Do we let them in? Struggling with this question makes my head spin and leaves me feeling dizzy and divided within myself.
Our border is a enormous topic and I am the first to admit that I am an absolute amateur to even approach it. But it is the major topic of conversation these days, and what’s the point of having a blog if I can’t use it to share my two cents? So I’ll go ahead and throw them in, reserving completely my right to change my mind as I learn more about this topic.
Since the attacks in Paris we have been bombarded with media about the Syrian crisis. On one hand it is sensationalized, on the other it is long overdue. Violence in Syria has been escalating for years now. It is a humanitarian atrocity.
Sadly, it is one of many. In 2014 alone 140,000 unaccompanied minors crossed our own border (this figure doesn’t include the thousands of adults and families who also crossed, mostly to escape gang violence in Central America). Countries like Somalia and Eritrea have remained volatile for years though they rarely make US headlines. In 2014 our nation processed 120,000 applications for asylum.
The US, as it should, represents a haven of safety and opportunity for many facing violence across our world.
Yet while our country has a reputation as a place of refuge, we actually have no established overarching moral law that requires this. There are laws to protect refugees once they are on our soil but we have no obligation to those abroad. Our government officials, despite all of the bad press, are elected to promote the good of Americans, to keep our nation secure and our economy stable. That may mean caring for refugees and fighting wars on terror, but the American politician makes these decisions based on America’s best interest not for concerns of the rest of the world.
We have demonstrated that the openness of our borders is determined mostly by our own economic needs. For decades we have used Mexican and other foreign works to pick and process our food and perform labor that Americans don’t want to do. We welcome foreign workers as we need them and when they are no longer valuable we deport them. It is an unkind (and unethical, if we could ever pin down what ethical means) practice, but tolerable when our national aim is to promote American business. No matter what I personally think about our border or those suffering outside of it, America is obliged to take care of her own. I can’t find it in me to criticize those opposed to accepting refugees, in the American world view and value system it doesn’t make sense.
Of course that’s not the end of this post because being an American is not my only allegiance. I am also a Christian and believe that our nation exists within a larger nation which is the Kingdom of of God. We who proclaim ourselves to be Christians in America (including our Christian politicians) do have a clearly documented and historically demonstrated set of standards under which we are to live.
The Christian faith is intimately involved with caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger in our land. So much so that it should be difficult to call yourself a Christian if this type of work is not somehow part of your life. Christianity requires generosity. We are asked not to give from our abundance but from our poverty, asked not only to love our neighbors but our enemies, not to look out for our own safety but in all things trust God. And while we are called to abide by the laws of our nation we are called first to live for God even if it is dangerous, even if it destroys us.
Jesus speaks a powerful command when he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘”
Upon hearing this his listeners ask, “Who is our neighbor?”
In response Jesus tells the story of a Jew who is robbed, beaten and left on the road to die. The injured man is passed by two men from his community who ignore him before he is rescued by his cultural enemy, a Samaritan, who cares for him and makes provision for his recovery. Jesus asks his listeners, who the true neighbor of the injured man is, and they respond, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus says simply, “Go and do likewise.”
As Christians we are called to love, whether it is in the best interest or the determent of our nation, whether it is dangerous or costly. To do anything less is to make a mockery of Christ who suffered and died for us and of the thousands of Christians who have been martyred and those who are still suffering throughout the world.
Asking “Do we let them in?” is an urgent question. But perhaps even more necessary question in the heart of the Christian should be “How am I part of the church and how are we loving our neighbors so that the poor would know more fully the love of God?”
Thanks for reading friends,
To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here, or join us in our reading group, where we are currently reading, The Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry. Feel free to comment here or join in the discussion on facebook.
I wrote this several months ago: Thoughts on calling, the persecuted church and me