I watched some video from the “Pro-America Rally” that was held in Morristown a couple of weeks back. The rally was organized by people who want stricter enforcement of laws that would keep illegal aliens out of our country. There was a counter protest being held simultaneously across the street. Afterwards there was an unfortunate violent confrontation between opposing demonstrators. Apparently the counter-demonstrators were particularly nasty.
The organizer of the event opened the rally by saying, “My friends, no where on this earth will you find a more generous, compassionate, hospitable, and tolerant people” than are found in “this great nation.” It was an impressive rhetorical flourish, and the crowd cheered, but it struck me as lacking humility, and I wondered how it was the speaker could claim to know this to be true. Frankly, I don’t know whether it is true or not. I do know that we are the richest and most powerful nation on earth, and often people with money and power like to think of themselves as morally superior to others, when in fact often people with little money and power display more compassion in their lives than do the rich.
You’d have to have spent a great deal of time abroad getting to know the people of other countries to even begin to speak with any authority on the question. I suspect if you did that you would find both compassion and cruelty throughout the world, just like you find in the United States. There is a certain arrogance, however, in declaring ourselves to be the most generous, compassionate, hospitable, and tolerant people, for it implies that everybody else is inferior to us in these qualities.
In a picture I saw from a rally for tougher enforcement of emigration laws I saw someone holding a placard that read, “Romans 13:1 – 7”, referring to a passage in which St. Paul instructs the Christians of Rome to obey the governing authorities. I suppose that by quoting the Bible the demonstrator wanted to suggest that God was on their side. I know that there are a lot of complexities involved in this issue that I don‘t understand, but I do know a little something about the Bible. If we are going to make the Bible the guide on this issue, there is a tidal wave of verses declaring that God desires for us to be compassionate to the aliens in our midst. If you were to ask, “what would Jesus do?” it’s hard to imagine him in anything other than solidarity with the so-called “illegal alien.” Of course, they nailed Jesus to a cross, and I don’t expect us to begin making national policy based upon his rather radical perspective. I can’t even claim to have successfully based my individual life on Jesus.
So humility is a nice place to start.