Scattered Thoughts Regarding Refugees
When I started blogging, my second post was addressing many Christians' gut reactions to the refugee crisis. To me, the fears of many in the church regarding the admittance of immigrants (and refugees in particular) screamed self-protection and a "get off my lawn" rhetoric that felt straightforwardly contradictory to much of Christianity. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. To turn the other cheek. To die to self: which includes laying down even our own safety to follow after Jesus Christ. So why are we caring so much about ourselves?
But recent developments (as in Trump's temporary ban of refugees from seven Islamic countries) have blown up my facebook feed. I have seen some Christians, most in fact, who have bemoaned the executive order. How is this loving our neighbor? How is turning away families from war torn countries loving justice, seeking mercy, and walking humbly with our God? These people have eternal souls. In most cases they have lost everything. Where is the Christian compassion? To reject people from entering your country on the basis of religion or nationality looks a lot more like extreme ethnocentrism and self-preservation than showing the love of Christ.
And then there is the social media minority who say America is a sovereign nation whose first duty is to protect and care for those that are its citizens already. Once we determine sufficient vetting processes, then we would be glad to provide refuge to those who most need refuge. Sensible. But is it most compassionate?
Personally, I am torn between the two positions. I understand that America is not the church. It is a country whose duty is to protect its citizens. It is possible for a nation through immigration to compromise national security and add additional risk (even sufficiently so) to its population. Look at the case study of Belgium. Or the United Kingdom. Globalism unchecked can be destructive because without proper vetting immigrants can change the fiber of your country instead of conforming to and bolstering that fiber. This does not mean, however, that because there is risk a nation should never let in hurting people within its walls. Love is always risky.
Such is the murkiness of the intersection of politics and religion. And though this blog pertains to Christian living, sometimes we need to ask ourselves how are we to respond as Christians when politics touches us.
So a couple of scattered thoughts:
- I want to be wary of aligning myself with a political party so much so that I am blind to their mistakes and grievances. As Christians we need to rise above the partisanship inevitable in Democratic politics--in order to speak to the injustices and incongruences of each party. Instead of blindly following wherever "my party" goes, Christians need to be the transcendent voice of truth who can speak to the evils of all parties. And I understand this is easier said than done, but this might mean spending more time reading the Bible than listening to Conservative Talk Radio.
- What does compassion look like on a national scale? Is what seems compassionate (admittance of every hurting refugee worldwide) actually compassionate to your nation's citizens and children; or our neighbors across the street? Is that even feasible? Or is moving and assimilating people in vast groups into different societies doing anything to solve the problems that are ongoing in their own homeland or for the millions who cannot immigrate?
- Governments are not individuals. Christians are called to turn the other cheek as individuals. Christians are called to love their enemies as individuals. But a country that turns the other cheek would be horrifically unjust, because the wicked would assume control. Christians are called to die to self, love their neighbor, and show compassion to all--but a Government is not a Christian individual. A government is responsible for its citizens. It is responsible for justice and inflicting punishment on the wicked. Paul writes in Romans 13 that governments do not bear the sword in vain; they must create laws and be the just arbiter of those laws. Therefore we cannot hold an earthly government to the standard the Bible places on the Christian individual, because the duty and purpose of each are completely different.
- It is far too easy to be compassionate at a distance. It is convenient for us to want to help people with other people's money. It is easy to advocate for help when it is someone else who foots the bill. We can make facebook statuses and rant and rave all we want about America being uncompassionate, but what are you as an individual doing for the hurting people of Syria, or Iraq, or the homeless in your own community? What am I doing at a personal cost to me to help the less fortunate? Simply saying that America should change its immigration policy may feel good or even allay our guilt, but it does little good for anyone. If Jesus will hold us responsible for what our governments do (in which we have the minutest of voices), he will hold us infinitely more responsible for what we do as individuals with the resources he has entrusted in our care.
So what is the Christian response to such a crisis? The Christian response (regardless of political opinion) is to: Do something.
I have a friend who is in the Middle East at this very moment with Samaritan's Purse, giving aid to those who have been completely riddled by war. He is sacrificing his personal safety and comfort to help the injured, the sick, and the impoverished. That is what true compassion looks like. That is what true Christianity looks like. Talk is cheap, and if we have any heart we will take note and do likewise. We will pray for these displaced people: for their immediate needs to be met as well as their eternal. We will give money to help organizations that feed them and provide shelter. And if the Lord burdens us to do so, we will physically go and help like my friend has done.
It is good for us to have political opinions. It is good to advocate for policy on the highest level of human governments. It is good to raise awareness. But that is not enough.
We have to do something.