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Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -- James 1: 27 (ESV)
Beloved, this may not be an easy message for everyone. I want to challenge us however to view the events we see unfolding every day through a pure Biblical lens, uncorrupted by carnal arguments. American Christianity has long sold its soul for the politics of this carnal world. Do we even realize that one of the fastest growing and popular false teachings in the church today is the dominionism of the New Apostolic Reformation? They do not teach to keep oneself unstained from the world as our key verse teaches but rather to conquer it. To take dominion over this fallen world to facilitate the second coming of Jesus Christ. Is this Biblical? Not even remotely. But that has not stopped Bill Johnson of Bethel, Mike Bickle of IHOP, and the entire false signs and lying wonders network of Charisma News, the NAR and the Kansas City Prophets from leading millions into this apostasy and eventually hell itself. Even if churches are not blatantly dominionist they may embrace the false teachings without acknowledging they do. Churches that have sold out politically to one party, who think that the church needs to influence culture instead of bring people to the cross, or aspire to change things legislatively instead of spiritually have all embraced this jingoistic nationalism in the name of Christianity when God has already said that our citizenship is supposed to be in heaven and we are but pilgrims and sojourners through this land.
Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying that we are not supposed to positively influence culture? No beloved. That is what God has said. At least not through the carnal methods we see the church employ today. Being a shining city on a hill does not mean getting your flawed sinful candidate elected. The lesser of two evils he may be but evil he remains. Being a shining city on a hill means we stand out because we are different. We do not get sucked into taking carnal and political positions that automatically alienate half of the people we want to reach with the Gospel.
You remember the Gospel don't you?
The Gospel is the vehicle we are to use to influence culture because only the Gospel has the power of God to save people from this hell bound culture. It is not surprising that the purpose driven church, which no longer believes in the power of the Gospel would see it as insufficient to battle the cultural forces of evil. That may sound harsh but what does it say when pastors today think they have to dress up the Gospel with pop culture, parlor tricks, and relevant sermon series'? When they need to draw people to worship not with the prospect of how great God is but with smoke machines, disco lighting and professional musicians? When sermons are designed to tickle the ears and improve our secular life instead of preaching the uncompromised Gospel? No beloved. Make no mistake about it. The church today in this country does not believe in the sufficiency of the Gospel so it is no wonder they view it as not being enough to deal with whatever issues arise in society. Then to compound our carnality, those who claim leadership in the church use the Bible and pseudo-piety to assign a moral superiority to their wicked political stances. The latest offering comes from Charisma News, via Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio.
The main objection here is that some have been comparing the Biblical concept of Cities of Refuge with the modern day Sanctuary Cities. Let us first understand what each mean. Within the theocracy of Israel, God had set up governing laws. One such law was that if someone committed murder they were to be put to death. For causing death accidentally however, there were six designated cities set up that the accused could flee to for asylum from the "avenger of blood." This was the oldest male relative of the deceased who would be legally covered for killing the offender outside of these six cities. The congregation of people would rule if the death was indeed accidental and if so the accused would be absolved from guilt. If not however, he would be removed from the city and receive death as his punishment.
Sanctuary Cities grew out of faith based initiatives during the early 1980s. That is right; the idea came from the church. They loosely based the concept on Cities of Refuge, no matter how much Mr. Fischer does not want it to be true. The essential concept of a Sanctuary City is that it refuses to assist the Federal Government in deporting people. So, let us reason together beloved and see if Mr. Fischer can keep his politics and Scripture straight:
"We are all familiar with the term "sanctuary cities," communities which have pledged to be a place where undocumented immigrants may be safe without fear of apprehension and deportation by federal authorities." -- Bryan Fischer
It is never a good sign when the author has to start with a fallacy. Being a sanctuary city does not have any form of legal delineation. It carries no weight of law whatsoever. A city could not prevent the federal government from enforcing federal laws. ICE officers could legally and without restraint operate in any sanctuary city they wish to and they do so currently. They just will not find any assistance coming from local law enforcement. By contrast, in a non-sanctuary city, ICE will work with local law enforcement to round up and deport people. Fischer continues:
"So are today's "sanctuary cities" a modern biblical expression of the Bible's "cities of refuge? No, not even close. For openers, cities of refuge were legal, sanctuary cities are not. Sanctuary cities are illegal and outside the justice system altogether." -- Bryan Fischer
Not even close? Really? Now, let us recognize that of course they are not exactly the same. The forms of government are completely different. Our modern law prevents the concept of an avenger of blood seeking retribution for a death. Is Bryan Fischer so obtuse in his dominionism and carnal politics that he cannot see the obvious connectedness between Cities of Refuge and Sanctuary Cities? Both places people can seek asylum in. Both offering protection for those seeking it. Only a fool would say that they are exactly alike but I have seen no one make such a foolish argument. Even the Wikipedia page understands the nuances that escape Mr. Fischer:
The concept of a sanctuary city goes back thousands of years. It has been associated with Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha'i, Sikhism, and Hinduism. - Wikipedia
The larger problem however is the false assertion made by Mr. Fischer that Sanctuary Cities are illegal. They most assuredly are not. As previously noted they actually carry no legal definition. Perhaps Mr. Fischer is unaware that the courts have already ruled that states do not have to help enforce federal law. In 1997, Printz v. United States ruled that the Tenth Amendment forbids the federal commandeering of state governments to assist in the enforcement of federal law. By the way, the majority opinion in that decision was written by that great liberal icon, Antonin Scalia. Seems Mr. Fischer, who by default must be a huge "state's rights" guy, is very squishy on his own politics as long as it serves his overall ideology. That is for another day however as it is largely a carnal argument. The bottom line is Sanctuary Cities are not illegal.
"But sanctuary cities, in contrast, do not exist to protect due process. They exist to enable the guilty to escape punishment altogether. The mere presence of an illegal alien on American soil is an illegal, criminal act which is the proper subject of law enforcement." -- Bryan Fischer
Fischer first makes the argument that Cities of Refuge were solely set up to protect due process but that misses the mark. They were set up to protect the individual, not the process. Yes that person would eventually face a trial of sorts to determine their fate. As for Sanctuary Cities, it seems Bryan Fischer doth protest too much. Once again, federal officials are not prohibited from doing their job. Realize also that he has cleverly engaged a debate comparing apples and oranges. The individuals who ran to Cities of Refuge had committed murder or accidental manslaughter at best. The individuals seeking asylum in Sanctuary Cities have immigrated illegally. Most of which have lived here in this country for decades, raised families, started businesses, worked hard, but because their initial act of coming here was outside of the law, they have always lived in the shadows for fear of being forced to leave. Fischer continues: