Unlike Their Leaders, Christian Laity Are Wise as Serpents, Yet Innocent as Doves on Immigration

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on March 4, 2014

If you've suspected that the elites heading Big Religion, who push so hard for mass amnesty, are out of touch with their parishioners, you're absolutely right. The leadership of many evangelical denominations (plus the Catholic Church) lacks a flock when it comes to immigration issues. More importantly, the leaders seem farther removed from sound scriptural teachings.

The immigration-reduction group NumbersUSA recently released an opinion poll of evangelical Christians. The survey, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research of 1,000 evangelicals who are likely voters, was unveiled at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville.

Shining through the overwhelming responses by these rank-and-file Christians: Lay Christians' keen understanding that it is more compassionate to care for your national neighbor than to disadvantage him under law in order to favor your foreign neighbor.

Lay respondents, by five to one, regard strict immigration laws as "follow[ing] biblical teaching by protecting the most vulnerable within the national community." The small minority says such laws "violate biblical teaching by keeping out poor foreigners seeking a better life."

Nearly four out of five American evangelicals believe the Old Testament command that Israel "love the stranger as themselves" translates to the U.S. government "offer[ing] humane treatment while fairly applying the law", rather than "the U.S. government should offer work permits and legal status to illegal immigrants." The latter option reflects the Senate amnesty bill and the position advocated by many evangelical leaders.

The same majority, four to one, understands the jobless economic "recovery" has left more Americans without job opportunities than before the Great Recession. That's why the vast majority questions elites' assertions of labor shortages and understands that there are plenty of Americans with less education and fewer skills who can fill construction and service jobs.

Nearly three-fourths see through Big Business's crony capitalism. The vast majority of evangelicals believe businesses that have trouble filling jobs should have to "try harder to recruit and train" among high-unemployment minority citizens instead of reaching outside the country for immigrant workers.

Some 88 percent are willing to put their money where their mouth is; they'd be willing to pay more if employers raised wages to hire American workers. Who's the more compassionate, the one who willingly would pay more so his fellow countrymen can land employment or the one who sacrifices his fellow citizens on the altar of an amorphous "brotherhood of man" ethic, despising his actual neighbor in order to "love" his politically preferred foreign "neighbor"?

When 20 million Americans can't find full-time work, the people in the pews discern a wiser course. Half of evangelicals favor limiting immigration to no more than 100,000 immigrants a year. Nearly two-thirds of evangelicals would cut legal immigration to 500,000 a year. Twenty-nine percent would like to see legal immigration zeroed. Only 8 percent would double legal immigration, while 14 percent would keep it steady at one million a year.

Half of evangelical respondents believe "any nation's government has ["a lot" of moral responsibility] to adopt immigration policies to protect its own unemployed or low-wage workers from having to compete with foreign workers for jobs." A quarter view the government as having "some" moral responsibility to its own citizens' employment prospects vis-a-vis foreigner workers.

It would be one thing if the leaders of evangelical America were toeing the straight and narrow path, clearly informed by biblical principle or immutable commandments from the Almighty. Being morally right and standing alone has been the stance of faithful religious leaders, such as the prophet Elijah taking on the prophets of Baal, and William Tyndale, who was martyred for translating the Scriptures into English.

By misleading the laity on matters left to prudential judgment, posturing as though there were one single biblical position on a civic issue, it is understandable that these latter-day Pharisees have gone astray and their flocks have not followed suit. That's the case in the immigration debate. And the Pulse poll shows just who holds the wiser, more prudent, more biblically based positions.