Immigration and Families: The Complex Issue of Separating Children From Illegal Aliens

Lately, there has been a huge emotional reaction against the Trump administration for separating children of illegal immigrant parents who are undergoing criminal proceedings for crossing the border illegally.  The loudest voice is on the left because they obviously hate Trump for everything (ironic, given their disdain for the family unit in general), but many on the right as well have been vehemently critical of the administration’s handling of this issue because it seems to strike at the family.  Though most children in federal custody came across the border alone, there are still about 2,000 children that have been separated from their parents (or alleged parents) that the federal government has to figure out what to do with.

However, though simplistic takes are legion (as usual), this is a more complicated situation than many think.  Frankly, it is obviously more complicated than what the Trump administration itself thought because it severely underestimated the problem that would be on its hands after adopting this zero tolerance policy against illegal migrants.  Add yet another bungled reference to Romans 13 from AG Jeff Sessions, and you have an administration that isn’t exactly on top of things here.  On a summary note: No, Mr. Sessions, Romans 13 does not mean absolute submission to the government and certainly does not mean we cannot criticize it.

In any case, Christians should be concerned about this because while Sessions’ and Jeffries’ use of Romans 13 in the past have been bad, the text still teaches that we should try to be good citizens who obey and respect laws.  We should also obviously care about the family unit and children, and certainly, the family is far more important to Christians than to progressives who often find it to be an institution of oppression.  Also, Christians should care about those in need.  Even if someone is not a Christian, they should be able to agree that children are important, laws are important, and families are important.  It creates a tricky problem for this reason (and let me make this very clear): If the law is enforced thoroughly and consistently, then this situation is unavoidable if illegal immigrants are caught and especially if they claim asylum.

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Controversy at SWBTS and the SBC and Moving Forward

I haven’t updated this blog for a while, a combination of being busy and… watching too much basketball.  In any case, there’s a situation that I do want to briefly address, but I’ve held off due to the fact that I am a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and didn’t want my words to be twisted to target anyone else that has nothing to do with me voicing my opinion.  It’s probably a good time to state something obvious but often needed: What follows are my thoughts alone and nobody asked me to write them down.

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was recently held in Dallas, and it occurred during a time of controversy.  One of the stalwarts of the Baptist faith, Dr. Paige Patterson, was supposed to preach at the meeting but removed himself due to first being pushed into early retirement and then being fired outright from being the president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  If he didn’t remove himself, there was probably a good chance that they would have changed to someone else anyway.  From what I hear, it didn’t get prettier at the meeting because someone put up a motion to immediately remove the executive committee of the trustees for the school due to them firing Patterson while he was overseas in Germany.  The motion overwhelmingly failed (though evidently an internal report on the actions of SWBTS’ executive committee will be given next year), but it illustrated the fact that Patterson’s firing was polarizing, just as the man himself often was.

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The Mutant Politician Donald Trump, a Pastor Fanboy, and Rationalized Polarization

I have stayed away from Donald Trump news for a while since it gets so annoying, but some of it is impossible to avoid.  Truth be told, there are some policy decisions that I have liked, such as his Supreme Court choice, the tax plan (mostly), and scaling back on regulations that helped encourage investors.  There are also things that are not so great and even predictably stupid, such as the disaster of a healthcare plan, the annoying Russia thing that won’t go away, trade tariffs, and dumb comments from him.  But Donald Trump is a weird politician, seemingly impervious to scandals that would crush other politicians.  This whole absurd saga with a pornstar that he allegedly had an affair with and paid hush money to is a great example of this.  Many of us already cynically think that at least some politicians get involved in shady stuff anyway, but can you imagine if a “normal” politician got hit with a scandal like this?  It would be politically disastrous, and yet for Trump, people’s reactions are kind of just like, “Oh yeah, well, there’s Trump for ya.”  At the same time, his approval numbers are low despite the economy doing well, which is normally something that correlates with high approval ratings (whether the president actually did anything to truly affect the economy or not).  He is some mutant politician; the things that would normally destroy a career don’t affect him that much, and the things that would normally help a politician don’t really assist him.

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Political Expediency vs. Principle

‘Tis the season for sexual assault/harassment allegations, apparently, as several prominent celebrities have gotten hit with them and eventually saw their careers bite the dust.  First there was Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and then others in entertainment and media followed such as Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer.  Politicians were not immune, so figures such as Roy Moore (R), Al Franken (D), Trent Franks (D), Blake Farenthold (R), and John Conyers (D) were accused of sexual assault and/or harassment.

On the one hand, it is undoubtedly good that women are willing to speak out against misconduct and that some of these figures, who had gotten away with this behavior for years if not decades, finally saw some consequences for their actions.  On the other hand, all of this has given us more evidence of how fractured America is along party lines.  Both parties are trying to claim the moral high ground, not because they seem to really care about morals (if they did, they would police themselves a lot better) but because it is politically advantageous to do so while painting the other side as monsters.  Consider how some of this played out regarding Roy Moore:

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The Magnitude of Evil and the Abundance of Grace: Oh God, Whom Will You Hear First?

In Gregory Boyd’s Satan and the Problem of Evil, he relays a story about a small Jewish girl named Zosia.  Zosia had pretty eyes, and some Nazi soldiers noticed.  Simply because they were bored, they decided to remove her eyes on the spot in front of her mother.  The author whom Boyd quotes describes the scene, stating that the cries of the girl, the screams of the mother, and the laughter of the Nazi soldiers mingled together and made their way to heaven.

The author asks poignantly: Oh God, whom will you hear first?

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“Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?” If Not, Your Emotions Don’t Matter That Much

A while ago, I wrote a blog post giving a nuanced look at an unfortunate decision by some of the professors of our seminary to post an inside joke on Twitter… where, you know, everyone on earth can see it without understanding any context.  I criticized them for that, but at the same time, I also pointed out that ignoring context and loudly screaming “Racist!” was also foolish.  You can do both: Criticize the professors for doing something unwise but also understand the context of their picture and why it’s not racist.

Unsurprisingly, my article got some blow back (it also got a lot of support), though none of this blow back dealt with the main argument.  Instead, what got a lot of attention was a throw-away line in the article (again, in the context of actually criticizing these professors for posting that picture on the internet):

Given our hyper-sensitive culture these days, where even stating bare facts like “There’s a very high rate of single-motherhood in the black community” can draw accusations of racism, it was foolish to post that online.  That’s not to excuse our hyper-sensitive culture, but surely a joke like that is not worth the controversy and potential damage to the witness of the professors as well as that of the seminary.

Many people latched on to this line with great offense (though I’ll repeat, it had little to do with the main argument, and it was a comment about the culture as a whole which honestly shouldn’t be that controversial).  “How dare you call people hyper-sensitive!” “You can’t fault people for how they feel!” “You shouldn’t invalidate people’s emotions!” So on and so forth.  What is interesting is that virtually all of these comments came from Christians.

This honestly squares with my experience both from within and without the church when people’s emotions are criticized.  These days, when someone is told he is being too sensitive, that his anger is unjustified, that his jealousy is irrational, or that his hurt feelings have no bearing on the truth of a matter, the typical response from him and others around him is to have varying levels of anger and shock.  The implicit assumption is that emotions are always uncontrolled responses, always valid, and ultimately unassailable.

The problem with this line of thinking for Christians is rather simple: It is far from a biblical stance (not to mention counter-intuitive if you really think about it).  The fact of the matter is that the Bible implies that we are accountable for how we feel and that our emotions can very well be wrong.  Notice what I did not say; I did not say that how you act due to your emotions can be wrong, though that is of course true.  I said the very emotions you have can be wrong, sinful, selfish, or irrational if they are unreasonable and/or come from a wrong heart.  As unpopular and surprising as this is for many Christians (and especially non-Christians), this is what Scripture teaches.

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Robert Jeffress, Trump, and North Korea: Does Romans 13 Apply?

Back before the nominations, I wrote a post about how I found a lot of Christian support of Donald Trump to be curious, and one name I mentioned was Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas.  I’ve heard him preach a few times and I do not doubt his commitment to the gospel, but he’s also known to create controversy with his comments on politics.  Recently, he made the news again when he stated in an interview with The Washington Post that he supported Trump’s strong remarks against North Korea because God has given Trump the authority to “take out” Kim Jong Un.  He cited Romans 13 as his basis and said that the president, as part of the government, should not seek to follow the Sermon on the Mount in his role.  His comments were met with widespread criticism from the media as well as other Christians who accused of him of warmongering and for using the Bible to justify violence.

I’ll mostly leave aside the question about what to do about North Korea.  As a Korean, I know full well that North Korea has an evil government that might be the most backward on the planet, but what to do with them is not a question I’ll seek to answer here.  Instead, I’ll narrow my focus to Jeffress’ use of Romans 13.  He actually has a point, but the application of Romans 13 to this situation is a bit murky, and he could have worded what he said more carefully.

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SWBTS Social Media Faux Pas: Why It’s Both Unwise But Not Racist

I had a post on limited atonement lined up for today, but a controversy hit my school recently and I wanted to address it.

Social Media Fail

Yesterday, I bought Dr. David Allen’s The Extent of the Atonement for Kindle and scanned through some of it.  I wholeheartedly encourage the reader to buy it also for a measly $10 (though the physical version is like $40).  Little did I know that later that night, Dr. Allen would be apologizing for something outside the scholarly world.  He and some professors posted this picture on Twitter:

swbts prof photo

Lol, wow.  Predictably, cries of racism flew around the internet, both from within and without Southern Baptists, and the pictures were taken down.  Everyone involved apologized.  Dr. Patterson, the school’s president, also wrote a lengthy apology.  Dr. Allen in particular gave an apology without qualification and said that “context is immaterial” for their joke picture.

And here is where I would disagree with Dr. Allen, though I understand his wish to give an unconditional apology.  Context is not immaterial.  We should always, always, look at context and also give charitable interpretations, even if we do still end up disagreeing with someone’s words or actions.

This picture was apparently given to a preaching professor here who recently got a job at a church and was therefore moving on.  Dr. Vern Charette evidently raps as a hobby and even had a section where he rapped in a chapel sermon, so some professors thought they would give him a silly picture as a going-away gift.  With this context in mind, does it make it wise to post a joke photo like that, knowing that the entire internet is not going to immediately know the context?  No, it doesn’t.  I’m actually very surprised none of those men thought, “Hey, this can easily get misinterpreted, so let’s either not do this in the first place or at least just keep it as a private joke among friends who know our intent and the context.”  Given our hyper-sensitive culture these days, where even stating bare facts like “There’s a very high rate of single-motherhood in the black community” can draw accusations of racism, it was foolish to post that online.  That’s not to excuse our hyper-sensitive culture, but surely a joke like that is not worth the controversy and potential damage to the witness of the professors as well as that of the seminary.  It also does not help that the Southern Baptist Convention started on the wrong side of American slavery back in the 19th century and had to repent of that many years ago.

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Local Prosperity Church Opens Up a Spiritual Gift Shop

HOUSTON, TX – Land of Silk and Money (LSM), a local church pastored by Jerry B. Pound, has added a new spiritual gift shop to their already existing store full of self-help books, motivational audio, prayer cloths, the pastor’s prayers in tongues, and pamphlets about seed-planting (no Bibles were reportedly seen).  The church boasts 25,000 members and 269,000 square feet of land, but Pound says that many of those members have asked what spiritual gift they have.  In order to help them out, he decided to add this spiritual gift shop that allowed anyone to purchase the spiritual gift of their choice, either for themselves or someone else.

“I got asked so many times about spiritual gifts, and I thought, ‘Hey, Jerry, isn’t this another example of planting seeds?'” said Pound, who flies back to his Florida beach house every week on his private jet.  “If you can plant seeds and get the car of your choice, I don’t see why you can’t also get the spiritual gift that you want.”

Though spiritual gifts aren’t tangible, they are represented in the store by cards with text on them and envelopes for future giving that increases those gifts.  The initial price of a spiritual gift varied based upon its importance, a level deemed by Pound and his staff.  Here is a list of some of the gifts and their price tag:

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On the Trigger-Happy Use of the “Heretic” Label

Though I’ve written several articles criticizing Calvinism, one may notice that there is one thing I have not done: I have never called Calvinism a heresy or any particular Calvinist a heretic.  In fact, I’ve made clear that even if I disagree with Calvinists, I still respect many of them as preachers of the Gospel and consider them brothers in Christ.  The use of the word “heresy” is very serious, and because of that, I tend to have little patience for those who use it quickly and carelessly.

Uncharitable Immaturity

For example, several years ago I was listening to a Mark Driscoll podcast as a passenger in a car (back in his heyday of popularity), and he mentioned the story of Noah.  Unfortunately, the clip is no longer up on Youtube, though you can still find many references to his message online.  You can also still download the original sermon (date: April 5, 2009), though the relevant quote is this:

What do we do with Noah? Hi Noah! Genesis 6. Let me tell you the story of Noah. Here’s the deal. If you grew up in church you probably don’t know the story because it gets butchered! It freaks me out; there is this long of things that freak me out and this is way up on the list. Every children’s Bible I get, I get white-out and I fix this part and I get a sharpy, and my kids all know that dad freaks out on the Noah story. Dad does freak out on the Noah story, because every kids Bible I’ve ever seen preaches a false gospel in the story of Noah. I don’t want my kids to be heretics, so I white it out and fix it. (emphasis added)

And the story in every kids Bible is told like this: Noah was a righteous man, he was a good guy. Everybody else was bad, Noah was good, Noah got a boat, everybody else swam for a little while. Moral of the story is be a good guy, you get a boat named Jesus, don’t be a bad guy, you’re going to have to swim for it. It’s ridiculous! Alright Genesis 6, Noah, verse 5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We call that total depravity. Who was bad?  Everyone. How bad? Totally. When? All the time. That’s pretty all inclusive. Now this is a heart-breaking statement, “And the Lord was sorry that he made man on the earth and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man from the face of the land. Man and animals and creeping things and birds of heaven for I’m sorry that I made them.’ But, here’s the big idea. Noah found what? Favor; it’s the Hebrew word for grace. Noah found grace or favor in the eyes of the Lord. God looked at the earth, everyone’s only bad all the time, including Noah. And God looked a Noah and said, “I’m going to love that guy.”

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