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NFL MVP: Madieu Williams' Gratitude

Seeing The Blind Side yesterday reminded me of this November story I've neglected:  At age nine an immigrant from Sierra Leone, Madieu Williams graduated from the University of Maryland and wound up playing free safety for the Minnesota Vikings.  He recently established the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives.  "The former U-Md. star is providing a $2 million endowment. It is the largest gift to the flagship school from an African American alumnus and the largest sum donated by someone so young."  Whatever their means, all immigrants should express gratitude to this country (as should all citizens and potential Americans throughout the world).  Recall these remarks.

I recently asked an inspiring local parish priest, a Cuban immigrant, whether he had heard anyone confess to the sin of being in this country illegally.  He hadn't.  But isn't this a worse sin than, say, shoplifting?  Now priests should not be in the business of trying to get people deported; in fact, I'd take our parish congregation, illegals and all, over any other random group as fellow Americans.  As with this and other political debates, more is involved than rights or legality; attitudes toward fellow citizens weigh heavily.

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Discussions - 5 Comments

But isn't this [being in this country illegally] a worse sin than, say, shoplifting?

There's difficulty categorizing degrees of sin beyond some initial rough dividing lines.

Shoplifting and being in this country illegally would both be failure to submit to earthly rules and authority. There's nothing in obeying those rules that would run counter to the more fundamental issues of living within God's Kingdom.

That said, I would think there are more profound issues to be confessing than being an illegal immigrant. Fostering anger and contempt in the heart is a far more essential problem for a person or people in general.

One could suggest that an illegal immigrant has committed an even deeper sin of unbelief by coming to this country rather than trusting in God to provide wherever they may have been originally.

Generally speaking, I think it unwise to try to compare transgressions and determine relative offense to God. It a discussion with no resolution, and I doubt very much that's God's focus in any event.

Thanks, Don: Both shoplifting and illegal residence are forms of theft and violate at least a couple of the Ten Commandments; penance can occur immediately or over time, but Iwould think there should be some penance. The priest noted that Salvadoran young men were being forced into either government or guerilla death squads. If Americans in 1776 trusted in God as you apparently recommend, there would be no America. But their trust in God led them to Revolution and Founding.

The case that shoplifting is theft and thus a violation of the 8th is fairly easy to make. One could argue that it's also a violation of the 10th in that one is driven to theft through covetousness. That illegal immigration is "theft" is a bit more tenuous, depending on how you define things.

It doesn't matter ... my point was that the topic rapidly degrades to legalistic splitting of hairs. You illustrated my point nicely. Thanks.

I could argue -- I won't because I don't really believe it, but I could to illustrate my point of legalism -- that the reverence with which some hold the founding, the Declaration and the Constitution to be a violation of the 1st and 2nd commandments. To many it and they are a kind of "god" and an "idol."

I could also argue that the anger some (not you; others) display when discussing illegal immigration is a straight-on violation of Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

My point was -- and is -- that we ... you, me, others ... need to be very careful when using religious language and religious rules with respect to issues such as illegal immigration. Mostly because it will almost always degrade into unproductive arguing about legalistic points.

Look ... I agree with the concluding sentence of your original post: "As with this and other political debates, more is involved than rights or legality; attitudes toward fellow citizens weigh heavily."

Exactly right. Exactly right ... and thus a very, very challenging discussion once we get outside the specifics of the applicable laws and move into the realm of religion and ethics.
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In many ways I wish I had not posted my original comment or my second.

I live in Tucson ... we have an enormous illegal immigration problem. I do not like paying higher taxes across the board to support people who don't themselves play by the established rules.

At the same time, I try to keep my cold heart from shutting completely when I think of some who truly are trying to make a better life, and truly are trying to be good people within our borders. I wish there was a way to magically separate wheat from chaff ... keep the good and send back the bad. But of course that's not possible.

There's a church here in Tucson that's never met a liberal cause it doesn't support. I can't generate much respect for them, though I know it's wrong to hold them in contempt.

At the same time, it's hard to see the face of Christ in those on the opposite side of the spectrum -- again, not you -- who sport Christian symbols and speak with intense anger towards others.

I'm going to go back to cooking my Manhattan Clam Chowder now ...

Thanks, Don--you don't need to regret anything. Tucson is a lovely place to live, been to St. Xavier a couple times.

I certainly agree with you on the anger--I recall someone foaming with rage at Mexicans in the basement of a Church where Justice Scalia stood a few feet away. Your warning about imputing secular immediacy to divine authority is well-taken: when we mix Christianity and politics we needn't immanentize the eschaton to find ourselves in deep trouble very quickly.

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