On Terrorism & Refugees

In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris many are calling for the United States to halt its plan to accept Syrian refugees within our borders. The concern is that scattered among the refugees will be radicalized terrorists who will carry out similar style attacks here on our soil. They will come under the guise of needing a safe place and will instead rob us of any sense of peace we may have.

This is a legitimate concern. I get that. I wrestle with it.

I don’t want to have to fear for my children’s lives anytime we go out in public. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder anytime there is a loud noise. I don’t want my kids to live in a world that robs them of their blissful innocence.

And yet, I am opposed to any rejection of Syrian refugees. “Bring them in,” I say.

The things I want for my children are the very same things the Syrian people want for theirs. And the things I don’t want for my children are the very things that they have been living with for far too long. Their fears and worries are much more tangible than mine. They lack food and water, healthcare, education, shelter, and any semblance of stability in their life. They are more likely to be enslaved, abused, and suffer violence in the midst of their displacement. Did I mention that they are on the run from the very people we condemn in these brutal attacks?

In the past days many have been calling for the U.S. to turn them away. In doing so we are leaving them without homes, without opportunity, and without much hope. All because we are afraid.

This is a problem for me. My need to feel secure is not more important than their needs of dignity and basic care and welfare. My desire to enjoy a movie without threat of violence is not more important that a person’s need to be educated and warm and well fed.

But what about our safety? What about us; our people?

We are all too aware of the fact that movie theaters and schools and shopping malls are not bastions of safety any longer. We have seen people from all different belief systems and all shades of color use violence to terrorize innocent people. Terrorism is not something only “they” are capable of.

As a Christian I no longer believe in the categories “us and them.” I believe Jesus came, in part, to erase the barriers we have established between people. Jesus came for all of us.

Some of our presidential candidates have suggested we accept only Christian refugees. I am not sure how one proves their faith to a government official, but I am sure that there is nothing Christian about closing a door on people in need simply because they believe differently than us. It may be the smart thing to do. It may be the safe thing to do. But it is certainly not the Christlike thing to do.

This is where my struggle lies. I want security and prosperity. I want to pursue life, liberty, and happiness without all this extra stuff to worry about. But I am a Christian before I am a citizen. My calling as a Christian is to pursue Jesus, not the American Dream.

When these things are opposed it is too easy for me to want to grab for my flag rather than my cross.

Are there evil people out there who want to bring harm to us? Yes, absolutely. Are we willing to let that stop us from reaching out to our global neighbors to help them in a time of crisis? I hope not.

That’s not who we are as a country. And it is certainly not who we are if we follow Jesus Christ.

I believe the best way to defeat bad guys is to be good guys. The best way to destroy radicalism is to show love. The best way to conquer fear is to be courageous.

Let’s declare war on the ideology that anyone who doesn’t think like us is the enemy. Let’s be a people who have open arms of hospitality. Even when it is easier, even when it is safer to hide behind our locked doors.

Let’s not bow to terror but defy it.

We will not be shaken and we will not cower in fear. We are stronger than those who would victimize others for their gain. We will stand together, as we always have, to receive people who need a place to rest, a place to call home. It is who we are at our core.

“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!”