It’s been awhile since I’ve done this. Had some stuff to work out and felt it best not to post as I was sifting through things. Not sure everything’s settled (actually, I’m sure it’s not), but probably sufficiently so to ensure that I won’t post something I’ll seriously regret (just things that might get me into hot water). There’s quite a bit going on that I have some interest in commenting on – more than I’ll be able to at this time. So, let’s go with a world/national news event that the church should speak to with a great degree of unanimity – unfortunately that unified voice seems to be sorely lacking. Of course, I’m referring to the growing humanitarian crisis – what should America do with regard to Syrian refugees? Nothing like a simple issue to ease back into the blogosphere.
Let me begin, in interest of full disclosure, with some personal history. I’m pretty conservative by upbringing and disposition. I grew up in a Republican home. I’m a registered Republican and have been for 30 years. I’ve been an officer in the Army National Guard and my son is an Army cadet. I’m an unapologetic proponent of the United States and its place in the world. I believe that security is any government’s chief (though not only) responsibility. I’m a minister with a Biblically (and socially) conservative denomination, and have been for almost 25 years. Nevertheless, as a student of (and all too poor a follower of) the Bible, I find that from time to time my Bible seems to say things that challenge my natural inclinations – my conservatism, my Republicanism, my Americanism, even my Pentecostalism (or at least caricatures of these things). And as one who tries to take the Bible very seriously and who tries to let it reshape and reform my opinions, positions, and convictions I find myself actively struggling with Biblical texts and my desire to rationalize my preferences and/or fears. It’s frustratingly difficult, incredibly humbling, and at times rather scary. Nevertheless, if I’m going to be serious about being a Biblically informed Christian, then I must wrestle with the implications the Bible has with regard to my various positions and, at the very least, nuance (if not outright change) my positions to allow them to reflect a Biblical priority. Few things are clearer in the Bible than God’s insistence that nations (and individuals) treat the alien/foreigner – refugee – with kindness and compassion (i.e., receive and make provision for them).
This priority is clear throughout the Genesis/Exodus narrative and the laws that follow. It is clear throughout the Prophets, Psalms, and Proverbs. Its violation can invite divine retribution on an offending people. Even in the New Testament, we see the more personalized implications of this imperative for individuals and small bodies of believers. My conclusion? Christians ought to have a resoundingly unified voice insisting that our nation (and our states/communities) play an active role in receiving what refugees we can – it is the Biblical thing to do, and therefore the Christian thing to do – whether or not it is the Republican, Democrat, or American thing to do. May I be blunt? I have never been more ashamed of my party. The idea of using a humanitarian crisis as a point for political posturing – just because the President that’s calling for action happens to be a Democrat – is short-sighted, small minded, and inexcusably shameful. It was wrong when Democrats did this kind of thing with Republican administrations, and it’s wrong now. Moreover, I’ve rarely been so embarrassed by the plethora of sincere, but Biblically ignorant Christian voices who are playing right along with the same shameful rhetoric. We are followers of Christ first, then American, then Republican/Democrat/whatever – we dare not mix the order up. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul charges the church not to be unequally yoked. This wasn’t a charge against ‘mixed’ marriages (Christian/non-Christian). Paul was correcting them for putting the teachings and philosophies of ‘false apostles’ and various non-believers on par (and often above) the teachings of Paul, Apollos, the other recognized Christian voices and the Scriptures, hmmm…
We all know what France is facing. France also proudly declares itself to be a fully secular state. Yet, in the face of turmoil, it insists on the Biblical humanitarian priority that Republican governors (many of whom proudly insist that they belong to the party that upholds Judeo-Christian principles) refuse to honor because of ‘safety concerns’ (as if the typical 16-22 month vetting process that most refugees go through before gaining entrance isn’t sufficient to confirm identity and allegiance – yet somehow, France thinks they can walk and chew gum at the same time). And no, I don’t care what Saudi Arabia and the other Middle-Eastern states do – I don’t take my policy or moral cues from the Saudi’s. I take them from the Scripture and the notion that, despite current protests to the contrary, the founding principles of the United States were intentionally derived from an historic Judeo-Christian ethic.
So, ask yourself, ask your leaders – with whom are you yoked?
Pastor Jim Kushner