It's rare that progressive and conservative Christians agree to come together to address policy issues. That being said, Sojourners' Jim Wallis, a far-left faith leader, and Richard Land, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), have a history of joining forces to tackle -- and debate -- tough topics. Now, the two are, once again, coalescing to confront a complicated and contentious national policy issue -- immigration reform.
Joining a sum total of about 140 faith leaders, Wallis and Land are part of a plan -- one that seems to appease some liberals and conservatives, alike, called the "Evangelical Immigration Table." Rather than continuing the highly-partisan meandering and arguing that is so common when it comes to addressing the subject, the evangelical Christian plan calls for a two-party solution. In the end, Land, Wallis and the others who are joining them on the council, seek a framework that respects "the God-given dignity of every person."
In addition to this premise, the plan seeks secure boders, a respect for the rule of law, unity for immediate families and fairness to taxpayers. The final element that liberal and conservative Christians seek is a path toward legalization and permanent residency. It is this latter element that is certainly the most controversial, with the others preceding it serving as more general sentiments.
On Tuesday, the coalition held a press conference during which they discussed their "Biblical vision":
"Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America," the group proclaims on its web site. "Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions."
The group has already released a radio spot addressing these very issues. Listen to it, below:
The USA Today has more regarding the diverse voices who are coming together in an effort to see a more Biblical national approach to addressing immigration:
Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family said Congress should allow illegal immigrants a way to become legalized, as long as they pay adequate "restitution" in an "atmosphere of human dignity."
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization, said overhauling the immigration system was a "moral and biblical imperative" that requires a critical mass of Americans supporting it to sway a gridlocked Washington.
"Big things don't change in Washington first. Big things change in Washington last," Wallis said.
The Washington Post continues, describing Land's comments about how evangelicals in America should respond to the immigration issue this election cycle:
When asked how evangelical voters might square immigration with other hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage, Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said it’s a matter of individual conscience.
“That’s a decision that each individual person has to make,” he said. “We tell people they need to vote their values, their beliefs, and their convictions. When they’re faced with a choice where they agree on some and not on others, they need to prayerfully decide for themselves what their hierarchy of issues are.”
The group's announcement -- and the general statement that all sides signed onto -- is only the beginning. The next step, leaders say, will be convincing politicians to come alongside them. This will be a difficult task, but one that conservative and progressive Christians seem more than willing to take on. You can find out more about the "Evangelical Immigration Table" here.