Taking in Refugees: What the Bible Really Says

With everything that is going on in the Middle East and Paris, debate has raged on what to do with Syrian refugees who are attempting to flee the violence in their homeland.  There seems to be evidence that ISIS took advantage of the refugee situation to sneak some people into Europe, and Europe seems to have exacerbated that problem with, well, laziness in vetting people who were coming in.  Add the fact that the America’s immigration policies are either broken or often unenforced, and this issue is a recipe for some strong emotions.

Predictably, politicians, the media, and social media have used the refugee crisis as a political weapon to demonize their opponents.  If you’re for taking in as many Syrian refugees as possible, many Republicans will accuse you of being naive, ignorant, and irresponsible with the security of the American people.  If you’re for closing our borders temporarily, you’re accused by Democrats for being heartless, paranoid, and possibly even xenophobic or racist.  This is why political discourse is so much fun in this country (not).

Interestingly enough, the Bible has been brought up in social media comments and memes by Christians and even non-Christians.  Doesn’t the Old Testament command that believers should be welcoming and kind to the foreigner or sojourner?  Shouldn’t we be open to giving them asylum, no matter what?  To say otherwise is to invite personal attacks of being unloving and unbiblical by fellow Christians and, again, even from non-Christians.

As straightforward as this sounds, it really isn’t that simple. Let’s look at a few passages in Scripture about the alien or sojourner and see what application they have to this situation.

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Islam/ISIS and Christianity/KKK: How do we discern when a religion is to blame?

With ISIS claiming lives in violent atrocities across the globe, most recently hitting an iconic Western city, Paris, discussion has renewed on the role of Islam on these terrorist organizations.  Some are quick to point out that this is further evidence that Islam itself is deeply flawed, violent, and dangerous.  Others have cautioned against making a sweeping judgment of Islam, delivering memes that if you can differentiate between Christians and the KKK, you should be able to distinguish between Muslims and ISIS.  To do otherwise is to be prejudicial, discriminatory, “Islamaphobic,” and, interestingly enough, racist.

As I have noted before in passing, New Atheist liberals such as Sam Harris and Bill Maher despise this equivalency despite their contempt towards religion in general, especially Christianity.  Maher has called it “liberal bull****” and repeatedly takes people to task for trying to equate Muslim violence with any other faith’s.  Harris has stressed that ideas matter because they are consistent causes of behavior (I would actually be interested to see how Harris deals with the problem of epiphenomenalism for materialists like him who don’t even believe in free will, but I’ll pass that by for now).  He even famously called Islam “the mother lode of bad ideas,” much to the displeasure of Ben Affleck.  They are joined, ironically, by people that they dislike: Social, often religious, conservatives who view Islam as a violent religion that threatens to undermine Western values.  On the other side, their fellow liberals have attacked them and have called them names, an amusing spectacle because these same liberals are pretty darn silent when Maher or Harris blast Christianity.

Is the issue as simple as comparing the distinction between ISIS/Islam and the KKK/Christianity?  Do Maher and Harris have a point here, and does Islam itself contain pernicious beliefs that inevitably lead to such violence?  How do we discern when someone acts badly in spite of their beliefs or because of their beliefs?

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Crying Wolf: People Who Lie Like Dorothy Bland Hurt Race Relations

Recently, a black woman named Dorothy Bland, the Dean of the School of Journalism at the University of North Texas, wrote an opinion piece for The Dallas Morning News that she was detained for “walking while black” by white police officers.  She claimed flashing lights and sirens stopped her from a routine walk and made further statements such as this:

Knowing that the police officers are typically armed with guns and are a lot bigger than my 5 feet, 4 inches, I had no interest in my life’s story playing out like Trayvon Martin’s death. I stopped and asked the two officers if there was a problem; I don’t remember getting a decent answer before one of the officers asked me where I lived and for identification.

Invoking Trayvon Martin, guns, and the white police officers’ size is clearly meant to convey a sense of danger.  Interestingly, she didn’t remember getting a “decent answer” for her question.  Additionally, she portrayed the cops as being insulting:

I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood. I told the police I didn’t like to walk in the rain, and one of them told me, “My dog doesn’t like to walk in the rain.” Ouch!

She just got compared to a dog.  Racists!

Again, her intention is to convey a palpable sense of fear and danger by the implied threats of these white cops:

Although I am not related to Sandra Bland, I thought about her, Freddie Gray and the dozens of others who have died while in police custody. For safety’s sake, I posted the photo of the officers on Facebook, and within hours, more than 100 Facebook friends spread the news from New York to California.

However, in the face of such clear and present danger, she is brave:

I refuse to let this incident ruin my life.

Good for you.  Too bad that the police department responded with a video of the incident that made her entire account go up in smoke (the response and video is attached to her article, though it of course was not originally there when she first wrote it).

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