July 13, 2010


Why Southern Baptists Are Now Pro-Immigrant (Jessica Belt, Jul 12, 2010 , Patrol)

“If the new conservative coalition is going to be a governing coalition,” Land told NPR last week, “it's going to have to have a significant number of Hispanics in it, that's dictated by demographics, and you don't get large numbers of Hispanics to support you when you're engaged in anti-Hispanic immigration rhetoric.” [...]

Richard Land doesn't mince words when he speaks about historical anti-immigration policies aimed at Italians and the Irish – he doesn't hesitate to admit those were both losing campaigns. Within Evangelicalism, Hispanics are a growing population, and Land told one reporter, “I don’t want to come back here 15 years from now and apologize to Hispanics.” At least in his public speeches, it's history not scripture that has convinced Land to welcome Hispanics, especially Southern Baptists, and to advocate for their needs. After all, that’s his job.

But it's also more than a job. It doesn't take long to understand that Land's position goes much deeper than his paycheck, and empathy makes all the difference. It's likely that Land knows families who do not have legal immigration status. It is also likely that Land has sat next to an undocumented person in a pew or shared the Lord's Supper with someone whose Green Card had expired. I'm speculating here, but Land's earnestness comes from a place that understands, or has tried to understand, the struggles of those for whom he advocates.

I speculate, because I spent my first 18 years attending Southern Baptist services on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and often weeknights, too. The Southern Baptists dunked me in a pool of water when I wanted to be baptized. The Southern Baptists gave me a primer in geography and cross-cultural differences through our annual foreign missions fundraiser. While many of the people within my church community were not interested in politics-at-large, they knew that if someone was sick, the best thing to do was to bring dinner to the infirmed. And now, as our country decides what is to be done with the millions of underpaid, undocumented workers (and some non-workers) who have crossed our borders, Southern Baptists like Land are saying that they aren't criminals, but neighbors. In some cases they are members of our congregations. We can't just deport them and wash our hands clean.

You don't get to love your neighbor only on Sunday and hate him the rest of the week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2010 5:28 AM
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