What Evangelicals Think About Immigration: The Good, The Bad, and The Cray-Cray

This week I tuned into a webinar hosted by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values. The focus of the webinar was a report recently released by LifeWay Research. (What up, Beth?)

Basically, the researchers polled American adults who consider themselves to be evangelical, born-again, or fundamentalist Christians. They used quotas to make sure the sample was balanced regarding gender, ethnicity, age, region, and education. And then they asked them questions about immigration.

The Good

Let's jump right into the positives! I was pleasantly surprised to read that more than half of Evangelicals believe immigration reform should establish a path towards citizenship. Actually, I say surprised. I was more like shocked.

I would never have guessed so many folks would support a pathway to citizenship. In fact, when asked if they would support immigration reform that included both increased border security and provided a legalization process for immigrants in the US unlawfully, almost 7 out of 10 Evangelicals said they would support these combined reforms. 

Taking it even one step further, half of respondents said they would be more likely to support a candidate supporting these changes. Since the survey accounted for demographics, it's interesting to note that these responses were more likely to come from women, people in the Northeast, respondents age 18-34, and Hispanic or African American Evangelicals.

Finally, almost 70% of Evangelicals think it's important that Congress pass significant new immigration reform. I was encouraged by this stat (even though later data may indicate we don't totally agree on what that should be), and I hope elected officials will take note. They do not seem to think it's important at all.

The Bad

One article said it this way: 9 in 10 Evangelicals say Bible doesn't influence immigration views. Yeah, that's not great.

Influences that trumped the Bible included: immigrants you've interacted with, friends and family, and the media. Regarding the media, those age 65+ were statistically more likely to select it than those age 18-34. The 65+ group was also most likely to say recent immigrant are a threat to law and order, a threat to the safety of citizens, a drain on on economic resources, and a threat to traditional American customs and culture. So I think it's safe to say Glenn Beck is knocking it out of the park.

However, lest I paint the senior population in too harsh a light, those 65+ were also most likely to say its important Congress pass immigration reform. In addition, they were more likely to respond that they would support combined legislation that enforces border security and offers a pathway to citizenship and that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports such legislation.

But about the Bible. Only 21% of respondents said they have ever been encouraged by their church to reach out to immigrants. However, almost 7 in 10 Evangelicals said they would value a sermon on how biblical principles can be applied to immigration.

Surprisingly, even with the church never discussing the topic, more than half of Evangelicals say they are familiar with what the Bible says about how immigrants should be treated. The researcher said that this may be due to the "halo effect," where survey respondents don't want to "look bad," so they overstate their own knowledge on a topic. Or maybe, like me, they listened to a lot of Third Day. Whenever, I think of aliens, widows, and orphans, I think of Third Day.

The Cray-Cray

I think the hardest number for me to wrap my mind around was that 8 our 10 Evangelicals believe immigration reform should respect people's God-given dignity. I mean, I guess that's a high number, but who are these Christians who think we shouldn't treat people with basic respect and dignity?! Even more, only 7 out of 10 think immigration reform should protect the unity of the immediate family.    

The researcher made a comment about how polls reveal that about 7% of people believe the first moon landing was a hoax. He suggested there is a always a percentage of respondents who will simple not agree with whatever is being asked.

Okay. But you know where those fake moon walking people got on board? Immigration reform that respects the rule of law, guarantees secure national borders, and ensures fairness to taxpayers. 9 out of 10 Evangelicals support those criteria. I'm not saying those are necessarily bad, I am just saddened that Christians would value rules, security, and money more than people and families.

Resources For You

Overall, what stands out to me from this study, is that Evangelicals recognize that something needs to change regarding our immigration laws. And there is significant support for legislation that addresses current immigrants living unlawfully in the States beyond a simple "kick them out" mentality.

If you want to read LifeWay's full report, you can find it here. If you've like to watch the Evangelical Immigration Table's webinar on the data, the recording is available here. Finally, check out the EIT's resources for pastors and churches. They really offer some great videos, sermon guides, Scripture reading plans, and more that can help your church address the topic of immigration.

Which of these stats stand out for you? How does the data compare to your personal experience with Evangelicals on this topic?  

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