The Reverend Gradye Parsons’ Letter
I’ll begin the careful scrutiny of this issue by discussing the PC(USA) “Stated Clerk issues letter to Trump on refugees, immigrants” (dated October 2, 2015) that was introduced in my previous post. The value is that a high officer is here explaining the denomination’s policy positions in an official capacity. Thus, what is said, implied and unsaid is of great significance. The Biblical interpretative, philosophical and communication strategies utilized are also important aspects of the analysis. All text from the letter is included in order as quotes, with my commentary inserted as regular text.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022
I am the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination of the congregation in Queens, New York, where you were baptized. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develops its policies through councils of teaching elders and ruling elders. At the national level it does that through the General Assembly. I would like to share with you the Presbyterian policies on refugees and immigrants.
There was a time in my living memory when such a preamble would have elicited an expectation of Christian profundity. I detect a sense of chastisement here, as Rev. Parsons deigns to educate Mr. Trump on the refugee and immigration positions of his own denomination. I must say that on this point we are in agreement. However, whereas the issue at hand elicited this response, for me it began when Mr. Trump said “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.”
Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II.
Here we find the one and only Biblical reference, summarizing Matthew 2:13-20. What startles is the unexplained logical leap from our Lord’s specific experience to an apparently general application. Does the fact that Jesus Christ was once a refugee mean that any and all who claim that status have been automatically bestowed with His sinlessness? Is it possible in Rev. Parsons’ ideology for someone who claims refugee status to yet harbor evil intent? And, if this is a realistic possibility, would a sovereign nation be obliged to welcome that person into their population? Note that these real and pressing issues don’t even warrant acknowledgment let alone serious consideration in this authoritative statement of the PC(USA)’s positions.
Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.
These two sentences manage to encompass the decadence and irresponsibility that defines our national denominational leadership. Here we have mentioned two countries, one having experienced and the other currently embroiled in bloody, brutal civil war, held up as places from which blameless refugees are guaranteed to originate. Who, I wonder, has been doing all of the killing in Syria resulting in almost 500,000 dead? Weren’t upwards of 150,000 killed in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90) by someone? Isn’t Syria the home of ISIS and Lebanon of Hezbollah, both vicious, genocidal Islamic terrorist groups who target the United States? Is it not possible that someone complicit in or directly responsible for this mass murder might seek to enter the United States as a refugee?
And yet, in the face of this absolutely obvious set of circumstances, the Rev. Parsons bestows blanket innocence upon all refugees from these troubled countries because of the PC(USA)’s supposed “knowledge.” What can possibly account for the existence of this level of moral blindness? The Rev. Parsons, speaking for the PC(USA) General Assembly, is more than happy to signal their supposed superior virtue while ignoring the real and present danger to their fellow citizens from uncontrolled entry of refugees. That is, they will happily claim all of the virtue points for their “compassionate” stance on refugees but deny any culpability for associated crime and terrorism because “their intentions were good.” This is not virtue, it is its opposite, and, it’s long past time that we ceased allowing our national leaders to have it both ways.
Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.
This sentence is a masterpiece of obfuscation. On the surface it appears to be undeniable. Yes, absolutely, we in the United States should treat all within our borders humanely. And yet, what if someone finds “themselves within our borders” because they have entered illegally? Is it inhumane to deny them social services, welfare, work? Is it inhumane to deport them? If they commit a felonious crime, is it still inhumane to deport them? All of this is left unaddressed. One has to dig a little to uncover the true position of the PC(USA).
We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution.
Has the PC(USA) ever supported laws or policies that ensure careful vetting of refugees? Unless information to the contrary can be presented, their position on vetting refugees from lawless, violent nations appears to be that it shouldn’t be done at all.
We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.
I believe that “due process” likely means that a non-citizen of the United States should be given all of the Constitutional rights as has a citizen even when outside of the country. Were this position to be accepted then the ability of the United States to control entry of non-citizens would be at the very least severely damaged.
As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here.
This is an excellent example of the Jonathan Gruber school of political discourse: “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.” For, obscured behind all of the virtue signaling is effectively the demand for “open borders.” Yes, the Rev. Parsons doesn’t explicitly say this. However, since he admits guilt for his ancestors coming “uninvited to a land already occupied by people,” the most reasonable conclusion is that anyone who seeks “a place here” should be allowed in. Of course to say so outright would create yet another reason for members to exit the denomination. So, the position is only tacitly communicated. However, I have little doubt that “open borders” is both what is meant and what is being pursued by the PC(USA) leadership.
I hope you will find this helpful. I especially hope it will inform you on your policies going forward.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
It certainly was helpful, but not necessarily in the way intended. This letter helps by exposing the unsupported logical leaps, lack of theological seriousness, irresponsible virtue signaling, disdain for the safety of our citizens, obfuscation and purposeful ambiguity of the PC(USA)’s national leadership. Only a leadership clique hermetically sealed inside an alternative-reality ideology could be capable of generating, approving and releasing such a defective statement.