Is It Impractical Christian Idealism to Accept Syrian Refugees?

I’m a pastor and a peacemaker, but also a pragmatist. I want ISIS stopped in every corner of the globe – enough of the brutality, enough of the evil. I agree with the countless concerned American lawmakers and citizens, we must thwart foreign terrorists from sneaking through our borders and wreaking havoc within our own communities.

So, should we vote to accept 10,000 Syrian Refugees? Should we allow them into our borders, or should we prevent their timely access to help? The Biblical answer is clear, Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), welcome strangers (Matthew 25:40), and show mercy to those in need (Luke 10:25-37).

But is it just impractical idealism to follow the Biblical model of accepting refugees? Will our own love-centered, innocence of faith lead to a bloodbath? After all, we are instructed to be as wise as serpents. This is a tension we cannot avoid.

What if accepting screened refugees is our greatest weapon against ISIS? Listen, we can counteract terror with aggressive, offensive measures (as a Christian, I’m not opposed to tracking and neutralizing those who have chosen evil). However, with every ISIS member taken out, a new, young and naïve recruit takes their place. We cannot defeat a system that has an unending ability to renew itself. The unintended consequence of our necessary military measures continue to grow the population of young recruits who want a vengeful jihad.  We need a strategy to stop ISIS from recruiting.

For ISIS to be defeated, the Islamic community itself needs to stand against the extremism and tyranny. Similar to the “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi” written by Islamic scholars from around the world, the Islamic leaders need to continue telling their young men and women that ISIS is evil, their beliefs are twisted and defy even their own Muslim moral code. The only way to stop the regenerative nature of ISIS is to cutoff their relationship to the broader Muslim world.

For ISIS to be defeated, young minds on the verge of choosing terrorism over morality need to see that compassion wins and that ISIS is even at odds with Islam. Future terrorists need to see that all human beings have dignity. They need to learn that Americans and the French and the Russians, yes, even Christians will love and serve those who follow Muhammad. We need to inspire a new ethic, a vision for caring across borders in spite of religion.

If we stand against the Syrian refugees, or veil our intentions by blocking their entry for a minimum of two years, we are not only pushing against the pages of the Bible, we are eliminating our most strategic weapon against ISIS. We have the chance to endear ourselves to the moderate Muslim community, to show them we will care for their people, we will watch over their hurting mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers. We need Muslims everywhere to stand against ISIS, to see that ISIS is hurting their own people, and that America chooses to help.

What if the scriptural command to accept refugees is not only the moral and loving choice, but also represents the most effective strategy to hamstring the future of ISIS?

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2 comments

  1. Thought-provoking and insightful. Like you I believe their is a call from the Bible for both the conventional wisdom of military action and an extending of hospitality to the needy stranger. However, I don’t appreciate the rhetoric painting supporters of tighter restrictions as lacking compassion or as being un-American. That rhetoric is a strawman argument. All leaders I’ve heard want to allow refugees in to better their lives, but some want better screening processes. To me the question is not should we let them in or not. The question is how tight do we want to make the process. I agree that we need a new vision and ethic for what true hospitality is. Considering our current border crisis and terrorist threats, I see this as an opportunity to set new precedents to improve our borders for the sake of citizens already here and for those coming in. There’s a good reason I don’t like people just showing up at my door. I like to be prepared to receive them and give them the proper attention. God is both a lover and a warrior. To err towards either aspect deludes both. Another great post, Craig. Here are some non-partisan links to facts about the refugee crisis.

    http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

    http://time.com/4119155/syrian-refugees-congress-safe-act/

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  2. Very thoughtful. Thank you for your thoughts. I think the issue is highly nuanced and needs consideration of both sides. I don’t think the answer lies in an absolute acceptance of one side or the other – rather a well-considered, compassionate response that seeks your goal of careful compassion. As it is, the question has been politicized by our president such that even an attempt to thoughtfully consider a middle ground position is doomed by media hype and a willingness to paint compassionate people as soft idealists and careful people as war mongering bigots. That’s why we need a new leader- someone to diffuse the politics and seek a truly compassionate and secure response.

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