“Take heed”, the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples “and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:6) It was not, as His disciples initially supposed, literal bread against which He was warning them, but the teachings of these first century Jewish sects. The frequency with which He told His disciples not to follow the example of the Pharisees suggests that He recognized in this a temptation to which His followers would be particularly prone.
When, therefore, we consider the Christian duty enjoined upon us by the Great Commission, whether we interpret that commission in a high church sense as speaking of the ministry of Word and Sacrament of the organized Church or in the evangelical sense of the duty of all believers to tell others about the Gospel (1) we ought always to keep in mind as a warning Christ’s declaration:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (Matt. 23:16)
Clearly there is a right and wrong way to evangelize and we ought to be wary of the kind of theology that subordinates all other concerns to the very real need to bring the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it.
Consider a popular evangelical response to the present migration situation. For some time now a massive wave of migration has been going on as thousands of people from what used to be called the Third World but which the politically correct word police now insist we call the Global South have been moving into the countries of what used to be Christendom but is now known as Western Civilization. Some are coming claiming to be refugees or asylum seekers, legitimately and illegitimately, some are going through the proper channels to immigrate legally, whereas many others are just swarming in, but refugee or immigrant, legal or illegal, they are coming. A standard evangelical response is to say that we should look upon this as an opportunity and welcome them, because they here are the unevangelized arriving on our doorstep.
There is truth in this response. Yes, these people need the Gospel, yes, most of them have not heard the Gospel, yes, we have a Christian duty to share the Gospel with them, and yes, their having come to where we are certainly makes evangelizing them more convenient for us. This is not the whole side of the story however, and it is going too far to say that because of the evangelism opportunities it creates we ought therefore to welcome this wave of migration as a blessing.
When a country experiences immigration on a large enough scale to noticeably alter the ethnic and cultural composition of the country’s population this will have a number of negative effects on the country. Some of these negative effects will be economical and these will be felt the most by the poorest people in the country as the influx of newcomers increases the labour supply, driving down wages, and increases competition for jobs. This will especially be a problem if the country already has a high rate of unemployment. There are other ways, however, in which large scale, demographic-transforming, immigration negatively affects a country. The trust in one’s neighbours and countrymen, the social capital so essential to a sense of community – a sense of who “we” are – has been demonstrated to be seriously compromised by the diversity that this kind of immigration brings. (2) Furthermore, a country’s most basic rights, freedoms, and legal protections of the same, can be placed in jeopardy by this kind of immigration if the cultural tradition in which these things are rooted is seriously threatened.
These are exactly the negative effects this kind of immigration has been having in my country, the Dominion of Canada. When Canada was founded in Confederation 150 years ago as a self-governing Dominion within the British family of nations, it already was culturally plural with three basic ethnic communities – English-speaking Protestant Loyalists, French-speaking Roman Catholics whose religion, language, and culture had been protected by the British Crown after the Seven Years War and the Indian tribes of various religious persuasions, Christian and otherwise, who had signed treaties with the British Crown. A common allegiance to the British Crown, albeit for different reasons with each group, was the sole factor uniting these different communities – which is the reason why immigrants ever since have had to swear allegiance to the Crown to obtain citizenship. Our parliamentary form of government and our Common Law rights and freedoms are rooted in the cultural tradition attached to the Crown. The Liberal Party of Canada has, since the premierships of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, waged an assault on that cultural tradition using mass immigration of the type we have been discussing as one of its chief weapons. With the weakening of the British tradition in Canada has come a weakening of our basic rights and freedoms, one which was not successfully repaired by the Liberal Party’s attempts in 1982 to shift these onto the new basis of a written Charter. (3) Since the Liberal Party regained control of Parliament in 2015, it has set immigration targets at a record high, despite Canada’s having an unemployment rate of just under 7% which the Party seems determined to drive even higher with its ill-conceived, economy-killing, environmentalist schemes, such as the carbon tax.
For an evangelical Christian to endorse this sort of thing, just because it makes evangelism more convenient is an act of impiety in the extreme.
Impiety is the name of the sin with which Christ charged the Pharisees when He accused them of getting around the commandment to honour their fathers and mothers by declaring the portion of their wealth that could otherwise have been used to support their parents to be corban, i.e., dedicated to the temple treasury. (Mark 7:1-13) It is, as its name suggests, the opposite of piety, the ancient virtue which consisted of showing proper and dutiful respect and devotion to God and to one’s parents and ancestors. That devotion to God and to one’s parents/ancestors were so closely connected as to be a single virtue is recognized in virtually every ancient tradition – Plato made this the focus of his Euthyphro, the Romans regarded pietas as one of the chief virtues, and C. S. Lewis provided several examples of the same thought recurring in other traditions in the appendix to his The Abolition of Man. (4) In the Hebrew Scriptures, the commandment to “honour thy father and mother”, in addition to being the first commandment with a promise, as St. Paul notes, is placed immediately after the commandments outlining duties to God and before the commandments outlining duties to one’s fellow men, making it possible to link the commandment with the first set. The ancients understood that duty to one’s parents and ancestors involved looking out for the good of their descendants as well and so piety by extension includes devotion to one’s entire family and household. Devotion to the spiritual household – the family of God, the church – and patriotism, devotion to the national family, are further extensions of this duty.
St. Paul, in his first epistle to Timothy, pronounced the judgement of Christianity upon impiety. Having instructed Timothy to regard elder men in the church as fathers, younger men as brothers, elder women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, he tells him to honour widows, saying that if a widow has children or nephews they should “learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” (5:4). Of those in the church who refuse to do this, he writes “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (5:8)
The same judgement applies to those who sanctimoniously cite evangelistic opportunity, as a reason for supporting and welcoming immigration and refugee policies that have harmed and are harming – perhaps irreparably – their countries.
(1) The Great Commission is worded differently in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, St. Matthew’s wording lending itself to the high church or catholic interpretation, St. Mark’s to the low church or evangelical interpretation.
(2) Dr. Robert D. Putnam, Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, and author of the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, conducted an extensive study on the effects of diversity on social capital. He published his findings in 2007, writing that “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’-that is, to pull in like a turtle” which means that they “tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.” Robert D. Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century”, Scandinavian Political Studies, 30:2 (June, 2007), pp. 137-174.
(3) See my “Civil Libertarians of Canada: The Charter is Not Your Friend”: http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.com/2015/05/civil-libertarians-of-canada-charter-is.html
(4) C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1943), in which the first example under “Duties to Parents, Elders, Ancestors” is “Your father is an image of the Lord of Creation, your mother an image of the Earth. For him who fails to honour them, every work of piety is in vain. This is the first duty.” Hindu. Janet, i. 9 is cited as the source. In this appendix, Lewis is providing examples of what he, borrowing the term from Chinese philosophy, calls the Tao, i.e., universal natural laws underlying traditional moralities.
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