Make Babies or Open the Border

I suppose in the midst of the political season it would be a great time to post some politically charged idea and see where it leads.  This is a bit of a divergence from what I normally like to do here, but hey, it’s my blog so I’ll give it a whirl.

The topic I want to look at is immigration.  It seems to me that there is an intense fear of immigration among those who are adamant about closing down the borders.  Of course those who support the lock down of the borders will say, “I have nothing against immigration, I am only against ‘illegal’ immigration.”  However in the course of discussion with a majority of these people you will find that they want legal immigration to be a very difficult process, which includes the learning of our language, a better understanding of our government than most 20 year old Americans have, along with countless other regulations that would make immigration nearly impossible for any nominally educated person from south of our borders.  (Let’s be clear that when people talk about securing our borders they are not usually talking about the Canada or our Eastern or Western seaboards.)

Now the arguments against a loose immigration policy are many, and we have heard most of them over and over again.  Many of those arguments have some merit, or are at least grounded in something that resembles truth.  For instance, the people who come across the border will need jobs, and we have limited jobs already.  Or the people who come across the border will force us to provide all sorts of bilingual amenities, signage, etc.  There are a number of arguments that make sense at face value.  Of course there are other arguments that seem to me to be a bit petty.  “You know if we let them come in, we will quickly become the minority.”  (“We” meaning people of European decent.)  God forbid our society becomes a shade darker over the next 100 years.

It seems to me that people who are in favor of a looser immigration policy have done an absolutely horrible job of expressing to the general public the great value of a looser policy.  Usually their arguments surround around the simple fact that immigration will actually be easier to control if there is less incentive to do it illegally.  There is some validity to that argument, but it doesn’t even begin to touch upon the real value of a looser immigration policy.

Here is why I am for loosening up our borders.  The first thing we must realize is that our entire society is essentially a pyramid scheme that relies on population growth to sustain it.  Social Security, Medicare, Pension Plans, our very economy itself, is dependent on a growth of consumption.  If the economy is not growing, it dies, period.   Couple that reality with the birth rate continuing to drop, and the age at which people begin to have children continuing to go up, and the reality that our whole system is in a precarious state becomes obvious.  Loosened immigration allows for the population growth that we are not achieving with our own birthrate.  As you read this do not underestimate the importance of this simple factor.  Regardless of how conservative or liberal your politics may be, the economy cannot sustain a decline in population.

The other big thing to realize is that an immigrant comes in with virtually nothing, and in most cases a legal immigrant catches on to the American dream relatively fast.  This means that they need shelter, which means the production of homes and apartment complexes needs to occur.  They need places of worship, requiring the construction of Churches.  They need transportation, which necessitates the building of cars. (The list could go on and on.)  The very needs that an immigrant has are an asset to our economy.  It is no different than the birth of child in the sense that it adds another consumer to the economy.  With an aging population that is not replacing itself there is a desperate need of consumers to keep the economy thriving.  It’s not hard to get your mind around this.  If you work in a clothing shop you want customers who need clothes, not those who simply browse, if you are a realtor you want people who need houses not just nosey neighbors who drop in at an open house.  If you operate a grocery store you hope that people with an empty pantry at home will stop in.  It just makes sense.  The greatest contributors to any economy are people who have little who are working their tails off to obtain more.  That is exactly what the immigrating populace by and large is.  The caricature of immigrants being people who merely come across the border to obtain the social services supplied by the US while not contributing anything themselves is patently false, and if you have ever met a first generation immigrant I am certain that you would concur with the falsity of that caricature.

There needs to be a distinction made, between the poor immigrant, and the generationally impoverished American.  We middle to upper class people tend to lump poor people into some homogenous group, and it is sad that we do.  We see poor people who seem to do nothing to get out of poverty other than looking to what social services they can receive.  Certainly there are poor people like that, whether they are at fault, or whether it is a generational thing can be debated.  However not all poor people fall into that category.  The impoverished immigrant who comes across the border looking to work for a better life has already (by their immigration) proven that they are in a different class of poor.  They are those who are coming to make a life, obtain a dream, to earn and to purchase.  Again the poor who seek a better life through work and consumption are the greatest asset an economy can have, and a loosened immigration policy provides our economy with a great influx of that type of person.

I contest that in the not so distant future you will find that countries with dwindling birthrates will begin to court immigrants and actually attempt to draw them into their borders.  If we don’t get on board with that idea, eventually immigrants will choose to go elsewhere and we will have missed a golden opportunity to make our economy more robust.

Obviously this whole post reduces people to mere economic units, which is unfortunate.  I have almost dehumanized people by looking at them only to ultimate gain we receive from them, that is not my heart in this.  My point is only to say that a loosened border is a positive economic move for us, in fact I believe (unless we decide to start making babies fast) it is a necessary economic move for us.


Where's my candy?

It is difficult, albeit not impossible, to give what you do not possess already.  I don’t mean this in the obvious sense, but in a deeper more psychological sense.  For instance, if my son has no candy and he is asked to hand out candy at a parade, it is incredibly difficult for him to do such a thing if he is not to receive any of the candy himself.  In his mind there is an injustice in the whole thing, “daddy why do I have to give out all of this candy, I don’t have candy, this is not fair.”  Of course the typical “Christian” response to my son would involve telling him how much he does have, and how he shouldn’t be selfish and so on.  Nonetheless a psychological barrier will still exist no matter how much explaining we attempt.  To give what one does not receive themselves is a near impossibility.

We see this often when it comes to charitable causes.  The person, who for their entire life, was forced to ‘pull themselves up by their own bootstraps’ often finds it incredibly difficult or even deplorable to offer a free handout to anyone.  On the flip side, the person who has consciously benefitted from the charity of others to attain a decent station in life will typically find it much easier to return the favor back upon society.  The person who has received a handout, and used it wisely, will typically have the audacity to believe that handouts work, while the people who have always refused the handout will believe that works of charity will only produce laziness and not develop character.  Both people have legitimate arguments from experience.  The point is that it is easier to give if you have received, and it is far more difficult to give if you perceive that you have not received.

When we bring this line of thinking inside the walls of the church we see a bit of a strange picture emerge.  Pastors are constantly urging to people to be more forgiving, to be more outward, to be more of a transformational agent to the community and so on.   We hear ad nauseum about everything we are to give, and we are promised blessing in return, but precious little is done to break down that psychological barrier that was outlined above.  We say that if we are going to be the church we must do (insert pastor’s favorite act of mercy here) while that particular act of mercy is never actually enacted upon the hearers.

Here is how it plays out.  It is relatively easy to get a group together to feed the homeless, to build a habitat house, or to do various mission work.  People realize that they have food, so it is relatively easy to give food.  People realize they have shelter so it is relatively easy to give shelter, people realize they have a clean environment to live in so they find it relatively easy to go clean up a neighborhood.  However in the midst of all of this these same people, in most instances, will find it very difficult to offer real grace, real forgiveness, and true mercy to those who they encounter in the midst of their charitable service.  It is not for a lack of desire that charitable people struggle with this.  I am certain that most if not all Christians who do charitable work operate with the most upright of intentions.  Nonetheless most of us have nothing more to give than the tangible service that we offer.  In other words, when the rubber meets the road, and we are face to face with the destitute, we find it very difficult to offer them hope, we find it very difficult to hear of their situations and audibly absolve them of their sin.  We find it very difficult to speak of grace in Christ.  We default to offering an invitation to church (which may or may not be appropriate) or maybe a few platitudes of comfort that have little effect.

I contend that the reason we struggle at getting beyond physical charity into legitimately offering spiritual grace to people is that very same psychological barrier that keeps my son from wanting to hand out candy if he hasn’t received any himself.  We are people who have spiritually pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, attended worship, got involved with service, and done the work under our own power and have had a drive to do good.  The truth is that in most worship settings the church is never directly told the words ‘you are forgiven’.  The church is rarely told, ‘you no longer stand under judgment.’  The church almost never hears ‘you are the light of the world’ ‘you are the salt of the earth’ no strings attached.  Instead we are told, if you pray this prayer all will be forgiven, or you need to go be salt and light.  In most preaching no grace is ever really offered, instead a way of purchasing grace is all that is offered.  It is no wonder that Christians struggle to offer free forgiveness when wronged, because nobody is offering them free forgiveness from wrong without certain conditions attached.  It’s no wonder that Christians are quick to offer everyone biblical advice, but slow to offer biblical grace.  We have been inundated with ‘relevant’ messages that we can apply to our life, but are rarely given messages about what has already been applied to us freely (namely the life, death, and resurrection of Christ on our behalf.)

It’s really hard to hand out candy at the parade when nobody has handed you candy first.  Yet if you frequently receive candy with joy, there is no psychological barrier in place to keep you from distributing candy with joy.

Every pastor must remember that it is a primary duty of theirs to distribute grace, offer absolution of sin, pronounce that their people are no longer under condemnation.  If this is done weekly, and rightly, we will find that it is much easier for our people to distribute real grace in the conversations, to withhold judgment of others, and be merciful beyond simply providing for physical needs.  If our preaching does not pronounce forgiveness, we ought not to expect our people to pronounce a forgiveness to the world.