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Saturday, October 22, 2016

For a bright, shining moment, it seemed that the abiding spirit among conservative Protestants was one of hospitality and compassion toward the “stranger.” But that turned out to be an illusion. Despite signs that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals might finally embrace the unauthorized immigrants living among us, many conservative churchgoers remain ambivalent or outright hostile to any plans to provide a path toward citizenship.

That helps explain why House Speaker John Boehner and his rebellious caucus have denounced a comprehensive immigration reform proposal recently passed by the U.S. Senate. House Republicans believe their constituents, who include most conservative evangelicals, find comprehensive immigration reform a bit of heresy — amnesty granted to lawbreakers and grifters. There is research to back that conclusion: 55 percent of white evangelical Protestants view immigrants as a “burden,” while 58 percent believe they “threaten” traditional American values, according to the Pew Research Center.

Optimists had concentrated on a less antagonistic — and slightly contradictory — finding from that Pew survey, conducted in March: An overwhelming majority of white evangelicals, 62 percent, said that undocumented workers should be allowed to stay in the country legally. While other religious groups showed greater support, even evangelicals appeared solidly behind the Biblical imperative to treat the “stranger” with charity and acceptance.

And there were other signs that conservative evangelicals might have experienced a road-to-Damascus epiphany, a realization that their belligerence toward undocumented newcomers borders on persecution. Two years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest and most influential denomination of conservative Protestants — called for “a just and compassionate path to legal status.”

Sure, the language was vague enough to give skeptics room for cover. Still, it denounced bigotry and harassment of the undocumented, which seemed a big step down the path of righteousness for a denomination that didn’t get around to apologizing for endorsing slavery until 1995.

More recently, several prominent evangelicals organized a group called the Evangelical Immigration Table to push to legalize undocumented workers. Prominent SBC pastors — including Richard Land and the organization’s current president, Bryant Wright — have endorsed the Table’s principles.

  • Lynda Groom

    When the house gets done playing agenda driven political games it will include sanctions against the uterus, public radio with little of substance that might correct our broken system. The real surprise would be if they actually tried to solve the problem, in fact any problem.

    • Elizabeth M. Lane

      just as Julie implied I’m taken by surprise that a single mom able to get paid $6799 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this site link w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • tax payer

    Women make bad decisions all the time, so what does this have to do with Immigration

  • sigrid28

    Great piece Cynthia Tucker, connecting the dots between xenophobia within Evangelical congregations in the South (and North, too, by extension–not the topic here), empty public gestures by their leadership, and the expected intransigence of the GOP on the subject of immigration. Xenophobia, emerging during Obama’s presidency as a palpable force on the right, has gradually expanded to include not only “fear of the stranger,” the origin of the term, but “fear of the person I disagree with even if they look like me,” especially on the issues of women’s reproductive health and LGTB rights, and of course racial animus against blacks and Latinos. I’ve always thought Evangelicals with their well-worn bibles open during church services and prayerful ways had the potential to embrace the scriptures as a collection of ancient texts in constant flux around core beliefs with which all might identify. But no sir. It is just this bible on my lap every Sunday, the rest be damned.

    • InsideEye

      The republicans should challenge the Democrats and offer complete amnesty after ” carding” indentifying , existing residents. But after assuring complete , seamless, protection of American sovereignty and border security ….rules have to be written by me…an unbiased mixed Asian, Latino , Boston pilgrim ancestry, with a mixed wife! ….Why would they refuse?

  • howa4x

    It amazes me that the war between Catholics and Protestants is still raging. This is like what we all abhor in the middle east where Shia fight to the death with Sunni Muslims. The immigrants are devout Christians and believe in Christ just as the American evangelicals do but at the root of the immigration fight is the age old struggle between the sects of the same belief system. This has played out for centuries with countless wars being fought between these warring factions. The story about the brave Texans who died at the Alamo is really one between the Catholic Mexicans and the Protestant defenders. We’ve seen it play out in Northern Ireland in our lifetime. When JFK was running the issue of whether he would take orders from the Pope or defend America was one of the biggest issues and why he lost most of the evangelical democratic south. The evangelicals descended from those events mostly southern and Midwestern are the ones that oppose a Catholic influx. So let’s stop all the pretense and start talking about what the real issue is.

    • Catskinner

      The war in Ireland is more economic that religion. Read about what the Brits did there, starting with Queen Elizabeth I, on through Oliver Cromwell, and up until very recently.

      • howa4x

        Read history. there was more wars fought between Catholics and Protestants than any other group in history

        • Catskinner

          It depends on whose history you’re reading, howa4x. There were wars fought between Anglicans and Presbyterians too, but what’s your point?

          • howa4x

            My point is that the anger the evangelicals have toward Latinos is irrational. the immigrants are not taking away American jobs since most Americans don’t want to be waiters, kitchen help, landscapers for less than minimum wage. It was businesses that brought Latino’s here starting in the 60’s to pick produce in California. IGA in Greely Colo is the biggest meat supplier and in the 90’s fired all their union butchers and went to Mexico city to import workers. Republican have been successful stirring up hatred for people that came here when it is the business community that benefits the most by them. Protestants have a long hatred of Catholics and it is well documented.

          • Catskinner

            Well, I agree that it was crooked businesses that brought them here–Tyson Foods goes to Mexico to recruit illegals. But once they get here, a lot of Latinos convert to evangelical religions. I guess the logical choice of no religion just doesn’t occur to them.

  • Catskinner

    Hopefully, we’ve seen the end of this stupid immigration reform….

  • rustacus21

    Of the many, MANY issues Congress & the Administration have to focus on – JOBS!!! & the ENVIRONMENT (which crafting policy initiatives around could keep them more than busy & the American people more than content, from now til next election day!!!), to name 2, are far more important. But it seems to be a thing where ALL sides involved are playing this ‘run out the clock’ crap, that means not a d@%n in any way, shape or form. Holding employers accountable, ‘evicting’ the criminal element & processing those who have played by the rules is as simple as this need be. The on-again-off-again nature signals a childish type of sillyness that is surprising of the administration & frustrating w/the Senate that is controlled by Republicans, in spite of Dems being the majority. What gives? The American people brought this on themselves by ignoring the previous 8 years of insanity & then allowing the administration to play this game w/conservatives. It’s time to get mature, responsible legislators, who understand the Constitution & if there’s any misconceptions, reference the the Federalist papers for the philosophical ‘DEFINITION’ of ‘RESPONSIBLE’ executives, legislators & supreme judiciary. This isn’t rocket science… Nor loony-toones, altho sometimes I must wonder…