Christians and the Refugee Crisis

I’m always a bit slow to respond publicly to crisis’ such as the ISIS terror attacks in France and other events of a serious nature.  Instant reactions tend to be clouded by emotion, rushing to judgement, or poor logic in crafting that response.

Mine, as well as others first thoughts move far too quickly from grief to judgement.  Not of the guilty parties, of course instant judgement is called for on those responsible for this disgusting act.  We try to place blame closer to home.  Blame on our political and/or religious opponents.  The left automatically tries to place blame on the right, while the right tries to frame the events as a result of misguided or ignorant left-wing policies.

Its a natural reaction.  Its an unfortunate side of human nature when faced with circumstances we can’t control, wee lash out towards something we can.  A man frustrated at work will be harsh toward his family, someone at the losing end of an argument will strike an inanimate object to release some of that impotent, unspent anger.  (Nothing I would know from personal experience of course!)

While for the most part all agree on the pure evil of these attacks, our solidarity has disappeared when it comes to the situation of Syrian refugees and the Obama administrations plans to fast-track 10,000 into cities across America.

So now the debate seems to have been split largely in two parties.  One side which has taken the label of “Love, kindness, acceptance and charity”, the other of “common sense, safety and protection of country and family”.  (Note the quotation marks are merely to highlight a general mindset of either side, note to quote a specific party).

The problem with this is that both sides having claimed their own label, automatically deems the other side as the opposite.  Those who claim “Love” and “Acceptance” label the others as “Hate” and “Bigotry”.  Those who claim “Common sense” and “Safety” label their own opponents as “Ignorant” and “Self-destructive”.

A sharp contrast has emerged in my own circles as a conservative Christian.  We all claim to follow Jesus example of love without precondition and an acceptance of our duty to care for the orphan and the widow.  At the same time however some (including myself) also realize an inherent risk in the possibility of importing a group who have the potential to pose great risk to our family and our nation.

The Widow and Orphan

I, like the vast majority of Christians, and a majority of Americans, believe firmly in not just our call to care for the widow and orphan, but also in the principle of the writing engraved beneath the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  America with all her blessings has long been a beacon of hope for those yearning for a better life and should continue to do so.  There are a couple main questions that frame the debate though.  The question of our Christian duty, and the question of whether there is a risk at all from the incoming refugees.

In regards to our “Christian duty” we are called to care for the widow and orphan. (James 1:27).  This is not necessarily saying we should only care for those if they fit Websters definition of “widow” or “orphan”.  The 1st century widow and the orphan would have been the most destitute and marginalized of the poor.  Without a husband/father to lead the household they were guaranteed a life of poverty, servitude, hunger and worse.  The patriarchal society deemed them little more than unclaimed baggage.  We are not called to care for widows and orphans, but anyone who would or does have that low status in our society.  This in my opinion would include most of these incoming refugees.

Not Called to be Pacifists

This is not, however, an explicit license to blindly accept any and all regardless of the risk.  Jesus was not a pacifist, just ask the money-changers at the temple.  Moreover there is no specific call in the Bible calling believers to be pacifists.  I like how CS Lewis put it… (honestly pretty much everything he says is awesome)…

Christians… cannot retaliate against a neighbor who does them harm, but the homicidal manic, “attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, [so] I must stand aside and let him get his victim?”…“No.”

One is not a “bad” Christian (or non) by refusing to sit back and allow possible harm to come to others.  It is not wrong for a Christian or anyone else to have concerns about bringing people into our country who have the possibility of posing great risk to the same.

What we should not do however, is have our first reaction based on fear.  Christians should be the last people to have our decision-making process hijacked by fear and populist rage.

So, is there a risk?

We can all agree that the risk is quite small in the widows and orphaned refugees arriving in our country.  Even they should be vetted, but with the tens of thousands of refugees admitted into our country each year, none have ever attacked us.

The risk, and where my concerns lie, is in two parts.  One is the largest single demographic of refugees is military-aged men.  According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) 62% of the refugees are male.  One can assume some are elderly but the vast majority of this group would fall into the 16-40 range.

The other is due to the fact that at least one of the Paris terrorists had arrived as a refugee through Greece, possibly two.  A controlled flow of just 10,000 refugees is most likely easier to vet then the hundreds of thousands swarming Europe’s borders, but even our own FBI director says that a thorough vetting process is impossible.

I’m not getting into the minutia, but there are of course many other areas of contention and rightfully so.  There are issues with the tendency of Muslim immigrants to be less likely to assimilate into American culture, creating a higher likely hood of radicalization.  There is the sadly high number of immigrants from Muslim nations who believe in Sharia law.  There is the fact that Muslims are fleeing a war-ravaged country, yet Christian refugees are not being given priority when in most cases they face certain death if they were to stay.

I don’t have the time to do all the homework I’d feel necessary to do justice to each and every question but that’s what we need more of.  More people willing to say “This is what we agree on” and then have an open and congenial debate about what to do in the other areas.  Personally, I’m leaning towards agreeing with Canada, who are not allowing unaccompanied military-aged males, but admitting women, children, and families.

A tidbit of the reading I’ve done on this…

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2015/11/17/freeing-christians-from-americhristianity

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/did-jesus-teach-pacifism

http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/regional.php

http://heritageaction.com/press-releases/heritage-action-on-the-syrian-refugee-program/

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/building-his-church-in-a-refugee-crisis

http://subversivekingdom.com/jesus-the-refugee-and-christian-fear-complex/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-refugee-plan-women-children-families-1.3330185

 

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