On Emigration

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United States (World Map)

Recently there has been a record number of people emigrating–that is, leaving the United States permanently for another country. Some of these individuals have sought dual citizenship; others have renounced their United States citizenship and have become citizens of their adopted country. People leave for various reasons. Many years ago, some American Communists left the country for the Soviet Union or other communist countries. Some jazz musicians, tired of the racial prejudice they faced in the United States, went to Europe, where they received a warm welcome. In the Vietnam War, young people desiring to avoid the draft went to Canada or other countries, and not all of them returned to the United States.

Today the motives for leaving the U.S. are different. The United States currently has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, as well as high income and social security personal taxes. Some parts of the country have property taxes so steep that paying them would be like making a normal house payment in the South. Since the U.S. continues to collect income tax from dual citizens overseas, some Americans have renounced their United States citizenship when they left the country–a record number last year.

Another reason people leave is fear of tyranny. The Bush Administration began a new trend toward expansion of executive power which had been limited since the abuses of the Nixon and earlier administrations. Mr. Obama has continued that trend with a vengeance. The use of “czars” over various aspects of the economy and government, the government seizure of General Motors along with the refusal to pay promised dividends to people who paid higher prices for stocks that guaranteed dividends, and attempts by the administration to circumvent religious freedom have led some of the American people to fear a future dictatorship. With Congress passing a law giving the president the right to authorize the assassination of American citizens suspected of terrorism, there is no protection for people from the use of deadly force by the government. All the government would have to claim is that someone is suspected of terrorism. Fears of even greater expansion of federal authority if Mr. Obama were reelected have led some people to consider leaving the country.

Concern about the moral and religious direction of the country is another motivation for emigration. The American people are going down the European path of secularization, with weekly church attendance down almost ten percent in ten years. A record number of Americans classify themselves as “atheist” or “agnostic,” and the percentage of elite opinion leaders who are irreligious is significantly higher than the average for Americans as a whole. One look at a link of professed atheists and agnostics among Hollywood actors reveals that many of the celebrities people worship are utterly secular in their world views. In addition, ramped promiscuity have led to record illegitimacy rates, and a high divorce rate has helped weaken the traditional family. The abortion rate has gone down from 1.5 million to 1.3 million a year, but the number of abortions remains the highest in the industrialized world. I know of at least one traditional Christian who has emigrated to Roman Catholic Poland, and I doubt he is the only one. I hear increasing talk among the traditionalists I know of the possibility of leaving the country–and this is not mere talk–some are seriously considering leaving.

Now there is no paradise anywhere on earth, no place to avoid the effects of the Fall. But when a nation has become so decadent that many people are leaving and more are considering it, it is a sad day for that nation. This is especially true of the United States, a country to which so many people still desire to come. Moral and cultural decline, as well as a frankly disgraceful administration, have finally pushed loyal Americans away–the America they see now is not the America with which they grew up. Like me, they see a nation turned upside down, in which wrong is considered right, and right is considered hate.

Personally I do not want to leave–I am a Southerner, currently living in my adoptive home of North Carolina, but born and reared in Tennessee and still a Tennessean by heart. There remain millions of decent people in the United States who “have not bowed down their knees to Ba’al.” The country is beautiful, with mountains and hills still untouched by development, farmers enjoying the fresh scent of tilled earth, families in which spouses and children love one another, churches in which people worship. There is still much for which to fight. I understand those who emigrate and do not condemn them–thoughts of emigration have crossed the back of my mind, too. But I also understand those who wish to keep fighting against the decline of traditional culture and against rapidly increasing federal power. Godspeed to both groups.

Charles “Chuck” Colson, 1931-2012

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Krista Tippett and Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson died this afternoon at the age of eighty, and for traditional Christians of all stripes–Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant–this is a great loss. His conversion to Christianity occurred in prison, and he changed from one of President Nixon’s hatchet men to the founder of Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry that has helped thousands of prisoners find their way out of crime. I always referred to Mr. Colson as a “Catholic Baptist,” for he had a remarkably high view of the church and of church tradition for a Protestant. He was one of the forces behind the document, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” which focused on the common ground, the “Mere Christianity,” to use C. S. Lewis‘s term, shared by all traditional Christians. A staunch defender of the unborn and of traditional moral teachings of the Church, Mr. Colson was the chief driving force behind “The Manhattan Declaration,” a strong affirmation of traditional marriage in the face of continued attacks from both secular and from liberal Christian critics. I have signed the Manhattan Declaration myself, and encourage others to do so.

When I read some of the public comments on the news of Mr. Colson’s death, many were positive, but others questioned the sincerity of his conversion. Given the amount of work Mr. Colson did to improve conditions in prison and to defend traditional Christian teachings, there is no legitimate reason to doubt his conversion. Such attacks are more likely due to hatred of traditional Christian morality and of Mr. Colson’s defense of such rather than a sincere attempt to argue that he was not a true convert.

I have long enjoyed reading Mr. Colson’s books and essays, and I will miss reading new ones. May God be with his family and many friends in this time of loss, and I ask my fellow Christians of their charity to pray for the soul of Charles Colson: Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithfully departed in Christ, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.