‘Good Fences’ Make ‘Good Neighbors’

It is hard to believe that it has only been a couple of years since our country became polarized with the thought of constructing a wall/fence on its southern border.  It reminded me of the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost, which made famous the slogan, ‘good fences’ make ‘good neighbors.’  Some people don’t like fences, mainly because they fail to take the time to understand the purpose for their existence.  The primary one that people site is that it makes them feel ‘controlled.’  That it exists to keep something or someone either in or out.  It is why it is one thing to make sure your wall is strong; it is another thing to it build so that others can understand and agree with the purpose and intent behind its construction.  Typically, a wall is built around the perimeter of a property or object to define ownership and ensure its safety.  Let’s face it, not everyone who wants inside a fenced-in area should be allowed entrance, especially if they have no respect or understanding of its purpose.  Fences are needed around many things, not just physical properties but animate and inanimate objects, ideas, and philosophies.  I found it interesting that people have difficulty finding a valid reason for erecting or respecting a wall.  One would think that a good example would be that it ensures that people would enter in an orderly, safe, and legal manner and, once in, would be able to quickly learn how to adapt, adjust and conform to their new surroundings.  We can welcome immigrants from various countries without losing the ideology of what our founding fathers died to preserve and protect.

Gal. 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Immigration has always been the driving force behind the success of the United States.  Realizing the importance that immigration has had in making our nation a success, we can conclude that God’s plan is for some to give up their citizenship and immigrate to another country.   If God is behind foreigners immigrating to our country, it would be crucial for us to make a viable way for them to attain citizenship.  For instance, from 1820 to 1930, 4.5 million Irish immigrants left their homeland to settle in America.  The main reason for leaving their birth country was famine.  Three groups of German immigrants came to the United States between 1683 and 1914.  Before you think that all they bring are their strange customs, dress, and language, look at what else the Germans brought with them.  They introduced the first kindergartens, emphasized physical and vocational education, and built gymnasiums making physical education a part of our school curriculum.  Many immigrants view America as the land of economic opportunity.  And though each group went through persecution after arriving and often settled in the same geographical areas, they acclimated themselves to their new country.  Between 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States, half of them between 1900 and 1910.  The majority fled grinding rural poverty in Southern Italy and Sicily.  Today, Americans of Italian ancestry are the nation’s fifth-largest ethnic group.  I wonder where many of us would be right now if our grandparents did not have an Ellis island to enter through. After opening in 1892, Ellis Island became known as the gateway to America and a symbol of a chance at the American dream. In the 62 years, it was open, the island facility processed more than 12 million immigrants. It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of current U.S. citizens can trace at least one ancestor to Ellis island.   

If you are old enough, you will remember the civics classes offered in High School.  You may remember that civics is Latin for citizen.  But what was the origin of civics, and why was it necessary?  An online article, “Promoting Civics Education in America,” addresses this and points out that “a genuinely democratic society relies on its citizens to be informed and ready to act.  What good is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people if the people have no idea what their civic rights and responsibilities are as citizens?  Preparing people to become knowledgeable and proactive members of a particular country requires proper civics instruction.  A civics class should be required for all current and future residents. 

On June 28th, 1995, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan said in her speech to Congress.  “Immigration policies should help newcomers learn to speak, read, and write English effectively.  They should strengthen civic education in teaching American history to all Americans… Immigration to the United States should be understood as a privilege, not a right.  Immigration carries with it obligations to embrace the common core of the American civic culture, to seek to become able to communicate – to the extent possible – in English with other citizens and residents, and to adapt to fundamental constitutional.  principles and democratic institutions.”  As reasonable as this might sound, others found it full of unintended consequences, separating people within our country based on their ideologies rather than giving them the needed tools to grow, acclimate and prosper within our borders.  James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Ideologies are ideas that people form concerning a particular issue.  They are often overly simplified because they fail to do any in-depth study of the problem.  They usually wrap it in scientific, political, and religious jargon that will give substance to their ideas.  Ideologues are more concerned that their opinions are accepted and promoted than if they are correct.  When their arguments fail to hold water, and most times they do not, it is because they lack substance.  Then they turn and blame others because having an intelligent discussion that involves a measure of ‘give and take is just too much work.

 There are two schools of thought that we need to be aware of; on one side are the progressives, who feel that society should constantly be improving, getting better, and evolving.  As good as that may sound, the problem it poses is in its definition of what it means to improve.  Progressives feel that the Declaration of Independence is a living document and should reflect the changing mores of the culture.  For instance, some examples of mores that have been made into laws.  (Legalization of Marijuana, Interracial and Homosexual Marriage, Abortion in the first trimester, etc.)   Progressives are constantly moving fences and, in some cases, removing them altogether.  On the other side are traditionalists who adhere to the original creed or order.  Traditionalists feel the founding fathers’ intent should be followed for the Republic to remain healthy.  They see fences as detrimental in keeping the status quo in line with the Constitution’s original intent and not changing because a country’s morals change.

Have We Forgotten What It Feels Like To Be FOREIGNER?  

But what does God say we should do about a fence on our southern border?  The Lord reminds us in Exodus 23:9 how to treat those who want to join our lands, “do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.”  Since we all are a nation of immigrants, except the first-nation people, we should be able to develop a commonsense solution to this problem.  After all, we have over two hundred years of dealing with the issue, so if any nation can figure this out, it should be us.  Let’s face it if any of us were faced with the same hardships as those currently seeking asylum here, most of us would be doing everything we could to bring our families to this country. 

But whether you are a progressive or a traditionist, our goal as Christians is to seek the truth rather than justify our own opinions.  Listening is crucial if you want to have a genuine conversation with someone; talking is essential, but listening is even more necessary.  Should our country absorb more people from other countries?  I would say that Jesus would say, yes!  If we believe we are a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14, then the purpose for our existence is more significant than our immediate comfort.  If Matt. 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” is true, then how much more would it apply to those whose very lives are in danger.  Rather than shut the door in the faces of those with legitimate reasons for being allowed to enter our country.  We need to be the voice of reason that brings a commonsense solution to the problem of immigration.  We need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Find out what that is, and then go and do likewise.

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