Evangelicals and Refugees

I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. I believe that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is the only sufficient payment for Sin. I believe that followers of Christ are under a Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, both with our words and with our lives. And while I’m at times confused as to exactly what people mean when they use the term “Evangelical” these days, I’m pretty sure that accepting that Great Commission as I have, which is the very definition of Christian Evangelism, makes me by at least some definitions “an Evangelical.” As such, my comments today are primarily intended for those who believe similarly.

To my fellow Evangelicals, I perceive a concerning level of cognitive dissonance when I see and hear so many who identify with the cause of Christ but are in full support of President Trump’s Executive Order regarding refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries. To me, the two positions seem markedly incongruent. (To be fair, I say, do, and think things every day that are inconsistent with my supposed faith. I sincerely hope that I am enlisting the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit to eliminate those inconsistencies from my life.) Also, beyond the faith-based concerns I have, there are some secular/practical ones as well. Here are just a few of both:

  1. Where do the numerous Biblical admonitions for us to invite in the stranger, lay aside our rights as Christ did, consider others as better than ourselves, love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us fit into advocating keeping refugees at a distance?
  2. What is the Biblical justification for being ok with Christian refugees getting preferential treatment? I’ve looked, and I can’t find a single reference that would indicate that rescuing other believers from persecution is a key component of the Christian life. To the contrary, over and over I see comments about rejoicing in persecution, that it is a blessing,  that those who can’t handle persecution have a shallow faith, etc. I would think we’d want to prioritize those who don’t know Christ to come into an environment where it’s far more likely that they’ll hear the Gospel than in a U.N. camp or Muslim country.
  3. While I believe that some increased degree of risk comes with accepting refugees, I can’t shake the thought–especially with regard to Syrians fleeing ISIS–that not advocating for them is tacitly claiming that the danger that I might face if some terrorists gain entry into the U.S. in that manner is more important than the real, imminent, life-threatening danger that they are facing every single day. I can’t justify my family’s safety having priority over theirs just because we happened to get favorable draws in the birthplace lottery and they didn’t.
  4. An old friend of mine who is now a pastor shared this thought just the other day on social media. It rings very true to me:

    If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, any notions about putting country “first” in your life is idolatrous and disobedient to the clear command of Jesus Christ. For disciples of Jesus, love of country must never be a higher priority than our love God and our love of neighbor.

  5. Thousands of Americans have sacrificed monetary gain and worldly influence to work in the area of refugee resettlement. President Trump’s order, if fully implemented, will put large numbers of these true Good Samaritans out of work.
  6. If safety from Muslim terrorism is really the concern, why is anyone pleased with a ban that does *not* include the countries of origin of any of the 9/11 hijackers (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Lebanon), the Orlando nightclub mass-murderer’s family (Afghanistan,) or the San Bernardino shooters and their families (Pakistan)?  These are the three most deadly attacks inside the United States by Muslims, and none of their countries of origin are included in the suspension.
  7. Again, if safety from Muslim terrorism is the concern, would you not think that this is an ideal propaganda tool for the radicalization of some percentage of the approximately 3.3 million Muslims currently living in the United States? Since 9/11, the overwhelming majority of terrorism-related attacks from Muslims were initiated by those who were radicalized in the United States–not from outside. This seems to be playing right into the hands of those who would seek to turn moderate Muslims into radicals; they’d be able to point to it as “proof” that America is anti-Muslim. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me that the number of potential terrorists who get filtered out by lowering the number entering by a tiny fraction of the number already here would be less than the resultant delta in the number already here who become radicalized.
  8. One more thought on safety: what I’ve gathered from every informed source I’ve checked, including numerous conservative-leaning sources such as the one I will share below, strongly indicates that if someone has terrorist intentions, attempting to come into the United States as a refugee is absolutely the *least* efficient method of getting here.

I love this statement, released by Bethany Christian Services, an organization for whom my wife worked for ~15 years, earlier this week.

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Finally, if you are interested in how you can be the hands and feet of Christ to refugees, I’ve put some resources up in this blog post.

I’d love some feedback on the eight questions/issues I’ve posted here. I’m open to being wrong. I’d particularly invite Biblical references that I’m missing that might be in conflict with items 1 through 4 on the list above.

–Ben

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