When it comes to the issue of immigration, Congressman Steve King (R-IA) always seems to be the headline of the story. Last week, King touched off a firestorm over a tweet supporting Dutch politician Geert Wilders, saying, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.”
The plain reading of King’s tweet is truly awful, but it won him the praises of former KKK wizard David Duke and “Alt-Right” founder Richard Spencer were very encouraged by King’s progress as a nationalist. Spencer took to Twitter saying,
“Steve King is getting at a root [of] nationalism, a nationalism in the real sense of the word, and I’m very proud of him for doing that. One thing I would tell Steve King, just don’t cuck. What you said is true. You spoke, or tweeted, from the heart. Don’t apologize.“
Though King certainly didn’t apologize, he did “cuck” (to use Spencer’s term for liberal appeasement). He told the Washington Times that his tweet wasn’t about race, but cultural assimilation.
“Any culture that doesn’t care enough about itself to reproduce itself shall become extinct,” King said. Today’s immigrants, he explained, no longer assimilate like they used to because about 25 years ago we began to “worship at the altar of multiculturalism,” which he says encourages our differences, not national unity.
On “New Day” with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, King was asked whether he saw Muslim Americans, Italian-Americans and German-Americans as equals. They were equal in the eyes of God and the law, King answered, but not equal in their productive capacities. "Certain groups of people will do more from a productive side than other groups of people will. That’s just a statistical fact,” King concluded.
Though King didn’t specify which ethnic groups were superior in their productive capacities, he has answered this question before. In a panel discussion on MSNBC, the first night of the Republican Convention, Esquire’s Charlie Pierce criticized Republicans for a convention that seemed to be mostly “old, loud, and unhappy white people.” King bristled at the accusation.
"This old ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie.” King retorted. “I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?"
In short, instead of defending the Republican Party from a liberal criticism, King chose to defend the white race.
While King’s view of the ethnic pecking order seems a bit out of time, it certainly wasn’t at the turn of the 20th century. Congressman Albert Johnson, who authored the infamous Immigration Act of 1924, drafted his bill with the central aim of preserving “racial homogeneity” in the United States. Thusly, the bill banned Asian and Arab immigration; and, in an effort to decrease the admission of Jews fleeing persecution, the bill severely restricted immigration from South-Eastern Europe.
In support of his bill, Johnson claimed,
“Our capacity to maintain our cherished institutions stands diluted by a stream of alien blood with all of its inherited misconceptions respecting the relationships of the governing power to the governed.”
His coauthor in the Senate, Senator David Reed, was more candid. He argued that they needed the bill to become law to “maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain of our people and thereby stabilize the ethnic composition of the population.”
King’s theory of superior ethnic productivity isn’t dissimilar to the worldview of Johnson and Reed. In fact, ethnic productivity forms the ideological foundation of the Johnson/Reed immigration policy of 1924.
They wanted legislation that invited the most “assimilable” or productive immigrants in the world, so they wrote a bill would let in the same percentage of nationalities already present in the United States based on the 1890 U.S. Census. They argued, just as King does now, that some groups are more assimilable or contribute more to our civilization. For this reason, their bill limited immigration to “white inhabitants.”
There will always be a debate on whether immigrants assimilate appropriately. Sociologists try to define generational assimilation with metrics like “changes in socio-economic status,” “language acquisition,” and “intermarrying rates,” but the truest test of assimilation is an American history book. It may not be the answer people are looking for, but it’s tried and true.
Patterns of assimilation generally look like this: the first generation struggles with the challenges of a new culture. The second generation adapts to the new culture while retaining many of their heritage. And the third generation forgets much of the first generation’s heritage while assimilating fully into the dominant culture.
In the 1750s, Benjamin Franklin was distressed by the apparent failure of Germans to assimilate. He wrote in his journal, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.“
It was a bold prediction for sure (harsh language and all), but it was disproven by the time Franklin’s children had children. Similar charges were made against the Irish.
In 1847, a massive wave of Irish immigrants, fleeing a potato famine, flooded Boston, increasing its total population by 30 percent in one year. The Irish were easily the poorest, weakest, sickliest, and most wretched immigrants to hit the shores of the United States. Their predicament was so bad that the newspaper accounts, which had graphically chronicled their plight, referred to them as “creatures.” Yet, as time has shown us, they Irish remain one of the greatest examples of successful assimilation in American history.
We should keep our history close. When we hear the statements of elected leaders that openly theorize about ethnic superiority, or suggest that immigrant babies threaten the future of our civilization, we should hold them to account for what they practice – which is bigotry.
It was someone else’s babies that formed our American colonies, fought foreign powers for our independence, and forged a Constitution like no other. The United States is the greatest nation on earth not in spite of our immigration, but because of it. As the saying goes, history may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes; and it’s up to us to learn what it means.
As we pass Reformation Sunday, which marks the 499th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, we reflect on men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and others who put their very lives on the line to restore the Gospel in an era when it was being watered down and corrupted. The Reformers believed that the Roman Catholic Church had strayed far from the basic Christian principles laid out in the Scriptures and they set out to unlock the Bible for the common man so that they could seize the Gospel for themselves.
The concept of reformation is especially relevant in our political climate today. Both parties need reform, but being a Republican, I'll focus on the GOP.
The Catholic Church of the 16th century was corrupt, greedy and hungry for political power in the eyes of the Reformers. The Church had gradually drifted away from the Gospel. The corruption came to a head when a Catholic friar named Johann Tetzel was crassly hawking indulgences to fund the Pope’s new Basilica in Rome. Disgusted by this practice, a monk named Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses onto the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The fire was lit.
Likewise, the Republican Party needs reform urgently. In our quest for political power we have slashed our conservative values up so badly, we aren't even recognizable as the Party of Lincoln. The anger, xenophobia, sexism, racism, etc. that was once merely tolerated in some quarters of our base and subtly pandered to is now blatant and undeniable in our standard bearer, Donald Trump. And that's just our conservative values, say nothing of our moral authority that has been all but destroyed by the many Evangelical leaders that have become Trump’s religious spin doctors for his many scandals. True conservatism is in a state of darkness, much like the Church in the Middle Ages. The writing is on the wall if we continue down this path. We will never win youth, women, black or Latino voters which means we will never win again. Conservatism is in darkness and on the edge of extinction.
But we can reform. The motto of the Protestant Reformation was “post tenebras lux,” which means “after darkness, light.” We need to get back to espousing the light that is true conservatism, not distorted in a way that only caters to a small, homogenous base, but opened up in a way that appeals to the great diversity of this country. While conservatism is enshrouded in darkness now, the likely election of Hillary Clinton and the possible loss of the Senate may serve as the catalyst for reform. Trump, like Tetzel, is selling us something false, something untethered to conservatism.
A few, like Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have seen through Trump’s con. Sasse is seeking to reform the GOP, bringing us back to our conservative principles. When asked how he thinks conservatism ought to be in the 21st century, he said, “America is the most exceptional nation in the history of the world because the US Constitution is the best political document that’s ever been written. Because it says something different than almost any people in any government has believed in human history. Most governments in the past said might makes right and the King has all the power and the people are dependent subjects. And the American founders said no. God gives us rights by nature and government is just our shared project to secure those rights. Government is not the author or source of our rights and you don’t make America great again by giving more power to one guy in Washington, DC. You make America great again by recovering a constitutional republic.”
People like Sen. Sasse could be modern day Reformers for the GOP, leading it out of the darkness into light. But like the Protestant Reformation in Europe, the Republican Reformation has to come from the grassroots, from everyday conservatives who demand a party with a future and reject the unrecognizable monstrosity that it has devolved into.
After Election Day, it's up to us. Are we ready to jettison Trumpism and move into the light? We’ll need a principled conservative resistance to much of Clinton’s liberal agenda. That's impossible with Trump and the so-called “alt-right.” Following them is following the path to destruction. We can reform. We must reform. Semper Reformanda!
This year, perhaps more than any other year, conservative Christians who normally vote in presidential elections are looking at two choices that are an utterly depressing indictment of the spiritual condition of our nation. Most of us do not even consider Hillary Clinton a viable option. Her fervor for expanded abortion rights and liberal ideology that would erode religious liberties for Christians make it nearly impossible for us to look her way. That being said, that doesn't mean our support should therefore flow to Donald Trump.
Perhaps it's time for Christians in America to transcend politics in 2016 and choose Christ over country. Conflating Christianity with American nationalism is an error and should be guarded against. Patriotism and politics can indeed become an idol. Often times we may think our national prosperity and earthly comfort is the ultimate will of God. However, as the Apostle Paul and many other martyrs will tell you, that isn't necessarily true. We are not promised temporal liberty and freedom as Christians. In fact, quite the opposite. We are guaranteed persecution.
This doesn't mean that we should set ourselves up for persecution, but it does mean that we should never compromise our foundational Christian principles to avoid it! This seems to be the main argument from evangelicals for voting for Trump: Under Clinton, the Church would face political persecution and abortions would be unrestricted. At least Trump promises Supreme Court justices who would safeguard both the child in the womb and our religious freedoms. In essence, the enemy of our enemy is our friend.
With that in mind, I don't think that's a good enough reason for us to hitch the Christian cart to the Trump horse. I'll start with the assumption that Christian leaders really have the best interest of the Church in mind and are not just looking for political influence and fame. Also, I don't think evangelicals always need to abstain from voting if neither choice is a Christian. But Trump makes a mockery of the Christian faith by using the Church for his political gain. He claims to be a Christian, yet he can't recite one Bible and recently said he has never asked for God's forgiveness. This doesn't add up because we know Trump, as do we all, has many sins for which he needs to be forgiven. He is now on his third marriage, he has partaken in many unscrupulous business practices, he has bragged about his promiscuity, he owned a casino with a strip club in it, etc.
How does Trump's false claim of Christ and the Church's endorsement of him glorify God? By saving our skins from some earthly political persecution? How do we retain credibility with unbelievers? We are so afraid of losing our freedoms, our God is so weak that we had to ally ourselves with a man who refers to women as fat pigs and slobs, tears down any who disagree with him and makes a mockery of the faith?
Some say the ends justify the means in this case. The Church will be able to carry on its preaching of the Gospel by protecting our religious liberty, that the church's future is brighter in a free country. That goes against everything the Bible teaches us. The early Church exploded under Roman persecution, the Church today in China is currently exploding under persecution, Christ has built His Church under horrific persecution. If anything, persecution is ultimately good for the Church, it separates the wheat from the chaff. It would cause true believers to really forsake the things of this world, this foreign land that we live in, and look to Christ in all things.
So, no, I do not believe that Christians ought to endorse Donald Trump. It does violence to the Gospel and the credibility of the Church. We should not support or accept him as our deliverer. It should prick the Christian conscience. As Luther said, "To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen."