Evangelical leaders around the nation have been hard at work signing cross-denominational statements on various topics pertinent to U.S. Christians, the latest focused on protecting some undocumented immigrants.
On August 29, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in partnership with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention published the Nashville Statement. This statement, which has been signed by over 17,000 Christian leaders to date, controversially puts forth the signatories’ opposition to homosexuality, polygamy, polyamory, adultery and fornication.
Just over a month later, on October 5, the ERLC published another statement. This statement was written in response to President Donald Trump’s September 5th decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is a program that began during President Obama’s term that protected young undocumented immigrants from deportation. These young undocumented immigrants (referred to as “Dreamers”) are said to number nearly 800,000.
Children shouldn't suffer because of the decisions of their parents, especially when they have tried to make things right. #DACA
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) August 31, 2017
The Evangelical Leader Statement of Principles on Dreamers calls “on Congress for a timely solution on a narrow issue of national consensus: provide a legal remedy for the subset of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, those immigrants commonly called Dreamers.”
Specifically, the statement offers the following six principles:
- We believe it is unjust to punish children for offenses they did not commit.
- We believe America’s borders must be secure.
- We believe we should welcome Dreamers of good moral character and who are working hard to contribute to our country.
- We believe Dreamers deserve to be recognized as our fellow Americans.
- We believe our government should provide a pathway to permanent legal status and/or citizenship for eligible Dreamers.
- We believe a just government works to maintain the integrity of families.
Signatories of the statement include Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University.
“How we treat human beings made in the image of God is essential to the gospel and to the mission of the church,” Prior stated in an email to Faithfully Magazine. “These Dreamers are our neighbors, our students, our teachers—people living in this country who were brought here by others and have known no other home.”
For Prior, signing this statement was incredibly personal, as one of her former students is a Dreamer himself.
“I signed it for him and for all the others like him. Even if something unjust brought them here initially, it would be a further injustice to wrest them from their homes now,” she said.
Prior remarked that a consistent pro-life stance not only cares for the unborn in our country but also for Dreamers.
“It’s interesting and poignant that the number of Dreamers living here is in the same range as the number of abortions done annually in this country,” she said. “We who want the world to make room for these aborted children ought to be the first to make room for these other ‘unwanted children’ in our land.”
Defending Dreamers and DACA has usually remained on the outskirts of the typical Evangelical and conservative talking points, so it will be curious to see how many leaders will eventually sign onto this recent statement meant to protect vulnerable immigrants. The ERLC confirmed Monday that since publishing the Evangelical Leader Statement of Principles on Dreamers last month, only 867 supporters have signed the document.
However, the number of signatures on such documents is not necessarily indicative of general Evangelical sentiment on these issues.
A majority of Americans, 76 percent, think some accommodations should be made to allow Dreamers to remain in the U.S., according to a September Political/Morning Consult poll. Alternately, 15 percent of Americans think these undocumented immigrant should be expelled from the country. However, a 2015 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that among religious Americans, White Evangelicals were the most resistant to immigrants. The survey found that 53 percent of this Christian segment felt that the growing number of immigrants moving to the U.S. “threatens traditional American customs and values.”
While issues related to immigration are complicated, multifaceted and may lead to legitimate disagreements from Christians of varying political persuasions, it is nevertheless important to approach the subject with care.
“We cannot look for easy answers and expect to make no sacrifices. There is plenty of room for disagreement on these issues, but being open in heart and mind, asking questions, seeking wisdom and serving others in love are non-negotiable for the Christian,” Prior said.