A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Sunday, January 29, 2017

WWJD? When Prioritizing Christians Isn't Christian

Note: I'm aware that this post falls into the category of conflating my personal views with the gospel, something I don't like when my Republican Mormon friends do it with other issues. As always, I speak for myself and my own personal interpretation of the scriptures. If you have a different view, I welcome a rational and reasoned debate about it.

So, unless you've been on a social media/news media blackout, you know that President Donald Trump (ugh, sorry. First time I've typed those words. Give me a minute...).

Ahem, as I was saying: President Trump recently signed an executive order temporarily banning people from 7 Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) from entering the United States and prioritizing minority religious groups in future admissions to the U.S. President Trump has made clear that his reasons for doing this are to limit the number of Muslim immigrants to the country and increase the number of persecuted Christians who can enter the U.S.

Now, can helping Christians ever be un-Christian? In my view, yes, this currently policy is against the tenants of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and my personal religious views as Christian.

Let's start out by taking it as a given that there are many persecuted Christians whose plight is frightful. I don't in any way diminish the very real (and very horrible) suffering of my Christian brothers and sisters. They deserve our assistance and aid. However, I think in saying that they have suffered more and are more deserving than our Muslim brothers and sisters, we risk our American belief that "all men are created equal" and our Christian belief in the equality of all before God. Just because someone is Christian doesn't mean that they have suffered more than a Muslim refugee fleeing the terrors of ISIS in Syria or Al-queda in Iraq.

The Bible has numerous calls to care for the stranger among us. These calls don't excuse us from this responsibility if the stranger has a different religious view than us. In fact, Jesus explicitly taught that Jews and Samaritans, heirs to a bitter religious conflict, were neighbors and should help each other (see Luke 10:25-37).

I'd like to discuss some of the pro- and anti- immigration ban arguments and why I find them problematic, below.

Pro-immigration ban argument #1: This is temporary, and necessary for our safety while we put additional screening measures in place to ensure immigrants are not terrorists in disguise.
My Response: Refugees already undergo a rigorous screening process. In can take 2-3 years for someone to get to the U.S. as a refugee, and we can choose who we accept and reject. Further, I would argue that we can never remove all risk from the equation. Yes, we may inadvertently let in someone who may be dangerous, but this is not sufficient reason to turn away from many millions of innocent people who are suffering. A free multi-cultural society will always have risks, but the benefits of loving and helping others outweigh these risks. I would also argue that this ban is likely to play into terrorists' hands by giving them propaganda that the U.S. does hate Muslims - thus, this ban is likely to make America less safe.

Pro-immigration ban argument #2: We have already admitted too many immigrants/refugees, and we can't be a dumping ground for the world - even if I admit that we have a responsibility to help, there are limits and we can't help everyone.
My Response: Last year we admitted only 82,000 refugees (12,000 of them from Syria). This is in a population of over 300 million in the U.S., which works out to a very small percentage of our society. Germany has accepted over 1 million refugees out of a population of 80 million. Yes, there are limits to what we can do, but I would argue that we have not yet exhausted our resources of compassion and kindness by admitting only 80,000 refugees.

Anti-immigration ban argument #1: This ban does not target countries whose citizens have actually committed terror attacks against U.S. citizens (Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.).
My Response: Even if it did target those countries instead of the countries Trump has banned, it would still be wrong. Unilaterally saying that all citizens of a certain nation are banned because of the actions of a few is morally repugnant. We cannot blame innocent people for the actions of people who kill them as often as they kill us (for that matter, "us vs. them" is not a good construct).

Anti-immigration ban argument #2: This ban is un-American and not consistent with our history.
My Response: Actually, this ban *is* consistent with our history - we limited Chinese immigration during the railroad expansion of the 19th century, interned Japanese during WWII, and turned away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. This argument doesn't acknowledge that, at various times in our past, we have not been true to the inscription on Lady Liberty to give us your poor, tired, hungry masses yearning to breathe free. We must acknowledge that our current call to open our doors to refugees *is* different than our history - we are hopefully progressing and becoming a more open and compassionate society.

Ultimately this ban will keep out translators who assisted U.S. forces in Iraq. It will keep out Syrians who fled Isis. It will keep out Yazidis who fled persecution and torture. This ban is immoral and wrong, and against what I believe this country should stand for. If Jesus were here, I can't believe he would turn away from the suffering refugees. He was one, who fled to Egypt to escape Harrod's slaughter of children.

I couldn't cover every argument, but here are some more well-written posts on this topic:
On Moral Issues and Trump and This is Not Us - By Common Consent Blog
Interfaith Letter to President Trump - Interfaith Immigration Coalition
Trump's Refugee Ban Clashes with Faith-Based Groups' Religious Mission - NPR

If you're wondering what you can do, here are my suggestions:
- Speak to your friends about this. Listen to them, and try to convince them that this ban is wrong.
- Write and call your congressman, Senators, and other representatives. Let your voice be heard in standing up to this policy. Hold them accountable if they don't act against it.
- Volunteer your time (and contribute your money if you can) to a local organization helping refugees in your community.

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