Should Christians welcome Syrian refugees into the United States?

 

syrian-refugees

Photo by Mstyslav Chernov, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

*by Rev Dr. David F. Watson

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Greg Abbott, the governor of my home states of Texas, recently tweeted the following:

Abbott also recently tweeted this meme:


In fact, Abbott regularly provides us with tweets affirming the Christian faith. Apparently he sees no dissonance between affirmation of the God who came to us in Jesus Christ and the rejection of refugees who are fleeing for their lives. I don’t want simply to single Abbott out. There are twenty six other governors who have also expressed an unwillingness to receive Syrian refugees, most of whom probably self-identify as Christians. Nor do I want to question Abbott’s sincerity as a Christian.

I just think he’s wrong. He’s wrong to believe that affirmation of Christ and this wholesale rejection of Syrian refugees are compatible. They aren’t.

 

If you’ve never read The Cost of Disicpleship, run–don’t walk–to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy. Take it home and devour it. It is a masterpiece of Christian literature and, though written in a very different time, a helpful guide for us today. In talking about the call that Christ puts on our lives, Bonhoeffer writes,

Since the coming of Christ, his followers have no more immediate realities of their own, not in their family relationships nor in the ties with their nation nor in the relationships formed in the process of living. Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize him or not. We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word, and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves (The Cost of Discipleship, Touchstone, 1995: 96-97).

For the Christian, Christ mediates everything. Therefore as we make decisions about the fate of Syrian refugees, those of us who are Christian must do so fully cognizant of the fact that Christ stands as a mediator between ourselves and all other interests that come to bear on these decisions, even the interests of the nation state.

Christians often have competing values and allegiances. We have allegiance to our nations. We have allegiance to our families and friends. We have allegiances to political parties. These types of allegiances are fine until they come into conflict with our allegiance to Christ. Christians have one Lord. Any claims that others make upon us must be subservient to our allegiance to Christ. Jesus was aware that obedience to him would cause conflict, that his among his followers there would be multiple claims upon their lives. He is insistent, however, that allegiance to himself is paramount:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matt 10:34-38).

In this time of great need, what does allegiance to Christ require of us? Responses to the Syrian refugee crisis that reject the homeless, the alien, the stranger, and the exile are incompatible with the values taught to us by Christ. We must reject such responses and press forward toward responsible actions that recognize the full humanity of these refugees and treat them with the dignity befitting human beings.

We now know that at least one of the terrorists involved in the recent attacks in Paris came into Europe in the tide of Syrian refugees. Do we therefore make ourselves more vulnerable to attack my allowing Syrian refugees into the United States? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But as we rightly show our concern for the people of this nation and the protection of our citizens, as Christians we must also demonstrate compassion for those who are strangers and aliens, having no longer any homeland, who are afraid and vulnerable. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Book of Common Prayer).

Special Contributor to UMR

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13 Comments on "Should Christians welcome Syrian refugees into the United States?"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Richard Hicks
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Even if they are Christians you are bringing in homosexual hating/killing, female oppressing bigots. Wake up people! Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

Donnie
Guest

Richard,

That is the great irony, isn’t it? The same progressives who say Christians who refuse to bake cakes for gay “weddings” are homophobes, yet not a peep about actual homophobia in the Muslim world.

Of course, someday progressives will have to make a choice between Islam and gay liberation/feminism. They can’t exist together equally in the same universe.

Jamie Hamrick
Guest
George, Why are you always attacking Orthodox Christians? Whether you are far left (which you seem to be) or far right, they are both wrong. Millions do not know understand grace and forgiveness but every time I read your comments there is always an agenda for the left and no Jesus. Why can’t we focus on the main thing just for a little while and reach people where ever they are. Please do not say evangelicals (which has been turned into a curse word) will not welcome because I know for a fact the majority do. True evangelicals consist of… Read more »
Paul W.
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Mark, I hope you will read this in the spirit in which it is intended. We do need to keep in mind that this site belongs to Mr. Harrison and the other owner’s of UMR. Personally, I have found this to be the one of the best sites (if not the best site) for finding articles and opinion pieces from all across the theological spectrum within the UMC. Unlike most other sites, they do post a broad range of articles as long as they are either about the UMC or produced by folks within the UMC. Are they biased towards… Read more »
Wes Andrews
Guest

Well said Mark!

Wes Andrews
Guest

Very well said, Jamie.

George Nixon Shuler
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Xenophobia sells. Abbott and the other right-wing politicians score points by advocating it. BTW, Sure, I’ll take in a family. They’d be a lot more pleasant than right-wing Christians to live with, I’m sure.

Donnie
Guest

Perhaps David Watson should take in a few refugees into his house. Maybe house a few dozen in his church. Surely he’d do this small thing if he believes taking in refugees is a good idea.

Wes Andrews
Guest
It is mazing how progressives love to pit government over and against the church. The government is their answer to what they proffer as the problem of the bigoted church. This is one more article that is just simply inaccurate in offering false options. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27) As a Jesus follower, I absolutely trust the authority of this verse and even participate at many levels to live this out. For the past… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Actually right-wing American groups like focus on the Family routinely ally themselves with right-wing Islamic groups in opposing birth control at UN population conferences.

Paul W.
Guest
Again, yet another article that presents a false dichotomy. There are many more options available and the issue is far more complex than these articles seem to recognize. How many additional articles is UMR going to post that say the same thing? We got it already — UMR (and probably much of the current UMC hierarchy) believes that that the only choices on the table are 1) accept all the Syrian refugees that want to come to the US or 2) be a bad Christian. For serious reflection: Is there really anyone who would disagree that it takes a very… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Muslims do not skeer me. Right-wing Christians like the coward who gunned down Dr. George Tiller do.

Kevin
Guest

Well said. I declare you the winner on this debate topic.

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