1850 Know-Nothings Rise Again

©Library of Congress
©Library of Congress

Before the founding of the Republican Party in 1854, the two political parties were the Democrats and the Whigs. Anti-slavery Whigs met in February of 1854 – an election year – to establish a new party and oppose the spread of slavery into new, western territories. This caused an irreparable split in the party, causing the Whigs imploded previous to the election. The two-party system collapsed and secret societies abounded.

Where did the former Whigs who favored slavery go? Into these secret societies. Two such societies were The Order of United Americans and The Order of the Star Spangled Banner. Roaring out of these secret societies came nativism, xenophobia and the American Party.

When politicians from the American Party were asked about their membership in the secret societies, they would respond, “I know nothing.” They responded so frequently with this refrain, newspapers across the country coined the American Party the Know Nothing Party, and it stuck.

What did the platform of the American Party look like?

In the East it looked like finding and calling for the deportation of all Irish and Italian Roman Catholics, Jewish, and free Black immigrants who were blamed for all the problems of the country.

In the Midwest it looked like finding and calling for the deportation of all German immigrants who were blamed for all the problems of the country.

In the West it looked like finding and calling for the deportation of all Asian immigrants who were blamed for all the problems of the country.

In Donald Trump’s long-awaited immigration speech Wednesday night, these were some of the phrases he used about this country’s immigrants: “Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous criminals allowed to freely roam our streets…violent offenders…we have to release them into your communities…the results will be horrific…some of the most heinous crimes imaginable…accused of murder, rape and child molestation…local police know each and every one of them – they know where they live, they know them by name, when I am in office, the first hour, those people will be gone.”

Excellent speech by Donald Trump tonight. Deport criminal aliens, end catch and release, enforce immigration laws & American First. Tweeted by David Duke, longtime Ku Klux Klan member

So here we are with history repeating itself. It’s not as if we don’t know better. Yet we continue to turn our backs on lessons learned, ignoring the obvious, letting fear once again weaken our resolve to live our lives from integrity. And those of us who contend we follow a greater God have either remained silent and stepped away from the process entirely, or have instead mistakenly been worshiping an emperor who has no clothes.

I have been one of the silent ones for far too long. I can no longer remain on the sidelines and listen to racist rhetoric without calling it out for what it is. I must reiterate this is a country founded on religious freedom, whose foundation is build upon the sweat and backs of immigrants, country whose invitation to immigrants and their families (“Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free) has been calling out from New York’s Liberty Island since 1886.

I have been one of the silent ones for far too long. I can no longer remain on the sidelines and listen to racist rhetoric without calling it out for what it is.

We must hunker down and pray: for our country, for each other and for our souls. Let us pray and repent of our hate and our fear; let us once again revere Your name and exhibit compassion for each other. Let us embrace Your love – the kind of love that casts out fear. Let us embrace not our own agendas, but Your Agenda, Your Good News. Let us once again cherish what this country was meant to be.

I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” (sic) Abraham Lincoln, Letter to JF. Speed, August 24, 1855

Rethinking Conspiracy Theories

RejectStamp

Have we become a society of judgment and rejection? Do we enjoy seeing others on the chopping block of elimination or exclusion? Do we thrill at the prospect of someone being delivered the harsh reality of an extinguished torch?

Are we now translating that recreational tour de force into real world execution through wholesale rejection of anyone who wants to cross our borders because “they” might be terrorists?

“Do not say, ‘Conspiracy,’ every time these people say the word. Don’t be afraid of what scares them; don’t be terrified. You must recognize the authority of the Lord who commands armies. He is the one you must respect; He is the one you must fear.” Isaiah 8:12-13

When will we learn from our own history?

During WWII, we rejected Jewish emigrants escaping the Nazi holocaust while placing our own citizens of Japanese descent in “internment” camps, incarcerating them for up to four years and destroying their lives in the process.

World War II prompted the largest displacement of human beings the world has ever seen—although today’s refugee crisis is starting to approach its unprecedented scale. But even with millions of European Jews displaced from their homes, the United States had a poor track record offering asylum. Most notoriously, in June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust…Government officials argued that refugees posed a serious threat to national security. Yet today, historians believe the concern about refugee spies was blown far out of proportion. Daniel A. Gross, Smithsonian.com, November 18, 2015 (emphasis mine).

As Christians, we can use all the excuses and rationalizations we want: There simply is no justification for refusing emigrants fleeing for their lives. None. Yet we continue to repeat our mistakes and shake our fist at God, insisting we know better.

Leviticus 19:33-34 “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land.  Treat them like native-born, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 24:22 “The same rule applies to every one of you. It makes no difference whether you are a foreigner or a native. I am the Lord your God.”

Malachi 3:5 “I will come to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who … exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who refuse to help the immigrant and in this way show they do not respect me,” says the Lord who rules over all.”

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

John 3:16-17  For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.

If Jesus did not come to condemn us, why is it we take liberties to condemn one another? Why do we suppose we are greater than Him, and usurp God’s power and authority to judge, exclude and condemn?

©oneindia.com
©oneindia.com

When we automatically label an entire group of people potential terrorists, we place a wall in front of them. Just as females are not given an opportunity for an education in a country run by a Taliban regime, immigrants who Westerners reject out of hand as “possible terrorists” are not given an opportunity for survival, education or an inroad to the heart of our God.

 

We must rethink our approach to this before our own history repeats itself. We must take a stand. We must either follow Caesar, follow the Pharisees, or follow Jesus.

Who will you follow?