Refugees and immigration: some politics, some faith, and something to upset just about everyone.

From the start, let me say that I do not agree with rule by executive order by and large, no matter the order. This is been going on for some time, and has only been getting worse. To be perfectly blunt, if you supported the former presidents pen, then you are not really in a place to complain about this president’s pen. Feel free to disagree and complain on issues of course, but please be honest enough not to complain about executive orders just because you disagree with this one. Can we please be that honest and have that much integrity? If not, then I fear that we are lost to inescapable division already. It is not so much a matter of does Trump have the authority to do what he has done (history suggests that he does), but should it be done, absent congress. We are a republic, and we should act like one. To often over the past several administrations we have not in the name of partisan politics and agendas. That is bad for us all. On to this particular executive order…

Remember, I am not for this order. There are some measures in it that seem to be measured and reasonable, but those things should be coming from congress, not from executive order. For those who are conservative, remember it was not to long ago that you were opposing the former president and his use of executive power. If it is a bad move for a democrat, it is a bad move for a republican.  That said, please stop calling it a Muslim  ban. It isn’t, and when you call it that, it hurts the cause of trying to oppose it. The National Review, admittedly a normally conservative source, put out something fair and balanced (pardon my Fox News humor). Please read it. I take issue with a few parts of it, but by and large it is factual and gives some perspective. I am going to say again that I am against the order, but let’s be honest about what it actually says. The rhetorical histrionics hinder communication and hinder honest efforts to stand against such an order. The politicians won’t stop trying to whip everyone into a frenzy over it being great or it being terrible. Can we please be better than them? agree with, or oppose, it does not matter, be honest. I keep running into all sorts of claims, primarily from those more Liberal than I am (that is likely because those who agree with me are less likely to be critical of me admittedly), that evangelicals especially are not being honest, are supporting all the wrong things, etc. If you earnestly believe that, then be honest and show us how it is done. If you insist on not being honest about this, then at least have the integrity to stop complaining when others are not. That goes for everyone. Be honest. Please be critical of the policies, always be critical of the policies, examine them, make decisions about them, and so on. So much of what is being said is not critical of policy, but critical of Trump as a person. For those more liberal than I, remember when it was not so long ago that you were complaining about the same things happening to the former president. Be honest. Oppose the order, or support the order, but be honest about it. Be honest about everything else moving forward too. If you find yourself repeating political rhetoric, stop, take a breath, think about what you are saying, then start again. Please. This ends the political portion.

Let me begin with what this section is not. This is not political. It has nothing at all to do with the right vs. left politics of the US. This is not about national security and what is safe for us. This is about what is the right thing to do plain and simple. In our journey, we are going to look at several Old Testament texts which comprise some of God’s instructions to Israel for the treatment of strangers and visitors to their land.

The laws for hospitality are scattered throughout the Old Testament, but rather than start with a few scattered verses, let’s start with examples of  how it was applied by some of the well known characters in the Old Testament. The Shunammite woman had a room furnished with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp for Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 4:8-11),  and Barzillai was invited to the royal table simply because he had been hospitable and kind to David when he had fled from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27; 2 Samuel 19:32). Manoah, being so concerned with providing proper hospitality, would not allow an angel of the Lord to leave before proper hospitality had been provided (Judges 13:15), but remember, it was not known that it was an angel at the time, he thought he was entertaining a normal guest. Gideon punished the elders for their lack of hospitality (Judges 8:5). Rahab was rewarded greatly for her hospitality to the Israelite spies, and she was not exactly what one would call a virtuous woman (Joshua 2). Jethro rebuked his own daughters for not being hospitable to a stranger in their lands…they’d find out later that he was Moses (Exodus 2:20). Laban showed kindness to Jacob (Genesis 29:13). Lot was willing to sacrifice his life and the honor of his daughters in order to show hospitality and kindness to strangers (Genesis 19:1). Abraham entertained strangers and showed much kindness and hospitality to them (Genesis 18:1-8). For those of you who prefer to ask the old and often used question, what would Jesus do(W.W.J.D.), the answer may be found in Leviticus 19:33-34. Jewish families took in travelers from the road (no Motel 6 and no leaving the lights on in those days), and had been given instruction by God to protect those sojourners against oppression (Exodus 23:9) and deceit (Leviticus 19:33), but also were commanded to provide love (Deuteronomy 16:14) and not just love, but love as one who was a native to them (Leviticus 19:34). These are not just stories taught in Sunday school, they are our example for how to live. The are the model for our behavior. Because we are grafted onto the line, they are our history and the pattern of behavior set by our ancestors. As one final attempt to stress the importance of hospitality to our ancestors, abuses of hospitality once caused a civil war and nearly resulted in the eradication of the tribe of Benjamites. (Judges 19-20).

So, what should we do? Let us ask once again look to the Old Testament and see how it is that a host received his guests, expected or not. The host would go out to meet the traveler who was on their way. There were no questions about circumstance, condition, or even a name until the needs had first been met. Upon entering the house, water was given to the traveler and his men, the animals were tended to, and a meal was put before them. (Genesis 24: 31-33). During the stay, the host felt personally responsible for any harm that might befall his guest, and did all in his power to prevent that harm (Genesis 19:8). When a guest was leaving, another meal was set (Genesis 26:30). Finally, when a guest wished to stay, they were allowed to do so, and to select a dwelling place. (Genesis 20:15). God himself is described as providing for the strangers, hopefully through us (Deuteronomy 10:18)and not only that, but provides a protection over them (Psalm 146:9).

We, as Christians, claim to serve the risen Christ. We claim to serve the one who dies for the sins of the world. We eat at His table each time we accept the invitation to the Eucharist, we beg of His mercy, we long for His love…and then we call for turning away those who need all of that and more? We trust God to provide for us (or we claim to) then we turn away those who need provision? We beg of God’s mercy, then deny our mercy to others? We claim to not be of this world, but then we deny those who are foreigners and aliens just as we are? Those are not just stories or fun slogans either. Those are a way of life. 1 Peter 2:11-12 seems to cover this fairly well all in all.

Dearly beloved, I exhort you as temporary residents and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honest among the nations, in that which they speak against you as evildoers, they may glorify God in a day of His visitation, seeing your good works. – 1Pe 2:11-12

Wesley does a pretty good job of explaining it also.

1 Peter 2:11 – Here begins the exhortation drawn from the second motive. Sojourners: pilgrims – The first word properly means, those who are in a strange house; the second, those who are in a strange country. You sojourn in the body; you are pilgrims in this world. Abstain from desires of anything in this house, or in this country.

1 Peter 2:12 – Honest – Not barely unblamable, but virtuous in every respect. But our language sinks under the force, beauty, and copiousness of the original expressions. That they by your good works which they shall behold – See with their own eyes. May glorify God – By owning his grace in you, and following your example. In the day of visitation – The time when he shall give them fresh offers of his mercy.

I know that there are security concerns, and I am not unsympathetic to them. There were security concerns for Jesus in His day if you recall. A lot of them riding into Jerusalem for that last time, though even before that. There was Peter. Think about it for a moment. How big of a hot head was he? Often even. We could talk about Mathew the tax collector. Hard to imagine a person more unpopular and more subject to potential retribution in that day and age. Let us not forget about Judas. Hard to have a larger security threat than that. There are the answers to who is our neighbor, and plenty more references, but this is already longer than I intended.

I understand that many are concerned about the risks. I get it, though I think that concern is out of proportion to the reality. That said, I want to take just a brief moment to approach this from the point of concern. Let’s assume for a moment that by admitting the refugees we are inevitably guaranteeing there will be an attack here on American soil. Here is the reality of what scripture has to say. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his own life for the sake of his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I have commanded you to” (John 15:13-14) Do you get that? Do you understand it? The words are not profound because Jesus said them, they are profound because Jesus lived them not only for our salvation, but as an example to us. You may be temped to say that Jesus never commanded us to care for the strangers among us, to welcome those who come in, etc. but remember that the OT still matters. The expectations of hospitality there remain the same. Coke says the following:
“Joh_15:13-14. Greater love hath no man than this,— “My love to you is stronger than death; for I will lay down my life for you: a greater degree of love than this never existed in the world; this is the love that I bear towards you, and which I recommend as the pattern of your love to one another. Ye are my friends, Joh_15:14 for whom I will lay down my life, if ye do what I have commanded you.” Jesus had commanded them, Joh_15:12 to love one another, as he loved them: in Joh_15:13 he informs them, that he loved them so, as to lay down his life for them: wherefore, in this 14th verse, he tells them, he would reckon them his friends, if they laid down their lives, or were ready to lay down their lives, for one another. The plain proposition of this precept might have terrified the apostles; but to insinuate it in the beautiful manner that our Lord has done, was altogether necessary for the direction of those, who, by preaching the gospel, were to put their lives in jeopardy every hour; and who, at last, were to lose their lives in that cause, for the benefit of the world. “

I dare say that in helping the helpless that we indeed benefit the world and preach the gospel. I daresay that by following the golden rule and treating others as we would wish to be treated, that we are following the commands of Christ. I daresay that the fears some have are valid and justified, but to be perfectly blunt about it, if you are more afraid of losing your life than doing the right thing then you are doing it wrong.

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5 Replies to “Refugees and immigration: some politics, some faith, and something to upset just about everyone.”

  1. You are right. The National Review article is very informative.

    It shoots down all the self righteous indignation presented by “Statue of Liberty tears” rhetoric, which is simply ridiculous.

    One thing jumped out at me, quoting the article. Just 77 Christians from Syria. Really? Since when is the most endangered minority religion in Syria Muslims, requiring they be the priority immigrants? Seems like both Christians and Yazidis should indeed be given priority.

    “The Obama administration has resettled 13,210 Syrian refugees into the United States since the beginning of 2016 — an increase of 675 percent over the same 10-month period in 2015.

    Of those, 13,100 (99.1 percent) are Muslims — 12,966 Sunnis, 24 Shi’a, and 110 other Muslims — and 77 (0.5 percent) are Christians. Another 24 (0.18 percent) are Yazidis.

    As a point of reference, in 2015 Christians represented roughly 10 percent of Syria’s population. Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation for the disparity. Perhaps not. But one thing is clear — federal asylum and refugee law already require a religious test. As my colleague Andy McCarthy has repeatedly pointed out, an alien seeking asylum “must establish that . . . religion [among other things] . . . was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.”

    Everyone should read the entire article.

    1. And besides, we should take into consideration one of the prime reasons that Syria is both dangerous and unlivable…creating refugees in the first place. We, among other countries, are bombing the hell out of Syrian cities. There is no way you can bomb cities without collateral damage – civilians being killed, and mistakes (like a U.S. Bombing of a hospital) which seems to be overlooked. I suspect the majority of Muslim refugees in Syria would still be in Syria if it wasn’t for the U.S., Russia, and government of Syria bombing of Syria’s own cities. So, if you want to follow the Bible, quit bombing, let the Muslim’s work their problems out themselves, and quit killing them. Obama should take note. His policies to bomb ISIS created the problem in the first place.

      1. Syria is an interesting monster. There is what is largely reported by the world media and then there is what I hear from people I know personally on the ground there. The people on the ground tell me that Christians have been treated fairly well by Assad all in all. (This does not mean Assad is a good person, he’s not). Then there is the news stories talking about how terrible it all is….the folks on the ground who live there talk about how the rebel fighters that we are supporting are the ones primarily harming Christians. Now I am not there of course, but I do trust these individuals enough that there is something to their claims.
        I am with you about the bombings. If we are going to bomb nations we should be willing to take people in from them. Either that or just stop pretending we have anything resembling a national conscience.

  2. Scott,

    Thanks for suggesting and offering a healthy pause in the noisy rhetoric as well as an encouragement toward honesty from both sides–easier to ask than to accomplish (speaking personally here).

    I am a husband and a father living in a top 5 US population metro area. I lock my house doors on different occasions, preventing just anyone (safe or unsafe) to enter, as I am charged with a responsibility to provide a measure of security to those under my roof. When I lock the door, I do not change my disposition and become hateful or unsympathetic to everyone outside my house (even when my neighborhood was experiencing some kind of crisis). Have I had many folks in my house over the years for different reasons–including crisis situations? Yep–both safe and “unsafe” (“unsafe” being my evaluation).

    So to charge our President (who I did not vote for, by the way) with bigotry or bias or prejudice because he is attempting to fulfill the primary obligation of his office–the safety and well-being of our country–is simply not true nor helpful.

    However, I heard a gent from my faith crew speak a few months ago, making the same point that you concluded your post with–and I was humbled by such a challenge (if necessary, to lay down our lives out of love, which at times supersedes safety).

    Good thoughts–penned in an irenic spirit: very helpful.

    1. “In an irenic spirit”…high praise, I’ll take it. Thank you for the compliment and for reading. It wasn’t exactly short this time. Hopefully there was enough challenging that it was not boring, enough hopeful that it was not depressing, and enough to agree on that it was not seen as a hit piece.

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