Yesterday we got our first look at what Trump’s immigration policies will look like in practice. Some “highlights” from the New York Times:
- Refugees of all types will be blocked from entering the US for the next 120 days.
- Refugees from Syria have been denied access to the US indefinitely.
- People of all stripes (not just refugees) from 7 Muslim-majority countries that Trump is worried have connections to terrorism are denied access to the US for 90 days. Note: NONE of these countries produced a 9/11 terrorist, and NONE of the countries that did are on the list. Nor are any Muslim countries where Trump has a business interest.
- Trump is establishing a religious test on future refugees with the goal of favoring Christians over Muslims. Note: The US currently admits almost as many Christian refugees as Muslim ones, despite Trump’s lies to the contrary.
Separately, Trump is considering cutting foreign aid to other nations as part of his “America First” strategy.
Trump’s supporters, of course, are cheering these actions. And they did vote for exactly this immigration plan, complete with its “Muslim ban” (such as it is).
Which makes me think that none of them have read the Bible. If they have, they have either forgotten it, or not understood it. Here is one of Jesus Christ’s most famous parables, from Matthew 25, along with some pictures of Syrian refugees, to help us liken it unto ourselves:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory . . . before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. . . .
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:
Naked, and ye clothed me not:
Sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not:
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
What’s ironic about all this is that people celebrating Trump’s rejection of Syrian refugees are often the same people who call the United States a “Christian” nation.
(This is false; we are and always have been a nation of religious freedom, without an established state religion. We just happened to be populated by a majority of Christians for most of our history. But freedom does not depend on one’s religious beliefs; it depends on being willing to coexist with different beliefs than your own.)
But if we did want America to be a Christian nation, shouldn’t be start by having American national policy follow the teachings of Jesus?
All refugees, including those from Syria, are truly “the least of these,” our brethren. They are hungry and thirsty and sick. They are imprisoned in squalid camps. They are not naked only because they escaped with the clothes on their backs. They are the victims of terrorism, not terrorists.
They are strangers. Should we not take them in?
If you are scared of a terrorist sneaking in with them, remember: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). If you are fearing these refugees, you are not listening to the Spirit of God. And if you have the spirit of love toward them, you will not turn them away , but take them in. (Besides, terrorists can come in a lot easier on a tourist visa than as a refugee.)
A friend of mine pointed out that most people in Muslim countries continue to have a negative view of the US. This is true, and has been ever since the Iraq war began. If we want to change that (and thus reduce the appeal of the terrorists’ message), which policy will have a better chance of earning goodwill: caring for Muslim refugees, or rejecting them because they are Muslim, as Trump is now doing?
Let me put it another way: If another country were rejecting Christian refugees because they were Christian, would your opinion of that nation go up or down? If you answered “down,” don’t expect Muslims to react any differently than you would. But what better way to prove that we are better than they think we are, than by treating them better than they expect?
Which brings me to my final point. Putting aside the pragmatic point of playing into the terrorists’ narrative of America persecuting Muslims (which we weren’t until now), there is a greater Christian point here. Heaven forbid that anything like the Syrian civil war would ever happen here in America. But if it did, and the roles were reversed, and it was you getting on a leaky raft or hopping international fences to save your life and the lives of your family, how would you like the nations you fled to, to treat you? Would you like to see some foreign leader treat Americans in the same way Trump and his supporters are treating Syrians? Jesus said:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them (Matthew 7:12).
To those that want America to be a Christian nation, I say: prove that Christianity is better than other religions by living like Christians! Show it by your actions, for your “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17), and cannot save anyone. James also says:
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15-16)
All refugees, including Muslims from Syria, are our brothers and sisters. They are children of God. They need our help right now, and that includes a safe place to live. Shall we say unto them, “Depart in peace,” and give them nothing? At the moment, we’re not even doing that—we’re saying “Screw you,” and “If they’re going to die, they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
But we don’t need to say that. We can be more Christian than that. And I believe that if we act according to Christian principles—feeding the poor, ministering to the sick, and, yes, taking in strangers—God will bless our nation. He will bless us as individuals, as communities, as a nation, and in the eyes of the rest of the world. It’s already happening in Canada. If you let him, he will help you let go of your fear and open your arms and hearts to our brothers and sisters who will die without our help.
Let’s make America a more Christian nation than the one Trump wants it to be.