Thursday, February 23, 2017

Love, Not Fear, Should Motivate the Discussion Over Borders and Refugees (Plus, an Invitation to Study with Me)

Bolles Harbor area, Monroe

There is quite a discussion going on in America about the matter of our borders, refugees from other countries, and possible acts of terrorism. I confess to knowing next to nothing about immigration laws (I suspect most people are ignorant here as well). This is one reason why I am cautious to declare things when I have not invested in deep studies that would support my particular opinions. (This means: beyond-Facebook knowledge. But, alas, in so many things, people love sound bites more than sound reasoning.)

So, I mostly listen to other credible voices I find more knowledgeable than I. I get disciple by them. Ed Stetzer is one such voice. Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission and evangelism at Wheaton College. Here are highlights of a recent article he wrote for Christianity Today – “Dear Fellow Christians:It’s Time to Speak Up for Refugees.”

Read the whole article for more detail. What do you think? Does any of this sound like God to you? If so, what? If not, then why not, and what is the alternative?

Stetzer begins with advising us to be cautious in rushing to make judgments. That strikes me as wisdom. Listen to credible voices on all sides of an issue before evaluating. Note: understand first; evaluate only after this. 

He writes:

“It is not wrong to be wise and cautious. And part of President Trump’s plan is, I think, wise. For example, his call for safe zones in affected areas is good policy. Yet I’m grieved by other parts of the policy. You see, too much of the policy is driven by unfounded fear of refugees.”

I agree. And, by the way, fear often causes us to misunderstand and misjudge. Beware of making evaluations out of fear. The reality seems to be this: While some refugees may pose a threat to our country, the vast majority of them pose no greater threat than you or I do.

Anyone familiar with my blog, or who knows me, understands that I teach logic at our local community college. I value rational thinking. (This does not mean I always think rationally, especially when I experience fear!) Rational therapy sometimes conquers fear.

Some people, e.g., are afraid of flying. I have compassion towards them, since I have my fears, too. Soon Linda and I will be getting on another plane, and flying somewhere. As we do this, I have often used inductive reasoning to dispel possible fear. It goes like this: the odds of this plane falling out of the sky are far, far, FAR less than the odds of my getting into an auto accident. I never leave my house with the fear that I might get into an auto accident. That realization, when understood and acknowledged, dispels any fear about flying I might have. I don't expect this kind of rational therapy will help everyone. But it still makes logical sense. The probability of the plane crashing is micro-minimal.

In the same way Stetzer writes:

“There is a 1 in 3.64 billion per year chance that you will be killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist in a given year. If those odds concern you, please do not get in a bathtub, car, or even go outside. And, for contrast, there were 762 tragic murders in Chicago alone last year comparted to 0 people who were killed last year (or ever since the mid-70s) by a refugee-perpetrated terrorist attack.”

I remember watching the horror of 9-1-1 unfold on TV before my eyes. I remember when all flights were cancelled, and the airspace over the United States was a forbidden zone. I remember the heroes on the plane who overwhelmed the terrorists, causing it to crash in a field in Pennsylvania. I heard the voice recording of Todd Beamer saying, "Let's roll!" I understood that these horrific events were perpetrated by certain illegal aliens who got through our security undetected.

I am thankful that tomorrow at the airport I will experience TSA and their screening efforts. I want us to have these protective measures. Nevertheless, while there have been significant tragedies, I do not walk out of my house with a fear that this could happen to me. I can accept that it could. This acceptance is just not accompanied by the emotion of fear. 

Besides that, those of us who are followers of Jesus, and look to the Bible as our Great Narrative, know that as we abide in Christ, as we dwell in God's fortress, fear dissipates. Especially irrational fears (which, again, I have experienced).

As I recently wrote, Jesus calls us out of our comfort zones into places where things are uncertain and unknown, at least to us. This is called living by faith. It is by faith that we now understand ourselves as not truly belonging, essentially, to any earthly nation or race. Now, we are a "chosen race." (1 Peter 2:9) We are called to love one another, even our enemies (which the vast majority of refugees are not).

Stetzer writes: 

“At the core of who we are as followers of Christ is a commitment to care for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the abused, the wanderer. And fear cannot replace that core—as a matter of fact, we are the ones who proclaim that we have hope rather than fear.”
America is a nation of refugees. Christianity is this, multiplied by infinity. 

Stetzer's main point is that a Christian response to the current discussion on borders and immigration should be motivated by love, not fear. Surely he is correct on this, right? Love, not fear, is "the greatest." So, what shall we then do?

Stetzer concludes with this:

"There is no more critical time than now for God’s people to instead turn towards the helpless, the homeless, the broken, with open arms and hearts, ready to pour out every ounce of love we can muster.
Sure, conversations with our neighbors are sometimes hard as we express our solidarity with the refugee and those who are broken and in need of safety and dignity, but we must pursue what is right anyway. We are pro-life, but we must remember all that entails, from conception to death and each moment in between.

I am pro-life—and that includes for refugees. This week, many of us will focus on the unborn, and rightly so, but I’m also here to stand up for the born, made-in-God’s-image, refugee as well.

God help us be the people He’s called us to be in this generation, in this moment.”

Especially for my Redeemer family:

I am reading an excellent book on understanding these issues - Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. Any who want to read this and then get together to discuss - please let me know -