Thursday, November 19, 2015

Refugees, Politics and Faith

Never trust a single picture by itself.

It takes more than one to get the full story.

I didn't really want to write about this. It is a subject with so many moving parts and such conflicting ideas both major and minor I feel as though almost no one who writes about it is going to get it all correct. On both sides of the debate on Facebook (admittedly not a bastion of deep thought), there have been loving people calling others they care about ignorant, foolish, overly idealistic and many other greater and lesser insults. I suppose my goal, what I want to do, is to look for what the biblical response in Christian action and reaction to it.

All that being said I encourage you to read through the whole thing before deciding whether this is helpful or not. If it is, I am glad for it. If it is not, feel free to ignore it. I do not claim to be perfect. I am trying to figure it out just like everybody else.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember this post where I warn against politics overtaking faith. This is related to that in the sense that once again we have people polarizing on an issue on the basis of politics and emotion, and trying to use the Bible to back up what they are saying, rather than looking at what the Bible says and standing wherever it stands instead. The first pulls things out of context ("You know, at Christmas time there was a refugee family who couldn't find a room!") while the latter looks at God's position and says "I'll stand there." I hope we can all agree that whatever our feelings and concerns, whatever our politics, we want to stand where God stands and nowhere else. Now that all the introductory stuff is out of the way, we can start getting into the meat of our topic.

A few facts:

I have neither the time nor energy to be exhaustive here, so I will keep this to 3 fairly digestible parts.

1. Europe is finding itself in an untenable situation. In opening their doors to every refugee early on, they are becoming overwhelmed logistically. The newspaper Spiegal for example (Google translate needed), reported that a village of 100 was being told to take 1,000 refugees. That is overwhelming. Unless you have sewer, doctors, food, etc for 10x the amount of people, it will be a humanitarian disaster.

2. According to CNN the US administration is currently set to take 10,000 refugees and says it wants to take up to 85,000 in 2016, upping to 100,000 in 2017. This may or may not happen depending on how the politics work out. Furthermore, at the time of this writing, something like 30 state governors say they will not take any refugees. This also may or may not happen depending on how the politics work out.

3. Syria is a complete and utter disaster. The Atlantic gives a pretty decent overview of the parties involved, the complication of it and the loss of human life. We're not talking about a romanticized movie version of war. We are talking about bad guys vs. bad guys with a whole lot of innocents caught up in the middle. Muslims and Christians, men and women, children and the elderly, all are having their lives ripped apart.

The role of countries:

Now that we have a base-line of information to deal with, we can move forward to the "what now?" phase of things. Many say that the US should not take in a lot of refugees. They warn that ISIS and other evil groups are trying to get in through those channels as well. This is not an unreasonable or unfounded concern, as ISIS itself has said they plan to do this. Furthermore it is also said that the US should worry about its own first. We have many veterans, children and elderly who are homeless and not taken care of. They say if we have the resources to take in so many refugees, we should work on our own problems first. Again, this is a valid argument. To let our those in our own backyard suffer because we are so focused on those far away is not good. You could say the same about the mission approach to the church. While it is good to go into all the world and spread the Gospel, it is foolish and folly to forget about those who are right here with us.

On the other side of the coin you have those (rightly) say that Syria is a place with no hope and nothing to build from, at least for right now. They claim that if we are a Christian nation we should be willing to take any who could use our help and do what we can. This is good sentiment. To ignore what is going on simply because they are far away and "it doesn't affect us," is to be blind to how God works. We are called to all, not just those who are "like us."

Both sides are partially right. It is the job of a country to do what it can to sustain and protect itself. It is the job of a Christian to help those in need wherever and whoever they are. Where the mix-up comes is in the claim that we are a "Christian Nation." We are not. No country on earth has ever been a "Christian Nation." There have been nations filled with Christians, but Jesus did not come to save a nation-state. He came to save people. When we combine the two into one entity, that is where things begin to break down.I think that is also why I have had such a difficult time trying to figure out the Biblical approach to this. So how should we, as Christians, approach this issue?

See, while people make up a nation, they are not the nation-state itself. Our bodies are the same way. I am made up of cells, but those individual cells are not the body itself. My body has a different role and function than any of my cells do individually. It has a different purpose. Cells deal with cell things, the body deals with body things. Try and think of it like that.

If you are looking for a 10,000 foot view; what a response as a nation should be, I suggest reading Matt Walsh's post on this. It deals largely with the nation-state response and Christian attitudes. It was literally posted as I was writing this, but I want to focus on something different. I want to focus not on Christian attitudes and feelings, but individual Christian actions and reactions to the refugee crisis. 

The role of Christians:

I do not think that anyone out there is going to argue that we as Christians should not help people regardless of where they are from. I also do not believe that anyone would argue that the Bible says we should only give aid to those we feel like aiding. None of that is up for debate (at least as far as I know).

In James 1:27 that "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." As individuals, this is where we should stand. With this, there are two categories that people will fall into with the refugee situation: those that do not come into contact with them and those that do.

For those that do not come into contact with refugees, please be careful what you say and stand for, especially on social media. It is so, so easy for words to be misconstrued and people pushed further away from Christ by what they witness us say on the internet. When James says in 3:6 "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." he was just talking about what comes out of our mouths. What we type with our hands can have the same effect. Remember, before anything else you are in Christ's service to do His Will and bring others to Him. If what you are about to post is going to harm that function, it would be better to keep it to yourself instead. Furthermore, please please pray for them. They are likely coming from a situation so terrible that you do not have the life experience to even begin to empathize with them on a real level. Your prayers have been and are needed desperately by a desperate people.

For those that do come into contact with refugees, your actions and attitudes will largely determine how they view Christianity in America. Many in the Middle East view the US as a Christian Nation. It will be shocking enough for them to see what the nation at large is like. It will be worse if those who actively claim to be Christians are no different. Gentleness, peace, aid, kindness, friendliness, spiritual gifts are all things that can make a huge difference. Do not follow the trends of those who are out to make their own followers and get their own votes. Follow the call of Christ to show Him to all you meet without fear, hesitation or apology. You never know the seeds that are being planted, so do all you can to plant good ones in all that you do. Instead of worrying about their motives, consider your own motives in how you respond, because those are what truly matter. Finally, as I said in the last paragraph, pray. Pray for yourself, that you will be Christ to those you meet. Pray for them, that they will come to know the Savior by what they see in you.

I am going to stop here because this post is getting overly long, but I hope it has opened your eyes to a different way to approach this crisis. In all things we are to be Christ's and respond with His love and care, no exceptions. We can make a difference, but only if we are relying on the One Who Makes the Difference. In all things, love. In all things, Christ.