An Exile in Trumplandia Makes a Rejoiner to Marc Clauson

My colleague of several decades, two universities and fellow Berean Marc Clauson penned a response to a post I made on February 8. In his response, Mark said that I had written a piece “… addressing more than one issue related to President Trump.  The one that caught my attention was immigration policy.” I had not intended to address more than one issue. The purpose of the post was to convey my sentiment that President Trump gave little evidence of having a respect for individual human beings rooted in our universal creation in the image of God. My final paragraph reads:

While much of what we talk about with respect to President Trump will necessarily relate to policy, ultimately my concerns go beyond policy. I will agree with some of President Trump’s economic (and other) policies. My Trumplandia policy concerns are manifest in immigration and trade. But the root of the concerns are [sic] based in the shift away from a properly understood liberal individualism that respects individual people as being created in the image of God.

Marc asks “Do we disrespect individuals when we restrict immigration?” He correctly infers my belief that “Yes” nations are not giving individuals proper respect when the nation artificially restricts immigration for economic and what Marc calls “civilization” reasons.

Clauson calls on Adam Smith’s reasoning in the Theory of Moral Sentiments as a foundation for his argument. Smith makes the distinction between a “moral wrong” and an “injustice”. Marc says that restricting immigration is not unjust because it causes no “positive harm”. All the restricting nation has done is to fail to provide the immigrant with something the immigrant wanted – entry into the country; the nation has does no positive harm to the immigrant. I do not think that potential immigrants into the United States would agree that immigration restrictions caused them no  harm. But, let’s examine Smith’s distinction between a “moral wrong” and an “injustice” in Theory of Moral Sentiments from the other side of the coin–doing good, what Smith calls “beneficence”. Smith argues that the rules of justice are black-and-white. It is relatively easy to ascertain when positive harm is caused. However, it is much more difficult to outline how to be beneficent. Adam Smith believed the rules on beneficence are loose, vague, and indeterminate. Being good does not necessarily follow simple rules. Government is of little value legislating beneficence, however, government should not interfere with beneficence. With respect to immigration, artificial governmental restrictions, whether designed to increase the wage and income of some specific group or proposed for another reason, prohibit individuals in the United States from exercising beneficence. Individual people and businesses in the United States help other human beings who desire to come to the United States to work and find a better life to flourish. So yes, I do think that immigration restrictions do show a lack of respect for the immigrants and also for the people in the United States that want to help the immigrants.

Marc and I have discussed his concerns about “civilization” before. He and I simply disagree. I see open immigration as very little threat to our law and legal system, economic system, political structures, or other institutions. Our “… constitutional republic of limited government, a rule of law, and essentially free markets, not to mention some of the core values we have embodied in our Constitution (free speech, freedom of religion, etc.)” are under no immediate threat from immigration. Our government institutions are much more greatly threatened by the reality that current United States citizens know that we can vote wealth to ourselves. I think you could argue the election of a cronyist autocrat to the office of president poses a greater threat to our nation than open immigration.

8 thoughts on “An Exile in Trumplandia Makes a Rejoiner to Marc Clauson”

  1. Have you not witnessed what happened to California – a state that use to be in play for Republicans – after the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill? The resultant far-left move of that state threatens a secession. How does THAT not pose a threat to the Union? You can’ t blame California’s caustic cultural decline on a large influx of traditionally European immigrants. Something else is the cause, and it appears to be a combination of multiculturalism with a secular democratic ideology (that is reinforced by the judiciary in this country).

    I have to agree with Prof. Clauson on the long-term civilizational impact of non-Westerners undermining what have been Western core values. I would submit that Sharia Law and the unwillingness of certain cultures to assimilate further secularizes (de-Christianizes) American culture. Your seem to see the economic benefits of immigration by using old data of immigrants from Eastern Europe who eventually blended with the dominant American culture (i.e. “melting pot”). At best, we are a Waldorf salad with isolated cultural ghettos of non-European immigrants, many of whom collect some form of welfare. You ought to be horrified by the rising number of Mosques in this country owing to increased immigration from Muslim regions.

    I don’t know why Christians ought to care about “liberal individualism” when it is that very liberalism that threatens harm to the church in this country. No where in the Bible are nations required to allow the foreigners and so-called “sojourners” to erode their religious culture. Respecting people as having been created in the image of God does not entail letting them set up altars to other gods thereby diluting (polluting?) the once mainstream value-system. Your Christian position strikes me as being one heavily influenced by an Enlightenment (secular) ideology more than scriptural teaching. How is it possibly disrespectful in a biblical sense to limit the influx of immigrants into the country from problematic regions of the world?

    1. I have to disagree with just about everything that you have said. There is absolutely nothing wrong with multiculturalism. “Western” values are most certainly not synonymous with Christian values. Western values are much more secular that you may realize. For example, Catholic-Western values differ from Protestant-Western Values, which differs from Secular-Western Values, although they are all Western. Also, immigration to America has only helped that country (except it probably didn’t help the millions of Native Americans that died as a result of European immigration). Muslim immigrants should be welcomed as Americans, and the light the Christians bear can only become stronger in the face of these immigrants. I recommend that you talk with one of your Muslim neighbors, with the love the Christ being present, and I’m sure you will be surprised as to how the Spirit will work through you. Every Mosque that opens in America is a new mission field for us Christians.

      Also, to quote you, “No where in the Bible are nations required to allow the foreigners and so-called “sojourners” to erode their religious culture.” Certainly you don’t mean that the Bible doesn’t want Christians to go into a pagan land and try to erode their Hindu culture, or erode their Muslim culture. That’s quite the opposite of what the Bible has to say. Therefore, Christians should not be hesitant to welcome foreigners into their culture just as easily as they would go into another culture and share the Gospel.

      Maybe you didn’t realize the extent to the consequences of what you wrote, but they are serious. If a nation that is full of Christians shuts itself off the the world, how else will the Gospel of Jesus Christ be spread? I highly recommend that you do some soul-searching about this issue, and do not let any fears of outsiders control you in your mission on earth as a servant of the Living God.

      A Brother In Christ

      1. “Every Mosque that opens in America is a new mission field for us Christians.”

        That’s a particularly naive and dangerous way of thinking. This would seem to suggest that you view more mosques as a positive good for Christianity because that would, in your eyes, mean a “growing” mission field.

        Actually, every mosque that opens in America is nothing more than Satan increasing the competition against Christianity for the souls of those in its neighborhood. When more mosques open, that means the number of Muslims has grown to necessitate them.

        People are the mission field, not the building of an organized religion. Christians who live in areas with increased Muslim immigration should be trying, by evangelism and missions, to prevent those mosques from being built in the first place.

      2. I am not sure you were responding to me or Anonymous, but I do believe you misread my own blog. I am talking about civilizational change as a problem, not rejecting any and all immigrants. And Anonymous is correct to say the Old Testament does not allow “the alien” in unless he/she “obeys all the law.” That is pretty significant. Nothing wrong with differing CULTURES, but that is different from my term “civilization.” That has to do with law/legal system, political/constitutional system, economic structure. I submit that immigrants ought not be allowed to shift the balance of those–though of course our own citizens may do so anyway.

  2. Hi James,

    I appreciate the fact that while you disagreed with just about everything that I said, at least you didn’t make it personal. That has to be a rarity these days given the current political climate!

    As I see it, multiculturalism is the vehicle for an anti-Christian narrative. It praises pagan societies to the detriment of Christian ones. The problem that multiculturalists (the Kool-aid drinking, ideological ones) have with the West is that historically, it has been too closely tied to Christian institutions and traditions. Your point that Western and Christian values are not synonymous misses the overwhelming overlap that exists between the two. The reason for this overlap is that God historically situated the lion-share of His kingdom within Western civilization. The “mountain that filled the whole earth” as prophesied in Daniel had its primary locus and manifestation in this part of the world – especially after the collapse of the western Roman empire, hence the cultural assimilation of the pagan Germanic tribes to Christianity and the resulting rise of Europe, the Reformation, and eventual spread of Western science and technology around the world.

    Immigration has only helped America so long as the immigrants assimilated to the dominant “Christian” culture. This is not happening any more. I would be the first to welcome Muslims as Americans if only they would consider themselves Americans first, but that is obviously not the case with a critical mass of them who emigrate to this country. Their primary allegiance is to their pagan rituals and beliefs and are merely taking advantage of the hard-won freedom to worship their false god afforded to them by a majority Christian society. I certainly take your point to heart that Muslims need to hear the Gospel, but encouraging an invasion so as to bring the mission field here is to invite cultural jihad. These mosques are breeding grounds for future terrorists. If they are indeed the peace-loving people we so often hear about, we should see them demonstrating in the streets against ISIS and other so-called Muslim extremest groups. But when I do see political activism from them, it is to further and perpetuate their religion. The gospel of Jesus Christ will be spread through the preaching of the Word, so let’s do it over in their part of the world!

    I hope that you do not establish a moral equivalency between Muslim and Christian culture so as to think that Muslims have every right to indoctrinate Americans to their religion as we Americans do should we find ourselves living in non-Christian societies. Christians have a biblical obligation to promote and disseminate our faith; the Muslim and any other infidel who spreads his/her faith is under the condemnation of God for doing so. When God commanded Old Testament Israel to treat the sojourner with love, this did not entail allowing the sojourner to set up false gods within her borders. Given what Scripture teaches, I disagree with you that we should welcome foreigners into our culture without the obligation on their part to adopt the value system that made America a beacon of hope in the first place. It is naïve to think that we can honor God by bringing pagans into the country and then allow them to erect their idols, all the while erroneously thinking that we are actually witnessing to them! Give me a break! All we are actually doing is planting their religion here when our desire should be to keep their religion out of this country altogether. As I recall, Solomon at his nadir built temples to the gods of his many foreign wives, and the Bible did not praise him for it. Why do Christians today think that we can honor God by inviting idolatry to establish itself within our midst? All we are doing is contributing to the de-Christianization of our culture. Are we being wise as serpents or stupid as doves?

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I largely agree with alot of what you are saying. Foreigners coming into the country DO need to assimilate into a general “Western” culture. Obviously with Islam that entails far more adaptation than is required of many other religions because Sharia law is so incompatible with “Western” values of freedom. But I would caution you that those very values also permit the freedom of worship and, like it or not, that includes Muslims. I would hardly call the granting and protection of that freedom to be equivalent with OT Israel’s willful rejection of God in favor of idolatry.

      1. Hello to both,

        Thank you for your comments. I definitely see where you are both coming from.

        I suppose that my main point to stress is that, yes Satan can be active when in multicultural contexts, but so can the Spirit of God. I definitely didn’t mean to say that Muslim culture is equivalent to Christian culture, just that we shouldn’t fear Muslims per se, and I know that’s not what you two were trying to say. Granted, the last thing that I would want is for Western Christian culture to be eroded. I just think that globalization does in fact open up new doors for Christians to spread the Gospel.

        Anyways, this is an important topic, and it’s thanks to you two and Dr. Wheeler that we can have a good conversation about it.


    2. Hi Anonymous, James, Nathan

      Thanks for your thoughtful discussion on the subject of immigration. I am very interested to see what Pres. Trump’s updated executive order says and how it will play out. We are planning a debate on the topic of immigration later this semester on the campus of Cedarville University. Listening to your conversation has helped me to better understand the foundational principles that would lead Christians to disagree on this topic.

      I would like to briefly respond to a couple of comments Anonymous made. First, you said: “Your Christian position strikes me as being one heavily influenced by an Enlightenment (secular) ideology more than scriptural teaching.” I am very much aware of the influence of my education on the way I think. I had my training in economics at the University of Tennessee. While I do not think any of my professors were Christian Fundamentalists, most were theists and active in their religion. Their denominational affiliation ran from Baptist to Unitarian. Some were agnostic and some were atheistic. While I would consider “liberal individualist” to be secular, the notions are very much influenced and developed in a culture with a strong Christian influence. Each of us has our thinking influenced (even defined) by our basic presuppositions both stated and ideas that are more deeply rooted into our persons. I hope that I am not more influenced by my secular understanding of these issues then I am by Scripture. What I really hope is that all of my thinking is defined and shaped by the word of God. I think part of the root cause of our disagreement lies in our interpretation of the relationship of Israel’s political economy to the political economy of United States. I also suspect, that eschatology plays a role in the way we think about immigration. I hope to be able to develop a post on this in the coming days. Second, “How is it possibly disrespectful in a biblical sense to limit the influx of immigrants into the country from problematic regions of the world?” I do not think it is simply that we are simply being disrespectful, but rather we are not treating these individuals with the respect they deserve as human beings. While there is a strong philosophical/ theological/ biblical element to my argument, I also think I can make a strong policy statement. I hope to develop this more fully on the blog in coming days.

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