What to do about Refugees?

refugeesRecent events have once again thrust the values of compassion, life, safety, and responsibility into the forefront of our conversations. After the most recent events in France, the issue of immigration and refugees is at the center of conversation.

To be clear, America has not always been kind to the immigrant or refugee, be it Mexican, Irish, Jewish, Catholic or Sudanese. We are not unique in our circumstances – fear, compassion, and safety have forced many generations to face their ideology. As a nation, we have an ideology that touts compassion, but when faced with the reality of perceived safety vs. ideology we, the people, often choose perceived safety.

I see many posts and statuses (thanks social media) saying some version of a few ideas like:

“If we can’t take care of (homeless vets, children in poverty, mentally ill, etc) in our own country then we should not take more refugees” or “It is shameful that we care more about refugees than our own people.”

and my favorite…

“If I had a bowl of 10,000 m&m’s and I0 were poisoned, how many people would be willing to eat a handful?”

First, let’s make sure we understand m&m’s are not people and they do not bear the image of God and they are not escaping war and terror.

Second, does our compassion for one group of people negate our compassion for another group? One person cannot do all, but all can do some. My question for those in the “care about our own people first” camp is this: In what ways are you already caring for these populations (homeless, orphaned, impoverished)?

My experience has shown me that the people who are actually working with at-risk populations are the same people advocating to bring the refugees into our community.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not saying we should abandon our due diligence in screening those who want to immigrate. I am not saying we should have open borders. I am not saying our actions are without risk. I am not saying we should not seek justice for the perpetrators of terror.

It should be remembered that without welcoming refugees fleeing terror, the United States would have never known Albert Einstein, Madeleine Albright, or Sigmund Freud. Also, if you are of Anglo-Saxon descent then at least one of your ancestors was likely fleeing religious persecution in some form.

Immigration, war, and refugees are complicated issues that deserve complex and diligent thought. We cannot afford to be either bleeding heart liberals or closed-minded conservatives.

Most of us are not in a position to directly influence public policy (we are a republic, not a democracy, after all) so I will not address the issue of public policy. What I do know is that there are already immigrants and refugees in almost every community in our nation and there will likely be more. Isolation, poverty, and lack of opportunity are 3 main drivers of radicalism in any culture (neo-Nazi, IRA, radical Islam, to name a few). Perhaps the way we combat extremism is not through isolation and fear, but through community and relationships.

If you are a believer in Christ, then you must examine his word and let his authority determine your actions. We have been sent as sheep in the midst of wolves, to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We are immigrants in a foreign land, longing for home. Our actions and beliefs should reflect an ideology greater than personal safety and deeper than political dogma. We should seek both justice and mercy, safety and sacrifice, wisdom and compassion.

When we think about an issue let’s think deeply, slowly, and be willing to say “I don’t know.”

Advertisements

If You Say You Are Pro-Life

Throughout history there are a few moments that truly changed the course of the world. The invention of the wheel, Pax Romana, and the declaration of the Magna Carta are a few such events.

In 1215, for the first time in history, a governed people demanded and assumed certain rights given to them by God, not the king.

562 years later, following this same logic, the founders of the United States of American declared independence and began a revolution that changed the understanding of government and human rights forever.

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness. To the founders, these ideals were unalienable – unable to be taken away or removed from the possessor. Most of us would say we support these ideals. We want healthy kids, social mobility, freedom of religion, choice, guns, and speech. Yet far too often, we want freedom when it works for us. We want liberty for us. We want life for us and those we care about.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for unborn lives. We cannot take away the life of a child because it is inconvenient for another person.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for the teen mothers,  mothers addicted to crack,  fathers dealing drugs and their children. We have to act on behalf of kids in foster care. We have to be willing to get messy, dirty, and hurt. Being pro-life means caring for all lives-including the ones we would rather not.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about the 14-year-old girl with an unwanted pregnancy. Should she abort the baby? Should she place her in foster care with a waiting list of over 200 needed families in one county in SC alone? Should she try to raise him herself? Should she go on welfare? What would you do?

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for the immigrant and refugee. We have to welcome the refugees with open arms into our abundance. We have to be willing to lose so others will gain. Our fear cannot overpower our faith.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about black men incarcerated at a rate of 6x greater than white men. We have to fight against a penal system that seeks not justice, but punishment and often assumes guilt, not innocence.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about the child being bullied because he is gay. We must teach our children that to differ in opinion is not an excuse for violence, hatred, or separation. We are to defend those who cannot defend themselves; even when we disagree.

If we say we are pro-life then we must care about the men and women on death row. We cannot decry the killing of a life in one scenario and then celebrate it in another.

If we say we are pro-life then we must care for the weak, the poor, the immigrant, and the orphan. To do so means we will lose. We will lose strength supporting those weaker than us. We will lose money to provide for those poorer than us. We will lose resources to welcome an immigrant with merely the clothes on their back. We will lose sleep caring for children not our own.

If we say we are pro-life then our own lives should reflect our beliefs. In a world of political black and white, we must embrace the gray. Caring for life is never easy. It is most often inconvenient, disruptive, and difficult. There is little tangible reward, great pain and many unknown answers.

Caring for 6 month old twins in foster care is not easy, but it is good.
Bringing a teenage mother into your home is not convenient, but it is right.
Welcoming a refugee into your community is not glamorous, but it is merciful.

If we say we are pro-life then we can’t just yell and protest with friends. We can’t just vote for the guy who promises to make America great again or promises to bring us back to the good ol’ days (spoiler alert: taxes were a lot higher then). We must act in the unseen places; bedrooms at 2am to nurse a hungry child not our own, recovery centers where no instagram filter will make reality look better,  the housing projects alongside rats where the most recent immigrants are eking out life. It won’t be pretty, but it will be right.