Does Scripture teach faithful Christians to support amnesty for illegal immigrants as part of “comprehensive” immigration reform?  Clearly not, concluded a panel of evangelical thinkers and activists assembled at The Heritage Foundation, while noting that non-Christian groups bankrolled a campaign to pressure believers — members of Congress among them — to endorse amnesty.

“We’re not against immigration; we’re for wise immigration. Immigration is a beautiful idea,” said Kelly Monroe Kullberg, an Ohio writer who founded the Veritas Forum college ministry and, recently, Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see blanket amnesty or asylum. We see wise welcome to a well-meaning Ruth or a Rahab … [and] the building of walls to cultivate the good.

The other panelists for the Nov. 15 event,  “Doing Good to the Stranger and the Citizen: Evangelicals Discuss Immigration Reform,” were James K. Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern history and archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Carol M. Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt Law School; and Mark D. Tooley, a Washington writer and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Some evangelical leaders argue for amnesty by quoting the Bible in a way rarely seen with other issues, said moderator Derrick Morgan, Heritage’s vice president for domestic and economic policy, whose own writing on immigration reform has touched on Scripture’s relevant teaching. But those leaders might better serve their flocks with more humility and discernment on the subject, he and others suggested.

Hoffmeier outlined how today’s debate among evangelicals blurs distinctions among three different Old Testament terms often translated as “foreigner” – only one of which, applied to the Israelites, conveys the meaning of someone who should be treated as part of the community.

“You cannot make law and policy based on emotions … [but] on what is good for the country as a whole,” said Hoffmeier, who has lived in Egypt and Canada and currently assists an African family with legal immigration difficulties.  “The influx that is going to follow any ‘comprehensive’ move is going to just overwhelm the country.”

Neither the Bible nor Christian tradition offer definitive guidance on what politicians and activists call immigration reform in 2013, Tooley said.

Tooley, whose work documents the political history of the Methodists and mainline churches, questioned whether most evangelicals agree with outspoken leaders who say they’re for border security but desire mass legalization first – without addressing fiscal consequences.

Tooley said:

Christians and other people of faith who…organize for a political cause must also constantly remember that in our fallen world, good intentions and lofty principles are not sufficient. … Christians should be cautioned against sweeping, comprehensive legislative solutions to deep, pervasive political problems.  …In this particular debate, we should avoid rhetoric that romanticizes immigrants no less than avoiding demonization of them.

Swain, who happens to be black, said that after fellow Christians attacked her in 2000 for having “a restrictionist immigration position,” she went silent on the subject until she could study up. Today, Swain says ordinary Christians are being “manipulated” by amnesty proponents with their own motives to put aside the rule of law — whether to fill pews, low-paying jobs or voter rolls.

“The losers tend to be low-skill, low-wage Americans,” Swain said of the economic effects, including blacks, whites and Hispanics. “Our greatest obligation is to the people already here [legally].”

She added that “it’s very foolish of us” to look to a big piece of legislation — especially the Senate-passed bill, which the Congressional Budget Office found doesn’t “stop the flow” of illegal immigrants.

Kullberg’s persistent digging turned up data on how non-Christian progressives and “globalists” such as George Soros lavishly underwrite Christian groups and leaders such as the Evangelical Immigration Table and author-commentator Jim Wallis. They in turn cited the Bible to push the Senate-passed amnesty bill and back similar action in the House.

Kullberg said:

By implication, those Americans who did not agree with comprehensive immigration reform, defined by that Senate bill, were equated with those who were ‘cast into the lake of fire,’ – a line [from Revelation 20] read by Jim Wallis of Sojourners himself, who has long worked on grants from Soros’s Open Society Institute.  … I came to believe that the bill did not reflect the whole counsel of Scripture, nor America’s past policies of wise immigration … Kindness to foreigners should not also be theft, or injustice to citizens. This is not wisdom.

Heritage continues to make the case for a positive path to immigration and border security reform.

Check out the entire event, including a Q & A session.