Vive la France: How should Christians react to refugees?
Unless you live under a rock (an increasingly attractive lifestyle option), you have by now seen the horrible news about the terrorists attack in Paris that came on the heels of the mass migration of millions of refugees entering Europe from war-torn regions in the Middle East, such as Syria. We now know at least one of the terrorists had blended into the population of refugees before the attack and that ISIS has said they have many more Jihadi terrorists among the refugees. The attack has caused many Americans to re-examine our immigration and refugee policies.
I have some nagging questions that begin with the premise that the Bible’s instruction that we are not to mistreat the “foreigner/alien/stranger” in our land still holds true today. (See Exodus 22:21, Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, and Deuteronomy 10:18-19.) How can we live this out when terrorists have infiltrated the ranks of foreign refugees in Europe, and may soon do so in America (if they haven’t already)? America has already received Syrian refugees. Should we deport them and/or refuse to accept any more given the violence we saw in Paris last week? Does the Bible imperative to welcome the “foreigner” assume that foreigners mean us no harm? Are we under the same Biblical obligation to Middle East refugees during a time of war, or is the Biblical imperative regarding aliens in our land even more crucial DURING a time of war when emotions are raw and some people might feel tempted to lash out against all Muslims? Does the Biblical imperative only apply to aliens who are in our country, thus releasing us from any obligation to accept more refugees? Do Scriptures about the treatment of aliens in the land only apply to ancient Israel? Is it the Christian thing to accept more refugees from the Middle East even if it puts an unknown number of American lives at risk? Is ISIS a real threat to our nation’s survival if they go unchecked? Should we receive women, children, and elderly refugees and turn away young men of military age if they come from Syria? Could we create safe zones in Syria, run by the United Nations or NATO, to house refugees until the conflict is over? Is our first consideration the safety of our fellow citizens? Or as someone in the Bible once asked: Who is my neighbor in the midst of this mess?
President Obama attempted to take the high road recently by saying that American values do not permit us to refuse refugees based on a religious test. He vows to continue receiving Syrian refugees with the promise that they will be thoroughly investigated before they are allowed entry, though he did not elaborate how the background investigation is to be accomplished on refugees who come from a country on the other side of the planet. He’s asking us to trust him and the federal government. I can’t peer into President Obama’s heart, but his credibility is suspect given that 85 percent of American Muslim voters picked President Obama in the 2012 election. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is quite possible that many republican leaders would pander to Muslim voters if 85 percent voted for the GOP.
So what are we Christians to do? First, we must end our short-term attention spans. The news cycle will eventually move on from the Paris attacks. The hashtags will play out and we’ve already changed our Facebook profile pictures to include the French flag as the background. We made ourselves feel like we accomplished something. But have we?
We will elect a new president in a year, long after the slaughter in Paris is mostly forgotten. We must pay close attention to what the candidates say about how they would deal with terrorists and the threat, if any, posed by refugees coming to America. We should pray for discernment to identify which candidate is looking out for America’s best interest, not just their political party or crony business interests. Mostly we have to pray that the person we choose for our next president is in alignment with God’s will.
On a personal and local level, we are fortunate because most of us will never have to make tough decisions about our national immigration and refugee policies. All the Bible asks us to do is treat our neighbors, including our Muslim neighbors, with the same human dignity with which we would want to be treated. That said, my hope is that all people in America would embrace our national motto of E Pluribus Unum, which means out of many, one. In my lifetime I have witnessed America become a nation of enclaves. We continue to segregate ourselves according to race, nationality, economic status, religion, lifestyle choices, and political ideologies. We do so because we are more comfortable with our own kind of people. And that’s probably ok to some degree, just so long as we all strongly identify as Americans. Perhaps we have entered a season when America should cut back on immigration and only accept the most desperate cases in order for our current immigrants and refugees to assimilate, thereby creating a greater sense of American homogeneity (a dirty word in today’s PC world where we worship multiculturalism as the cure for all that ails us) and loyalty. In any case, I do not believe we are obligated to totally disregard our safety and national security, though God does want us to remember his will is that none should perish.
Posted on November 19, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged Alien, America's Response, Compassion, France, Immigration, ISIS, Mistreat, National Safety, National Security, Paris, Refugees, Syria, Syrian Refugees, Terrorist Attacks, Welcome Foreigner, Women and Children. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.