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The Underlying Question Being Missed In the “Beck Debate”

I have watched conservatives carry out a vicious circular firing squad on this issue from day one. I have yet to read a piece in which one side or the other is not calling the other “racist” or accusing the other of being “soft” on illegal immigration. This kind of behavior does not promote intelligent or reasonable discussion and often leads to people falsely being lumped into one category or the other. Thus people continue to talk past one another and the critical questions are never asked or answered.

When all of the elevated language is stripped away, the underlying question  is really whether there is a point or circumstance in which charity (despite all good intentions) is unhelpful. This is a legitimate question and one that is faced by those who both give to non-profits and those who run them. Indeed, an entire book has been devoted to the subject entitled “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (2009). The authors believe the Church is called to help the poor and the desolate, but point out that we need to ensure our charitable actions are truly helpful and not the reverse.

For a real-world example, I look no farther than my own backyard. I live in a state prone to natural disasters and full of some of the most compassionate and giving people. After these tragedies, the desire to come in to the area and help is so strong that it overwhelms the local authorities. Thus they have to turn people away. They also have to request that people stop giving items after a time and give monetary donations. Why? Because in people’s desire to help they donate so much it becomes a burden and not helpful. All of this is to illustrate that the question of whether or not our charitable actions are helpful or unhelpful is both a legitimate one and a common one.

This brings us around to the situation at the border. Some have felt that the public manner in which Beck went about giving was inappropriate. Others have concerns about the flood of MS-13 members coming across the borders, the influx of disease, and the treacherous trip these children and teenagers are being exposed to to cross the border illegally. All of which are legitimate concerns, but when discussed tend to ignore the underlying  critical question that needs to be discussed. Are we truly helping these individuals by providing meals, housing, and medical care or not?

Philosophically, I would argue that we are not if we are not actively trying to repatriate them back to their countries of origin and reunite them with their families in their home country. Placing them with total strangers or “sponsors” may open them up to further abuse and exploitation. Does this mean Beck, Loesch, and others should stop serving meals, donating money for medical care, etc? Of course not. Nor should they be criticized for doing so if their charitable deeds extend beyond just providing a hot meal. If they are actively trying to come up with solutions to safely and humanely repatriate these individuals back to their country of origin, then I am grateful they are on the ground. They will undoubtedly be more likely to have these individuals best interests in mind more than the federal government will. Sadly, it seems that the SBC is being kicked out of aiding these individuals and the federal government will be taking over. This is not a good thing as government “charity” is seldom helpful in the long run.

I think it is important that we hold private charities and individuals who are giving accountable, as well as the federal government. Desiring their aid to extend beyond simply a hot meal is not racist or unfeeling. It is a responsible attitude based on the desire that the charity being provided is actually helpful and not enabling. However, criticizing these individuals for their desire to help or because they are providing basic necessities is misguided ( though I personally find Beck’s public notice of his good deeds a little off-putting given that a very prominent NBA player quietly gave 1 million dollars to the Moore Tornado Relief with very little fanfare ). As conservatives, we should want and desire private charities to be involved and as Christians should applaud such efforts even if we may quibble about the way it is carried out.

The bottom line is that we should applaud all efforts by private charities and individuals to provide humanitarian aid to the illegal immigrants at the border while we simultaneously hold them accountable to contribute to a more long-term solution that respects the rule of law.

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