Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Germany, Capitalism, Immigration, Sodom, and our "Christian Nation"

I've long been aware that the reason Sodom was in such trouble with God had little do to with their homosexual relations and a lot to do with their vicious inhospitality, but the other day, I came across a good summary of scripture, Jewish writings, and historical documents that bear that out. I posted it on my tumblr and Facebook, the latter of which resulted in the following question:

"Why the cheap shot at Arizonans? Especially given the fact that the controversial law is essentially equivalent to a federal law already on the books?"

And I had to admit, the cheap shot at Arizona was somewhat unfair. I was going to add a disclaimer that I'm still a keeping a careful eye on the Arizona law, and don't condemn it as strongly as many do, which is true, and which I did.

And to answer the question, I wrote this blog post. Because I want to be clear, and the issue at hand is much bigger than a law that Arizona passed. In fact, I would be glad to generalize my criticism to the country in general, and have amended my Tumblr post accordingly. So, my answer:

I was referring not solely to the new law, but to the general attitude it belies and embodies: protecting our country's precious and supposedly self-earned resources from invaders from neighboring nation - the assumption that what we have earned is solely our own, and we have no obligation to share it with others or care for the stranger, because we earned all that we have.

As Josephus wrote:

"They no more remembered the benefits that they had received from [God], hated foreigners and declined all intercourse with others"
And the rabbi at the bottom:
"The men of Sodom had no consideration for the honour of their Owner by not distributing food to the wayfarer and stranger, but they even fenced in all the trees on top above their fruit so that so that they should not be seized; not even by the bird of heaven"

We, neither as a country nor as the state of Arizona, have obviously not quite gone to this extreme. But Sodom is a cautionary extreme - a parable of sorts - that cautions against the rugged and jealous individualism and entitlement that was exemplified, and which is prevalent in modern America to a great extent.

In my opinion, if we are to be a "Christian nation," we cannot stand for this conception that what we earn is our own, that we deserve all that we have, firstly because it is patently false, on an individual and national level, and secondly because Scripture strongly condemns it.

That doesn't necessarily make for good business, and it doesn't work well if you run a nation that prides itself in its power, independence, and economic status, but that doesn't mean Scripture is wrong.

I believe that Christians should be intensely focused on caring for the poor, sick, and needy, with less concern for yourself than for your neighbor. You don't have to believe that we need to do this as a nation, but I don't see how you can call it a Christian nation if you don't.

I recently came across an article about Germany's capitalism, which I don't know anything about besides this article, but from what I read seems more in line with being a Christian nation that practices capitalism than our dear old US of A. They have an extensive social safety net, much more so than the US. And it's expensive, but that's an expense that Germany is willing to bear.

The conservative concern with big government, overspending, and general ineptitude is a valid one, and one that I don't dismiss. But personally, I would prefer to have a country that overspends and is inefficient, but has an effective safety net for our citizens (as a start) and welcomes immigrants as those see how our country treats its citizens and want to join it. This is a better end goal, I believe, than one that is fiscally sound and has all its books balanced, but leaves people to fend for themselves, asserting that they should just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, regardless of their family or environment, and looks upon immigrants as a drain on our economy that we deal with by making them jump through a long process of hoops, and then hunts down the ones that fail to jump through all the hoops.

I realize that there are many immigrants that are here as drug mules and part of the narcotics trade, and those that are violent offenders. But I believe that those issues should be dealt with by dealing with those issues - not by cracking down on all immigrants, regardless of their involvement with the drug trade or violent tendencies, who didn't manage to make it through the immigration process. I don't have any personal experience with it, but the accounts that I've seen and the huge berth of attorneys who specialize solely in immigration issues testify to a long, arduous, and overcomplicated system that is broken in many ways.

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