In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, conversations about America’s immigration and refugee policy are igniting
memes conversations across the country. Everyone from the President of the United States to the old man with a Facebook account has weighed in on whether or not we should respond to the refugee crisis.
It isn’t an easy conversation, and there aren’t simple answers. A government is charged with the responsibility to provide for the security of its people. But a government like ours – one that has inserted itself into the diplomatic affairs of so many countries in the name of justice, one that claims to be the greatest the world has ever known, one that was founded by those fleeing their country and looking for a better life – should be willing to take in those who desperately need refuge.
Compounding the complexity of this issue is the claim that America is a Christian nation. Whether or not that’s true, we are perceived around the world as a nation with close ties to Christianity. One cannot get elected to the presidency without being a Christian. At least it hasn’t happened yet and will not happen for the foreseeable future. Our politicians regularly invoke the name of God, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible on a whole host of issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, prayer in school, the death penalty, and, oddly, gun control.
Most troubling is the fact that those who are most likely to invoke the faith in the name of policy are the ones who are most clearly denying it when thinking about immigration the refugee crisis. Politicians are proposing that only Christian refugees be allowed into the country without the approval of a top level security person. Others are threatening Christian organizations if they support refugees. Governors are working to bar fully refugees who have gone through the intense vetting process from entering their states. The leading GOP presidential candidate has suggested a special identification for Muslims.
In the name of security, faith is being replaced by fear.
I’ll admit it. I have fears.
I’m fear our country will be overtaken by fear, and everything that makes us great will be lost. I’m afraid the words etched on the Statue of Liberty – Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! – will be rendered meaningless by our policies.
I fear our greatest values – that all people are created equal and have the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – only applies to us. I fear that we don’t really believe that all are created equal, but only Americans are created equal. Only Americans have to right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
I fear Christians will succumb to nationalistic ideology, sacrificing the sovereignty of their faith for the sovereignty of the nation. I fear the stories we hold dear, like the Good Samaritan who helped his enemy, would lose any power to shape how we live in the world.
I fear the Bible becomes a tool used when it supports our policy. I fear our theology takes a back seat to our ideology.
I fear we would argue for the importance of a literal Bible reading on the definition of marriage, and relativize the teaching to love our enemies.
I fear we will get angry when the image of God is ignored in abortion, but look the other way when asked to take in the stranger.
I fear we will neglect the call to love because it is scary as hell.
So yeah, I have a lot of fears.
But I will not be afraid.
I will not be afraid of the person who looks differently, dresses strangely to me, and has a different faith. I will not be afraid when I hear different languages spoken around me.
I will not be afraid when asked to consider someone else. I will not be afraid when asked to embrace the other. I will not be afraid because someone sees the world differently than I do.
I will not be afraid, and sacrifice love for a little security. I will not be afraid, choosing to not to actively help the person in obvious need in front of me because of the incredibly small possibility of danger.
I will not be afraid because God does not give us a spirit of fear. I will not be afraid even though the earth should shake and the mountains fall into the sea. I will not be afraid despite the fact that the nations are in uproar.
Oh, I have fears. But I will not live afraid.