President Abraham Lincoln began his Gettysburg address with reference to an historically unique event. He reminded his hearers that it was merely one long lifetime past that a NEW NATION was brought forth in this old world. He said that this new nation was conceived in liberty. He referred to one of the propositions to which the newborn U.S.A. was dedicated: that all men are created equal.
Granted, the outworking of that proposition had led to a more recent, bloody unpleasantness and to the existence of the cemetery which Lincoln was dedicating on that November Thursday, four score and seven years into the young nation’s life. The struggle to bring liberty and justice for all out of abstraction and tangibly into all American lives goes on. The national effort to honor the proposition that all human beings are created equal continues.
Despite that struggle and despite the grievous corruption which infects whatsoever comes to pass in the course of human events, this unique and exceptional republic still stands…yes, the star spangled banner still waves.
The newness of the American nation consisted in much more than its youth as nations go. From its founding onward, America was never the name of a people who share kinship, as the term “nation” ever had denoted. Before that Declaration of Independence which is the bedrock of the U.S. Constitution, the world had seen empires rise and fall. Strategic alliances had surely existed before the 1776th year of grace. Political borders such as the Korean peninsula’s DMZ have been drawn and erased since ancient times.
Our 16th president was affirming that our nation is radically innovative to the core: we are a people united by ideas, not bloodlines. E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) is our motto. America was established as a nation over which neither Britain’s King George III nor any other mere mortal would be sovereign. It was to be a nation in which the caprice of Rex Lex (the king is the law) would be displaced by Lex Rex (the law is king). The rule of law is to be sacred from sea to shining sea, and in that beautiful pearl in the midst of our westerly ocean.
These founding ideas in turn have an historical basis. And that brings us to the issue at hand, sanctuary.
America was not founded as a theocracy. And despite the efforts of those who would edit history and engineer society, neither was it founded as a theophobic, secular entity. It is beyond controversy that the matrix of national conception to which Mr. Lincoln alluded was that of Biblical a.k.a. Judeo-Christan ethics. It cannot be denied that the proposition all men are created equal (not evolved from primordial slime) comes directly from the Bible and its teaching that every man and woman shares in the glorious, equalizing dignity of bearing the Imago Dei, the image of God.
For the sake of us who live over twelve score years after the founding of the U.S.A., here is an effort to bring back stabilizing, salutary Biblical ethics and anthropology which some would reject as anachronistic or worse. Here is a challenge to those who imagine themselves as neo-revolutionaries but who can only offer invertebrate moral relativism as a foundation for the society of which they dream; a society with all the longevity of a sand castle built below the high tide mark. Hear the word of God:
“There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.” (Numbers 15:16)
“…you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there…these six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.” (Numbers 35:11, 15)
“If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbor, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from My altar, that he may die.” (Exodus 21:14)
“…the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances.” (Numbers 35:24)
Let’s compare this sublime wisdom about cities of refuge with the San Francisco treat which apparently has displaced Rice-a-Roni, namely the folly of being a so-called sanctuary city. First we note that according to both Scripture and ‘Frisco, special havens should exist. They are a good thing for the public welfare.
The agreement ends there. The alien or sojourner in view in Mosaic Law was someone who had entered the theocratic society peacefully and lawfully. The city that left its own heart who-knows-where embraces criminals as well as law abiding visa holders and those who aspire to citizenship. The Biblical city of refuge was a temporary haven. California’s city by the bay knows no such time limitation.
The Bible indeed insists on one law for citizen and sojourner. The town where little cable cars climb gives preferential treatment to aliens and cares little to nothing for the rights of American citizens. The golden Scriptural standard requires careful examination of each case. The city of the Golden Gate bridge wants to make sure that the outcome of litigation accords with identity politics. Mercy pervades God’s Law; the incisive distinction between manslaughter and murder itself originates there. But unlike the laxity which characterizes the sanctuary city mentality, God’s law also demands swift and rigorous punishment of the guilty.
So a BIG question remains for those who want to reject the world view, ethics, and jurisprudence of the Bible. Since the laws of our unique, exceptional nation find their origin and wisdom there, BY WHAT ALTERNATE STANDARD shall the nation legislate, judge, live and endure for the next twelve score years or more?