Editor’s Comments – You Can Handle the Truth

[1] Colonel Nathan Jessup’s thunderous line, “You can’t handle the truth!” reverberated through the nineties.1 Provoked on the stand by Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee’s (Tom Cruise) questioning in the movie A Few Good Men, Jessep (Jack Nicholson) proceeds to lay out some of the harsh realities connected to the American way of life. “Son, we live in world with walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.” The rhetorical force of the ensuing soliloquy is tsunamic. At one point, the sense of disgust expressed by the colonel is particularly satisfying: “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it.” Finally, exasperated, Jessup gives up, concluding that there are things in this world that people like Kaffee just can’t understand and would prefer to not know about.

[2] Social and political truths can be hard to handle, especially those involving difficult policy choices, corruption, and oppression. Jessup is right. They can be disturbing, complicated, and overwhelming. One such truth is the roughly 10 million unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States, “living in the shadows, vulnerable to injustice and mistreatment, and representing a mass violation of the rule of law.”2 What’s going on here? Why is this the case? What should be done? Enlivened and led by God’s Spirit, the community of Jesus addresses such complex truths involving social well-being, national interests, and the global common good. It handles these truths in prayer, study, service, advocacy, and resistance.

Social and political truths can be hard to handle, especially those involving difficult policy choices, corruption, and oppression…
[3] Being a community of Jesus, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted the social policy resolution “Toward Compassionate, Just, and Wise Immigration Reform” to address the urgent immigration issues facing the United States today.3 This month’s edition of Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE) presents responses to the resolution by Christians with expertise in ethics, political science, Scripture, and theology. Miguel De La Torre (article) is Associate Professor of Social Ethics at Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado, and author of Trails of Hope and Terror: Testimonies on Immigration (Orbis, 2009). Peter C. Meilaender (article) is Associate Professor of Political Science at Houghton College, Houghton, New York, and author of Toward a Theory of Immigration (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001). M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas) (article) is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible (Baker Academic, 2008). I’d like to thank Miguel, Peter and Danny for their criticism, at once gracious and trenchant.

[4] In March 2010, the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) issued a progress report on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an analysis of immigration policy during the first year of the Obama Administration. Having just read it, I would say that the DHS got a D+. The report compares the administration’s record with the recommendations made by policy experts, advocates, academics, and community members to the Obama Transition Team’s immigration policy group. The so-called “Transition Blueprint,” as summarized by the IPC, “focused on administrative improvements that would instill fairness, create efficiencies, and build support for comprehensive immigration reform in several key areas: due process, enforcement, detention, family integration, naturalization, immigrant integration, and asylum.”4

[5] We’ve got a long road ahead. To get informed and involved, download the ELCA’s social policy resolution “Toward Compassionate, Just, and Wise Immigration Reform,”5 read this edition of JLE, and contact Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).6 Even though the road is long, contrary to what Colonel Jessup thinks, you can handle the truth.

Victor Thasiah is the associate editor of Journal of Lutheran Ethics.


1. A Few Good Men (1992), directed by Rob Reiner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hGvQtumNAY.

2. Toward Compassionate, Just, and Wise Immigration Reform (Chicago: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2010) 1.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., 4.

5. http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Policy-Resolutions.aspx.

6. http://www.lirs.org.

Victor Thasiah

Vic Thasiah

Vic Thasiah is a California Naturalist and trail runner.  He is the founder and executive director of Runners for Public Lands, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization, and an associate professor and the chair of the religion department at California Lutheran University.