The Limits of Christian Charity

J. S. Scifo Undesignated Leave a Comment


“If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.”

Or so said Josef Stalin.  The same can be said of the undocumented and the homeless.

As the federal government dumps thousands of people who have crossed the border illegally in San Diego County, I find myself contemplating that sentiment.

It’s easy to feel pangs of empathy for the sole alien or the lost homeless soul, but not so easy to do the same for hordes of them.

As a (not very good) Christian I know that we are to treat those in need as we would Jesus himself and the foreigner as a neighbor.

And I’d like to do that, really I would, if I didn’t think it would only lead to more misery for all parties.

And official Christian, or at least Catholic (but then I repeat myself), teaching on the treatment of foreigners is a bit more nuanced than the average moralism you may hear from the pulpit:

“Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws, and to assist in carrying its civic burdens.” (emphasis added) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1995.

As for all of that “citizen of the world” baloney, again the Catechism:

“This state of division in many nations is at once cosmic, social, and religious.  It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity….”

Furthermore, the United States has nothing to apologize for when it comes to immigration.

There are, we were once told, 11 million illegal immigrants in America.

Problem is, that statistic is now more than a decade old.  And it was total BS.

As Harvard professor George Borjas, who has made a study of the economics of immigration, noted in his 2016 book “We Wanted Workers,” the 11 million figure (which had, supposedly, held steady since at least 2006) was based on the Department of Homeland Security’s 2012 estimate of the difference between the number of foreign-born residents reporting to the Census Bureau and the number of foreign-born residents who should be reporting. As those in the country illegally are less likely to report, DHS inflated the difference by 10 percent to account for underreporting, getting to 11 million.

That percentage, buried in the footnotes of a DHS report, was based on “an unpublished study that looks at the undercount rate of Mexicans in Los Angeles County in 2000.”  Hardly the foundation on which to build such a consequential statistic.

So, how many people are in the country illegally, especially after nearly three years of open borders?  Who knows?  The most recent estimates I could find on the DHS website date to January 2021, and the data are for 2017.  As you might expect, the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States is…11 million.

What we do know is that, as of 2022, there were 46 million foreign-born residents and citizens in the United States, or 14 percent of the total population.  That’s up by nearly one million over the previous year.

Writing in 2015, the Pew Research Center found that—at 46.6 million foreign born—about one-in-five international migrants lived in the U.S., making our immigrant population nearly four times that of the world’s next largest immigrant destination, Germany.

In reality, from the Brits, the Scots, the Irish, the Swedes, the Germans, the Italians, the Poles and other Slavs, the Russian Jews, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Filipinos, and the Vietnamese (to mention a few) the United States has been more welcoming to immigrants than any other nation in modern history. And that was before hundreds of thousands of Central Americans (and others) began streaming over the border.

Furthermore, unlike the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders, we take everyone, not just the westernized, urban professionals.

And what the immigration advocates will never understand—refuse to understand—is that in order to have a country that welcomes immigrants we must have a country that limits immigration.

As for the homeless, even the bleeding-heart liberals, who fancy themselves more Christian than Christ, have reached their limits, as evidenced by Gavin Newsom’s plea to the 9th Circuit to end the asinine ruling that the homeless have a right to camp in public spaces, proving once again that—on most issues—the Democrats will eventually come around to reality, but only after the problem has become insoluble and billions of dollars have been spent trying (and failing) to fix it.

Which gets to one of the great ironies of charity (and tolerance, compassion, kindness, consideration and all of those other worthy values):  once the demand for them overwhelms, the willingness to extend them disappears.

Sure, there are those who have an endless capacity to provide relief to the needy.  One thinks of Mother Teresa or Dorothy Day.  And that is an admirable attribute.  But there are limits to everything.

If there is one thing that most causes me to despair for the future of the country, it is our complete inability to face our very real problems—from immigration and homelessness to the national debt to crime—with anything like the sensibility so often expressed by Christ in the Gospels (“Render unto Caesar…) and the traditional moral teachings of the Church, which almost always take the proclivities–and practical needs–of human nature and societies into account.

As we are daily faced with the onslaught of people leaving their homes for America—as well as those Americans without a home—I find myself numbed to the overwhelming numbers.  The throngs of desperate humanity have become only statistics.

J.S. Scifo is a North County resident who has worked in national and state politics. Follow his substack at J.S. Scifo on Substack | Substack




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