Sunday, May 07, 2006

Land of the Lawless

As a Christian, I believe words, and their meanings, matter. I also believe that law is an integral part of religion. If Christian theologians believed such wacky ideas, we would all be in better shape.

Unfortunately, any debate over issues of public policy that touch on matters of ethnicity, race, or nationality wind up being clouded by a lack of clear definition, and in too many cases are pervaded by a spirit of lawlessness.

Take for example Richard Land's comments about the current immigration debate. Land bristles at the patently ridiculous assertion that a "guest worker" program amounts to amnesty. "Having to pay back taxes and undergo a background check and learning English," said Land, president of the Southern Baptists Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "That's not amnesty. Having to wait six years before you can apply for permanent status is not amnesty."

Mr. Land is a Princeton graduate, but let's define amnesty for him. Webster's defines amnesty as "the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals." Amnesty amounts to a remission of punishment, which is general in nature, to an entire class of persons.

So, for example, if 11 million people ignore the sovereignty of a neighboring nation and pour across it's borders, and then are allowed to stay in said nation with the forgiveness of the state...well, that sounds like "amnesty" to me. How 'bout you?

Interestingly, at the same conference, Land said, "We have a right to expect the government to fulfill its divinely ordained mandate to punish those who break the laws and reward those who do not." Can anyone say cognitive dissonance?

Even more obscene is Land's defense of his position, which is little more than pragmatism. "The political reality is that we're not going to round up 12 million people and send them back home," says Land. Let's hope Dr. Land doesn't become the next head of the Border Patrol.

Land then accuses Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo of...pragmatism. "When [Colorado Rep. Tom] Tancredo says we've got to stop this illegal invasion and send them all back, in my opinion, he's just playing politics," intoned Land.

According to Land, the debate over immigration has become polarized, appealing to raw emotion. "There are people running around saying that we've got to seal our borders and arrest all 12 million illegal aliens and send them homeā€”to keep America for the Americans," Mr. Land said. "And then on the other side you basically have people who want open borders and they say if you don't agree with that, you're a bigot. I think both positions are untenable. And I think both positions tend to appeal to the emotions rather than to the rational part of the brain."

Land is engaged in Clinton-style triangulation here. The opponents of mass immigration are little more than irrationalists and cynical opportunists, while Land is right there, squarely in the sane center, which is apparently occupied by deconstructionists and antinomians.

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