The Christian-American Paradox

12 Aug


Here are a couple of things I keep hearing, which I’m having trouble reconciling.

One is, America is a Christian nation.  A lot of people firmly believe this, and if you mention freedom of religion and the founding fathers and all that, they sort of wave their hand at you and move to a slightly different statement – it’s a predominately Christian nation.

It sure is.  Christians out the yin yang.  Here in Ohio, you can’t swing a dead cat around by the tail without slapping a Christian upside the head with it.  Every Christmas we hear about it, when people attempt to be inclusive in their language about holidays – It’s a War On Christmas!

Like if it’s Bob’s birthday, and you see him walking down the street with Charlie, and you say, “Hey, have a great day, guys!”

Suddenly that’s a war on Bob.  Your positive sentiment was not specific enough, not limited enough to the most important feature of that day – Bob’s birthday.  You should have said “Happy Birthday, Bob!”

Charlie can go screw – it ain’t his birthday, you know?

Except it’s not just on Christmas folks do that.  It’s the whole month of December.  You can’t even wish people of other religions a happy holiday (whichever one they celebrate) even if it’s in the same month.  Even if that Other Non-Christian Holiday is coming sooner than Christmas.

You’re supposed to say Merry Christmas – that’s what people think, because most of us are Christians.

So okay, then the other thing I keep hearing, and generally from the same group of people, is white-hot, searing contempt for immigrants.

“Illegal immigrants,” they’ll tell you, their voices dripping with scorn.

I’ll be happy to get into what I think about immigration some day, but right now, I’ll just concede pretty much every point.  Let’s say, the only acceptable way for an immigrant to be here is through the convoluted, legal process which takes around a decade and costs a raft of cash.  Let’s also say that when we find immigrants here, we have to deport them.

It’s like a lifeboat.  We have limited supplies, and we can’t save everybody.  Decisions need made.  Some of us were lucky enough to get on the boat early, and we’re not going to give away so much food and water that we end up dying anyway.  It’s cynical, it’s hard, but I get it.  Let’s say that’s true.

But surely we can understand WHY they’re scrambling to get on the boat, right? 

Surely we don’t think that’s a nasty, mean-spirited thing to do?  They’re drowning.  Their kids are drowning.  They don’t have the time or the resources to go through legal channels, so they’re going to try to save themselves and their kids.  They’re going to try to sneak on the boat anyway.

That’s what’s happening.  Mexico is a Mad Max world right now.  Drug cartels rule the place.  They’re selling their drugs to us, here in America, and it’s making them so rich and powerful, they dwarf the government.  They’re heavily armed, too, and guess where they get their guns? 

They get their guns from us.  You’re not allowed to sell guns in Mexico, you know.  So the powerful cartels come here, Miami Vice/Burn Notice-style, and they buy them.

Mexico is not Brown America, with tacos instead of cheeseburgers.  It might seem that way when you fly into a tourist resort and lounge around in a pampered bubble for a week, swimming and screwing and drinking and whatever else folks do at those places.

A lot of people seem to think it’s just a bunch of cities like their own, malls full of Mexican people buying twenty dollar plates of pasta and knocking back a few cold ones before they swing by Mexican Old Navy for some swank khakis and designer sombreros. 

Sure, we think America rocks – and America does rock.  No question about it.  What we don’t fathom is how much Mexico does not rock at all.

It’s not that they make slightly less money down there and wish they made more.  Google the phrase “femicide in Juarez,” for a nice example of the world we so flippantly wish these people would simply remain in, with no questions, out of politeness and propriety.   

It’s a lifeboat we’re talking about.  We’re not letting them on our lifeboat, because the lifeboat is ours.  That is the reality.  Maybe it’s even how things have to be, sure.

But why the hate?

Is it because we’re so Christian?  Not being a Christian myself, I’m having a hard time grasping that.  My limited understanding of Jesus Christ indicates that Jesus is all about love. 

Did you know Mexico is a Christian Nation, too?  And I mean, not predominately, but really, really Christian.  Go ahead and look for a Mexican Atheist down there – you’re more likely to find an Eskimo.

So if practicality really dictates that we can’t do the Christian thing here – which is help these people – then do you think that Jesus would at least teach us to love our fellow Christian human beings?  That we could at least refrain from insulting them as we cast our judgment?  That we could somehow in our hearts regret putting our boots in their teeth, as they try to climb aboard our life raft with their children, and as we kick them back into the ocean to die?

These are God’s children, folks.  Here’s a non-Christian who very seldom sets foot in a church, pointing this out to you.  Not legal and illegal versions of God’s children.  His children, on His Earth, according to Your Bible.

I don’t believe that Jesus would make that distinction, legal and illegal.  I was taught that Jesus loved us all, and that we should, too.

But I don’t know, fellow Americans.  I don’t know, Christians.  You tell me.


Posted by on August 12, 2010 in Uncategorized


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8 responses to “The Christian-American Paradox

  1. sparrow1969

    August 12, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    You do a good job with the analogies for the situations you outlined. I don’t think I’ve ever really heard them so well explained.

    • thomaschalfant

      August 13, 2010 at 1:08 am

      Thank you, that’s definitely good to hear!

  2. Marilynluvstom

    August 13, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I too like the life boat analogy. If I were on a life boat and other people, say children, were clammoring to get on, I might actually give up my own position on the boat. I might not. It’s almost impossible to imagine the scenario… and yet, it’s happening every day. I’m not sure how I would live with myself either way.

  3. ecossie possie

    August 13, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Everyone liveing in America is decended from an imigrant.Even Native Americans decendants came from Siberia over the Bearing Straights.America reminds me more of the Titanic than a lifeboat.The safest most unsinkible place to take refuge would be on top of the iceberg..

    • thomaschalfant

      August 13, 2010 at 1:07 am

      Good to see you back ecossie possie. Outstanding extension of the metaphor, too. Mindboggling great point!

  4. Jenn

    August 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Maybe the point was lost on me but I think these two issues should be dealt with by the concept of Separation of Church and State. When those lines blur we all suffer.

    Mexico sucks but you did make a point. (Even if it isn’t your own belief). America is a great country but we can’t help everyone. It’s important to try but when our citizens suffer because of it we become less of a great country and one more step towards becoming the nation everyone is fleeing. I don’t think too many countries will help America in a time of need.

  5. Lynn

    October 7, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Hi Tom. I read this back when you first posted it and thought about commenting, but I couldn’t say what I wanted as well as what I just read from Dennis Prager… I think it explains well that when it comes to Christians views on immigration, it has nothing to do with “hate”. Hoping you’ll read the following:


    • thomaschalfant

      October 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm

      Lynn, well if that’s his approach and that’s your approach, then I’m all for both of you. Very, very generally, the three of us agree – though a much longer conversation would be regarding his conclusion.

      But the point is, that’s very definitely NOT the prevailing attitude in this predominately Christian nation toward these fellow human beings. I certainly wish it were.

      I can imagine that this post would seem offensive to Christians who genuinely have no ill will toward Latinos, but I certainly didn’t mean for it to. A debate regarding what to do about immigration would be long and involved, but a debate regarding whether or not these human beings ought to be treated with as much respect as any other human being – that ought to be a short conversation.

      I do appreciate the comment and the link, and the fact that you read this a while back and it stuck with you and you returned – I really appreciate that as well. Thanks Lynn.


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