Competing Calls for Compassion and Justice


“Man’s relations with foreigners are two-fold: peaceful and hostile: and in directing both kinds of relation the Law contained suitable precepts” Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, (I-II. Q. 105 Art 3)

This past week, I had the privilege of moderating a roundtable discussion on immigration here at HBU, sponsored by the Latin American Studies Program and the Department of Law and Society (full disclosure, I organized this event as Asst. Prof. of Latin American Studies). Our panelists included Texas State Representative Rick Miller, the Reverend Uriel Osnaya of the Episcopal Church, and Dr. Craig Ferrell, Asst. Prof. of Criminal Justice at HBU, and former general counsel for HPD.

(Read what the Episcopal Diocese of Texas had to say about the event here: )

As you can imagine, there was a wide array of viewpoints represented at the table. These largely came out in the discussion as the competing needs in our society to, as the Rev. Osnaya stated, “love people and love families,” and to enforce the law of the land. The roundtable afforded our students, which packed out Mabee Theatre for the event, the opportunity to hear and contemplate how as Christians we should care for the foreigner and alien among us (Leviticus 19:34) in a way that respects the legal authority of the land (Romans 13: 1-2).

While I do not pretend to have the answer to this issue, I do recognize the needs within our own community for a resolution. I am particularly struck by the situation of students at HBU who live with the fear of family members being deported. I cannot fathom the life of my student whose family member was recently critically wounded by a gunshot to the chest, nor the student whose parents have barely an elementary education and are trying to provide for their child pursuing a bachelor’s. Their lived experiences are hard enough without worrying about family or friends being sent away. These students, and countless others, have a harder row to hoe than many of us. What change might it make in their daily lives knowing their parents, or cousins, or grandparents can come out of the shadows and not fear deportation. Their reality is heartbreaking, and their reality is what leads some to argue that the standing laws should be circumvented regardless of the legal ramifications.

Yet, there are certainly “hostile” foreigners who have taken advantage of a broken system to enter our nation, looking to profit through nefarious means. The continued concerns of terrorism certainly warrant securing the border and better regulating immigrants’ entrance to our country. There is also the higher need to uphold the rule of law, which, as I constantly teach my students in Latin American Studies classes, is a necessary requirement for democracy to flourish.  The existing laws are the laws we have to work with. If we do not respect and enforce those, then how do we treat everyone justly and equally under the law?

While I do not believe that playing fast-and-loose with executive orders and the Constitution is the answer, the laws of our land, and the implementation of those laws, need to be reformed so that the Christian is no longer torn between compassion and justice. In the words of Aquinas, our laws must contain “suitable precepts” for dealing with both peaceful and hostile foreigners who desire to live among us.

A to Z with C.S. Lewis: S is for The Sexes

venus and marsYoung people are taught many damaging things in our great secular universities.  From Marxism to Freudianism, moral relativism to postmodern deconstruction, their heads are filled with insidious, anti-humanistic theories that, when carried out to their logical conclusion, cause chaos, confusion, and despair on both the social and personal level.

And yet, I would argue that the most damaging thing they are taught slips under the radar of most attentive parents.  Continue reading

Four Things You Should Know about the Pilgrims

This year, as we give thanks for the many blessings the Almighty has bestowed upon us, I thought it might be useful to have a little back-pocket history ready in case there is a lull in the table conversation at Grandma’s.

Here are four things every American should know about the Pilgrims:

1. America wasn’t the Pilgrims’ first choice.

What was their first choice?

Continue reading

The Land That Snow Forgot

Snow-Scene (Nikki Bajda)

Snow-Scene (Nikki Bajda)

Well, winter is gearing up, and snowy scenes are making their way onto the news media and internet for one reason or another.  Here in Houston, the land that snow forgot, I forlornly expect another whiteless winter, though, yes, we may get a momentary flurry or two.

The great ambition of my childhood in San Antonio was to experience snow, and the thing actually happened a couple of times. When I moved to the east coast in my 20s, it took a while before the full pleasures of snow really began to soak in–sometimes literally. Having kids helped. So did home ownership. Nothing really compares to looking out one’s own picture window at a long, persevering snowfall whose gentle crescendo finally reveals itself in the plump accumulation on the ground below. Continue reading


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