Refugees and terrorists.
Three words in, and you’re probably already polarized.
A lot of us are self-professed realists, but no realist is really a realist (and that sentence melted half my brain). We just apply our worldview to whatever “-ist” we are, and call it truth, whether or not it’s true. Man does what’s right in his own eyes, so every idealist, optimist, pessimist, probably thinks he’s a realist, at least on some level.
But, let’s be really real for a minute, and look at what has happened in the world recently.
Paris—The Mirror reports a death toll of 129 from Friday night’s (local time) bombings, now known to have been planned by a Belgian ISIL activist. Hundreds more were injured.
Beirut, Lebanon—a double suicide bombing kills 43, reports The New York Times.
My God, help us.
It seems that humanity becomes bloodier and bloodier with age, and it hurts. My God, it hurts.
I’ve had my opinions, mixed or otherwise, about the world since I was first given a glimpse of how savage we can be. In the fourteen years since 9/11, I’m honestly surprised that we haven’t been attacked again. I don’t know why. Yet, for all the times we could have been attacked from the outside, it seems like we’re doing a disturbingly efficient job of it from the inside. The past few days of watching my mostly American friends segregate according to their perceived appropriate reaction to the tragedies that have befallen and continue to befall the world, has made that quite clear.
Let me be clear. I hate that.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”Jesus Christ
I hate that we are so at war with ourselves, yet so blind to it that we think that we have room to speak to the problems of the world.
But we do have some advantages. The freedoms we’ve been allowed in the United States have given us space for heartbreak and conscience in the wake of tragedy.
That being said, we’re also terrified, which is evidenced by the growing number of state governors refusing to accept refugees. That fact in and of itself is polarizing.
I couldn’t have put it better or more straightforwardly than one of my favorite musicians, Audrey Assad:
Nationalism is frightening.— Audrey Assad (@audreyassad) November 16, 2015
Now, I’m not entirely sure whether that was referring to U.S. nationalism that I <sarcasm> love </sarcasm> so much or a militant form of nationalism that has unfortunately resulted in ISIL. Either case is valid. I read it the first way, though. As much as I love America, we get stupid when faced with both the possibility of war (with ISIL) and the necessity of servanthood to those in need (Syrian refugees).
I also couldn’t have put this better:
I may not be able to do much but I will willingly have my heart broken for you, refugee, & I will be glad of it. You are mine, I am yours.— Audrey Assad (@audreyassad) November 16, 2015
…because, well, you know, not everyone can do everything about every piece of the world. I’d love nothing more than to drop what I’m doing and go where people need help. But I can’t. I don’t know what I would do when I got there. I don’t have the funding to do it. I have responsibilities here. And that’s okay because there are people who know what they’re doing, and who can afford to do so. Thank God for them.
Unfortunately, Audrey’s is one of the few positive voices I’ve heard during this crisis. The following redacted images are from sources on Facebook. I in no way endorse or condone the messages conveyed by these items.
So let me get this straight. Muslims reside in every country, so should anti-Islamists nuke every country? Or just the ones known to harbor terrorist cells? For one thing, we might as well walk up to the doors of the surrounding nuclear powers and ask them to nuke us in retaliation for contaminating their nations. Not to mention what would happen to the ecosystem worldwide, because we have even bigger nukes than we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not to mention that we were the only reasonably viable nuclear power. Not to mention that would be all the excuse ISIL, North Korea, Iran, or any other global nuclear-capable power or regime would need to retaliate.
And it get’s even <sarcasm> better </sarcasm>…
So, Saudis are to blame for a Belgian terrorist slaughtering Parisian citizens? I would unabashedly assert that this individual would have any intimate knowledge of the cultures of these nations or personally know anyone from there. Now, I may not be of these cultures, but anyone I have met who does come from there has been fantastic company, including any that may happen to have been Muslim. It doesn’t mean we see eye to eye on a lot of things, but on a lot of things we do, and I’ve never once been mistreated or condescended to by any of them.
This is not to deny that there are people out there who would murder for their faith, but there are also those who would murder for nothing. It says more about what is inside a person than what religion they follow, and although I think both factors are important and work in tandem. One person full of rage can pursue Islam as a means to destroy the world, and a peaceful person can pursue Islam as a way of peace. That doesn’t mean I accept every tenet of Islam as truth, so don’t mistake love or compassion for agreeance, but both things have happened with Islam as much as they have happened with Christianity during and immediately following the Crusades, at the beginning of the reformation, and in Salem, not to mention the many cults that have cropped up over the millennia. Bear in mind that “the untaught and unstable distort […] the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-17). And this passage is referring to Christianity, not Islam, meaning that we are just as susceptible to interpreting anything we read through our own issues, biases, sins, and instabilities. Not only this, but we are just as susceptible to violence. Look no further than the words of Paul the apostle himself, the writer of the majority of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
It is this kind of blatant rashness and racism that infuriates me on behalf of the Gospel that is for the reconciliation of all people to Christ. (Understand that I’m not one of those people who cries “racism” every chance he gets.) Do the same lips that breathe forth the gospel to civilized culture withhold it from ISIL, or other world adversaries? Is there some difference between my need for Christ and theirs? Or Mussolini’s, Hitler’s, Ted Bundy’s, O.J. Simpson’s, anybody’s? Whether or not the sins of a person pile up, whether some sins are more heinous than others, they can all be nailed to the cross of Christ, and we cannot in good conscience deny that to anyone genuinely seeking Jesus, no matter what they have done.
We also cannot in good conscience refrain from protecting the world from such people. Make no mistake. Unbridled war, annihilating an entire people, is neither a viable nor a morally acceptable answer. It never has been. It has never worked before. It never will. Certainly, only for the sake of the safety of the world, we may have to go to war. I don’t like to say so, but it may be necessary.
But let’s get one thing straight: someone is going to die should the Lord delay His coming. Someone innocent will die. (And please, don’t start the argument about humanity not being innocent because we are sinners and fallen, because I know that, and I’m sure you get my point.) And that’s not just in a wartime scenario. The potential is there due to the simple fact of what we’re dealing with: terrorism.
Another thing Audrey said—and I admire her humility for this—will call to memory the Boston Marathon tragedy:
I can admit when I’ve posted a mistaken statement. So, there you have it—the Boston bombers were in fact refugees.— Audrey Assad (@audreyassad) November 17, 2015
The simple fact is that in the wake of the movement of Syrian refugees, ISIL follows. But it is reductionistic to blame terrorism on refugees. The existence of refugees is not the problem. ISIL would be moving regardless of whether or not refugees were in the mix. Terrorists terrorize, and they find a way to do it wherever they can, and taking down refugees with them, causing them more grief in their perpetual displacement, simply adds to their self-defined victory. Make no mistake: before the “Christian” western world was ever attacked, they turned first toward their own countrymen. It is the war within Syria that has led to the displacement of so many battered souls. In overzealous American nationalism, don’t forget the common struggles all of our kind has endured, nor neglect what you can do about it, and do not pretend that the problems of America are greater than the problems of the world. We are equally blind to our privileges and poverty as we are to the problems of the world.
As for the whole “put veterans first” issue that has been raised over this debacle: yes, ideally, that would have been taken care of long ago, but it hasn’t, and now we have a brand new problem. The unfortunate truth is that both problems exist irrespective of “who got there first.” The world is full of evil, and evil does not care who you are or where you came from or what you might have contributed to the world. Evil will continue to chase humankind until the day of the Lord. Both groups of people need help, even if we have failed miserably up to this point.
So, all being said, let’s say we accept the refugees into the United States. Probably some terrorists are going to find their way in.
But, let’s say we reject the refugees. Refugees suffer more, and the terrorists are still with them, probably traveling to terrorize another nation with the goodwill to open their doors to the suffering.
No matter which path is chosen, the refugees suffer.
What if you could do something about the suffering, but do nothing?
Then blood is on your hands.
But what if, because of our mercy for the refugees, America is terrorized?
Then American blood is on your hands.
What if we go to war against ISIL and fight them wherever they are? Hopefully, we will keep the world safe, but undoubtedly innocent lives will be lost along the way.
Then blood is on your hands.
What if we bomb the tar out of suspected ISIL hideouts, completely ravaging the Middle East? Don’t forget about collateral damage. It still exists.
Blood is on your hands.
What if we nuke the Middle East? Even more collateral damage, to the whole world, not to mention nuclear retaliation from the surrounding nuclear powers.
Blood is on your hands.
In every scenario, my Lord and my God, is there not blood on our hands? Was it not for this that You died for us before the foundations of the world? And what makes our blood more valuable than the blood of refugees and citizens of the rest of the world?
The same word of God says these things:
Learn to do good;—the Lord God Almighty through Isaiah the prophet
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
Yes. We must be on the defensive against injustice and ruthlessness, but justice and compassion are not mutually exclusive:
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God
Whether we stand by and do nothing, or we make the most foolish errors in war against the enemy or in mercy for the weak, you will have to live with it.
The question is simple. What can you live with? And what does that say about your heart?
I know I’ve ignored love too many times to count. What does that say about mine?