Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Viewpoint

In today’s media-saturated America, everyone has an opinion. From Bill O’Reilly to Chris Matthews, Rush Limbaugh to Rachel Maddow – there is no shortage of viewpoints. But how many of those perspectives bring you back to a place of passionate, persistent prayer for the nation?

“Viewpoint” allows the expression on the political, social and moral issues of the day. At times, you may not agree. But in the end, you will be energized to pray for America, with the prism of Scripture and a decidedly Godly direction as your guide. Plus, you can blog your comments to every article, have your say.

Read – then pray with an enlightened, more informed viewpoint for your nation and its leaders. 

Immigration Reform And The Church

ViewpointHow media influences evangelicals’ stance

By Holly L. Meade

Mass media is a significant force in shaping American public opinion. Sociologists refer to this as a mediated culture where media reflects and creates the culture. Apparently, the church is not exempt from that influence, particularly regarding the subject of immigration reform.

As part of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s (EIT) efforts to build support for immigration reform, radio ads featuring evangelical pastors were bought in 16 states last year. The EIT, a coalition of evangelical groups and leaders from across the political spectrum, was formed in 2012 to call for reform of the U.S. immigration system. The coalition includes Bread for the World, The National Association of Evangelicals, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Sojourners, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, World Relief and World Vision.

Michele Margolis, assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, researched the effect of the radio ads and recently presented the results in her paper, “What are the reaches and limits of religious influence? Religious messages and immigration attitudes” at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting.

Margolis used the American Panel Study, a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults who were first interviewed in February 2013, while the EIT was still young; again in September 2013 after the radio ads and again in February 2014. She also conducted a 1,000 person experiment using one of the EIT’s radio ads. Respondents were divided into three groups — those who listened to the original ad, those who listened to the ad with religious language removed and a control group that did not listen to an ad at all.

The professor’s findings revealed that Caucasian evangelical Republicans have moved more in the direction of supporting immigration reform, especially in the states where EIT bought radio ads. Between February 2013 and February 2014, evangelical Republicans became slightly more in favor while non-evangelical Republicans became more opposed to immigration reform. The differences were even more pronounced in the states that aired EIT radio ads, despite the fact that Caucasian evangelicals in those states started out more opposed to immigration reform than those in the states that did not have EIT radio ads.

Opposition to immigration reform among Caucasian evangelicals decreased 15 percentage points in the states that had the EIT radio ads — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. In states without the ads, Caucasian evangelical opposition to immigration reform remained the same at 50 percent.

In addition, support for immigration reform and a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and opposition to deportation for unauthorized immigrants was higher among born-again Christians and biblical literalists who heard the EIT ad compared to born-again Christians and biblical literalists who heard it without religious language or did not hear it at all.

Margolis concluded in her research that the combined pieces of evidence point to the EIT having some modest success in influencing evangelical attitudes on immigration.

Immigration has been a hot political topic since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants and has continued through the Obama administration. The opinion debate continues on Capitol Hill but Christians are obviously not exempt. Yet, for those who embrace biblical faith, the command is clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) The question is, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is found a few verses later. “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” (19:34)

However, while Christians are commanded to love their neighbor, they must never let love become permission for lawlessness. This is where modern notions of Christian love for immigrants is perhaps confused with biblical notions of love for sojourners. Many Christians and politicians encourage acceptance of every immigrant that crosses U.S. borders, legally or illegally. Yet in the Old Testament, sojourners were accepted and given certain legal rights because their intention was to become full-fledged members of the nation, learning the ways and language of Israel and respecting its laws, taboos, and customs.

Regardless, this is a great reminder to pray that all Christian leaders and politicians would listen to God’s voice and allow His Word to shape their thoughts and actions regarding immigration reform instead of succumbing to the influence of the media.

Holly Meade is a communications specialist, writer, speaker and teacher with a master’s degree in mass communication. She has extensive experience in creating and producing content for radio, television and the Internet.




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