Friday, March 17, 2006

Baseball, Basketball, Undocumented Aliens/Immigrants & Trips Overseas

Baseball. Team USA was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic last night. I watched the top of the 9th inning, as a U.S. team was unable to get anything going offensively, losing to Team Mexico 2-1. The WBC Final Four consists of: the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Japan and Mexico. I'll be in Costa Rica, so I won't see any of these games.

On other baseball fronts, Spring Training is now going on. The Cubbies have been playing in the Cactus League, sans Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Prior was "shut down" this week because of shoulder problems. Wood is recovering from surgery. My colleague, Chad Ragsdale, also a Cub fan noted that he is tired of the "flame throwers that are always hurt." He says the Cubs need to go out a get Jamie Moyer, who is nearly my age, but who has been pitching forever, without arm problems. I would like someone in the Cubs organization to at least listen to Mike Marshall, who claims to be able to correct faulty arm mechanics, and thus avoid perennial arm problems pitchers face.

Basketball. We're into March Madness. I have yet to see a college basketball game on TV this post season. I leave tomorrow for Costa Rica, so I won't see any games soon. Normally we are on our Spring Break (Week of Evangelism) when the NCAA teams are selected. This year I could have participated in a pool, but found out about the one my colleague, Damien Spikereit, put together too late to participate. So when the brackets came out on Monday, I was pretty much oblivious to them all. Oklahoma did get upset by Wisconsin-Milwaukee yesterday. Other than that, I don't know too much about what's happening. I love the game. I've just been busy. Illinois won yesterday, but their year of destiny was last year, and they fell just short of the prize. Missouri has been awful. It's time to start rebuilding.

Undocumented Aliens/Immigrants. My take on the problem of illegal aliens is probably different than most people with whom I share many political views. Maybe it is my pastoral heart. Maybe it is because most of the undocumented foreigners living in this area are hispanic, and I can sympathize with them. I do, in fact, help them.

Many of you know that I work occasionally as a Spanish-language interpreter for state-mandated alcohol education classes. Yes, I have spent quite a bit of time with hispanic DWI offenders. A couple years ago, a well-intentioned Deputy Sheriff met with a group of hispanic DWI offenders and took a tone with them like, "We want you to understand that drinking and driving is against the laws in our country, and we know that you are ignorant of our laws, and it is not all right for you to do it, so we wanted to tell you not to do it." I was offended by his tone, and I am not even hispanic! I also wanted to point out that though there were about 9-10 hispanics in that room, about 50 yards away there was an auditorium full of Anglo DWI offenders. This particular forum was at the monthly Victim Impact Panel sponsored by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) held at Missouri Southern State University. Last weekend I did an alcohol education seminar, working with 1 hispanic. There were 23 in the weekend class, so the ration of anglos to hispanics was 22:1!

At times, I tell students about some of the dealings I have with hispanics in the community. A couple years ago, I had been helping quite a bit with documentation, jail, lawyers, etc. and had commented generically to my classes about some of the stuff that I find myself doing. About the same time, we were having some foundation repair on our house, do to settling of the site. I had to put in a series of piers to jack up the foundation of my house. I commented about that as well. A student jokingly remarked that he didn't believe that I had foundation problems with the house, but that I was involved in "hiding illegal aliens." Such was not the case, not would it ever be the case.

However, never have I notified INS of hispanics with whom I have dealt. Many of the hispanics in our area are undocumented. Some of them have social security numbers that correspond to another person. Those who are working formally (in a factory or plant) have taxes deducted from their paycheck, never again to perceive any benefit. I would never advocate a person coming into the United States illegally. At the same time, I will not participate in getting them kicked out. The problem of immigration is a thorny issue. I was privileged to be born in this country, and thus have the right to live here. Had I been born in another place, I might have been tempted to cross a river to better my condition.

H.R. 4437 is a piece of legislation that recently passed the U.S. Congress and will be discussed in the U.S. Senate. The bill is controversial. Dissenters of the bill include mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic church. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles criticized bill and all but called for civil disobedience. You can read the text of a letter from Mahony to President Bush here. On March 3, the New York Times published an editorial titled "The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437":
It has been a long time since this country heard a call to organized lawbreaking on this big a scale. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, urged parishioners on Ash Wednesday to devote the 40 days of Lent to fasting, prayer and reflection on the need for humane reform of immigration laws. If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests -- and faithful lay Catholics -- to defy the law.

The cardinal's focus of concern is H.R. 4437, a bill sponsored by James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York. This grab bag legislation, which was recently passed by the House, would expand the definition of ''alien smuggling'' in a way that could theoretically include working in a soup kitchen, driving a friend to a bus stop or caring for a neighbor's baby. Similar language appears in legislation being considered by the Senate this week.

The enormous influx of illegal immigrants and the lack of a coherent federal policy to handle it have prompted a jumble of responses by state and local governments, stirred the passions of the nativist fringe, and reinforced anxieties since 9/11. Cardinal Mahony's defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. ''As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church,'' he said.

The cardinal is right to argue that the government has no place criminalizing the charitable impulses of private institutions like his, whose mission is to help people with no questions asked. The Los Angeles Archdiocese, like other religious organizations across the country, runs a vast network of social service programs offering food and emergency shelter, child care, aid to immigrants and refugees, counseling services, and computer and job training. Through Catholic Charities and local parishes, the church is frequently the help of last resort for illegal immigrants in need. It should not be made an arm of the immigration police as well.

Cardinal Mahony's declaration of solidarity with illegal immigrants, for whom Lent is every day, is a startling call to civil disobedience, as courageous as it is timely. We hope it forestalls the day when works of mercy become a federal crime.

If Mahony's allegations about the bill are correct, I also could have been guilty of committing crimes. Though I not lobby publically against the bill, my thoughts go to an authority higher than that of the civil government. I will continue to "give a cup of cold water" to whomever I can, and will do it in the name of Jesus. Just this week, one of our B.Th sermons cited Matthew 25, where the sheep are separated from the goats. The sheep are commended for helping those marginalized, including lawbreakers. Matthew 25:40 reads, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
” I imagine there are several points in which my political views diverge from those of Mahony. On this point, however, I concur. However, the truth of the matter is likely to be seen in some point of balance between two opposing emphases. Most likely the intent of the bill seeks to criminalize not those who "give a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus", but rather those who are breaking the law itself: 1) those who enter illegally, and 2) the coyotes that make LOTS of money inducing people to cross, promising to get them across safely, and then (many times) abandoning them to save their own hide.

I guess hermeneutics is important. The debate may be moot, as H.R. 4437 is not likely to pass the U.S. Senate.

Trips Overseas. Tomorrow morning I leave for Costa Rica. Rose and I began language school there 30 years ago this summer. We visited there last summer. I will be going with a group of 5 students. We will be hooking up with another group of students from OCC while we are there. We will be working with La Iglesia Evangélica de Jesucristo in the barrio of San Miguel, in the capital city of San José. I'll probably post some photos from the trip. We will arrive in San José late Saturday night. One of my students will preach Sunday morning in a church service. I will translate his sermon into Spanish. It should be great!

Well, I probably won't blog again until after the trip. I will be journalling, however, and may post parts of my journal when I arrive stateside.

Blessings to all,


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