Arizona and the Third Reich?

Update (August 27, 2010): Before you read, allow me to make two things clear from the beginning. First, this post is directed against the Arizona bill SB 1070 for its racial profiling of American citizens of Latino descent, particularly those who were born in this country. It is not directed toward immigration issues in general, nor does it discuss the legality of undocumented people in particular. It’s saddening that given our current polemical culture, many don’t try to distinguish between these issues. And it’s downright disheartening that we Christians often seem to be adding to the boiling pot of anger, instead of exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit. The world has enough anger of its own. It doesn’t need us adding to it.

Secondly, I understand that the comparison to Nazi Germany has been often abused in politics and in the media these days, but I think it still makes sense here. Of course, it isn’t nearly as extreme in Arizona, yet the same underlying principle — of creating laws that persecute a particular ethnic group — remains the same, and still leads to the disastrous consequences of injustice and oppression. My buddy tells me that when his rabbi friend heard of the Arizona law, he said, “Should I just start wearing my yellow star?”

Memory is short. It definitely needs to get a little longer.

In a time of economic recession, it’s easy to get a little scared, a little angry. It’s human. We don’t know what’s coming around the corner, and we feel unsafe. And when we feel unsafe, we often lash out.

In the 1930s, Germany was in deep economic recession. After World War I, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles ground the German economy to a halt, and the cost of food and basic goods skyrocketed. It was in a time like this that Hitler could rise to power. And he found an easy scapegoat for all their problems: the Jews. The Third Reich made them wear yellow stars of David. If they forgot to wear them, they were often beaten and killed. If they wore them, then they were tormented and scorned. They could be punished if it was a couple centimeters to the left, or if it was safety-pinned instead of being sewed on. It was humiliating. When those yellow stars came on, it was a world separated by the Jewish and the non-Jewish. And they didn’t quench the anger: six million were decimated by the time the war was over.

In America, we’re also in a time of economic recession. It’s easy to be a little scared, a little angry. It’s easy to lash out. And right now, we’re on the doorstep of repeating a disastrous history — of persecuting an ethnic community. We won’t do it across the Atlantic. We’ll do it right in our front yard, in one of the hardest places hit by the collapse of the housing market — Arizona.

Arizona just passed the nation’s toughest immigration law, signed in by Gov. Brewer. By August, it will be a crime if you forget your immigration papers. If you forget them, you can be arrested. Even if the police merely suspect you’re in the country illegally, they can detain you. The police aren’t going to stop men of Irish ancestry or women of Swedish ancestry. They’re targeting a particular people. And forcing them not to leave their badges — I mean, their papers — at home. This is an open invitation to the widespread harassment of the Latino community — even if they are American citizens. This action won’t bring back the housing market, and — I assure you — it won’t quench the anger either.

We’ve done it before. We interned the Japanese during World War II. Hate crimes occurred against Middle Eastern Americans — and South Asians as well, just because they look similar — after 9/11. When we feel unsafe, we lash out at people groups less powerful than ourselves. That’s unjust, and thus, deeply sinful.

God warns us here repeatedly in the Christian Scriptures: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner.” And, “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.” Jesus himself said that the entire Jewish Scriptures could be summed up by two commands: love God, and love your neighbor. And for him, that neighbor wasn’t born on native soil.

The Arizona legislation is not the solution, but will only add to the problems. This isn’t an issue about political parties anymore. It doesn’t matter if you’re Right or Left, Red or Blue. It’s about people. The worth of human beings. And it’s also deeply spiritual: it’s about the soul of this country. And everyone’s in it.

Remember, we’ve done this before. Pray that it doesn’t happen again.

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  1. James…
    Thanks for this. While it’s charged with emotion (I suspect you intended such), there is much here we are called to consider. I could not help but think of my essay Practice Hospitality … to the Immigrant.


  2. Chrystalain Linebarger April 23, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    First off let me start by saying that I necessarily agree with what happened in my State today. I ask that you remember that when you continue to read this, because I get somewhat frustrated when opinions rise when people don’t live here and don’t know what its like to live here. I understand how it looks, it looks bad, and maybe even as bad as you described it in your post.

    But where was the information on what led up to this? The housing market is not the issue here, not one bit. In fact, in a lot of places in Arizona it wasn’t even affected, because Californians were leaving California to live here, so in some counties, the price of housing stayed the same or even went up. Where is the story about Robert Krentz? Or was that one just missed? Did you know that the Tucson sector in Arizona detains more illegals crossing the border, and more drugs than any other sector that border patrol covers? I understand what you are getting at, and I can see why you might think this could cause more problems. But illegals with guns aren’t running through your backyard, they are running through mine. The sad thing is I’m not even against illegal immigrants being in our country…they help our already distraught economy, but you know, so do organizations like Hell’s angels, Hizbollah, and others that participate in the black market. Without organized crime, our country would collapse. Does that mean you don’t fight to end those illegal acts? I don’t know if I know the answer to that, those issues are a double edged sword. I lived in San Diego, trust me, the stuff that goes on at the border there is–in quantity and danger alone–NOTHING compared to what goes on in my back yard, here on the Mexico-US border in Arizona.

    So yeah, there might be other ways that this could be solved. Do you think we have the money for that? Do you think in California’s dire state that it could help Arizona out? I doubt it. Arizona is just as much on its own as any other state. Our congressmen and women have asked the federal government for help on the border, but what does President Obama do? Cuts the border patrol budget by about 25%. The agents can’t even get the training they need to do their jobs well. Options are limited. No one seemed to care about Arizona’s problems until today, no one paid any attention to us until something drastic happened, no one cared when Mr. Krentz was murdered on his own property. Why is this all of a sudden an issue? If nothing else, I hope this wakes up the rest of the country, I hope they see what is going on here. Why can’t the federal government (whom I have the greatest respect, and work for) do what it is supposed to do and protect our borders? I fight every day so that these agents can get the training they need to do their jobs well, but its not easy, and there is NO help.

    Like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but at least our voice or issues are being addressed now. And as I said I understand what this could turn into, but who knows, maybe it won’t. OR maybe someone will finally listen and do something about the issues down here on the border.


  3. Hi Chystalain! It’s been a long time, and I didn’t even know that you’re in Arizona. It’s good to hear from you, and helpful to hear your side of the story.

    Arizona is dealing with issues large and complex. And it makes sense why the fear is there, and the felt need for greater security. I definitely wouldn’t want to dismiss the pain and grief that those close to Robert Krentz are feeling. And I don’t claim to have the solution nor the money — surely, not the money — for it.

    But when you write, “illegals with guns aren’t running through your backyard,” it worries me. Do all undocumented people have guns? At this time, I’m not aware of the capture of Robert Krentz’s killers. But even if his murderer came from across the border, should all Latinos — especially American citizens of Latino descent — be punished for the acts of a few? I’m not saying there aren’t problems. I’m just saying that this legislation is not the way to go.

    Also, as a clarification, I’m also not saying that the housing market crash is the cause of the legislation. But poor economies do affect the mood of a people. And the Phoenix housing market is 102% off its peak. Few cities were as hard hit.

    What do you think?


  4. New blog post: Arizona and the Third Reich –


  5. “it will be a crime if you forget your immigration papers. If you forget them, you can be arrested.”

    This is absolutely false. Law enforcement personnel do not have the authority to do this under this bill/law or any other federal law. Why are you distributing false information?


  6. “But even if his murderer came from across the border, should all Latinos — especially American citizens of Latino descent — be punished for the acts of a few?”

    LOL!!! Okay, please read this statement again, at least 3 times to be sure. Do you see the hasty generalization and specifically applied racist nonsense in this sentence? I might as well say this:

    “But even if Darth Vader came from the Light Side, should all of the Dark Side – especially Sith Lords of Jedi descent – be punished for the acts of the few?” (I’m a nerd, so you may not get the analogy)

    So, um, yeah, absolutely. Name one illegal immigrant from Mexico who came across the border carrying a gun in pursuit of abiding by American laws.


  7. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for moving the discussion to the blog, and it looks like we’re picking up where we left off. I’m still not sure if we’ve met or not, but we do seem to have friends — at least, according to Facebook — that run through the church I went to in San Diego.

    As for the bill, I’m quoting the article that I linked to in the post. Here it is again. Did you get a chance to read this?

    It did take me a while to understand your Star Wars analogy, but it’s not because I’m not a nerd. I’m a huge nerd, and loved Star Wars before the prequels came out. The logic misses me. It sounds like you’re saying:

    Darth Vader: Robert Krentz’ murderer
    Light Side: American citizens
    Dark Side: Latinos (from “all of the …”)
    Sith Lords of Jedi Descent: Americans citizens of Latino descent.

    I just want to make sure I get this right before saying anything about it.


  8. Thanks Paul. A thoughtful article!


  9. Chrystalain Linebarger April 24, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Hi James! Yeah I moved to Arizona at the end of last year, its gorgeous here and I kinda like it :) at least for the time being!

    You said you could understand why the fear is there, but is it right to write off that fear? I don’t think it is an irrational fear, I think it is a justified fear…and I don’t think it is just a “felt need” for greater security, I think that that is justified as well.

    I did write about “illegals with guns” and no I did not mean that every single illegal that comes through our backyards carry a gun, BUT does that dismiss the fact that they are breaking a “federal” law? Coming into this country without permission is breaking the law. And yes, its a sad but true reality that the few bad eggs ruin it for everybody. This can be found in most laws and even security practices that we have. Why can’t we ride in the back of trucks in California, or talk on the phone while driving? just because a few people crashed while doing these things, it now means that no one can. Why can’t we take full sized bottles of shampoo on airplanes? So yes, a few illegals with guns can ruin it for all the other illegals. But I think we do have to remember, that even though they don’t have guns, they are committing an illegal act as well. It’s so hard to differentiate between helping people and keeping our country secure. While the Bible gives guidance on how to treat a foreigner, it also gives guidance on how to live in a country, which means obeying the laws of the land, I think that is worth something as well.

    And then of course the first thing that people jump to is the idea of racial profiling. I honestly don’t have an answer to that one, it may or may not happen, most people seem to think it will, but then what is the likelihood of each car actually stopped holding illegal immigrants, I don’t know. This issue can be solved with proper training in behavioral profiling, but people will always jump to the worst possible conclusion, which is racial profiling.

    The legislation arose out of an unmet need. The federal government has a job to do and it is not being done, like I said before, its actually being decreased, not increased…so what is left, what has to happen is that the state has to do SOMETHING. Unfortunately citizens have already started to take things into their own hands, which is WAYYYY scarier than any law enforcement helping to enforce federal laws (which I’m still not sure if that is legal, I highly doubt it). Because at least law enforcement agencies abide by standards, and rules and regulations, those men and women who are taking up arms on private property cannot be stopped, and will not have to answer for their actions, that is scary. I would much rather an illegal be detained by a police officer than shot and killed by a self-made militia.

    And just a note on the “Phoenix housing market” ….fortunately for Phoenix, they aren’t anywhere near the border, and in that sense I might be a little offended, because in Arizona, people from Phoenix think the world revolves around them, and it does not, they don’t have to deal with the same issues as Pima and Cochise counties, sure they harbor the government, so people tend to think they are the center, but it is a whole different culture and set of issues down here on the border, which is where this new law will really be put into effect. I’m not sure how different it will be from now. Border patrol does this all the time anyway…We already have to stop for border patrol all the time, now they just have more manpower.

    haha it kinda sounds like I am for this, but I honestly don’t think I am…I just think something needed to happen in order to wake up the rest of the country and I can see how this was the result of Arizona’s large and complex issues. What I hope will happen is that the federal government will see it (which they have, Obama already made a statement, pretty much disgusted with the matter) and move to action, realizing how important border security really is. If nothing else, this law has provided a visibility to the Southwest region’s border issues, where nothing else has.


  10. The USA needs a longer view of history… Arizona and the Third Reich


  11. RT @jameschoung: New blog post: Arizona and the Third Reich –


  12. RT: @jameschoung New blog post: Arizona and the Third Reich –


  13. RT @calebmaskell: RT: @jameschoung New blog post: Arizona and the Third Reich –


  14. […] friend James Choung wrote a very thought provoking blog post about illegal immigrants, which I agree with 100%.  Couldn’t have said it better […]


  15. James,

    To answer your questions: yes, we have met quite a few times. I was in Intervaristy @ UCSD where you spoke, as well as Coast Vineyard where you spoke, but I didn’t actually meet/hang out with you until later. I met you through (leaving out last names) Jamie, Terrence, Casey, Jess Haughton, and others during various events. Thanks for allowing the posting of my previous links. I hope they help inform.



  16. Hi Chrystalain,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. Yes, it would be poor form to minimize the fear that people are feeling. I hope I didn’t come across that way. Security is a deep need, and something needs to be done. I fully agree.

    But we can also do things when we’re afraid that we’ll later regret.

    You’re right, though: the legislation could be a brilliant political move to get this on the national agenda. Arizona won’t be ignored any longer, and I hope that we can find an answer that doesn’t involve putting undue requirements on a particular ethnic community.


  17. Ben,

    So looking at the fact sheet itself that you posted, it is a crime not to carry your alien registration card (section 11), and all you need is “probably cause” to arrest someone (section 6). Contrary to your previous comment, you can and will be arrested if you forget your card.

    Also, it’s the “probable cause” line that is a problem, and gives way too much leeway to harass a particular ethnic group.


  18. James,

    I have done some (admittedly while bored) research. I’m going to address your Bible verse quotes individually.

    1) You say Exodus 22:21 says “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner.” You use this to support your argument against the recent Arizona state law.

    However, Exodus 22:21 actually states [your quoted translation] “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” This command specifically refers to those enslaved in Egypt. This partially quoted sentence in the Bible does not apply to America’s governmental law.
    If you believe it does, then you must also believe that “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed” (Exodus 22:2) and “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.” (Exodus 22:3) and “If anyone borrows an animal from a neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, restitution must be made.” (Exodus 22:14) and “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife” (Exodus 22:16) and “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death” (Exodus 22:19).

    All of the above Biblical references are NOT ILLEGAL under American federal law. How do you explain using one part of one sentence of the Old Testament of the Bible to justify opposition to Arizona’s governmental policy towards illegal immigrants in America? Also, what gives you the right/authority to impose Old Testament Christian morals on non-Christians and all Americans?

    2) You say Leviticus 24:22 says “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.”

    However, in the previous sentence, Leviticus 24:21 [your translation], God states “Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death.” and God states in sentences after, Leviticus 24:23, “Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses” which was in response to Leviticus 24:13-14 in which God says “Then the LORD said to Moses: ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.'” and also “anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16)

    So, blasphemy was the law that the Lord commanded to “have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born.” which you quoted. How do you justify using this partial sentence of a partial law of a partial book of the Old Testament of the Bible to argue against the American state of Arizona government law? Again, what gives you the right/authority to impose your partial personal interpretation of God’s law on non-Christians? How do you justify using such partial non-contextual quotes to persuade Christians to compare Arizona state law to Nazi Germany?

    3) You interpret Jesus’ words of “the neighbor” in Matthew 22:39 as a “neighbor wasn’t born of native soil” in Luke 10:27.

    However, in the verse you quoted, Luke 10:27 [your translation], Jesus’ words were a reference to Leviticus 19:30, in which God states “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” There is no “native soil” reference at all. In fact, the following verse in Leviticus 19:31 states “‘Keep my decrees.
    ” ‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
    ” ‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
    ” ‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” All of these things are LEGAL according to American law, so why do you NOT vehemently fight against them as God’s Biblical commands? Why do you misuse a partial quote of one sentence of one book of the New Testament of the Bible to persuade people to compare the American state law of Arizona to the Third Reich?

    Just for giggles, let’s say you don’t want to pay attention to what Jesus was calling attention to in your quoted verse. So, let’s look at the context in Luke 10. Your twist on the verse you quoted implies that Jesus stated a “neighbor” was not “born on native soil.” However, in Luke 10:36-37, Jesus and the law expert clarified, “”Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'” Again, there is no “native soil” reference at all!!!! Jesus simply quotes precedent law to make a point about extending mercy to all who are robbed, beaten, and/or left for dead. Again, I challenge you, how do you justify using such a selective and warped interpretation of scripture to manipulate people towards an outrageous racial condemnation of Arizona state law?

    It seems to me that you have developed your own political/social/racial/economic generalizations and deemed yourself worthy to invoke God’s authority to judge other (specifically Arizonan) Christians AND non-Christians by misusing partial and non-contextual Bible verses. You have no right, especially as a “Bible is God’s Word” Christian, to deceive people using partial Bible verses as a reinforcement of your political beliefs.


  19. I don’t think it is the same thing. My grandfather was one of those people required to wear the yellow star and I wouldn’t be here if God didn’t direct his life the way that He did. I have a lot of friends of various cultures who are immigrated, and I would not want them to get in some trouble, but there are different sides and different views about this. There is a rationale regarding maintaining proper immigration. Some people are here legally and some are not. Some work hard to come here legally.
    Yellow stars are not the same as an immigration law, and an immigration law is not the same as oppression or what the Nazis did to my people. This will not become concentration camps for Latinos. Not all lawmakers are racist too. I think they will not stop all Latino people for being Latino, etc.
    The Nazis would pull Jews to the side of the road and execute them for not following Nazi rules. Latinos will not be executed for not having immigration papers. Illegals might be deported, but they will not be treated like the Jews were in World War II. Please do not misquote Bible verses. Sure, people can get arrested if it is discovered they are illegal. But arresting somebody for being an illegal immigrant is not mistreating a person.


  20. Ben, using your logic on biblical interpretation, you’d wouldn’t be able to apply the entire Old Testament, because it was written for the Jewish people. You can’t just ignore texts because they don’t fit our context. A good biblical scholar attempts to learn what was meant for the context of the original audience, and from there applies the texts for today. Thus, every text you mentioned in objections #1 and #2 aren’t to be ignored, but since it’s also for a different context, we’re to find the underlying principle for today.

    Objection #3 ignores the strong hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans of the day (who lived in different regions), and Jesus is bringing up race to make a provocative point: to be a neighbor, act like the Samaritan — a person from another soil.

    As for application to wider society, the Old Testament prophets did that all the time, not just to Israel, but even other countries. I’m not saying we need a theocracy here, but do we leave our faith at the door when it comes to policy-making? Our faith should inform all of our actions.

    Brother, you’ve accused me of “distributing false information” about the bill, only to be proven wrong. You’ve accused me of “misusing Bible verses” to “deceive people,” without a solid understanding of biblical interpretation. (I may not be a politician, but I am a seminary professor. =p) And you’re saying I’m intentionally trying to deceive, which is an unfair and dangerous accusation. And you still haven’t explained your Jedi analogy.

    How about chilling out a bit with the accusations, try to understand where the other person is coming from, so that we can disagree without being so disagreeable?


  21. JC, thanks for the response. And yes, what the Jewish people went through at the Holocaust is far more extreme. I hope I’m not saying otherwise. I’m saying that the underlying principles are similar. But I’m thankful that your grandfather survived.

    To clarify, I didn’t write about immigration law in general, nor am I talking about the legality of undocumented people, as I mentioned in a previous comment. I’m writing about this particular bill in Arizona, and we need a different path to deal with the security issues while also protecting the rights of Latino-American citizens and those who are here legally.

    As for misquoting bible verses, I do take that kind of accusation seriously, and find it unfair unless you have a particular objection. Please see the previous comment about that, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.


  22. I feel that “God warns us here repeatedly in the Christian Scriptures: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner.” And, “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.” Jesus himself said that the entire Jewish Scriptures could be summed up by two commands: love God, and love your neighbor. And for him, that neighbor wasn’t born on native soil.” is quite an extreme representation of this verse in context of this article that was quoted. I do not believe that creating a law that would manage illegal immigration mistreats foreigners. This verse is not representing an immigration bill but Jewish Law. I feel that quoting the verse regarding love your neighbor in the context of this article is like saying that creating this bill is a representation of hate. In relation to what I feel like you are trying to say, I have seen things come into effect in the school system for colleges that seem to have some good motivation but seem to make things harder on legal immigrants. And I would defend legal immigrants, but I feel that this article is quite harsh and full of generalizations and conclusions of the type of a slippery slope. The comparisons are very extreme as to say the time of A is similar to the time of B in various ways, therefore it is the same.

    I do agree that legal Latinos should be protected, but I also agree with various comments such as it doesn’t create a punishment for all, etc. I feel that this post suggests that because of this law, police can and will mistreat latinos as a plan of attack against the Latin American peoples. Couldn’t this be considered a stereotype regarding lawmakers and enforcers?


  23. Hi JC. Thanks for the thoughtful response, and I hear a desire to protect the naturalized and American-born Latino community. And that’s what I’m getting at. I also agree that that the comparison is a stretch — what has happened in Arizona isn’t where the Third Reich was in terms of deeds done. I do, however, believe the underlying principles are similar — the targeting of a minority community.

    I also agree with you in that a law dealing with immigration issues doesn’t automatically mistreat foreigners. The issues are too complex, and having no laws or regulations would be chaos. (And American laws, unlike the Jewish law, were not handed down by God: we’re in need of immigration reform.) But in trying to solve one problem, this particular bill gives too much leeway to mistreat naturalized or American-born foreigners.

    It’s also a good question to ask about possible stereotyping of lawmakers and enforcers. I don’t think that’s going on here, and I believe they are trying to do what’s right in their own eyes. I do sense some exasperation, however, that the federal government isn’t doing anything to protect the border, so this is the best alternative. But the law itself grants too much power to which, if an unintentional mistake arose (i. e. American-born Latino who forgets his driver’s license and was arrested for suspicion of being undocumented), that person is still in jail for a period of time, still needs to be processed through the legal system, and will waste a lot of time in a drawn-out recourse that may end up alright, but it’s something that white Americans won’t have to deal with. And that’s if there are no abuses. The law may solve some problems, but creates many more.

    (But, as I said above, this could be a brilliant political move to put immigration back on the national scene, and perhaps something good will come out of this after all.)

    A different path — where security issues are addressed while being more just in how law enforcement engages with an ethnic minority community — is needed.

    What do you think?


  24. Customs and immigration officials are selected and trained for purposes completely different from those of police officers. Asking cops to do that job seems like a terrible mistake.


  25. So James, what do you think should be done?


  26. James,

    My logical does not disregard the Old Testament as inapplicable to present times. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I specifically quoted and rebutted the partial verses you used to condemn and elevate yourself to judge Arizona voters as active sinners and Nazis. Look at the context of everything I quoted, which was what you quoted (points 1, 2, and 3). Read the Hebrew and Greek, if needed. If you want to correct my interpretation of Biblical context, then do so. But please, don’t straw-man everything I said so you can just dismiss it as inapplicable. At least have the decency to say “I am only voicing my personal opinion and not a Biblical nor factual history on this blog.” It’s your blog. No condemnation, no worries, it’s your opinion, right? But at least have the courage to say how much you’ve deleted and ignored responses here and on Facebook. Your forum, your blog, your control, your power, your right, right?

    You cited your interpretative generalizations with the title of “a seminary professor”. WHO CARES IF YOU’RE A SEMINARY PROFESSOR? (not yelling, just wanted it to stand out) Again, what gives you the right/authority to impose your will on Christian and non-Christians alike? Does a seminary professor have this authority? All bullshit aside, I have read and studied more books on the bookshelves present in my living room than you have studied in your entire seminary career (I guarantee it). What gives you the right/authority to cite your status as an authority on Biblical interpretation? I have studied all of the book for Fuller Seminary’s MA in Christian Education, Master of Theology, and M.Div with specialties in Apologetics and World Ministry. I have completed all of the requirements for Bethel Seminary’s M.Div and M.Theology as well. I have no degree, but you claim to a superior in Biblical interpretation? How? You’re misusing Scripture!

    Do you teach your seminary students to do the same? Does not a layman have as much authority to interpret Scripture as you? You already deleted my posts (here and on Facebook) challenging your interpretation on contextual grounds. You have deleted many comments (on this blog and Facebook) in response. In fact, the majority of comments on this blog and on Facebook challenge your opinion.

    Let’s lower the stakes of your pride so you can at least see some reason. Will you at least admit that this post reflects only your opinion and not that of God’s? Do you admit that your quotations of scripture here were subject to your ethnic/sociological/political/philosophical/and racial biases?

    Don’t you think that if you dish out personal character attacks you should be prepared to receive them? Arizona voters = Nazis? Arizona government = The Third Reich? James = …..???

    James, I don’t know you well at all. Not at all. But I do challenge your general condemnation (as “sinful”) of millions of people. I do challenge your self-proclaimed authority to interpret scripture as “a seminary professor”. I do challenge your account of historical Nazi Germany in comparison to the state of Arizona. I am no authority, but what makes you one? Isn’t this just your opinion and nothing more?


  27. Will read later, I thought nazi germany as soon as I heard the law RT @bleach226: Arizona and the Third Reich?


  28. Hi there. I just want to let you know that I feel as strongly as you do about the dangers of this bill. I think your argument relies on a “slippery slope” logic (the first step towards genocide), but I also think that this bill has far too many potential problems to be a good idea. Jesus calls us to love the least of these. So I really enjoyed the blog and will pass it on.

    Also I have found your discussion with all of the commenters on this blog absolutely fascinating. When you said that you are a seminary professor, I don’t think you actually were “claiming to be a superior in Biblical interpretation,” or implying that you need a degree to read the Bible correctly. The =P after the controversial remark was a failed attempt at getting Benjamin to agree that you have a solid understanding of biblical interpretation. If it helps, I think that you do. I read “True Story” last winter, and the 4 Circles model changed the way that several people in my school’s fellowship shared the gospel during our “proxe”/outreach station week.

    Thanks again.


  29. Ben, I haven’t deleted any of your comments on this blog — they’re all here — and I’ve already told you that Facebook is more personal. Even though I had hoped for a conversation, it’s clear that we’re not really having one. So you won’t be hearing from me, and may God continue to bless you with His presence.


  30. Summy, thanks!

    Matt, you ask the million dollar question. Definitely pray. Some good may come out of this: though this bill isn’t the answer, it may actually get needed attention on the issues it’s trying to address, and put a spotlight on immigration issues as a whole.

    I can dream of a few big things: stimulate the Mexican economy, enact immigration reform, and protect American citizens of every ethnicity. But how we get there is the big question. What are your thoughts on this?


  31. Ben, I’m James’ wife and we’ve been married for almost 10 years now. He’s a man of integrity, wisdom, and love. He loves the Lord, hears from Him through the Bible as well as in prayer, and he loves everyone around him with Jesus’ love. Stop your abusive language and hateful character assassination. If you’re a follower of Jesus, do as Jesus says and love James and treat him with respect since that’s how you should treat your friends as well as enemies.


  32. Lisa Harper, former InterVarsity staff and friend, wrote about a Latino, U.S.-born citizen who was pulled over and arrested because he didn’t have a birth certificate on him.


  33. Via my friend @bleach226 – A Christian take on the #SB1070 comparing it to rules/reaction under the 3rd Reich


  34. Jinhee, I have no doubt that you love your husband and will support him. My fight is not with him, but with the words that he uses to support his personal opinion, manipulate facts, deceive others (specifically Christians) to support his opinion, claim authority over others (both Christian and non-Christian alike), misuse Scripture to spread falsehood and disinformation, and judge others as Nazis (The Third Reich, Hitler(s), etc.). All of these are publicized actions, that James himself wrote, edited/deleted, and approved of himself. It is regretful that you felt the need to comment in defense of James, but my comments are in response to James, and James only. Both mine and James’ words/actions have nothing to do with you or your relationship to James.


  35. James,
    I respect your decision not to respond to what I wrote here or on Facebook. As before, this is your blog, your Facebook post, your power, your control. This is whatever you want it to be. But, at least admit it is that. Can you at least admit that all you wrote in this post and on Facebook is just your opinion and not Biblical or objective fact?

    Summy, just to clarify, I did interpret James’ proclamation that he was a seminary professor as you did, such that “[I] have a solid understanding of biblical interpretation”. This is exactly what I’m objecting to: a “solid understanding” of biblical interpretation. No one is of complete “solid understanding” of Biblical interpretation, simply by definition. James’ statement that he is an authority due to his being a seminary professor does nothing but undermine those who are not. My original intent was to bring up the context of the partial verses James quoted in response, which any layman can do, and which James summarily dismissed. I, personally, think that is an absurd and prideful action because of the fact that James cited his seminary professor status to justify his misuse of Scripture rather than respond to the points of fact. I do enjoy reading people’s opinions (however extreme), but I take exception when they claim to have authority over millions of people (and compare them to Nazis) on the subject.


  36. A friend of mine forwarded me a thoughtful blog entry by Bishop Desmond Tutu on the Arizona bill:


  37. James,
    Bishop Desmond Tutu’s commentary is everything but thoughtful. It is definitely an appeal to emotion. Definitely an appeal to spirituality. Definitely an appeal to political endorsement. However, none of it is factual. No one will ever be arrested in a grocery store in Arizona for “forgetting” their passport or immigration papers. This is simply false. It has no factual basis. It is willfully misleading. It appeals to emotion without reason or thought. Nothing whatsoever in this Arizona law applies to yours or Bishop Tutu’s comparisons. In fact, yours and Bishop Tutu’s comparisons are a complete work of fiction and (I believe) based on personal biases that misinform and spread falsehood. What about the facts???? Does simple reading comprehension and information not matter anymore?

    Again, here is another breakdown of facts, quoted section by section, from Arizona bill SB1070:

    A recent study (April 18, 2010) of Americans’ views on illegal immigration:

    Thoughtful, informative, and Christian commentary on the immigration bill:

    (Is this a better solution?) Obama and Congressional Democrats propose a Federal Immigration Law requiring all Americans to possess a biometric National ID card (storing fingerprints, DNA, iris scans, etc.):


  38. Ok James, giving you the benefit of the doubt, are you having some technical difficulties with comments? I have submitted at least 3 comments to your blog that were full of information and links to other sources that have been deleted and/or denied publication. What gives? Are you having some technical difficulties with comments?


  39. Wow, ok. The above comment was immediately posted. I don’t know why. Hm. Just FYI, on 2 prior occasions (besides this latest one) I have submitted comments on your blog that haven’t been posted. I assumed you deleted/blocked them. What’s going on?


  40. Just tried to post links/commentary again, but I was rejected by the website host. Again, just FYI, so you can delete these. Not sure how I’m going to get all of this information to you though.


  41. james. first, i wanted to thank you for this post. your earnest, thoughtful, and personal nature of your posts are always a pleasure to read, enjoy, and be provoked by. this has been the case time and time again. and of course, not just your writing, but also the person you are… this is something i’ve encountered time and time again in person. so thanks for your transparency.

    i think what speaks to be me the most about this post… is the principle, or perhaps historical trajectory of how nations/bearers-of-power have targeted specific people groups… this is what i feel that is threaded within your post… and what speaks to me. and in light of such a trajectory, i am also moved by the way you theologically locate both yourself and our necessary response to such situations.

    you’re right. this sort of targeting has been done before. chinese exclusion act, japanese internment camps, city planning regulations during the from the 60s-present concerning the inner-city… i mean, the heinous eras of jim/jane crow, slavery, native american reservation containment… these all have a very distinct tie to our present social/political/economic situation today.

    i’ve had the opportunity to work and live in poorer regions around the world: london, vladivostok, the navajo reservation in arizona, various parts of mexico, the innercities on the west/east coast, mid-west… etc. and in each of these places, i have found that very principle of targeting minority groups at work. whether it be gentrification processes and the red-lining of housing, whether it be maldistribution of city resources, whether it be the daily experience of racial profiling of minority communities… targeting is very real. and it affects those that are most dear to me. people who have invited me into their homes, their families. people who have broken bread with me, offered me a drink. in short, those who have shared the gift of life.

    i have many friends who work on the arizona/mexico border, constantly struggling for humane treatment of border-crossers. and they share with me stories of victims who are consistently brutalized by the border patrol. but here, i am talking about those considered “illegal”. there are countless others who are dehumanized purely on the basis that they “look” like a paperless migrant. it doesn’t take too long to realize that racial profiling is a heinous, on-going act. and it also doesn’t take to long to recognize that this bill provides more force for those who racially profile anyways.

    this is not to make a blanket statement that all are guilty of such things. but this is to say that it happens, regularly. and that it will continue to happen. the question is… how will this bill affect the amount of power that can be exercised in such situations. that is what scares me, james.

    i want to say thank you. and i want to commend you for your thoughtfulness and courage in posting this. as well as how you’ve been thoughtful in your responses in directly answering each person’s comments. you showed a lot in how you think… and how you argue. and i want to thank you for the insights you’ve given.

    i’m with you james. i’m with the way you are theologically and biblically framing this issue. i’m with you in the ways that you express the fear of what might come about in this arizona issue (not necessarily the fear of turning into nazi america… but more that history shows how quickly the abuse of power and the targeting of minority groups turns into irreversible tragedies). there are already many tragedies suffered in arizona. the question is how we heed the spirit’s call to love and social engagement. how ought we to love the neighbor? who is the neighbor?

    i would like to remind all of us in this conversation that jesus was a refugee (by our modern notions). he was a child born in straw, poverty, and horse shit because his parents couldn’t find a room. he and his parents were then forced to flee to egypt because of mass murder. and i would add that many children had to die for jesus before he could ever die for them. and then he came back to his land to be executed for political crimes against the state. for whatever it’s worth… i think there’s a lot of space within the story of jesus… his lived experiences… where we ought to sit. where we should travel to the border of arizona, hold some of those children in our arms, listen to those who are affected… then from that space, that place… we think theologically about the political and the social.

    thanks again james. you’ve opened my mind in a way that school hasn’t really let me.

    much love,


  42. @chuck, thanks for your words. especially the last paragraph. i was moved, blessed and challenged in thinking about what it means for us here on earth.


  43. James – you are a thoughtful, patient brother…


  44. James,

    Saw your post on facebook from a mutual friend and must say that I find it frustrating. Comparing the Arizona law to Nazi Germany is not only needlessly inflammatory, but also very misleading. I have read through many of the comments in response to your post and I am impressed by the respectful way that you have engaged with people and I commend you for that. I wonder though if you have actually read the Arizona law. The actual bill is only about 19 pages and is a fairly easy read. The language of the bill specifically prohibits using race as a factor in developing reasonable suspicion regarding the immigration status of a person. Federal law has long required legal immigrants to carry documentation with them and even American citizens are required to carry identification in certain contexts.

    My wife was pulled over while driving with an expired driver’s license several months ago with our infant daughter in the back seat and she was cited for a misdemeanor (ultimately dismissed) and her car was impounded. The citing officer told her in some cities she actually would have been taken in to custody. My point here is that asking people to carry identification is not unusual in our country and in fact it is illegal to drive without proper documentation. The Arizona law is almost certainly going to be enforced the vast majority of the time when a person is lawfully stopped for a traffic violation and then does not have a valid driver’s license or other government issued id.

    I am frankly disturbed by the rhetoric on both sides of this debate and I have a desire for people to carefully and in good faith look at these issues and try to form well thought out solutions to them. The actual language (not what has been reported in much of the media or stated by various politicians, activists, etc.) seems rather pedestrian and reasonable. If the Arizona law is so discriminatory, I wonder how it is that Immigration law is actually supposed to be enforced? There may be some debate as to whether this is a State responsibility, but that is a totally separate issue and I don’t believe has any bearing on the discussion here.

    Lastly, comparisons to Nazi Germany are made far to lightly in today’s politically charged atmosphere. The comparisons always get attention because they are inflammatory, but they distract from the real debate and tend to silence people who would otherwise participate in a good faith debate of the issues.

    I do not believe that racism played a significant role in the passage of the Arizona bill. They have real problems that are caused in part by illegal immigration and they were rightfully frustrated that the Federal Government has failed to really deal with this problem. I don’t know if this was the right response, but based on the language of the bill and the facts on the ground in Arizona, I find it hard to argue that it was an unreasonable response.

    Thanks for reading if you take the time,


  45. Hi Jon,

    Sorry for the delayed response. I hadn’t read the actual 19-page response, but did read the official fact sheet. My deepest concern about the bill isn’t for legal immigrants, but for the American-born citizens of Latino descent. Yes, most legal immigrants will carry some form of identification, like a Resident Alien Card. But U.S. citizens aren’t required to carry a birth certificate.

    So this is what can happen, and actually, already has: hours after the signing of the bill (and thus before it was even in effect), Abdon, a California-born Latino, was taken into custody because he didn’t have a birth certificate. Sure, he was later released when his wife produced his papers, but he lost a day of work. And this will happen more and more, under this law, while other Americans won’t have to deal with it at all. The bill is unfair to a particular community of U.S. citizens.

    As for Nazi Germany, I realized after the post that many other pundits have been making these kinds of comparisons — and thus, the comparison has been abused today. I do, however, think there is a legitimate parallel, and a friend told me that his rabbi friend said, after hearing of the law, “Should I just start wearing my yellow star?” But yes, America hasn’t killed six million. So that’s where people will feel the stretch. The comparison wasn’t made merely for shock value, though. The underlying dynamics are similar — the marginalizing of a particular ethnic community — and small injustices, if unchecked, often lead to bigger ones.


  46. But thanks for the comment, and I do appreciate a healthy give-and-take. =)


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