them the right to quit and seek employment in another field. That’s what a “guest worker” is – someone with few rights or choices.



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Daniel Olson

posted June 10, 2007 at 5:19 pm


Jim, I don’t know if you read these comments or not, but here goes.
I’m a big fan of Ellul, who proposes that Christians should be anarchists. But he doesn’t necessarily mean anarchists in the sense we’d normally think. As best as I understand it, he means something like you’re suggesting here.
That is, Christians should recognize that government is a fallen power and that it will never work towards the goals of Christ. So when it comes to caring for people, meeting the needs of the downtrodden, speading the Gospel, etc… Christians should never rely on the government to do it for them. The Church can do these things more effectively because it’s not based on hierarchical power, but on love and selflessness, so it makes sense for the Church to take on these problems without the government’s help.
So I’m glad you’re suggesting something along thoes lines here. Maybe I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that you’ve been pretty pro-government in recent years. I’m glad to see that you’re finally “getting it”… that the government is and will never be the ally of Christianity.



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canucklehead

posted June 11, 2007 at 12:46 am


“How many Mexicans do you know? Have you ever tried to relate to any of them as your brother or do you simply look at them as your enemy. Do the words of Christ, “Love your enemies” mean anything to you?” Sarasota
Oh sure, Sara, go and get all relational on us. Can’t we just have a theoretical discussion here w/o somebody screwing it all up by suggesting Jesus actually intended us to PRACTICE this discipleship thing? Bummer – I just wanna talk about faith, AND critique others who I think are doing a lousy job of living it. Stop taking Jesus so literal, killjoy.



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wayne

posted June 11, 2007 at 2:24 am


“Christians should never rely on the government to do it for them. The Church can do these things more effectively because it’s not based on hierarchical power, but on love and selflessness, so it makes sense for the Church to take on these problems without the government’s help.”
Calling the Government to task for not doing the right thing is not the same as relying on Government.
Calling a society to task for having a wrong attitude toward a group of people is also not relying on Government.
Speaking up against an injustice done by a society by means of its government is not relying on government.
Making charitable donations is not the same as loving our brother and sisters.
What the American Church is capable of doing is a much tougher question. Is the most segregated group in America capable of dealing with injustice? Is it even capable of recognizing injustice?
Are Christians in America capable of seeing their governments actions as wrong when those same actions are rationalized as defending the American way or position in the World, especially when those actions result in our being even richer and more powerful?
I am not sure the American Church is capable of any of these things.



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Eric

posted June 11, 2007 at 11:14 am


Actually, the political process is working. Our government was created with checks and balances and all sorts of ways for a minority view to block a majority view. That’s the point. We don’t live in a democracy where numbers guarantee victory. A policy shouldn’t be able to succeed if it can barely scrape together a slim majority. When legislators try to pile all sorts of policies into one giant bill and slip it past everyone’s nose, they run into trouble, just like in this instance.



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Anonymous

posted June 11, 2007 at 11:39 am


“Actually, the political process is working. Our government was created with checks and balances and all sorts of ways for a minority view to block a majority view. That’s the point.”
Eric
You are right about the system working the way it was designed. We can be thankful for that. At times though our system of government brings about laws and decisions like The Mason Dixon line or seperate but equal.
The minority can be just as wrong as the majority, and the tyranny of the majority is not the only evil to watch out for. If the minority can use our own fears against us in order to preserve injustice; if we allow them to hide behind some sort of Nationalism while doing so, no Government on earth can function in such a way as to result in honest and just law.
In these cases someone, or group will have to step up and at least potentially bear the wrath of its Government as well as the vocal minority. Every civil rights activist knows this and many have had the courage to live it out.
What Sojo is asking is if there are any people in the Church who are willing to do so now?



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LonewackoDotCom

posted June 11, 2007 at 12:15 pm


Could someone explain something to me?
Why does Jim Wallis pretend to oppose border deaths and the other downsides of illegal immigration, yet he supports policies that will lead to even more illegal immigration and even more border deaths?
He pretends to oppose border deaths… but what he supports will lead to even more border deaths…



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wayne

posted June 11, 2007 at 12:42 pm


Lonewacko
I think you need to explain your thinking. I for one do not see your logic at all.



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Eric

posted June 11, 2007 at 2:06 pm


To the man with no name – I don’t think expecting someone to abide by a country’s immigration laws is on par with the injustice of slavery or “separate by equal.”
I also wonder if there’s more to the tradition of “sanctuary.” I don’t know much about it, but there has to be more to it than just entering a church and then being safe. Did the church then have any sort of duty to the individual or to the law?



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Eric

posted June 11, 2007 at 2:31 pm


I think wacko was saying that the policy Wallis is advocating would only encourage more people to make the difficult trek across the Mexico-US border and some would die during that trek.
Unless Wallis advocates a policy where anyone from anywhere (excluding criminals) can cross the U.S. border at checkpoints and gain legal residency and eventual citizenship (essentially unlimited immigration), then people will continue to turn to coyotes and the desert and people will die.



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Russell

posted June 11, 2007 at 4:07 pm


Why do we have to have comprehensive immigration reform? Why can’t we start with securing the border and then work on one issue at a time instead of trying to do it all in one bill. It would be alot easier to agree one one issue at a time instead of all the problems at once. I agree that something has to be done, but I am glad that the Senate didn’t pass this bill just to get something done. I want the right things done, not just something done now.



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Anonymous

posted June 11, 2007 at 5:47 pm


“I want the right things done, not just something done now.”
Pray tell us, what would “right” be.



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Eric

posted June 12, 2007 at 1:48 pm


I think the “right” solution would be one that is a long-term solution so that ten years from now we wouldn’t be back in the same situation in which we find ourselves today.



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Anonymous

posted June 12, 2007 at 6:02 pm


What would a long term solution look like?
What would you propose that could solve this issue over the next ten years?
How would you support your solution?
Would it be based on pragmatism and what is best for the country?
Would it have other goals in mind as well, like human rights or compassion?



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