Two American Idols: A Reboot of my refugee post (with an apology for blogging under the influence)

I should never blog under the influence of a severe cold. It has been my desire that I write reflectively and not reactively about things (and always theologically)–even politically charged issues. Yesterday I was incredibly snarky and just plain harsh. If you were one of the seven people who read that before I pulled it down, please accept my apology. If there is a such thing as purgatory, mine would be doing symbolic logic under the influence of a severe head cold…which was what I was avoiding yesterday when I wrote that post about refugees. Still, I think the core of what I said needs to be said…in genuinely theological terms.

When I don’t know where to start a discussion, Chesterton is usually good for a prompt. He once wrote, “Once abolish the God the government becomes the God.” The truth of that statement hits me every time our liberal leftist leaders start pontificating about our values. I always want to ask what values those might be today. After all, they claim frequently that we are a secular nation, and their ethical standard is quite obviously consequentialism…the ends justify the means.

How can I say that? Consider, the vast majority would never claim that abortion is a good thing. It is simply a regrettably necessary thing. Similarly, they have no concept of a just war, only a necessary one. So when they claim that something is contrary to our values, we must wonder what exactly those values are today. Consequentialist ethics do not operate according to standards of right and wrong, everything must be weighed according to a risk/benefit assessment. So, when those leaders say we must bring in Syrian refugees, I wonder exactly what benefit they see because there is genuine risk to doing so.

If you think there is not risk you are incredibly naive. There is no absolute way to assure that terrorists will not come in among refugees–the FBI has made that clear. Furthermore, if you think there is no potential for radicalization of displaced young Muslims once they reach the US then you are completely ignorant of what is happening in Europe.

And if you think that level of risk doesn’t warrant a real and deep search into what benefit this current administration expects from this decision, then you are in sad shape. The government likely has become your God, and I would warn you that it is as empty, dead, and powerless an idol as ever plagued the world…and it will eventually require sacrifices of its followers. If that sounds radical to you, you trust your government too much and have not realized the truth that Solzhenitsyn stated so aptly: “the line between good and evil runs through the heart of every human being.” When the government starts to label its political opposition at home as evil, for instance claiming that they are racist bigots for disagreeing about immigration or refugees, it has set itself up as the judge of men’s hearts, and only God can do that.

There are many reasons one might be concerned about border security and refugee policy, legitimate reasons like (1) concern for the poor and unemployed in an already rough job market, (2) concern over the difficulty of assimilating large numbers in a way that is respectful of differences while maintaining some national cultural cohesion, (3) concern about the abuse experienced by illegals at the hands of coyotes, (4) concern over how criminal elements will take advantage of general instability. Need I go on?

To simply dismiss the opposition as racist is wrong…logically and ethically.

Yet, in the end, to take in refugees is absolutely the right thing to do. I can say that because I have a system of ethics higher than myself…and might I add for my fellow conservative friends, higher than national security. In the title I mentioned two idols. For the left it is the progressive government institution itself. For the right it is our security. Suddenly nothing seems to rank higher in consideration of what we ought to do than out own national security.

To be fair, I have had conversations with some very genuine and thoughtful conservatives who understand the call to give aid and hospitality to those in need while recognizing the real and complex issues connected to the displacement of so many people. There are conservatives and a few liberal leaning folks that are genuinely concerned and seriously engaged with the problem of refugees and how we extend help while addressing some very real risks and problems. However, what is disturbing is the number of people, Christian people, who are sharing seriously hateful things. There have been articles referring to “Muslim parasites” and propaganda designed to make people doubt the credibility of every refugee.

But the truth, the truth from the gospel, is that we must help those in need. It says that the way we treat the destitute is the way we treat Jesus. The call of the gospel is to love and bless even enemies that would take advantage of our kindness. There is no way around this truth unless we want to become consequentialists as well.

I hear those most opposed to the acceptance of refugees talk about being “wise as a serpent” as Jesus said. Accepting refugees is not the neglect of wisdom. First, we should by all mean use practical wisdom and vet people as thoroughly as possible, but always with the understanding that there is no foolproof system. We ought to fight and push to give greater consideration to Christian refugees…this is Biblically and ethically sound. (Say what you will, they face the greater danger at present. No doubt some Muslims are being displaced and some killed, but they are not in danger of being killed slowly by crucifixion while being forced to watch their family members raped and murdered simply for their faith.) A Muslim has some chance of being left alone simply by virtue of being a Muslim. Other threatened minorities such as the Yazidi should also get preferential treatment.  But this does not mean Muslim refugees should be refused entry. There is nothing wrong with helping those suffering the greatest need and facing the greatest threat. There is wisdom in that.

But there is another sense in which to neglect to help is to neglect wisdom. It is wrong, truly sinful as Christians, to simply close our doors to those in need. To do that is to ignore the teachings of Jesus himself. The New Testament is full of warnings to the rich. If we do not recognize ourselves as the rich and heed those warnings then we face a serious possibility of God’s judgment. If we fear men, even potential terrorists, more than we fear God, we have not only neglected compassion, we have left the path of wisdom.


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