The Problem With Closing Doors to Refugees and Immigrants

Christians in the age of the refugee ban.

I recently heard a Christian teacher and speaker explain that people immigrating to America must be willing to “join the American project.”

This man’s argument was that those who made America a “nation of immigrants” came to become American—“they wanted to be Americans, not just to live in America.” The difference, he said, between these and Muslim immigrants—specifically those subject to the proposed refugee ban— is that the Muslim immigrants don’t want to assimilate into American culture, they just want to live here.

In other words, there are different classes of immigrants.

I was struck by this argument, because it seems to mislead in several areas. Not only does it cast every non-Muslim immigrant who has ever arrived on America’s shores as unanimously wanting to be a peaceful part of the “American project,” but it conversely portrayed every Muslim who wants to immigrate to America as rejecting of that.

This argument could lead to trouble.

No doubt there have been and are many people who have come to America simply to transplant their existing culture onto new soil—in fact, you can make the argument that that was how America was founded in the first place. As a result, there are many neighborhoods and cities throughout this country that exhibit a different multicultural feel than others. In a way, that is part of what makes America what it is.

We should not resort to nationalistic tendencies and ways of thinking which preordain our rights over the rights of newcomers.

Similarly, such a black-and-white argument dismisses the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands who want to escape their war-torn countries to reach safe haven. Not all of them necessarily want to become Americans, many just want safety.

Unfortunately, America is not alone in this. From Australia to Russia, Hungary and Belgium and France to the United States, countries all over the world are beginning to shift toward a nationalist way of thinking; “Us first, then we’ll think about others … maybe.”

How then should Christians respond to immigration bans and restrictions, and attitudes that marginalize immigrants and refugees?

Stop overgeneralizing.

We should not assume a one-size-fits-all mentality exists for all immigrants and refugees.

A professing Muslim is as likely to hold to the rigorous strictures of the Koran and Islam as a professing Christian is likely to do all the Bible says—which is to say, not much. Originating in a “predominantly Muslim country” does not inherently equal fanatical devotion to Islam. Nor does even fanatical devotion to Islam necessarily represent a threat to the everyday lives of Westerners.

Let go of your prejudices.

We should not resort to nationalistic tendencies and ways of thinking which preordain our rights over the rights of newcomers. Borders are not a creation of God but of man, and even if they were, we are repeatedly told we are not citizens of this world anymore, but rather, that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) Further, God, through his Son Jesus, made Jews and Gentiles out of two separate nationalities into a “new man” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Let go of your pride.

You Might Also Like

We should not imagine ourselves to be somehow "better" or "different" than anyone else simply because they are from somewhere else, or believe something different. There are Christians who point to specific teachings in Islam that instruct all Muslims to convert all non-believers and to put everything under Islamic (Sharia) law.

Many use this scare tactic as a reason to keep Muslims out, yet under the same thinking surely Christians should be expelled from all "right-thinking" nations as well—for isn’t that what we are called to do? Didn’t Jesus Himself tell His disciples, and thus all of us, to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you”? (Matthew 28:19-20)

Rather, instead of creating imaginary and often self-contradictory scare tactics to bolster non-existent Biblical teaching, shouldn’t we refer to what the Bible actually says? We are to both respect the law of man, but to recognize that it is subservient to God’s law. (Romans 13:1-7; Luke 20:25; Acts 5:29) We must respect and love one another as we would do so for ourselves and those we love. (John 13:34-34; Luke 6:27-36) “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Top Comments

Rachel Greer

2

Rachel Greer commented…

We don't have to choose between being wise and being merciful. While we are called to care for strangers and refugees, we're also called to care for our families and our neighbors at home. Sometimes that requires making big sacrifices and hard choices. Even for Christians, not everything in this world is black and white.

Plus let's not forget that just about every middle-eastern country is either in political ruin or run by Sharia law, where non-Muslims and women are second class citizens. And if you even possess a bible, you could face horrifying consequences.

I'm not saying we shouldn't help them. What I am saying is that we have to consider our own safety as well. We must be "wise as serpents yet harmless as doves." No one has any right to make a decision regarding safety for someone else.

Edward Murtaugh

1

Edward Murtaugh commented…

You are missing the point--we 're NOT against Muslims--only TERRORISTS like those hate filled KILLERS in Europe and San Bernadino and Orlando etc. Muslims who want to ASSIMILATE--WITHOUT using the dehumanizing anti women ,anti gay SHARIA LAW---are welcome as per our recently stated immigration policy which calls for VETTING to weed out these vermin.
Our MEDIA MISSLEADS otherwise intelligent and fair minded Americans by implying a RACIST ,BIGOTED or even FASCIST Motive- to our screening efforts

3 Comments

Rachel Greer

2

Rachel Greer commented…

We don't have to choose between being wise and being merciful. While we are called to care for strangers and refugees, we're also called to care for our families and our neighbors at home. Sometimes that requires making big sacrifices and hard choices. Even for Christians, not everything in this world is black and white.

Plus let's not forget that just about every middle-eastern country is either in political ruin or run by Sharia law, where non-Muslims and women are second class citizens. And if you even possess a bible, you could face horrifying consequences.

I'm not saying we shouldn't help them. What I am saying is that we have to consider our own safety as well. We must be "wise as serpents yet harmless as doves." No one has any right to make a decision regarding safety for someone else.

Tracy

125

Tracy replied to Rachel Greer's comment

I wish Christians had a bit more historical understanding of why some Muslim-dominated societies are in turmoil now. Many have been recently governed by oppressive authoritarian dictators, truly repressive rulers who tortured, murdered and set groups against each other -- think Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Egypt. Tunisia, Saudi Arabia. In a number of these cases, these societies currently or recently had dictators chosen by, or protected by western powers. Where that hasn't been the case (Jordan Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria, Morocco) -- lo and behold, your Sharia law or political ruin scenarios haven't been the case. Once again, if the United States and the rest of the west would only look at its own behavior. It might see that the reasons why populations are angry, why poverty leads to resentment and all the rest. Muslims have lived in relative peace with others -- but there are some consequences of the realities of the last 50 years. And unfortunately, the US hasn't always helped. It had its own interests -- in oil -- and it was willing to back some pretty terrible people in order to get it. And no surprise, those regimes are now reaping the whirlwind.

By the way, you can claim concern for your own safety out of some political philosophy. But I don't see how you can claim it from Jesus.

Edward Murtaugh

1

Edward Murtaugh commented…

You are missing the point--we 're NOT against Muslims--only TERRORISTS like those hate filled KILLERS in Europe and San Bernadino and Orlando etc. Muslims who want to ASSIMILATE--WITHOUT using the dehumanizing anti women ,anti gay SHARIA LAW---are welcome as per our recently stated immigration policy which calls for VETTING to weed out these vermin.
Our MEDIA MISSLEADS otherwise intelligent and fair minded Americans by implying a RACIST ,BIGOTED or even FASCIST Motive- to our screening efforts

Please log in or register to comment

Log In