Immigration Expresses Christ’s Love?
In the wake of the recent terrorist attack in Tennessee (yes, I intentionally called it a terrorist attack) allegedly committed by Kuwaiti-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez that killed five members of our Armed Forces, Franklin Graham fell into disfavor with some Christian leaders when he called for an end to Muslim immigration to the U.S. Graham’s critics believe that closing immigration to the Muslim world due to the actions of a small number of radicals does not express Christian love. Graham’s critics have a distorted understanding of our obligations as Christians as well as our effectiveness. Allow me to elaborate.
On one hand, God instructs us in the Bible to welcome the foreigner in our land. But on the other hand, God warned the nation of Israel against intermixing with the nations and people groups they were at war with. (In other words, God was concerned for the safety and spiritual wellbeing of his people because he knew that too much intermixing with the people from enemy nations would lead many of his people to change allegiance to other gods.) Granted, the context is different in each of these two instructions found in the Bible, but some American Christians have embraced the former Biblical imperative to welcome the foreigner while ignoring the latter imperative that warns God’s people of the danger of too much intermixing that can result in a nation losing their identity to the customs and religions of hostile nations. This one-sided approach to Biblical instruction leads some Christians to the misdirected, albeit compassionate, belief that America should always permit copious immigration because it presents an opportunity to express Christ’s love to unbelievers. Such thinking, given the current reality that the U.S. is at war with radical Islamists, means that some of our fellow citizens will inevitably die at the hands of radical Islamists who immigrate to the U.S. We know that some Muslims are radicalized via the internet after they get here, though we don’t know how many.
Some American Christians, attempting to demonstrate Christ’s love to the world, feel duty-bound to accept the low risk (for now) associated with Muslim immigration. Apparently those same American Christians are prepared to become martyrs if necessary. Such an attitude sounds spiritually enlightened and hip in a new age-pacifist sort of way. But is it Biblical when we live in a nation at war, indeed when our very soil has become a battleground? Do we have a right to expect even a small number of fellow citizens, who might not know the Lord, to be willing to die at the hands of radical Islamist immigrants so that we can express the love of Christ via a generous immigration policy? There’s another question we need to ask as Christians and good citizens: Are Muslim immigrants assimilating into American culture? Anecdotally I see more and more immigrants who show no apparent desire to assimilate into American culture. I also wonder how many immigrants are converting to Christianity. Over the past few years I’ve noticed quite a few Caucasian American women wearing the hijab. We, the church, need to ask who is converting who?
As for the argument that we need high immigration numbers as a mechanism for Christians to express the love of Christ, I refer you to John 13:34-35 where we receive a new command from God: “. . . By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This Scripture is directed at Christians. If we are honest with ourselves, we do a lackluster job of loving each other in the church. Jesus didn’t say the world would come to him because of good preaching, or excellent missionary programs, or faith-based social services, or creative outreach events; although all these things help bring people to faith in Christ. Jesus was pointing out the powerful witness to unbelievers that occurs when Christians love each other with the miraculous love of Christ. When done right, it’s something unbelievers would want for themselves. Since we have not done so well at loving each other in the church the way Christ loved his disciples, perhaps we should not delude ourselves that we can reach significant numbers of Muslim immigrants right now. It seems like we are just hoping that we can entice immigrants into the kingdom of God by first enticing them with our western freedom, democracy, economic opportunities and materialism. Again, I’m not sure how we can demonstrate the love of Christ through immigration policy when we do a lackluster job of loving each other in the American church.
Maybe the better approach is to re-focus on sending missionaries overseas. I’ve said it before, but the time has likely come in America when we need to slow immigration to a trickle for a while in order to give our current immigrants time and incentive to assimilate, and to allow law enforcement to cull the bad apples that present a danger to our fellow citizens. But such a policy has a fatal flaw in our current political milieu: It’s called common sense and it doesn’t help anybody make money or secure power. Fortunately God doesn’t need money or power. I pray that God’s will for our nation prevails.