The following article originally appeared on the Front Page Magazine website, and is reproduced with permission.
The 1.1 million-member United Church of Christ (UCC) is trying to raise $50,000 for a media campaign, including a newspaper ad in the Phoenix newspaper The Arizona Republic, to blast that state’s new immigration enforcement law. Church prelates hope the ad will appear on May 29, when reputedly 500,000 will march in Phoenix against the law.
As America’s most left-wing Christian denomination, the fast declining UCC’s zeal for political activism perhaps compensates for its lack of evangelism. Having lost about half its members in recent decades, and several hundred congregations in recent years, the 1.1 million member denomination, at least as expressed by its elites, unapologetically plunges ahead with the latest causes du jour.
“God’s love knows no borders” the proposed ad will sermonize, as though that point were the issue. The UCC’s top bureaucrat for “Justice and Witness Ministries” is also prominently quoted in the ad draft, asserting: “It is now legal for Arizona’s law enforcement to single people out because of the color of their skin, the language of their ancestors, their place of, or even the way they dress.” She further snidely alleges: “When racism raises its ugly head and our nation’s core justice values are at stake, fear cannot be an excuse to remain silent.”
When the Religious Left alleges racism, it’s usually because it has so few other arguments at its disposal. In the mid-20th century, liberal Mainline Protestantism waged serious moral campaigns against authentic racism, and on behalf of other admirable causes. Now an embarrassing shadow of once prestigious religious institutions, left-leaning Mainline Protestants have exhausted most of their Christian moral capital. When they speak politically, they typically only spout bumper sticker slogans that slam their targets as racists, militarists, or exploitative profiteers.
“This law is nothing less than a modern day Jim Crow law of the 19th and 20th centuries,” virtually shrieked UCC President Geoffrey Black in the immediate aftermath of the Arizona law enforcement law’s passage. He insisted: “The immigrant rights struggle is a contemporary civil rights struggle!” In typical fashion, he did not differentiate between illegal and legal immigrants, making his own sweeping ethnic assumption that all Hispanic immigrants, and their U.S. born descendants, essentially think alike. That many legal immigrants themselves favor immigration law enforcement is a possibility not recognized by the Religious Left, which is too busy advocating its mainly WASP theoretical version of multiculturalism to ponder what immigrants themselves actually want.
Rev. Black claimed the new Arizona law will mandate “racial profiling of persons of color” that will assault the “rights of women, men and children, citizens and non-citizens alike.” But what of the rights of women, men and children of all races in Arizona who expect a lawful society that regulates who can enter their state from outside the U.S. border? Of course, the main victims of uncontrolled illegal immigration, who are legal immigrants, and the native born working class, do not typically constitute the constituency of the upper middle class, and almost all white, Anglo UCC or other Mainline Protestant denominations. The UCC is among the most blue blooded of America’s old-line churches, having descended literally from the Pilgrim Fathers and the New England Puritans.
Like its 17th Puritan preacher ancestors, the UCC loves to inveigh against perceived evils. But while the Puritans primarily were concerned about the sin in their own hearts, the theologically modernist UCC is mostly focused on lambasting perceived sin in other people’s hearts. “We urge our brothers and sisters in the United Christ of Christ and our faith partners to resist hate, and insist that just immigration reform embodies our Christian understanding to love our neighbors,” Rev. Black implored.
“We call upon the President of the United States and members of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration legislation that protects the rights of all who reside in the United States.” Do illegal immigrants have the same rights to residence and government services as citizens and legal immigrants, in the UCC/Religious Left perspective? Apparently so.
Reportedly, the UCC has already raised most of what it needs for the Arizona Republic newspaper ad. Now it wants some additional dollars for Spanish language ads. Few UCC members are Spanish speaking, and Arizona’s Hispanics are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and Evangelical, primarily Pentecostal. No liberal-led mainline denomination has successfully appealed to large numbers of Hispanics. And the UCC lost much of its Spanish speaking membership when its Puerto Rico Conference officially withdrew from the UCC in 2006 to protest the UCC’s support for same-sex marriage.
“Across the church, we have heard eagerness that the United Church of Christ respond publicly in Arizona with a message that resonates both pastorally and prophetically to this unjust new law,” Rev. Black explained to his denominational news service. “At the same time, we need to prepare a long-term response strategy that prepares us for the multiple legislative battles over immigration that will take place in the coming months and years.” The UCC naturally is concerned about immigration law enforcement proposals in other states. Rev. Black has encouraged “meaningful and respectful” debate on immigration even as he has labeled his opponents as racist and hateful.
Meanwhile, the UCC’s Southwest Conference has urged, by an apparently narrow vote while meeting in Sedona, Arizona, a virtual economic boycott against Arizona to punish it for immigration law enforcement. “We are profoundly disturbed by the passage of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the country by the Arizona Legislature,” this conference wrote in a public letter President Obama and other officials. “It is legislation such as this that codifies racial profiling and creates an atmosphere of suspicion, hatred, and scapegoating of immigrants and U.S citizens.” The Southwest Conference represents about 50 congregations mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. Its meeting “immediately went into a time of prayer for the soul of Arizona and all people who reside here” upon learning of Arizona’s “unjust and racist law,” against which it pledged “non-compliance.”
Posturing by Religious Left elites like the UCC’s prelates will not likely affect the enforcement of Arizona’s immigration law. But the UCC’s vapid and histrionic rhetoric further expose the moral vacuity of the Religious Left’s emptying churches.
Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.TheIRD.org) and author of “Taking Back the United Methodist Church.”