For once, Evangelicals have nothing to say
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A recent article in Christianity Today notes the silence of many Evangelical organizations on the question of immigration reform. The magazine ultimately concludes that Evangelicals, as a group, are just as torn as the rest of the nation in the search for answers on how to legislatively deal with the fact that 11 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the U.S.
One reason Evangelicals are hesitant to go with the conservative anti-immigrant stance is simply because Latinos are a growing part of their base. According to Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society by Arlene M. Sanchez Walsh, 5 million Latinos are part of Pentecostal or charismatic ministries. In some ways, the continuing immigration wave is a boon to Evangelical churches because, as professor quoted in the CT article said, "immigrants from Latin America are bringing values that [conservatives] would like to regain: values of family, gender roles that are very well defined, an ethic of hard work."
Despite their growing Latino base, Evangelical leaders' silence can be chalked up to a desire to stay "on message" with a conservative agenda. The fact is, if the Evangelical community were to take sides, they would be walking into a land of nuanced grays rather than the easy black and white/ good and evil paradigm that has characterized the politics of the Christian Right. From Christianity Today :
"Evangelicals' hesitancy traces, observers say, to political as much as moral reservations. Evangelicals might be inclined to sympathize with fellow Christians from south of the border who have taken a grave personal risk in order "to support their families back at home," [World Relief staff attorney Amy] Bliss says, but those views apparently can't survive in public discourse.
"The rhetoric is considered a liberal issue," Bliss says. "Fear of looking weak or too liberal permeates a lot of the discussion. I think that's the concern..."
But evangelicals who appear unsympathetic toward immigrants run other political risks. They could alienate business interests, that is, political allies in industries known to employ thousands of undocumented workers...
Faced with the specter of political costs no matter where they come down on immigration, leading evangelical groups are opting not to get involved. That means, barring an unexpected change of heart, the road to resolving the fates of some 11 million, mostly Christian immigrants to the United States seems certain to include minimal input from the evangelical conscience."
Well, thank god(s) for that. At least there may be one debate without religious posturing during this hyper-religious presidency.
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.