Medieval Historian: Walls Did Not Work Then and They Won’t Work Now

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Matthew Gabrielle, a professor of medieval studies at Virginia Tech, brings some historical context to Donald Trump’s claim that border walls worked well in the Middle Ages.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Washington Post:

President Trump’s demand for a wall across most of the U.S.-Mexico border has been mocked (and embraced) as a “medieval” idea. Responding to the president’s prime-time speech from the Oval Office on Tuesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted, “We are not paying a $5 billion ransom note for your medieval 🏰 border wall.” A day later, on Wednesday, Trump responded by embracing that characterization: “[Democrats] say it’s a medieval solution, a wall. It’s true, because it worked then, and it works even better now.”

Since then, others have seized on the idea, and the association seems to have stuck. Walls generally, but this wall in particular, are straight from the Middle Ages. Dana Milbank ran with the idea, speaking with several scholars of the Middle Ages, experts on siege warfare, about what the country would “really” need if it were planning to use a wall to repel invaders.

But as a scholar of medieval history, I have noticed something has been missing in all this discussion. In short, calling the proposed 700 to 1,200 mile border wall “medieval” is deeply misleading because walls in the actual European Middle Ages simply did not work the way Trump apparently thinks they did. If anything, their true function may speak to Trump’s intentions: Poor tools of defense, medieval walls had more to do with reassuring those who lived inside them than with dividing self from other.

Read the rest here.

James Fallows: “3 Simple Facts About the Shutdown”

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James Fallows boils it down at The Atlantic:

  • Reality one: As recently as three weeks ago, Donald Trump was perfectly willing to keep the government open and defer funding for his wall— until a right-wing chorus made fun of him for looking “weak.”
  • Reality two: Trump and his Congressional party never bestirred themselves to fund this wall back when they had unquestioned power to do so, during the era of Republican control of the Congress in 2017 and 2018.
  • Reality three: the U.S.-Mexico border has come under more control in recent years, not less. It’s been controlled by fences and walls in the busiest areas — as has been the practice for decades. The “crisis” is the politics of the issue, not its underlying realities.

Read the rest here.

Trump Will Give a Speech Tomorrow Night. It Will Probably be Based on Lies and Other Assorted Falsehoods

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Donald Trump will be speaking to the nation tomorrow night about the government shutdown and his border wall.

Trump will probably say that immigrants are coming across the border and trying to kill American citizens.  Yes, there have been people killed at the hands of undocumented immigrants.  This is a tragedy and the loss of a human life should never be taken lightly.

But, as I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trumpthe chance that an American will die at the hands of a refugee terrorist is about one in 10.9 million per year. One is more likely to die from walking across a railroad track or having one’s clothes spontaneously catch fire.  Yet Trump has managed to convince some Americans that Mexican immigrants are imminent threats to their safety.  This is the foundation of his immigration policy and his commitment to the border wall.  And one could argue that the wall is at the heart of his political brand.  It is based on fear.

If Trump wants to build a domestic policy around protecting the lives of everyday Americans, he should be spending billions on cancer research, heart disease research, diabetes research, the opiod crisis, Alzheimer’s research, safer systems of transportation, and suicide prevention. These are the largest causes of death in the United States.  Or how about spending money on long-term issues that will save lives–the protection of the environment, the reduction of the number of abortions in the United States, and affordable health care?

Do we need border security?  Yes.  Do we have an immigration problem that needs to be fixed?  Yes.  But if Trump really wants to keep more Americans alive he can spend that 5 billion in more fruitful ways.

More specifically, Trump will probably appeal to the so-called “4000 known or suspected terrorists” coming into our country illegally.  On Sunday, Chris Wallace debunked this claim in dramatic fashion before a national audience:

By the way, Chris Wallace works for Fox News.

Trump may try to declare a “National Emergency” based on this false information.  He will also accuse the Democrats in Congress that they do not care about the safety of our country.  But there is no national emergency.  I recently heard CNN Phil Mudd wonder when the last time a President of the United States had to go before the American people to persuade them that we were in the midst of a national emergency?  Aren’t national emergencies pretty obvious?  And don’t they usually get bipartisan support?  Maybe some of my presidential historian friends can help me with that one.

And finally, Trump may say that most of the American people support his decision to shut-down the government in order to get a wall.  This is another lie.  One recent poll found that 78% of Americans approve of some kind of compromise on border security.

Trump recently told the press that he “can relate” to the hundreds of thousands of people who are not receiving paychecks because of the government shut down. Really?  He added: “I’m sure the people who are on the receiving end will make adjustments; they always do.” I’ve seen this before.  Trump seems to be making some kind 18th-century appeal to political virtue. In other words, he believes the federal workers will be willing to give up some of their own self-interest (in this case their paychecks) in order to support a greater good (security through a border wall).  The Founding Fathers tried appeals to virtue in the 1770s and 1780s and they did not work very well.  They do not seem to be working very well today either.

The Wall: A Political Box of Trump’s Own Making

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Here is a taste of a great New York Times piece by Julie Hirschfield Davis and Peter Baker on Trump’s border wall proposal and its political consequences:

To many conservative activists who have pressed for decades for sharp reductions in both illegal and legal immigration — and some of the Republican lawmakers who are allied with them — a physical barrier on the border with Mexico is barely relevant, little more than a footnote to a long list of policy changes they believe are needed to fix a broken system.

The disconnect is at the heart of the dilemma facing Mr. Trump as he labors to find a way out of an impasse that has shuttered large parts of the government and cost 800,000 federal employees their pay. Having spent more than four years — first as a candidate and then as president — whipping his core supporters into a frenzy over the idea of building a border wall, Mr. Trump finds himself in a political box of his own making.

In transforming the wall into a powerful emblem of his anti-immigration message, Mr. Trump has made the proposal politically untouchable for Democrats, who have steadfastly refused to fund it, complicating the chances of any compromise.

“As a messaging strategy, it was pretty successful,” Mr. Krikorian said. “The problem is, you got elected; now what do you do? Having made it his signature issue, Trump handed the Democrats a weapon against him.”

Read the entire piece here.

Benjamin Franklin’s Thoughts on Germans

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Here is a taste Franklin’s Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind. We talked about this letter today in my Colonial America course.

23.  In fine, A Nation well regulated is like a Polypus; take away a Limb, its Place is soon supply’d; cut it in two, and each deficient Part shall speedily grow out of the Part remaining. Thus if you have Room and Subsistence enough, as you may by dividing, make ten Polypes out of one, you may of one make ten Nations, equally populous and powerful; rather, increase a Nation ten fold in Numbers and Strength.

And since Detachments of English from Britain sent to America, will have their Places at Home so soon supply’d and increase so largely here; why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion f ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by theEnglish, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.

24.  Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Compexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.

Read the entire document here.

 

Why are White Evangelicals Ambivalent About Refugees and Migrants?

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Over at VOX, Tara Isabella Burton tackles this issue.  She wonders why so many evangelical leaders reject anti-immigration rhetoric and so many of their followers embrace it.

Here is a taste:

From his dismissal of “shithole countries” to his attempts to institute a “Muslim travel ban,” from his incendiary rhetoric about Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals, to his latest attempts to prevent the Honduran migrants to seeking asylum, Trump’s approach to borders has been one of nativism and insularity by protecting (his idea of white) America at the expense of everyone else. And, by and large, white evangelicals on the ground have followed suit — even when some in evangelical leadership is advocating for more nuanced policy positions.

The reasons for this discrepancy are complicated. They include a white evangelical population that gets its moral sense as much from conservative media as it does from scripture. There’s also a more general conflation of white evangelicalism with the GOP party agenda, which has been intensifying since the days of the Moral Majority in the 1980s.

As Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy and policy for World Relief, the humanitarian wing of the National Association for Evangelicals, told Vox, white evangelicals’ views on immigration are more likely to be shaped “not from their local church or their pastor, but actually from the news media. … This has become an issue of the church being discipled by the media more than the Bible or the local pastor in terms of their views on immigration.”

Ed Stetzer, a Christian author and commentator who leads the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, agreed. “White evangelicals are more shaped on this issue by Republican views,” he told Vox. “They’re being discipled by their cable news network of choice and by their social media feeds.” He pointed out that, while white evangelicals are more likely than other religious voting blocs to express conservative views on immigration, they don’t necessarily do so at greater rates than nonwhite evangelical Republicans.

In other words, the political views of white evangelicals may say far more about their party affiliation than it does about their theological identity. In the Trump era, in particular, white evangelical Christianity and nativist political isolation have become particularly intertwined. Trump, his administration, and its allies have used the language of Christian nationalism to shore up their political base.

Read the entire piece here.  Sadly, it appears that Fox News-style fear-mongering easily sways many white evangelicals.  Or at least this is what I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

The Bible and Refugees

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Roman Catholic theologian and College of the Holy Cross professor Mathew Schmalz reflects on what the Bible says about immigration and refugees.  The Conversation published this piece in January, but it has more relevance than ever right now.

A taste:

Of course, in Christianity the strong admonitions toward treating the stranger with dignity have coexisted with actions that would seem to indicate an opposite attitude: pogroms against Jews, slavery, imperialism and colonialism have been sanctioned by Christians who nonetheless would have affirmed biblical principles regarding caring for those who seem “other” or “alien.”

Indeed, when it comes to the specific questions concerning building a wall on America’s border with Mexico or welcoming immigrants and refugees, some Christians would argue that doing so does not violate any biblical precepts concerning hospitality to the stranger, since the issue is one of legality and, of course, a good number of Christians did indeed support Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency.

Other Christians have taken a diametrically different position, and have called for cities and educational institutions to be set apart as “safe zones” for undocumented immigrants.

It is true that the application of biblical principles to contemporary matters of policy is less than clear to the many Christians who have taken opposing sides regarding how the United States should deal with immigrants, undocumented workers and refugees.

However, in my reading of the Bible, the principles regarding welcoming the stranger are broad-reaching and unambiguous.

Read the entire piece here.

“Land of Hopes and Dreams”: Broadway (and Acoustic) Edition

It is certainly fitting that Bruce Springsteen would release this now.

It is a cut from his forthcoming album, Springsteen on Broadway.  It goes on sale on December 14, 2018.  Read more about it here.

Lyrics:

Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings Lord
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Why Americans are Divided Over the Migrant Caravans

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Jeanne Petit, a professor of history at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, offers some historical perspective as the United States awaits the central America migrant caravan.  Here is a taste of her Washington Post piece “Refugees or threat?: How we see migrants reveals our competing visions for America“:

News about the caravan of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants fleeing gang violence and poverty to seek refugee status in the United States has been splashed across television screens for more than a week.

President Trump and members of his administration declared, with no evidence, that Middle Eastern terrorists are embedded in the crowds, hoping to infiltrate the United States. Their fearmongering is challenged by images of individual migrants, usually with children, that emphasize the humanitarian crisis the caravan represents.

These dueling interpretations — threatening vs. vulnerable — reflect a far deeper debate, one that dates back to the country’s founding, about whether Americans should be bound together by a national identity built around shared civic ideals or through common ancestral, religious or racial background. They also reflect longtime debates about whether we ought to focus on border security or whether, by keeping refugees out, the United States is failing to fulfill its promise to be a haven for the oppressed.

Our current moment has parallels with the immigration-restriction debates of the first decades of the 20th century. The United States received a record number of immigrants, mostly coming to work in the growing industries. Unlike earlier immigrant streams from more Protestant nations of northern and western Europe, the vast majority of these immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe. Many Americans welcomed them and saw their immigration as a sign of American vitality, but others worried that the fundamental character of the nation was under threat.

Read the rest here.

Epps: “The Citizenship Clause Means What It Says”

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Here is Garrett Epps on Donald Trump’s latest nativist scheme:

In an interview with Axios on HBO, Trump confirmed what had been suspected since last summer: He is planning an executive order that would try to change the meaning of the Constitution as it has been applied for the past 150 years—and declare open season on millions of native-born Americans.

The order would apparently instruct federal agencies to refuse to recognize the citizenship of children born in the United States if their parents are not citizens. The Axios report was unclear on whether the order would target only American-born children of undocumented immigrants, children of foreigners visiting the U.S. on nonpermanent visas—or the children of any noncitizen.

No matter which of these options Trump pursues, the news is very somber. A nation that can rid itself of groups it dislikes has journeyed far down the road to authoritarian rule.

The idea behind the attack on birthright citizenship is often obscured by a wall of dubious originalist rhetoric and legalese. At its base, the claim is that children born in the U.S. are not citizens if they are born to noncitizen parents. The idea contradicts the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause, it flies in the face of more than a century of practice, and it would create a shadow population of American-born people who have no state, no legal protection, and no real rights that the government is bound to respect.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Evangelicals and the Honduras Caravan

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How can evangelicals, who supposedly believe in the teachings of the Bible, refuse to welcome immigrants and refugees? This is the subject of Tara Isabella Burton’s piece at VOX: “The Bible says to welcome immigrants.  So why don’t white evangelicals?”  It is written in the context of the large group of Honduras migrants fleeing gang violence and political instability.  Here is a taste:

How did white evangelicals come to so fully embrace the Trumpian rhetoric on immigration? How did a religious group whose foundational sacred text explicitly mandates care for the poor, the sick, and the stranger become a reliable anti-refugee, anti-immigrant voting bloc?

Read the entire piece here.

Many conservative evangelical Trump supporters, including almost all of the court evangelicals, will argue that immigrants are not welcome in the United States unless they enter legally.  But for Christians, immigration policy is not so black and white. Christians must remember that they are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God.  The ethical mandates of this Kingdom often contradict the ethical principles of the nation-state.  There will be times when our citizenship in the Kingdom of God will come into conflict with the laws of our nation.  I think the case of refugees fleeing persecution is a prime example of when the ethics of the Kingdom of God must trump the ethics of the nation-state.

Those who invoke Romans 13 (Christians must obey government at all times), or who believe that the ethics of the Kingdom of God as related to refugees and immigrants should not be applied to this caravan of Honduras (and others) refugees, will inevitably find themselves in a difficult situation.  At what point does opposition to illegal immigration give way to the Christian call to love the immigrant and refugee?  Where do evangelicals draw that line?  What will these conservative ministers do when they encounter refugees in need of love and compassion?  Should they send them away because they have violated the law of the land by entering illegally?  Or do they follow the teachings of scripture and welcome these refugees in need of God’s love?

What Happens When the Economy of an Iowa Town is Powered by Workers that Trump Wants to Deport?

Subley

Ryan Lizza‘s recent piece on Iowa dairy farmers, immigration, and Devin Nunes‘s family is riveting.  A few key points:

  • The Nunes family farm is not located in California.  The family moved it to northwest Iowa over a decade ago.
  • The Nunes family farm relies heavily on undocumented immigrants.  Without these immigrants the farm would fold.  They are scared to death of ICE.
  • The Nunes family farm is located in Rep. Steve King‘s district, one of the most anti-immigrant, pro-Trump districts in America.
  • When the Nunes family learned that Lizza was in town and was working on a piece that exposed these contradictions, they stalked him.

Here is a taste:

There is massive political hypocrisy at the center of this: Trump’s and King’s rural-farm supporters embrace anti-immigrant politicians while employing undocumented immigrants. The greatest threat to Iowa dairy farmers, of course, is not the press. It’s Donald Trump.

But that’s not how the Nunes family apparently saw it. On my third day in Sibley, I became used to the cars tailing me. In the morning, I was followed by the redhead in the muddy white Yukon. In the afternoon, there was a shift change and I was followed by a different, later-model white Yukon. I stuck a GoPro on my dashboard and left it running whenever I parked my car. When I reviewed the videos, one of the two Yukons could always be seen slowly circling as I ate lunch or interviewed someone.

There was no doubt about why I was being followed. According to two sources with firsthand knowledge, NuStar did indeed rely, at least in part, on undocumented labor. One source, who was deeply connected in the local Hispanic community, had personally sent undocumented workers to Anthony Nunes Jr.’s farm for jobs. “I’ve been there and bring illegal people,” the source said, asserting that the farm was aware of their status. “People come here and ask for work, so I send them over there.” When I asked how many people working at dairies in the area are documented citizens, the source laughed. “To be honest? None. One percent, maybe.”

Read the entire piece here.  It is worth your time.

Study: Churchgoing Conservatives are More Moderate on Race, Immigration, and Identity than Conservatives Who Do Not Go to Church

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Emily Ekins shares the findings of her Cato Institute study in a piece at The New York Times titled “The Liberalism of the Religious Right.”  A taste:

…new data suggest the left may have a lot more common ground with some of these conservatives than it thinks.  In a Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report, I found that religious conservatives are far more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular conservatives.  Religion appears to actually be moderating conservative attitudes, particularly on some of the most polarizing issues of our time: race, immigration and identity.

Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters.  This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race.

Read the entire piece here.

When Women Fought for Suffrage by Disparaging German Immigrants

Carrie_Chapman_Catt_and_Anna_Howard_Shaw_in_1917

Sara Egge, an assistant professor of history at Centre College, reminds us that history is complicated.  Over at Zocalo, Egge shows how some women fighting for the right to vote “saw German men as backward, ignorant, and less worthy of citizenship than themselves.”

Here is a taste:

Nativist fear built into outright hysteria, and Midwestern suffragists began recasting decades of foreign resistance to assimilation as treason. They argued that to protect democracy, only those citizens who understood civic responsibility should vote. By 1917, when the United States entered World War I, suffragists crystallized their message. In South Dakota, propaganda warned of the untrustworthy “alien enemy” while celebrating patriotic suffragists who sacrificed “so deeply for the world struggle.” Another message deemed the “women of America…too noble and too intelligent and too devoted to be slackers” like their German counterparts.

That rhetorical maneuver finally gave woman suffrage the political leverage it needed to achieve victory. In November 1918, voters in South Dakota passed a woman suffrage amendment to the state’s constitution with an impressive 64 percent majority. Of the first 15 states to ratify the 19th Amendment, about half were in the Midwest— a startling shift for a region that had seemed permanently opposed to woman suffrage.

While Shaw’s speech was meant for an audience living in an important historical moment and place, it also resonates today. Suffragists had no qualms about using nativism to open democracy to women. They were willing to skewer immigrants in their decades-long quest for political equality. Shaw’s remarks also remind us how many assumptions Americans have made—in 1914 and today—about the rights and responsibilities that accompany citizenship.

Read the entire piece here.

Laura Ingraham’s Controversial Remarks are Rooted in a Long History of Fear

In case you missed it, here is CNN’s Brian Stelter’s report on Ingraham’s recent comments about “massive demographic changes.”

Ingraham is correct about the demographic changes facing America today.  This is not the first time we have seen such changes.  It is also not the first time that Americans have responded to such changes with fear-mongering.  This time around the fear-mongers have a cable television channel.

A few more points:

  1. Ingraham says “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore.”  She says this in the context of immigration and demographic change.   And then she says that her statement is not about race or ethnicity.  Seriously?  Then how does Ingraham define the America “that we know and love?”
  2. Tucker Carlson says “no society has ever changed this much, this fast.”  This sounds like something a white Southerner might say during the late 1860s and 1870s, the period of Reconstruction when freed slaves were trying to integrate into southern society.
  3. In her response, Ingraham condemns white supremacists.  But her comments about immigration and “demographic change” seems to be little more than a defense of a white America that she believes is being threatened by people of color.  How is this any different than David Duke and others?
  4. How does Tucker Carlson know that we are undergoing “more change than human beings are designed to digest?”
  5. Ingraham says that “the rule of law, meaning secure borders” is what “binds our country together.”  On one level, Ingraham is correct here.  Immigration restriction and securing the borders once bound America together as a white Protestant nation.  White Protestants did not want Chinese men and women coming into the country, so they “bound our [white Protestant] country together” by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act.  White Protestants did not want more Italians and other southern Europeans coming into the country, so they passed the Johnson-Reed Act (1924) to restrict them from coming.  So yes, Ingraham is correct when she says “the rule of law” and “secure borders” have bound our country together.  It was racist then.  It is racist now.  On another level, Ingraham probably needs a history lesson.  For most of the 19th-century, the United States did have something equivalent to open borders.  So there has been a significant chunk of American history when secure borders did not bind America together.
  6. I will let someone else tackle this, but “merit-based immigration” seems like a racist dog-whistle.  This reminds me of when Trump said that we need more Norwegian immigrants and less immigrants from “shithole” countries.

Often-times fear is propagated by Christians who claim to embrace a religious faith that teaches them that “perfect love casts out fear.”  This faith calls us to respond to demographic change with love, not fear.

By the way, I wrote a book about how fear of such “demographic change” led evangelicals into the arms of Donald Trump.

Believe Me 3d

Paula White Responds to Critics of Her Recent Comments on Immigration

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Last week we did a post on Paula White’s defense of Donald Trump’s immigration policy.  Get up to speed here.

Now White has turned to the Christian Post to take on her critics.

Here is a taste:

During the interview I made an off-handed comment that although Jesus was a refugee as a baby, he didn’t break the immigration laws of his time, or else he wouldn’t be sinless or our messiah. Within a few days I was surprised to see my name all over the media as they excoriated a comment made by “Trump’s spiritual advisor.” On CNN’s Anderson 360, a Catholic priest said my comments were “appalling” and “reprehensible” and that he didn’t know what Gospel I was reading.

I don’t mean to impugn anyone’s character, but it certainly seemed like those reporting on the story were less offended by what I said as they were excited to criticize someone associated with the Trump administration. They weren’t just inferring I lacked compassion, they were calling me dumb, and by extension, all evangelicals who support the president.

As a blonde female, and as a pastor, this isn’t the first time someone has called me stupid. Sadly, it comes with the territory. And while the Bible may say turn the other cheek, it does not say allow bullies to treat you like a punching bag. The truth matters too much and, in this instance, the lives of thousands of immigrant children and their families are impacted by what our nation decides to do regarding our immigration policy.

Read the rest here.   White thinks that the only reason people criticized her is because they want to attack a supporter of Donald Trump.  In other words, she thinks this is all about politics.  Maybe she is right.  But many of us criticize Trump-loving court evangelicals because they use really bad theology to prop-up the president.

The Meilaenders on Open Borders

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I am going to have to sit with this piece for a while.  I have already read it twice.

Writing at First Things, Gilbert Meilaender (Valparaiso University) and his son Peter Meilaender (Houghton College) offer a very thoughtful critique of open borders   It is worth considering for its intellectual depth and strong engagement with the Christian tradition.  Here is a taste:

Only because we feel loyalty to those bound to us in special ways can we understand why members of other national communities might have a similar loyalty to those with whom they share a history. And only then can we even begin to consider that our particular loyalties may have more than one purpose. They are intended, surely, to enrich our lives, but also to play a role in the education of our commitments. Without attempting to derive particular attachments from a cosmopolitan starting point, but also without making the obligations we have to all little more than a boundary-setting negative principle, we may come to see our special loves as a training ground in which we can learn just a little about what it means to care for any human being.

This third way—building up from particular loyalties to more universal ties—corresponds well to the teleological thrust of the overarching biblical narrative. Against the background of the loss of the peace of creation and the scattering of the nations, God begins with Abraham the long, slow process of gathering the nations once again into a single people. The culmination of this extends, of course, beyond history as we know it, but it is clear that what begins in very particular kinds of belonging has a universal dimension. “The princes of the peoples gather / as the people of the God of Abraham,” the psalmist says (47:9). Discerning the same divine intention, Jesus says (Matt. 8:11), “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Different loyalties are not obliterated, but they turn out to contain within themselves more expansive possibilities than we could have imagined.

To what degree those possibilities can be lived here and now is never easy to say. Still, the fact that they cannot be fully realized in human history, and that we would be profoundly mistaken to imagine otherwise, does not mean they should be ignored. Taken ­seriously, they will shape and reshape our sensibilities in ways hard to predict, ways that will not always lead in a single direction. To take this third approach, then, is to see our communities as always on the way—­never having fully established identities, but more than insignificant stopping points where we merely catch our breath for the rest of the journey. We must and should make distinctions among neighbors, but those distinctions will constantly be reworked and refined; they never have the last word. Good neighbors, we might say, make good—albeit porous—fences.

Read the entire piece here.  It is worth your time.

What Does Trump Mean When He Says Immigration is “Changing the Culture” of Europe?

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Here is a taste of CNN’s coverage of today’s Donald Trump–Theresa May press conference:

President Donald Trump said Friday that European leaders “better watch themselves” because immigration is “changing the culture” of their societies.

“I think it has been very bad, for Europe. … I think what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation — you see the same terror attacks that I do,” Trump said at a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May outside of London.

“I just think it is changing the culture, I think it is a very negative thing for Europe,” Trump said.

“I know it is politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I will say it and I will say it loud,” Trump added.

Let’s face it.  Trump’s remarks have very little to do with England or Europe.  I think he could care less about what happens to these countries.

These comments are about the United States.   They represent his ongoing nativism and racism.  Comments like this appeal to his white Christian base and trigger the kind of fear I write about in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Trump is telling white Christian Americans afraid of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity that he will be a strongman who will protect them from such diversity.

Court Evangelical Paula White is the Latest to Use the Bible to Defend Trump’s Immigration Policies

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Court evangelical Paula White, the prosperity preacher who claims to have led Donald Trump to Christ, is now using the Bible to defend the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border.

Tara Isabella Burton is all over this story.  Here is a taste of her piece at VOX:

In recent weeks and months, a number of prominent evangelical leaders associated with President Donald Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisory council, as well as members of Trump’s administration, have used Biblical precedent to defend Trump’s policy of family separation at the US-Mexico border.

Few, however, have been as brazen as Paula White, the prosperity gospel preacher (and Trump’s right-hand woman) who told the right-leaning faith-based Christian Broadcasting Network that Jesus could not have broken any immigration laws during his family’s flight to Egypt because Jesus, who was without sin, could not therefore have broken the law.

White spent the interview defending Trump on his policy of family separation, calling the camps in which migrant children are being detained “amazing.” She argued for the Biblical precedent of family separation. “I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, ‘Well, Jesus was a refugee,’” White told the network. She added, “Yes, [Jesus] did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.”

White is referring to a part of the Biblical narrative recounted in the gospel of Matthew, as well as some books of Biblical Apocrypha. According to tradition, the King of Judea at the time of Jesus’s birth, Herod — fearful of a premonition that another “king of the Jews” has been born — slaughters all new infant boys in the area. Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus find refuge from Herod’s wrath in Egypt, returning only after Herod’s death.

Read the entire piece here.

Two quick thoughts:

First, as Burton notes, Jesus was crucified for political insurrection.  Last time I checked that involves breaking the law.

Second, White says that the detention centers are “amazing.”  She also said that the kids get “three square meals, psychiatric care, clinician, medical care, chapel, events, schooling, language, and love.”  I know the comparison is not exact or perfect, but when I read these words I thought about what Southern evangelical slaveholders in the early 19th century said about their slaves when slavery met with criticism from Northern abolitionists.   Here is a passage from George Fitzhugh‘s 1857 defense of slavery:

The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care or labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, no more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with som muh of license and abandon, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments.

I will stop there and let someone else dissect the rest of these absurd Paula White remarks.  Want to learn more about White?  Check out chapter 4 of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.