Monday, January 28, 2008

Walter Coleman Is A Disgrace

Well, he's at it again. According to today's issue of RedEye (published by the Chicago Tribune), the "esteemed" Rev. Walter Coleman, from Adalberto United Methodist Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, is harboring yet another Mexican "undocumented worker" in his church. After U.S. authorities shipped Elvira Arellano's lawbreaking behind back to Mexico, Coleman apparently failed to get a clue. He went looking for another opportunity to thumb his nose at the millions of Americans who believed, as I do, that a nation without enforceable borders is no nation at all. He found such an opportunity in a woman named Flor Crisostomo.

Coleman and others like him seem to be incapable of recognizing the distinction between their lawless acts and genuine civil disobedience, so let me spell it out for them: Breaking a legitimate and constitutionally defensible law is not civil disobedience. Unlike the racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws which once existed in many southern states, there is nothing inherently unjust about our immigration laws. All people who would wish to immigrate to our nation in order to take advantage of our opportunities are held to the same standards, and those standards have existed for many, many years. Our immigration laws (which are a necessity if we are to have anything resembling protection against terrorists) are not somehow rendered invalid by the declining state of the Mexican economy, no matter what Coleman and his allies might claim.

I am particularly appalled that a United Methodist church is being used to promote this nonsense. I was raised in the United Methodist church. My grandfather, George Bowles, was a United Methodist hospital chaplain until the day of his death in the summer of 1970. My father, Don Pettigrew, was a United Methodist lay minister.

My father was steadfastly opposed to racially discriminatory practices, and in fact, he served as the Chairman of the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights in my hometown, out of a desire to fight genuine racism. In some respects, my father was a very flawed man. But I cannot imagine that he would ever have abused his position with the United Methodist church in order to advocate lawlessness or shelter lawbreakers.

Having said that, I should also say that I'm not completely surprised by Reverend Coleman's acts. I left the United Methodist church many years ago, because I sensed that that denomination was growing less and less interested in adhering to the beliefs and principles which had guided John Wesley, who founded the Methodist church. During the late sixties and early seventies, moral relativism replaced moral certainty, and social activism replaced the straightforward preaching of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am not opposed to immigration per se, nor do I have any innate bias against Hispanic people. I think that we ought to welcome immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere, provided that they abide by our laws and provided that they make a strong effort to learn the English language so that their presence here will not impose a burden on people who were born in this country and who have lived here all of their lives. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the Hispanic community currently consists of people who are unwilling to do the things they need to do in order to deserve to be welcomed to this country. That's their choice, but they need to understand that such choices have consequences.

One article on the subject of Elvira Arellano cited scriptures which stated that God's people had an obligation to welcome foreigners and aliens and to provide hospitality. Well, I don't disagree with that premise. We certainly ought to welcome such people --- as visitors whose presence is heavily monitored so that we can fulfill our biblical responsibilities to such people without compromising the security of our own people in the process. It is not inhospitable to hold would-be permanent or semi-permanent residents to a different standard than the standard to which we hold mere visitors. Somehow, visitors and immigrants from most countries seem to understand that. For some reason, substantial numbers of people from Mexico and other Latino countries can't quite get it through their heads that there's a substantial difference between hospitality and stupidity.

I have nothing against social activism when it is consistent with the scriptures. In fact, I believe that the Christian Church has a moral responsibility to stand against genuine instances of social injustice. But the acts of Rev. Coleman do not fit that description. Instead, his form of self-aggrandizing activism is nothing less than spittle in the eye of every decent American, regardless of ethnicity, who believes in obeying our nation's laws and playing by the rules.

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