I have written and then deleted several thoughts on our country’s response to Syrian refugees. 27 states, and counting, have refused to accept these people within their borders. While states cannot legally ban refugees, their refusal to cooperate with the federal government will add a new, dehumanizing, and difficult layer to this process. Honestly, the mix of shame and anger I feel in response to this makes it hard to censor one’s self. I don’t want too feed the monster created by partisan responses to a hurting people but am choking on my own silence.
Much of my focus is drawn to the fear, loss, and pain these people are in the grips of but my thoughts have also drifted to the people of the U.S. Has our own fear, loss, and pain made us this cruel? Again.
Rather than seeking partnerships between local churches, non-profits, and governmental entities that allow us to welcome and integrate refugees into the U.S. we are engaged in mental gymnastics that will absolve our guilt as we close our doors to those fleeing conflict.
4 million refugees, friends. FOUR million people. This is not a Trojan horse or a cry to shelter the “enemy”. This is a humanitarian crisis. What causes refugees? Genocide, war, displacement… the terror we are so desperate to keep outside our borders. Don’t forget that ISIS has killed MORE Muslims than Christians. “More than 250,000 people have died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, and at least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes.” That is what they are running from. That is what these people are willing to risk their lives, their children’s lives, to escape.
When confronted by the seemingly endless anguish in our world, our response cannot be to harden our hearts. Praying into a crisis like this can feel overwhelming and the nuance necessary for such a conversation can seem impossible to grasp. Wariness and concern for “our own” is, of course, understandable. We are a traumatized people still healing from our country’s own victimization at the hands of terrorists. It is easy to understand the reason behind people demanding transparency regarding our government’s security measures and how we vet those coming into the United States- of course, our danger from refugees is wildly and irresponsibly exaggerated by many. Either way, that trauma can not be allowed to breed a fear so overwhelming that it, at best, immobilizes us and, at worst, makes us complicit in the persecution of widows, orphans, and refugees.
As Native and Dutch theologian, Mark Charles says, ”
The United States of America is NOT a Christian nation. PERIOD.
Our Declaration of Independence dehumanizes Natives as “savages”. Our Constitution excludes Natives and counts people of African descent as 3/5th of a person. The legal precedent for land titles established by SCOTUS in 1823, and referred to by SCOTUS as recently as 2005, is based on a Doctrine of Discovery that considers Natives to be less than human. Besides that, Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a Christian nation. In John 18:36, Jesus clearly stated that he did not come to establish a worldly kingdom. The idea of America being a “Christian” nation is a complete and utter myth.”
I know we are not a Christian nation. We never have been. But we are a nation made up of many Christian people. Not all of you, but many of you, share my faith tradition and yet so many are supportive of turning your faces away from refugees. To those I say, when we celebrate or advocate our government’s inhumane role in this crisis we create reason for deep repentance. We ought to cry out in brokenness, “fasting, and weeping, and wailing” (Esther 4:3), adorning our sackcloth and ashes. That is what a Godly people does when faced with their own transgression.
If we are going to prosthelytize to the people of the United States, let us err on the side of hospitality and generosity, giving witness to God’s love for all people. Cast your fears at the foot of the Creator’s throne. Offer a prophetic word that honors that Creator and embraces their creation.
Go out into the midst of the city, and “cry with a loud and a bitter cry.” (Esther 4:1):
“God of compassion
whose own son experienced life as a refugee
we remember those fleeing from danger,
hungry and afraid, with nowhere to call home.
God, we ask for them warmth, security, food and peace.
God of hope,
we thank you for those who are working to bring relief and
comfort to those displaced,
showing glimpses of grace in the darkness of despair.
God, give them strength.
God of justice,
guide the nations and the leaders of the world towards peace
stir hearts to be generous and compassionate.
God, help us to play our part in bringing about the change
that we want to see.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Matthew 25: 34 -40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Months ago, we wept as a nation for a dead Syrian boy who washed up on Turkish shores.
Where is our weeping now?