Two weeks ago, both I and the rest of the world watched the news as it came in from Paris as the latest horrible attack took place. Like the rest of the world, my stomach turned as the death toll rose higher by the hour, and knew that I could do nothing but pray but for the brave men and women in France that risked their lives to end the attack and rescue the victims.
And since last week, we’ve seen the outcry and confusion that naturally follows from such a tragedy. Memorials were raised, bombs were dropped, and thousands of people changed their profile picture to include a blue, white, and red filter.
But also since last week, I’ve seen a disturbing shift in attitudes towards Muslims, specifically the Syrian refugees, in the media and even, sadly, from my Christian friends on social media. Many of my fellow Christians in the United States seem to have convinced themselves that America will be safe if we keep the refugees out.
Now, for the record, I do not think that Islam is a religion of peace, so please don’t think that I’m sympathizing with or supporting the religion. I think there is a case to be made that the Quran does call Muslims into active violence against non-Muslims. And the idea that fundamental Islam seeks to establish widespread Sharia law isn’t without some merit. But in the same way that the majority of Christians don’t study the lessons of the Bible, most Muslims ignore the Quran’s call for violence. Islam is not a peaceful religion, but the vast majority of Muslims do seem to be a peaceful people.
My fellow Christians seem to have two primary concerns when it comes to the Syrian refugees and Islam as a whole. The first is the obvious issue of security, and the second is the fear of a kind of Islamic cultural takeover. I think that the second concern can be easily addressed by asking a question: is Christianity true? If Christ is truly risen, and the future is in God’s hands, do we really need to fear that Islam will conquer the west?
The former concern of security, I think, is a more legitimate scenario to consider. People fear that potential terrorists are hiding among the majority of innocent refugees. A popular analogy that seems to sum up this fear: if I were to give you a bowl of grapes, but told you that two of them are poisonous, would you eat any of them?
This popular little meme fails in at least two ways: first, you are already assuming that some of the grapes are poisonous. But we have no solid reason to suspect that any of the proposed immigrants have affiliations with ISIS or sympathies with terrorist organizations. Not only are you assuming that a person is guilty despite the fact that there is no evidence against them, but you are assuming that a person is guilty of a crime that hasn’t even been committed.
Second, this analogy fails to accurately represent the situation because we are not selecting grapes out of a bowl that may be tainted, we are combining them with another bowl that is already definitely tainted. America already has violence and crime perpetrated by our own citizens, but we don’t revoke citizenship of or export whole groups of people based on the actions of a few corrupt individuals among them. If we judged whole groups based on the actions of a few, then all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, or gender would have already been expelled from the United States. We must judge a person on their own actions, not on our preconceived notions of their ethnic group or religion.
These concerns have driven many Americans to fear, and as people become afraid, they take to social media to spread their voices with clever sound bites and memes. And now Christians seem to be spreading another most un-Christian slogan: “I don’t lock my door at night because I hate the people outside, but because I love the people inside.”
This seems like a clever little soundbite, except that Christ has called us to love our neighbor. You know…that guy that’s outside your door? Christ also called us to care for the downtrodden and the poor, like the refugees who had their homes destroyed and lives forever changed by situations outside of their control?
I am going to say right now that I don’t have an easy answer for the crisis of refugees. I absolutely agree that it does present a risk to security, and it is an issue that should be handled delicately. But turning away people with no food, no water, and whose homes have been destroyed simply because “they might be a terrorist” is not a reasonable answer. And it certainly isn’t a Christian answer. Isolationism and Christianity do not mix.
I’m not saying you have to open your doors and give your spare bedroom to refugees. I’m not saying you have to start petitioning our government to change our immigration policies. I’m not saying that we invite these people in to live in our country without taking necessary precautions. I’m just saying that Christians should think before we speak. Before you quote a politician or pundit because they trivialize a serious issue in a clever way, think if what they’re saying really represents what Christ represents. Trivialization and misrepresentation is the realm of irresponsible sensationalists like Richard Dawkins and Donald Trump, not of intellectually responsible Christians. It’s this instant dismissal of such a serious issue and the “meme arguments” that I find infuriating. The same people I see proclaiming that we need to make America into a Christian nation are saying that we should turn away these people. If you really want to make America a Christian nation, you should think about the type of country that Christ would want us to be.
I understand that we’re afraid of what might happen if we let people in from such a violent part of the world. There’s an obvious potential for danger there. But Christ did not call us to love others only when it’s safe. Christ did not call us to love others unless they’re a Muslim. Is this not the perfect opportunity to show Muslims the love of Christ? If you really believe that God is in control, why are you trying so hard to keep these people out? Yes, be cautious, and yes, be prepared to protect your family and loved ones, but don’t let fear drown out of the commands of Christ.
Finally, this issue has a very serious reflection of your worldview. For instance, if atheism is true, then yes, we have no reason to help these people. On atheism, survival is the rule, and our only imperative is to act upon our own desires and the interest of self-preservation. Fear would allow us to survive, and therefore, fear would be king. Things like compassion, charity, and self-sacrifice are the byproducts of nature masquerading as altruism that inherently serve the selfish purpose of self-preservation. However, if Christianity is true, then altruism is the thumbprint of our Creator, and our Creator has endowed us with the obligation to protect those that cannot protect themselves.
If self-preservation and fear drive your worldview, then try atheism, because Christianity demands more than that.
– Jacob Ferretti