It has taken me over a week and a half to synthesize why the backlash towards Syrian refugees (in withholding them asylum on the grounds of the Paris attacks) bugs me so much. Even now I’m not sure I’ll manage to clearly and concisely summarize my thoughts, but I’m ready now to take a shot at it:
As a means of simplifying otherwise unmanageably complex social relations, stereotypes, are useful. They help us organize things neatly into boxes so that we can find some space to navigate our human interactions. But stereotyping comes with the connotations of OVERsimplification…a carelessness in deciding who to place in what box or a decision to use too few boxes (That’s the error I’ve heard repeated when people would qualitatively equate ascribing to Islam with voluntary involvement in the fascism of Nazi Germany). Not every Muslim is a terrorist – just like not every terrorist is a Muslim (frustrating to have to state the obvious…!).
2. What happened to loving your enemies?
Even if every Muslim were to be typecast as the enemy, how could a Christian refuse to help an enemy in need and still claim to be a follower of Christ? Is Jesus not the One who said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”? And that parable of the good Samaritan…?!
No, it seems to me that mistreating those who mistreat you is inconsistent with Christianity. Paul puts it this way, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’ Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21
3. In Whom do you Trust?
Our fear is that if we treat others with kindness, especially those who we perceive to have wounded us, our kindness will be mistaken for weakness. And we don’t want to look weak! We want to project strength to ensure that we are never mistreated again. It’s all about protecting ourselves, you see.
But, I ask the Christian, what happened to “God is my refuge and strength”? What happened to “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth…The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand…The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Ps 121.
Rather than trusting our safety to God completely, the fearful brand of so-called-Christianity subscribes to the unbiblical “God helps those who help themselves” platitude. It would be more truthful to say that God helps those who trust in Him! The Christian does not have to worry about protecting themselves because God’s already got that covered. All that remains is to remain faithful to Him.
4. Religious Liberty
My understanding of American history is that religious liberty has long been a value this nation upholds. But the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not advocate religious liberty because it is a denomination that was birthed in the USA. Rather, this legacy is ours from God’s own example.
He could have created human beings without the power to choose to obey or disobey but Genesis 3 corroborates the reality of human freedom of choice. Moreover, the cross of Calvary demonstrates the lengths to which God is willing to go to protect humanity’s freedom to choose. At cost to Himself, God safeguards the individual’s liberty to choose their religion (knowing that many will not choose Him!).
In step with God’s own example, Christ’s followers are committed to preserving the freedom of every human being to choose who/when/how they worship…even when those choices aren’t in line with my own choices. Yes, as a Christian, I must do all I can to preserve every individual’s freedom to decide their own religion; be it Islam, Buddhism or Pastafarianism (yeah, the satirical religion that worships the flying spaghetti monster).
These are probably my top 4 reasons why the anti-refugee comments have bugged me. Each of which I could write an entire separate blog post about…But I’m tired and it’s way past my bedtime so this’ll have to do for now.
Oh to have more Christians who are more like Christ!