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Earlier: America's National Question Problem: Decaying Protestantism… by Paul Gottfried

In a story datelined Mojave Desert, Calif., H.D.S. Greenway of the Boston Globe reports the formation in Arizona of a "churchbased" group called "Humane Borders." Inspired by the efforts of San Diego designer John Hunter, who had started setting out water containers in the Mojave Desert to serve as portable drinking fountains for parched invaders coming across the border from Mexico, Humane Borders has gone him one better. It erects shelters for the invading Mexicans, as well as leaving food and water for them.

They're "just a group of religious folks working toward saving lives and getting the INS to change its policies," HB's president, the Rev. Robin Hoover of Tucson, states offhandedly.

Ah, sí?  Turns out another member of Humane Borders is the Rev. John Fife, infamous for his work with the "humane" anti-American organization Sanctuary, which for a couple of decades now has been harboring illegal leftwing aliens at its Tucson center and elsewhere throughout the United States. (Click here for a story about Fife, complete with photograph—he looks about like you'd expect.)

The Rev. Fife, convicted in Federal Court in 1986 for these illegal activities, is—shall we say—sensitive to the fact that aiding illegal entry to the U.S. is a criminal offense. "We are well aware of that," Fife says coolly, perhaps holding a lump of butter under his tongue.  "We are not trying to stop apprehension and detention. We try to make sure that all the information going to Mexico about our work says, 'Don't be misled. The desert is still too dangerous.'"

The Rev. Fife speaks, as usual, with a forked tongue. About a decade ago, on a visit to Tucson, I decided to drop into his Southside Presbyterian Church to witness his performance at first hand. Here's the scene at Southside as I observed it.

Against a rugged unpainted cross, with a group of Central Americans sitting crosslegged behind him, Fife began his "sermon" in which he made perfectly clear what his religion means to him, and how religious values can be used to undermine and destroy society.

"What is it about those words 'born again,'" he demanded, "that makes so many of us—Presbyterians, Catholics, and others—uncomfortable? It's that they have been appropriated by a very narrow segment of Christianity to mean people who are against Communism, against abortion, against change. But that isn't what being born again means to us, is it? It better not be! What do people mean when they speak of the 'old-time religion'? They mean the religion of a day that is gone, when religion was the support of an unjust system, and the privileged class that owned the system was religious! While what we mean by being born again is to realize how the culture and the society corrupt our values and corrupt us, and to turn away from those values and from that society."

(The good Reverend attempted a smile at this point, and succeeded only in showing the points of his teeth.  Afterward, we all sang "Amazing Grace".)

Humane Borders is not leaving manna in the desert for victims, but (it hopes) for revolutionaries and other enemies of America. The "message" it wants to send to Mexico is not just for peons alone but for President Vicente Fox who doesn't care who or what these people are, so long as they leave his country and come to ours.

Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience and an editor and columnist for Chronicles Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.

February 26, 2001

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