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The Bible and Borders

Jessup Think
Jessup Think
The Bible and Borders

Dr. Danny Carroll from Wheaton College joins Mark and Rex to discuss his book The Bible and Borders: Hearing God’s Word on Immigration in preparation for his lecture at Jessup’s Faculty of Theology Annual Spring Lecture.


Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore, and your co host Rex Gurney. And on the show today we have Dr. Danny Carroll. Dr. Danny Carroll is the scripture press ministries professor of biblical studies and pedagogy at Wheaton College. He’s the author of numerous books, and the one we’ll be focusing on in this episode is the Bible and borders, hearing God’s Word on immigration.

I hope you all appreciate the fact that we’re going directly to the evangelical mecca for our podcast. Now we’re upping our game.

That’s right. And we’re excited about this topic, because it’s so important. And Dr. Carroll is also going to be our special guest lecturer this year for our faculty theologies annual spring lecture series. You can join us Thursday, February 11, for the virtual lecture, check out for more information, hope you enjoy the show.

Fun, Danny, and thank you so much for joining us on the show. And for being our special guest lecturer this spring, we’re really excited for the lecture. Even if it is virtual, we’re kind of getting used to the virtual part of it. But we’re really excited because it’s such such an important topic. And I love the kind of the new book we’re going to be looking at with yours is the Bible and borders, and I love the subtitle, hearing God’s Word on immigration. That’s how we can maybe start with that broad question that could lead us and maybe a lot of different directions. But what does the Bible have to say about immigration?

Well, a lot. I mean, that’s why I wrote the book. Yes, so you want this in 25 words or less.

But actually, there’s more in the Bible and what’s in the book, I mean, so there’s a lot. And when I first got into this over a decade ago, I didn’t know what I was going to find. I didn’t go in with any particular agenda. I’m half Guatemalan, and there’s a story behind how I got into the whole immigration piece. But I went to the Bible, I’m an old testament Prof. To see what the Bible might have to say. And the more I got into it, the more I began to see that it was all over the place. Really, in both testaments. Beginning in Genesis chapter one, all the way through the New Testament and the epistles and how the church was, was birthed and grown. And even some of the epistles are responding to those kinds of issues. And, of course, you know, even Revelation, this isn’t really in the book, but revelation. I mean, John’s on Patmos, I mean, he’s displaced, from beginning to end, it just it it covers the whole waterfront, so to speak. So getting people to see it as a challenge. And then once they see it, you know, getting them to kind of maybe reorient their thinking about it is the is the next challenge.

Right. Yeah. Because I wanted, what’s interesting is that, I think, especially in American politics, we talk a lot about how the Bible should influence our policies and legislation. But in in some of these areas, it seems like we like you were saying that the harder part is actually getting people to see that scripture does have something to say, say about this, and, and speaks to it and kind of helping them hear that and really dive into that.

Yeah, what I found is that most people in the how they understand their faith, it’s very individualistic and personal. And of course, the culture tries to push you that way anyway, right, keep the public square. But what that does is, oftentimes, is that when people get to the bigger social issues, because they’re not used to thinking about their faith, or the Bible, along those lines, their positions, whether left or right, I see both are actually determined by their party affiliation, instead of the other way around, right. Yeah, the relationships are different. Yeah. And so, you know, left and right will have kind of their favorite verses they go to but it’s really a second move. It’s not the first move. And so we’ve we’ve actually created our own problem. And then of course, this will be perpetuated in our churches and things like that. I mean, so we create the problem. And sometimes it comes home to roost,

right. So just a little background. This this topic really resonates with me for a lot of reasons. I spent a couple of years in South America in Colombia and My wife’s Latina, so I’m doing my part in the browning America. I actually, when I first actually had a connection with this school, I was pastoring, a Spanish speaking church in San Jose, California. Wow. And so if you’re in California, and you have, you know, a primary Latino congregation, and both the churches that I pastored out here, one was multicultural, and one was primarily Latino. But you know, there are going to, frankly, be undocumented folks in the church. So that’s just, you know, if you don’t want to deal with that, then don’t pastor, a Spanish speaking church in California, right. But I got hit from both sides on that by some of my fellow pastors, I had pastors actually call me up, especially in the first church, and it’s like, you know, we know that you have, you know, illegal immigrants among your congregation, and it’s your, it’s your biblical duty as a Christian, because they are breaking the law to actually turn them into ins I actually had fellow pastors tell me that I didn’t do it. You know, I’m kind of on the other side of that issue. But speaking about picking verses to to, you know, fit with the prior political commitment. Yeah, yeah. I’ve experienced that.

Yeah. And I’ve seen that same kind of thing. There was a church in Atlanta, a former student of mine from Guatemala. So I’ve taught him What a wall for many years was up here. pastoring, in 95%, of his church was undocumented. And like many of these churches, they would meet on the grounds of a, another truck. In the afternoon, and, you know, one day, the Anglo pastor showed up and, and said, you know, the only people that will be allowed on the premises are documented people. And the student, you know, who had been my student who’s a pastor now, said, Well, you know, that’s almost all this congregation. And, and so basically, the next week, the church was, they tossed them. Wow. Yeah. And the church, you know, they all left and went looking for other churches, because I’ve seen that a lot. So that’s, that’s not uncommon, sadly. But,

yeah, I actually in San Jose, because one of my deacons was undocumented, but he was, you know, involved in in issues like that sort of, politically, and he had spoken on the steps of the city hall in San Jose at a rally the day before. And I opened up the San Jose paper on Sunday morning. The literally on the front page is like my Deacon. And I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh, the IRS is gonna raid our church this morning. There’s just it’s like, it’s all over. Of course, nothing happened. But

you know, well, they really can’t. I mean, and we’re not obligated by US law, to actually turn them in. So I will never do that. Anyway. Yeah, there’s so much misinformation out there. But a lot of it, a lot of it. Yeah.

It seems interesting that the conversation goes to, and you bring this up in, in the book, Danny that goes to, you know, fluctuate from illegal or illegal. And, and we kind of take it from that angle. And I love one of my favorite quotes from Bible and borders. From me, you say this as if Christians believe that current or proposed immigration legislation does not fit the teaching of the Bible, and the ethical demands of God’s heart. Some of them will not ask, what is it about illegal that you don’t understand? Instead, they will ask what is it about the Bible that you don’t understand? Yeah, that I thought was just such a powerful way to express that because the Bible doesn’t talk about it in terms of illegal or legal. I think you highlight that? Well,

yeah. And what I find, too, is that when people get into that discussion, almost nobody actually knows what the law is. Right, right. They don’t know the history of US immigration legislation, which is pretty checkered. They don’t know how contradictory and complex and outdated and also, I mean, one easy one that people don’t know about is that in this country with current legislation, if you come into the country without documents, and you’re in, there is nothing you can do to get right. With the law. There isn’t. Right. The only thing that current law contemplates is deportation. So there’s nothing that they can do so you have over 11 million people in that situation. And and who would really love to get right with the law, but there’s nothing they can do. And the mainstay now is over a decade. So you’re talking about people who are beating You know, very embedded in our crime. I mean, it’s just, but people don’t know all these things.

And often their children, no, no, no other community than the American community that they’re in.

And then you have this issue, which I’ve also had of mixed status families where some children are not documented because they came with their parents, others were born here. So they’re automatically US citizens. And so that’s a whole nother family dynamic, where you’ve got some children, who are, you know, US citizens and others who are documented and the parents are, or you have mixed status marriages to I mean, so it gets, it gets pretty complex.

I do have a question I was gonna ask a little bit earlier. And this comes from your years of teaching Seminary in Guatemala, and just, you know, your, I guess, experience growing up there. Do you think that the link, at least among I guess what we would consider evangelical Christians in you know, in Latin America, the link between, for lack of any better words, the spiritual and the social is is sort of different than it is with evangelicals here in our country?

You mean, is a reason to come?

When No, no, no, just simply linking linking the biblical witness with policies? Oh,

you know, to be honest, it’s not that different. Latin America, and partly is because the Evangelical Church predominantly are the heirs of the missionary movements, right? Central America be different in South America, but in Central America, a lot of the the missionary movements begin at the end of the 19th into the early 20th century, largely driven by Bible colleges. And so I remember when I was a new missionary, we were in Costa Rica, my wife was in language school. There, we were there for a year in the mission I was with, and there may have been eight missionaries, couples, I mean, so they’d be double that. I think there was one seminary grad. And so so you know, you appreciated the fervor and the commitment, all this stuff. But they they came with this kind of ideological mindset of what we see in this country where social things are kind of bad. social gospel, you know, slippery slope, right? It’s about the internal self. And so I remember, for instance, in Guatemala, I was there during the Civil War. And I preached on that church one Sunday, and one of the deacons came up to me during the coffee time. He said, we don’t talk about such things from the pulpit. But of course, in the coffee time, that’s what we’re talking about, right? I mean, right? Yeah. I really don’t see that different. If you go to the ecumenical side, it was different. Okay. But in Guatemala, on the ecumenical side, they may have been 5% of the Protestant population. It’s very unlike here, Mr. Kelly, because you would know in Spanish, is a broad word to cover all Protestant, right? But in Latin America, wholesale botanicals are 90 95%. what we would call evangelical and half or three quarters, depending on the country are Pentecostal. Right. So it’s a very different world. And of course, the Pentecostal movement would also skew more toward the spiritual sensationalistic though you do have some Pentecostals getting into politics in Guatemala had that too. But a very shallow understanding of government and things like that because of their lack of kind of good Bible grounding. So it’s complicated.

Okay. Okay. I remember I was a pastor of First Baptist Church, Quito, Ecuador, one summer, and just kind of a replacement for the missionary pastor that was there, right? It’s an international congregation, but since I was there in the summer, like they had the yearly, I don’t know preachers Council, so I was invited. And of course, all the missionaries were there too, because most of these churches were started by American missionaries. And I remember one of the pastors was speaking and it was sort of like liberation theology light. I mean, like, this was not full blown anything. And I remember one of the missionaries actually standing up and basically telling him to shut up and sit down and if he didn’t stop speaking like that, there would be no more financial support for his church. I was up Paul, if this was a pastor’s meeting in the 1980s, actually, that was to support. Yeah, so that’s the sad thing was he shut up and sat down. That was the, for me, that was just the really sad thing about it.

In the book, you do, I think, a really helpful job of giving definitions of refugee asylee. And immigration, because we often don’t understand those kind of implications and those nuances, and especially for us in the Sacramento region here in Northern California. We have a lot of Afghani refugees and Syrian refugees. And so when we talk about immigration issue, sometimes community too, it’s like, almost 100. Right. And yeah, yeah. So could you kind of help us and maybe help our listeners understand the the nuances and the differences or distinctions between those terms?

You know, Thanks, Mark, it really is important to understand that you’re talking about three different legal categories, each of which has a different way of getting into the country, that that they function differently. I’ll begin with the refugees refugees are worked through the United Nations, and what the United Nations does, it establishes relationships with countries around the world and a bilateral agreement about how many to accept per year. So in the case of the US, under the Obama administration, the last year it was getting close to 100,000. Under the last year here of the Trump administration, they were trying to bring it down to 19. Now these refugees largely are in refugee camps, massive ones around the world, there’s a huge one. In Kenya, for instance, you’d see them in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Turkey, yeah, yeah. And so what happens then, is that the United Nations, in these camps, you say, people will sign up for for a specific country, actually. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll get the country they want. It depends on the quotas. But once that has been agreed, and there is actually room in the desired country, then the United Nations will vet them in the refugee camp. And in the case, the United States, United States will have a representative that will also vet them in the camp, then they are transported to their new country. And in the case of this country, the the US covered will actually tell them where to go. So we when we were in Denver, several years ago, we helped at our small group, church group to help the resettlement and they were. They were Sudanese, and they were sent to Denver. Okay, so of course, that was a temperature shock for them. But what happens then, is that once they are here, the US government has relationships, and working agreements with largely religious groups that will take these refugees and help them with housing, English learning, learning how to do a job interview clothes, learning where the stores are in the schools, and all these kind of things. And the US will actually give them housing. Here, not too far from my house here in wheaton, there’s a good size apartment complex, and they’re lodgy refugees, they’ve been placed there by the US government. And the US government will actually give them some kind of stipend for about six months. So they’re kind of ramped in, with all kinds of help. Now in asylees, very different asylee is a person in this country who shows up at the US border, and ask for asylum, which means there they are fleeing people or groups that are persecuting them. And actually, they’re under threat of death. So Central America. Yeah, I understand. Yeah. And so that, but what happens, and I’ve seen this in Guatemala, and I’ve been there, sometimes people coming North are actually encouraged to make that kind of application. Because they know until the US government, these this arrangement with Mexico in Guatemala, to keep them away from the border, which is another story. They knew that if they would show up at the border, and ask for asylum, the US by law would have to let them in for a hearing. And I know cases where this was in Guatemala, actually, um, you would hear this this was actually a rumor that was circulating that if you sent your child to the border, and had the child asked for asylum, and they would get in so it’s very cool. Complicated on that? Yeah. On this side of things. What that does is it kicks in illegal process, which I’ve been told, would take normally, six months to two years where you have to prove that you are under threat of death. If you go back. Well, when you have 1000s of people showing up with that, what does the US have to do, it has the house them now get processed. And so this helps generate what we’ve seen in the US border. Okay. But that’s one kind of specific process. The immigrant doesn’t work on either the refugee track or the ISI lead track, it works through the application of visas. And normally, this would be done at the embassies. So Guatemala, you would go to the embassy and apply for a visa.

But in the case of Guatemala, you have to pay a fee of $100, just to have the interview, which is preliminary to even being considered for a visa. And then the visas in this country, every country has its own system, work on a quota system, right. So all these different categories, unskilled labor, if you have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a doctoral degree, things like this. Or if you’re sponsored by a business, all these different kinds of categories are all with quotas. And once those quotas are filled, there are no more visas to give out and these quarters will be filled globally. The problem with the quota system is we have it now is that it is very outdated, they haven’t been updated to fit, current economic need. And so when people say, Well, why did they come in the right way? Well, because there were no visas. Right? If we look at unskilled labor, the visa annually in this country is five to 10,000. We estimate that we need about half a million a year to harvest crops to work, construction, landscaping, all these kinds of jobs. So you can see in fact, this was one of the things number of years ago when there was a bi partisan bill to reform the system was to connect the quotas to economic need, that would vary by year would that be like the federal system sort of that well? Different? It would be different because of what I said our system was a man would come usually man working crops would come for a time and then return. Okay. Okay. And and it comes from Brasil which means arm right. So it was kind of foreign labor on on our southern border Cal Southern California, Texas, especially working with a pseudo program. But it was men coming across for seasonal labor. There’s a story behind that and why that was set aside. But it’s a very complex history of US immigration legislation, let alone the history of US, US immigration itself. So it’s these are these are complex issues. And the media just wants kind of bullet points, you know, kind of 32nd sound bites. And you can already see that this doesn’t work. Right? complex into multi layered and historical to deal with it that way.

I found in conversations with a lot of people. And you’ve just pointed this out that a lot of people don’t realize how hard it is actually to immigrate legally here to the United States. It’s it’s, you know, very difficult to get a visa.

Yeah. And the thing to one last point on this is under current US law, once you’re in without documents in your inside, there is nothing in US law that allows you to get it right. Right. So the only recourse is deportation. Under current law, so you have a little over 11 million people that that’s what they’ve got. They can’t get it right, even if they wanted to, and they do. Yeah, there’s no fine to pay, there’s nothing there’s no form to fill out no office to go to they have no recourse. Then you have families, entire families like this or mixed status families where some children have it, some don’t. Some were born here some came in mixed spousal marriages. I mean, so it’s, it’s, it’s a total mess. And the no one wants to actually touch it. You know, substantively, right? So

should our posture as Christians and our posture biblically be the same or different towards these three different like categories of folks that you’ve talked about?

That’s a good question. Cuz you got to somehow coordinate biblical kind of junctions with pragmatics. Okay, so I think on one side, basically the answer is, the category is vulnerability. Okay, so all those three fit into that category. The pragmatics is how fast can the US absorb? In terms of schools, medical care, housing, jobs, education. We had a case a few years ago with Germany, which a lot smarter than we are, of course, took in a million refugees in one year. Wow. Well, there was a I mean, wonderful gesture, but a pragmatic mess. Because how do you absorb and accommodate? And just think of language learning? I mean, you see this in our schools? I mean, you’ll have a school of elementary kids, let’s say, and there’s like 25 languages in the school? How do you educate those kids to get them into to the job market? I mean, all these things are going on. So that’s that’s the problem, you know. So you know, I’m a, as you would guess, I’m very much a proponent of immigration reform. But I don’t think open borders, makes any kind of sense, it would be total chaos that his country could never and no country in the world could ever handle. So how do you somehow coordinate compassion, biblical injunctions and pragmatism? Hopefully, the biblical injunctions are driving the pragmatism because one answer to the pragmatism is to shut the whole thing down, which is what you’re hearing by some in this country?

Yeah, seems like you’d do, I think, a really good job in violent borders, especially at the beginning. And I’ll admit, my opening question was a bit too broad, the bit too broad, because the Bible does say, does say a lot. And, and the reason I kind of went there is because I think you do such a good job of highlighting the underlying kind of motivation of compassion that God was trying to teach the the people of Israel, yeah, he was. And part of that was connected to their own history as foreigners in Egypt. And, and that seems to be we often maybe forget that in, in current conversations, maybe forgetting our own status, or America’s own status as as, as a land of immigrants, and, and we move away, I like what you’re saying, we move away from, from trying to balance that compassion with the pragmatism and and the Old Testament is, is just riddled with that, that lens of compassion to the outsider in the stranger.

And what you see in the Old Testament is, is tied into their identity. Don’t forget that that’s what you were. Yeah. And New Testament, which is full of immigration and migration stories. And the church is founded, right, are migrants around the Mediterranean basin. You know, what’s interesting is when you get to the New Testament, you see some that already in the old where migration becomes a metaphor for faith. It’s kind of a sojourner with God. I mean, you’ll see the songs, and there’s that language. But when you get to New Testament, it’s very explicit. Say, we’re in First Peter, for instance, as the easy one. There’s other passages, were actually called strangers, sojourners in a strange land. So if we remember that we have a different kingdom, that different citizenship, we are strangers we should be the problem is, is that, instead of being strange, we, you know, we kind of like this place. And so, to me, this place is getting stranger all the time. And so we actually try to keep the strangers out. And what I tell people, as you know, the more we understand about migration and immigration, we may learn more about what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to be strange. Because immigrants, and refugees and asylees they knew what it means to be strange. It’s not a metaphor for them. Right? That’s real. And so I when I speak to Latino churches, you know, tell them, you know, like, like, ESEA and Lord knows necesita I mean, the Anglo church actually needs us. Because, you know, they need to be reminded just how strange This place is. And so anyway, there’s all kinds of ways you can go on that. But yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s very much about who we should be. And in the Old Testament, it was actually a test of whether they really love God because in Deuteronomy 10, it says, You will Love the stranger because I do. Now, you know when people say why do you love the stranger to use that kind of language? I think is God does I can’t give you a better answer than that. And then it says he loves them Deuteronomy 1017 to 19 by giving them food and clothing. How did you do that? Well through his people, I mean, so it’s, it’s, it’s a expression of your love for God actually.

Yeah, I think that sums it up perfectly, and a great place for us to land and highlight just that you will be with us virtually, in in just a couple of days for our annual spring lecture, so we’re excited for that. And we’ll give people more information on how to get that. But thank you so much, David, for joining us, and we’re excited to to hear from you again, after lecture. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection in deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.

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