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Cougars among the flock

Immigration | Pastor and author David Dykstra on a biblical approach to a generous-but wisely selective-immigration policy

Issue: "Too close to call," Oct. 28, 2006

Most Christians recognize that the civil law of ancient Israel is no longer binding on us, but it is still vital to understand and apply the principles that law embodies. New Jersey pastor David Dykstra makes such an application in his book, Yearning to Breathe Free? Thoughts on Immigration, Islam, & Freedom (Solid Ground, 2006).

WORLD: You lay out some biblical principles that can help us think through the immigration debate. First, you note that in ancient Israel foreigners were able to move onto Israel's land and become Jews.

DYKSTRA: Yes, citizenship in Israel was never based on any concept of so-called "purity of blood." O. Palmer Robertson's The Israel of God is helpful in understanding this point. "No legislation in Israel forbade the marriage of an Egyptian proselyte to an Assyrian proselyte. The offspring of such a union would be fully Israelite, yet completely non-Abrahamic in ethnic origin. For these reasons Israel could never be defined along purely ethnic lines." Racism and xenophobia have never assisted any country's development, and God's law made it clear that foreigners not deemed to be enemies were to be welcomed and loved, no matter what their race or ethnicity.

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WORLD: So God commanded the Israelites to love the foreigners who came to live among them.

DYKSTRA: Immediately after the command to love one's fellow citizen as you love yourself (Leviticus 19:18) is found the identical command to love the foreigner who resided in the land (Leviticus 19:33-34). Interestingly, one of the reasons assigned to this command is our capacity to sympathize with others. "So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Most of us are the descendants of immigrants, and we should reflect on the difficulties our forbears faced in coming to the United States. Then, in true compassion and sympathy we should endeavor to understand the plight of the foreigners, and in doing so, to demonstrate our love to them. One of the ways I try to do so is to patronize their businesses and to get to know them on an individual level. Too many Americans boycott the local Hindu or Sikh gasoline dealer, thinking that he might be an Islamist sympathizer.

WORLD: But foreigners weren't allowed to become rulers, and they were required to assimilate.

DYKSTRA: That's correct. Deuteronomy 17:14-15 forbade Israel from having a foreigner reign over it. I think that this was likely the reason behind our practice of disallowing naturalized citizens from becoming president. Arnold Schwarzenegger can be a governor but not a president. The law of God also made a clear distinction between the foreigner willing to assimilate and the one who refused to do so. Isaiah 56:3-8 is a good example of the assurances and encouragements given to the foreigner who embraced Israel's culture. Ezekiel 44:6-9 is a good example too of the restrictions placed on the foreigner who refused to assimilate. These distinctions between the one willing to assimilate and the one who refused to do so are good and wise, and we put our future in peril by refusing to apply them to the current immigration debate.

WORLD: You mentioned that only one law was to be operative within Israel's borders. What does that suggest about the goal of some Muslims to have Shariah law given official status in Western countries where they live?

DYKSTRA: The clear goal of Islamists is threefold; namely, infiltrate, procreate, and dominate. Western Europe has unwisely allowed increasingly militant Muslims to have their way with regard to law within their own community. This is leading to a Balkanization of society and actually increases the threat of Islamist violence. Thwarting the recent plot in England to destroy planes bound for the United States illustrates what happens when Islamists are allowed through flawed domestic policies to develop their own enclaves.

WORLD: In your discussion of American immigration history you note that some immigrants during our period of open immigration-that era concluded in 1924-were excluded for ideological reasons. What was G.K. Chesterton's reaction to that?

DYKSTRA: Chesterton in his visa application was asked: "Are you an anarchist?" and "Are you in favor of subverting the government of the U.S. by force?" He was not put off by these questions. He understood the wise reasons for asking them. President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist influenced by anarchists who had emigrated to America. Yet we have wisely practiced ideological exclusion many times in our past. The time has come to pressure our leaders to do so again. We have to distinguish between the foreigner who poses a threat and the one who doesn't, welcoming the latter and forbidding the former. I for one think that it is a great mistake to allow Wahhabist Muslims to enter the United States without closer scrutiny. The goal of many Wahhabists is the destruction of the West, and to allow them entrance is to allow the cougar access to the flock.

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