Several years ago, we decided to bring my family with us to visit my husband’s relatives in Mexico—and I’ll never forget the look on their faces when they saw children and the elderly begging in the streets.
It’s not that they’ve never seen poverty in our country. (In fact, on one bizarre occasion, my dad and I were asked by a homeless man in Chicago if he could come home and live with us. That was one for the books! )
It’s just that it was jarring to see the sheer number of people juggling for money at intersections, mothers selling sticks of gum car-to-car as their babies were tied to their backs, and young men hurrying to wash car windshields for a few pesos before the light turned green.
I remember walking in the cobblestone streets of Guanajuato with the roar of the World Cup on every TV in every shop—when my dad paused to whisper in my ear, “do you think it would be ok if I help her?” he said, pointing to a disabled elderly woman sitting on the stone sidewalk with a plastic cup in her hand.
He asked, because on Day One I told them to be careful with this sort of thing. Why? Because it’s not entirely uncommon for one person to beg for money and distract the victim while another pulls the wallet right out of your pocket and runs for it … or worse.
Let me ask my fellow Christians a question: was that unchristian of me?
Was it unchristian of me to suggest being sure of your surroundings before being charitable?
Think about that for a minute.
Fast-forward a few years.
The Middle East is in crisis: millions of people have been displaced as the Islamic State (ISIS) has taken over vast swathes of territory, and as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (with the help of Russian forces) continues to terrorize and murder his own people.
As these millions flee, others find opportunity.
One ISIS operative claims that there are thousands of terrorists that have been effectively smuggled into Europe in the mass refugee migration.
It’s not just hearsay, though—and it’s not just Europe.
The Obama administration’s CIA director John Brennan testified before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that “the group [ISIS] is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including in refugee flows, smuggling routes, and legitimate methods of travel." What’s more, the Obama administration’s FBI director James Comey testified about our inability to fully vet refugees (particularly those from Syria) saying that “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”
Keep in mind that these people are coming from war-torn countries wherein records are scarce, if not non-existent in some cases. Making matters worse, President Obama reduced the screening time down from 18-24 months to just a mere three months.
Fast-forward a little more to 2017, as President Trump’s controversial ban on incoming travel from seven key countries sent many into fuming cries of racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia (never mind the fact that this doesn’t affect the vast majority of the world’s Muslim population, but I’ve digressed).
Beyond the aforementioned knee-jerk ad hominem slams on this executive order, I watch many of my Christian friends truly struggling with this.
I watched them quote verses like Genesis 1:27 (“So God created mankind in his own image …”); Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”); Hebrews 13:2 (“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”); and Luke 10:25-37 (the parable of the Good Samaritan), among many others.
I couldn’t agree more that God does call on us to be kind, loving, and generous to our fellow human beings.
By that metric, it’s unchristian to deny entry to these refugees, right?
Let’s dig a little further.
In Romans 13:4 (one of several places) God sanctioned governments and their authority:
“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
In other words, God sanctions government to uphold a safe and civil society—which means God intends for the earthly protection of that society. Our federal, state and local governments do that all the time with police, the military, and our borders. How is it unchristian for our government to be concerned with our safety when it comes to a very real danger?
In Exodus 20:13, it’s pretty clear that we have an obligation to protect God’s gift of life: “You shall not murder.” By default, that means we’re supposed to preserve life. How is it unchristian to want to protect our bodies from the physical harm that terrorism brings?
In 1 Timothy 5:8, as God outlined caring for the vulnerable, He admonishes us not to neglect our own: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” How is it unchristian to want to protect the families already here in this country?
Let’s revisit those very first verses again: yes, we are to care for our fellow man and help those in need.
But God does not command us to endanger others in doing so.
And by letting in people from war-torn terrorist hotbeds when we can’t entirely confirm their identity, we are throwing our own families and our own children to the wayside. How is that preserving life?
One image from the horrific Bastille Day attack in Nice is seared in my memory. It was of a little girl in a body bag—her doll lying on the pavement next to her. My thoughts instantly turn to my own precious daughter. How would it be God-pleasing for us to recklessly let in people whose motives we can’t confirm, if it means that we and our own children could die?
It’s one thing for aid groups (like the amazing people at Samaritan’s Purse or Mercury One) who take it upon themselves personally, (sacrificing their own safety), to go right now and help those in need; it’s entirely another to recklessly put millions in danger when right now, when we cannot guarantee that we’re not also shipping in people who want to bring Nice and Brussels and Paris and every other heinous attack here.
Let’s look at this another way: would you open your own, personal homes to the homeless in your streets? Probably not—because you’d be justifiably concerned about the safety of your own family, given that there’s an element of the unknown. Yet, given my Christian friends’ metric for helping preserve the lives of others, wouldn’t you be obligated to do that, if you’re suggesting that our country do the same with its borders?
Of course, we know that taking care of those in need doesn’t mean we necessarily must take them into our personal homes, or in the context of the country—into our collective “home.” Just as we give to our local homeless shelters, we can use our earthly resources to help the aforementioned aid groups that are working among the refugees in Iraq and Syria—and elsewhere in the Middle East. We can support our government in setting up safe zones in their home countries and pledge our military cover to defend those safe zones and humanitarian aid to help the people get through this. Most importantly, we can pray fervently for them. That too falls under God’s command to be kind and loving.
And guys, it’s temporary. It’s far less a “ban” than simply a “pause;” a pause until we can figure out how to deal with the very real threat of terrorist infiltration amidst innocent refugees.
Let's recap: If it’s “Christian” for our government to protect us, for us to preserve life, and for us to take care of our families, how is looking at this refugee situation in a pragmatic way inherently unchristian?
Think about that.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, M-F, 3-5. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree