a letter from "Delores" on the humanitarian crisis at the border
Dear Dr. Dobson,
In your July newsletter there was an article called Dr. Dobson's Visit to the Border. You were sharing your thoughts and your grief after having visited the sounthern border at McAllen, Texas, as arranged by the White House. The White House wanted you to understand the humanitarian crisis and to witness, in your words, "the massive influx of poor and destitute human beings in never-ending waves."
Because I appreciate your opinions on many matters, I'd like to ask you about this newsletter. Like you, I seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. I am a Christian, too. That is why I was confused by a paragraph at the end. You said:
What I've told you is only a glimpse of what is occurring on the nation's border. I don't know what it will take to change the circumstances. I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. Butin this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don't deal with it. And it won't take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.
Dr. Dobson, I read this paragraph very carefully, many times. It seemed inconsistent with so much of the rest of the letter, including the grief you feel. It seemed inconsistent with your Christianity.
First, I hear you saying that we should follow Jesus in the way of compassion, but if such discipleship threatens our economic well-being or loyalty to "our culture as we have known it," the latter are more important. Our culture and economic well-being take priority over response to Jesus' call to compassion. I can't quite believe you really mean this, but if you do, it seems to me idolatry: making a god of culture and the economy. I know your intention is not to be an idolater of this kind, but I hope you can understand my confusion.
Second, I hear you saying that we should be compassionate to people who are healthy and with marketable skills, but not as much to people who are unhealthy and without such skills -- almost as if the unhealthy and unskillful are less worthy of our care than those who contribute to the economy. Please help me here. It seems to me to be the exact opposite of what Jesus wants us to be about. He did not evaluate the care-ability of people on the basis of their marketable skills or education, but on the basis of their needs.
Third, I didn't really understand who you had in mind when you spoke of 'our culture as we have known it." I was wondering who "our" is. I am Hispanic. Does our culture include Pakistanis and African-Americans and Hispanics like me? I sure hope so. "We" are, after all, a nation of immigrants; and those of us of European descent took over the land from its original Native peoples. "We" also brought slaves over from West Africa. We cannot erase this history; but, in the spirit of Jesus and the Prophets, we can repent and turn around from our ways. We can be generous toward strangers, because we were strangers, too, emigrating to this land from foreign soils.
Here's my problem. Like you, as a Christian, I am always asking myself: "What would Jesus say and do? How would he like for me to feel about those who seek refuge and opportunity in our country? Should we welcome them or shut them out?" I hear you saying "shut them out." But Jesus didn't shut us out; why should be shut them out?
This reminds me of one other thing in your newsletter. You write: "The situation I have described is the reason President Donald Trump's border wall is so urgently needed. He seems to be the only leader in America who comprehends this tragedy and is willing to address it." I disagree with you on this. I have friends who oppose Trump and who see it as a tragedy, too, and loudly say so. Your column seems too partisan to me, as if I have to be a Republican (and maybe even an angry one who despises anything liberal) in order to be a Christian. I have to admit it, I think Jesus was pretty liberal on some matters.
I'd like to ask a question about President Trump. When I see him at rallies getting crowds to chant "Build the Wall" and speaking of the wall as "big and beautiful"; I don't sense that he or the crowd do so out of compassion. It seems to me that they are chanting out of a kind of hatred of other people, or at least fear of them, and that he has encouraged the hatred and fear. This breaks my heart.
Please don't get me wrong on the immigration issue. I know that this administration speaks of the humanitarian crisis at the border, and that he along with Democrats seek a solution. Both groups seek something like "border security with an open heart." That's my phrase, but I wish they'd take it on. We need to draft laws and allocate resources that help do this.
But I just don't sense that my president has this kind of generous, open heart, except maybe to people who support him or flatter him or are loyal to him. He seems overly self-impressed and needful. I'll pray for him as you ask, but I pray that he'll become more generous in spirit and humble in demeanour. More of an example for me and others to follow. I need a president who inspires compassion not self-centeredness and whose primary concern is to help us love neighbors as ourselves. I need a president who helps make us better people.
Thanks for reading this letter, Dr. Dobson. If you'd like to respond, please do so. If I don't hear from you I'll understand.
Note from Jay McDaniel Editor of Open Horizons and author of the "Delores" letter
I am the author of the "Delores" letter. I wanted to imagine myself inside the skin of a person who appreciates James Dobson's ministry but has trouble with his newsletter on immigration.
I'm a lot like Delores. When people ask me what kind of Christian I am or want to be, I say that I am or want to be a Pope Francis Christian. Although not Catholic myself, his spirit and approach to the world, reaching out to people in need with a humble and loving heart, is what I see as Christian. I seek a leader who is more like Pope Francis and less like President Trump.
Delores may well be Catholic, or Pentecostal, or Methodist, or a member of a non-denominational Bible church. She may even have been a member of a fervently evangelical church, albeit feeling a bit like an outsider.
Many like Delores are confused when they hear evangelicals on immigration and other matters. They just can't understand the mean-spiritedness. They can't understand how or why many evangelicals equate "being Christian" with being a conservative Republican, and how they support almost everything done by President Trump. They can't equate Christianity with right-wing politics or, for that matter, right-wing religion.
For me, the matter is complexified by the fact that some of my own friends are right-wing. I live in Arkansas, after all. I love them. Some of them read and admire the work of Dr. James Dobson. I never have occasion to share with them such that they really listen; and they never have occasion to share with me, either. So I wanted to imagine a letter written by someone who was more of an insider, at least to the Dr, James Dobson world. Someone who was more confused than hostile. That's why I wrote the Delores letter. I hope it can be a springboard for discussion on both sides.
-- Jay McDaniel
Excerpt from James Dobson's July Newsletter
The situation I have described is the reason President Donald Trump's border wall is so urgently needed. He seems to be the only leader in America who comprehends this tragedy and is willing to address it. Those who oppose him do everything they can to impede his effort. That is why I went to the border to see the situation for myself. I came away with an array of intense emotions. First, I was profoundly grieved over the misery of thousands of people. Second, I felt a deep appreciation for those who are doing their best to help in an impossible circumstance. Third, and frankly, I was angry at the political fat cats who have deliberately allowed this chaos to occur for political or financial gain. They, and their friends in the fake media, have told the American people that there is no crisis at the border! Shame on them all.
What I've told you is only a glimpse of what is occurring on the nation's border. I don't know what it will take to change the circumstances. I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. But in this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don't deal with it. And it won't take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.
Thanks for letting me set the record straight.
P.S. I want to conclude this disturbing account of the border situation with a suggested "action item" for the reader. There is one solution as I see it, which is for people of faith to pray for our President as he seeks to deal with this humanitarian crisis. He is facing enormous opposition from both political parties, the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, the judiciary, portions of agriculture, powerful lobbies, and virtually every dimension of the culture. I know of no one with political influence besides the President who seems to care about the crisis at the border. Will you join us in making it a matter for concerted prayer?