I try not to be political. Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of opinions about government policy and cultural issues; but for the most part, I try to keep them to myself--if only because online conversation is rarely productive. But occasionally, something will happen that moves me to speak. Things like the atrocities at Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic or those in Syria and Iraq.
Today, we’re facing a similar cultural crisis. This time, however, the tables are turned. Instead of being “out there,” the dilemma is much closer to home: In the wake of the Paris attacks, I’ve seen a groundswell of anti-refugee rhetoric among Christians.
I'm not talking about nuanced conversations about the hard work of integrating refugees into western society. I'm not talking about the challenges to properly vet and approve those who have been waiting for 2-3 years for entrance. I'm not talking about the legitimate responsibility of the government to protect and provide for her citizens. I'm talking about the full-blown fear-mongering that links the terrorist attacks in Paris with all Syrian refugees.
Honestly, I’m not surprised when it comes from political campaigns. If the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us anything, it’s that playing to our instinctive nativism is politically expedient. But what has surprised me are the memes and Facebook posts and xenophobia I’ve seen from Christians. Despite being people who are “strangers and pilgrims” ourselves; despite being people whose very faith rests on a middle-eastern man who had no place to lay his head, Christians have been among the most vocally opposed to accepting Syrian refugees.
But what's surprised me more than anything, I think, is how quickly we've thrown away our pro-life values.
Over the last several months, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been flooded with videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in infant body parts. We have been sickened. We have wept. We have become angry. As we should. The violence being perpetrated against the “least of these” is horrific and anti-God. So, in His name, we have rallied. We have called our senators and representatives. We have cheered when Congress finally set up hearings. We have shamed those who turn their backs and ignore the bloodshed.
But when similar atrocities are being perpetrated on human beings outside the womb, we are willing to turn our backs, shut the door, and “put it in God’s hands.”
I understand that we cannot solve every geo-political crisis. I understand that we may not choose to involve ourselves in a ground war in Syria. I understand moral proximity and the order of loves. I understand that refugees must undergo a strict process to enter this country, whether they are Syrian or not. But what I cannot understand is how easily we can turn a deaf ear to the wounded man lying on the road to Jerusalem just because of ethnicity. I cannot understand how quickly we’ll cross to the other side. I cannot understand how, like the young lawyer, we can justify our lack of compassion by asking “Who is my neighbor?”
Your neighbor is anyone who God brings into your life--Muslim, Christian, Syrian, French, or Iraqi. When someone is lying bruised and beaten beside the road and you’re taking that same road, he is your neighbor. Run to him. When someone knocks on your door legitimately seeking sanctuary, open it. And if we don’t, don’t be surprised if that same God doesn’t come down in judgment because we’ve failed to reflect his own hospitality. We may fear the possibility of a terrorist slipping through the cracks, but Jesus reminds us that we’d do better to fear Him who can throw both body and soul into hell.
Being pro-life is not about holding onto our rights, protecting ourselves, or insisting that a choice is legitimate simply because it is legal. This is the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement: Protect yourself first. Don’t risk your sense of security to provide a safe place for another human being.
Instead, being pro-life means having the faith to believe that the God who calls us to do difficult things is big enough to care for us in the midst of them. Being pro-life means being people of courage and self-sacrifice. Being pro-life means being people of hospitality.
So, friends, I’m asking you to display the same welcome that you would ask a pregnant teenager to show to her unborn baby. Instead of succumbing to fear, I’m asking you to open your hearts to the potential of new life. I'm asking you to model God's heart for the stranger and pilgrim. Who knows--He might just be using this refugee crisis to bring more people out of darkness into his marvelous light. It’s happening in Europe. It could happen here.
So let me go on record: Because God is both strong and loving, I am not afraid. I am pro-life. I am pro-immigrant. I am pro-refugee.
For a more extensive overview of the challenges of integrating refugees into western society, please read this piece by Alastair Roberts. Alastair clearly notes the difficulties, but also provides a thoroughly Christian framework about why and how we accept those difficulties as part of our Christian vocation. My hope is that we can silence the fear-mongering, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.