In a post yesterday afternoon on the Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, I pleaded for introducing a little theology into the discussion.
My main points, in case you missed them:
Not that every story quoting a Christian must ask "What would Jesus do?" But I'd be curious to know how the folks quoted — presumably Christians — balance their politics with their theology: Did Jesus say anything about how to treat one's enemies? If so, does what he said have any application to the refugee situation?
Along those same lines, does the Bible say anything about how Christians are to treat refugees? Does tightening one's borders fit the theological content of the Scriptures? Why or why not? On social media, Christians certainly are asking those sorts of questions (and yes, coming to different conclusions).
Given the big news in Paris — and beyond — now would seem like prime time for reporters to engage such discussions.
About the same time my post went live (so, unfortunately, I can't claim credit), The Washington Post published a story by Godbeat pro Michelle Boorstein that asks:
That's definitely the right question, if you ask me.
The Post's lede:
For many American Christians, the Paris attacks have revealed a conflict between two priorities: The cause of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians and a hard line on security.
Following reports that one of the Paris attackers had a Syrian passport and had allegedly registered as a refugee, multiple GOP presidential candidates called for bans on Syrian refugees. On Monday, multiple GOP governors joined in. Considering the United States has absorbed fewer than 2,000 Syrians, this may seem like political posturing, but Congress is set later this year to debate funding for another 10,000 who President Obama has said he wants to admit.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Sunday that Christians only, not Muslims, should be allowed in. Ben Carson said accepting any Syrian refugees requires a “suspension of intellect.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Donald Trump and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also said the country shouldn’t take any more Syrian refugees.
Over the weekend, prominent evangelist Franklin Graham repeated calls he’s made before to scrutinize Muslim refugees. ...
The question is particularly complicated for conservative Christians, who have become increasingly concerned in the last few years about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and simultaneously are often the most guarded about border security and increased immigration.
Later, Boorstein highlights the theological tension at play:
Pastors who have preached about the tension for Christians cite theology — a call to both welcome the stranger and protect their own families. Data shows Christians are very divided on how to respond to the refugee crisis. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this fall asked Americans’ views on the U.S. decision to accept more refugees. It showed 42 percent of Protestants approved while 54 percent disapproved. Fifty-nine percent of Catholics approved while 38 percent disapproved.
Johnnie Moore is a prominent evangelical author who works with nonprofits and donors on how to help Middle Eastern Christians and is currently teaming up with Glenn Beck to raise millions to get dozens of Christian refugees into Eastern Europe. Despite his focus on saving Christian refugees, he called it “entirely reasonable” to pause immigration from Syria to review the process of screening applicants.
Evangelicals, he said, “are living in a tension” between compassion for refugees generally and concern about terrorism. “People are on two sides of the coin. .. I think this will solidify immigration as the issue, and the candidate who benefits most from that is [Donald] Trump.”
This story makes a nice start at tackling some of the questions I raised in my original post.
Still, I think there's room for a lot more reporting and follow-up stories on the specific theological arguments by Christians both for and against welcoming more Syrian refugees into the U.S. I'd love to hear from church leaders as well as ordinary people in the pews.
Comments such as this one at the end of a front-page Dallas Morning News story today demand — and deserve — more exploration and elaboration:
And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said “we adhere to Judeo-Christian principles and stand ready to help those in need, but not at the expense of the safety and security of our own people.”
Can Patrick cite a Bible chapter and verse (or two) supporting that position?
Editor's note for purpose of full disclosure: Bobby Ross Jr. writes occasional freelance stories for The Washington Post.