Archive for March, 2017

As Trump has rolled out his new travel ban, a fresh wave of criticism has followed. Christians leaders have lauded their usually brand of “I disagree with that and my stance is the biblical one” defenses. The usual ammunition sounds like “Israel always welcomed refugees” “the bible always calls us to care for the poor and marginalized.” and similar platitudes. These do not go so far as some of their secular counterparts in saying this is the outright Muslim ban Trump hinted at (which, of course, he did not say, but rather a temporary one until proper vetting was in place.) On that phrase, one visiting professor I had said it “resonated with those parts of the country where racism is still large” and sarcastically that  “such thoughtless comments really help are missionaries among Muslims.” Maybe not, but let’s keep our heads in this discussion… at least those of us Christians not living in the Moe’s empire.
I believe such statements are ill placed and do not match with the biblical witness for the following reasons: Old Testament Israel clearly had standards for who came in as individuals as sojourners, how they should behave, and which nations they were allowed from. Sojourners were only allowed from certain nations. Likewise, those sojourners who did come had to be in line with Israel… none of them got to set up a block of Jerusalem (or London) where the Baal cult determined the laws.
Even St. Thomas Aquinas recognizes this that Israel did not have open borders
Notice that these rules for the Old Testament theocracy did not change based on the needs of those wanting entry. Nor do I ever hear wise Church leaders putting their flock at risk in order be compassionate.
If someone argued that Israel and America are not the same, Amen. But they brought it up as an example, and if in the strictest theocracy the example is the opposite; the one country that had their laws from God did, in fact, deny entry to many, though not to all, who wanted entrance.
      Before I move to the other less direct biblical arguments (i.e. always on the side of the marginalized, compassion, keeping good P.R. so we can witness.) I would like to add a binary reflection about ancient Israel and modern nation states. 
The issue with which individual foreigners could be let in involved being subversive to the goals of Israel, against its core values. Islam is an ideology and an ideology that would be as subversive to an ancient theocracy as it is to one founded on ideas of freedom, individual rights, and non-coercion, in private matters. The mistaken thought that “anyone can believe whatever they want in America” only goes so far. If a belief system does also believe the government should not only protect it, but favor and enforce their’s, they are subversive to the society. Islam by both explicit declaration and practice has no interest the various laws of nations it enters  It is unfair, I would say almost blasphemous to a Muslim to say that Islam is a religion and not a political ideology. They see them as one and the same, and any devout Muslim wants the government to become Islamic.
Certainly, there are individual Muslims that don’t adhere to this. Just as with any ideology. I’m sure there are plenty card-carrying communists who are not trying to subvert their neighbor’s free expression and are delightful to talk to (in fact, I know several, as I do several pleasant Muslims and some kind elderly relatives who were mildly racist by my reckoning). That does not change that they are part of that club, and in the case of Islam, are so officially.     The point it, whether in the 40’s with Nazis, the cold War with Communists, or today with Islam, there are always a great many people born underneath the worldview. They had no other options around, and would be very delightful to get to know. There still a part of it. And if you want to jump on me for comparing Islam to these other worldviews, I would only say that my approach allows me to reach out to people with ideas even my most “progressive” of friends treat with contempt. The power to care for individuals while being against what they stand for is liberating.
But what about the marginalized and keeping up good P.R., this vies tries to avoid the tradeoffs it is making. In the first place, the fact that we have favored Muslim refugees over Christians who are clearly more marginalized testifies against us. Add to the that the fact that the preferential option in the bible is not for the ppoor, but for other believers, and those condemning Trump need to check why they were silent as long as Christians were marginalized. Unless it’s because the Media didn’t tell them there was injustice going on.
Biblical ethics give’s me no right to endanger my neighbor. Not even for virtual signalling. Let alone arguing that a small terrorist attack two or three times a year is worth not being seen as “unloving” by the global community, the migrant situation in Europe would still be a disaster. Higher crime, which is mostly affecting the marginalized of European culture. This includes higher rates of rape, not limited to adults. If we have a duty to the less fortunate, it starts with those who are in danger of being victims of life-destroying crimes, and with other Christians who are always our first priority in giving help (Galatians 6:10, 1 John 3:23)
And that brings us to the last bad argument. It doesn’t help our witness. This has been used in varying forms, but it boils down to we should not stand against evil in order to keep communication lines open, and those suffering evil are worth sacrificing for the open door of evangelism.
I’m not even going to deal with the accusation that a “Muslim ban”resonates with those parts of the country that are still xenophobic. The inferiority of rural human beings has long been a theme of “progressive” Christians. And the associating of “Muslim” with a race is ridiculous. It shouldn’t even be normalized by being seen as a legitimate argument.
The duty to do right and to resist wrong is never to be compromised for a photo-op. The fact that we have let Christians suffer in the Middle East, when economically and influentially the Church could have stood up for them is a shame. But it’s not just an ignoring of it, it is intentionally letting them suffer and patting ourselves on the back for being so “compassionate” as to not challenge Moe’s empire.
     The conclusion of the matter is this. Old Testament Israel had specific limitations on which individuals could enter and from which countries. Islam is not an ethnicity or a race, but an ideology, and as much political one as Communism. The Christian call for compassion also means not exposing the weakest and vulnerable to life destroying crimes like rape or terrorist actions. There is not an “acceptable increase” of rape. There is not an acceptable level of dismissing evil and suffering imposed by a group in order not to offend them, especially why they oppress Christians, our first responsibility.
I have argued biblical on principles here. I have tried to show that even if most Muslims weren’t “really” Muslims in the fullest sense and are quite nice, this is no less true for other destructive groups.  Party members of an organization with explicit goals, who are not super active in carrying those goals out, are still members.
When you bring God and the Bible in to support your political opinions, you have raised the bar and the gauntlet has been thrown down. I think many of us would do well to state our stances quite freely but be extremely cautious to make biblical pronouncements Biblically there does not have to be a travel ban, but it is not against scriptural ethics. Likewise, we need to realize that very often in our world, the darkest movements have had plenty of nice, sweet people caught up in them. But that should not keep us from weighing the merits of the ideology and, if found wanting, standing against it while still loving those people. Whether Communism, Islam, Fascism or Racism, the love we have for those caught in it (even those who are poor and marginalized) does not give us the right to put others at risk.
As usually, I am happy to explain the scriptural basis for any of the principles I have laid out. And will try to interact with any questions or disagreements, hoping our views will be sharpened if we both defend them by the text.