I always thought people who claim to be conservative but who have little understanding of nor genuine commitment to what that actually means-which is to say a great many politicians in the Republican Party-would gut liberty by slowly regulating and taxing the economy to death, all while claiming to favor free enterprise. For example, federal regulation increased more under George W. Bush and his Republican majority than it did under Bill Clinton, yet most Republican voters consider the former a committed conservative, and the latter a flaming liberal.
Now I've begun to think the de facto Republican strategy most likely to aid and abet the ascendance of leftists is to persistently alienate the likely future majority of American citizens, which is to say Latinos. Perhaps doubling down on this strategy, a disturbing number of people who would otherwise consider themselves defenders of U.S. constitutional principles line up behind regulatory frameworks like Alabama's court-challenged anti-immigration law, which empowers police to arrest people on suspicion of being illegal immigrants, and deputizes public school teachers into border patrol bureaucrats.
If conservatism has any animating idea, it is that great power in the hands of government inverts Genesis 50:20. "You meant evil against me," Joseph told his brothers, "but God intended it for good." But what we have seen to be persistently true about any government armed with great intrusive authority is that no matter how good the intentions such power tends to be corrupted and the liberties of the virtuous destroyed.
Therefore, an underlying principle of our Constitution is that often we allow the stupid and wicked, in order that virtue might be protected. In turn, this principle is rooted in a Christian understanding of man-that he is fallen and sinful, and that you dare not give him much unchecked power.
Christians who have spent any time in front of an abortion clinic ought to know what this looks like at the local level, the way too many police officers behave as thugs when given the opportunity. My friends who oppose the violent "war on drugs" (a contributor, in no small part, to the desperate situation in an increasingly lawless Mexico) can rattle off story after story of theft, abuse, and senseless killing by police. So though I believe in law and order, the last thing I want to do is empower police officers to begin stopping and detaining people based on how they look, or their accent, or the condition of their papers.
Beyond that is the reality that the Alabama law runs the risk of criminalizing-at the capricious whim of an armed bureaucrat-Christian charity and evangelism. The interesting fact here is that arguments against this law by numerous Alabama church leaders challenge, in effect, vigorous opposition to immigration everywhere. After all, here we see a great many unchurched people desperate to come here, and to bring their children with them-which means that this is perhaps the greatest evangelical opportunity ever presented to the United States-and we balk at the cost. That's not to say a Christian can't consider financial burdens, but it's not clear to me such a calculation even goes on among those who find themselves cheering for the likes of Tom Tancredo and Michele Bachmann.
Forsaken evangelism aside, it seems to me that Christians, regardless of political stripe, ought to be the most wary of authorizing governments to intrude in the private affairs of citizens, because we are supposed to guard the Church. And if nothing else, we can agree that governments have rarely been friends to the Church, but instead have a long, worldwide history of either oppressing or corrupting it. That is why the law in Alabama is not-and cannot be-just about immigration.