The New York Times reports:
Lawmakers and clergy members traded biblical passages on Capitol Hill Wednesday at an immigration subcommittee hearing on the moral implications of comprehensive immigration reform.
Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics and religious liberty commission, quoted Matthew, Leviticus and Micah, passages which talked about the biblical mandate to care for “the least of these among us,’’ to care for the “strangers” who reside in our land and to act “justly and mercifully.’’
But Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, had a different interpretation of some of those same passages and had his own to cite.
“The scriptures clearly indicates that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protect citizens and punishing wrongdoers,’’ Smith said, quoting Romans that says “Let every person be subject to governing authority.’’
And when it comes to Matthew calling on people to care for the least among us, Smith said that refers to acts of individual kindness; that it doesn’t mandate a particular policy on government.
At a time when the prospects for immigration overhaul seem most dim, supporters have unleashed a secret weapon: a group of influential evangelical Christian leaders.
Normally on the opposite side of political issues backed by the Obama White House, these leaders are aligning with the president to support an overhaul that would include some path to legalization for illegal immigrants already here. They are preaching from pulpits, conducting conference calls with pastors and testifying in Washington — as they did last Wednesday.
“I am a Christian and I am a conservative and I am a Republican, in that order,” said Matthew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious law firm. “There is very little I agree with regarding President Barack Obama. On the other hand, I’m not going to let politicized rhetoric or party affiliation trump my values, and if he’s right on this issue, I will support him on this issue.”
When President Obama gave a major address pushing immigration overhaul this month, he was introduced by a prominent evangelical, the Rev. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. Three other evangelical pastors were in the audience, front and center.
Their presence was a testament, in part, to the work of politically active Hispanic evangelical pastors, who have forged friendships with non-Hispanic pastors in recent years while working in coalitions to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. The Hispanics made a concerted effort to convince their brethren that immigration reform should be a moral and practical priority.
Hispanic storefront churches are popping up in strip malls, and Spanish-speaking congregations are renting space in other churches. Some pastors, like Mr. Hybels, lead churches that include growing numbers of Hispanics. Several evangelical leaders said they were convinced that Hispanics are the key to growth not only for the evangelical movement, but also for the social conservative movement.