Posts I Consider to be the Most Important, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Here’s What Jesus Says About Welcoming Refugees

syrian-refugees-opener-615

(This article originally appeared at OnFaith here.)

At last count, 31 governors have issued statements that they will not allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states. Nevermind that governors probably do not have the power to enforce state borders, their statements have come under fire from many, including evangelicals who usually support conservative political leaders.

Why?

Because this latest example of xenophobia conflicts with the details of Jesus’ life a little too closely.

Turning away refugee families right before we put up Christmas decorations is too ironic.
First, Jesus and his parents were Middle Eastern refugees. The nativity scene, after all, is about a Middle Eastern family looking for a place to stay. Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph fled with the baby to Egypt. Turning away refugee families right before we put up Christmas decorations is too ironic even for those who often miss the irony of their political views and professed faith.

Second, Jesus gives an ominous description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25 that directly speaks to the issue of welcoming the foreigner. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus declares, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Conversely, “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

While one could argue over the definition of “brothers and sisters,” Jesus is known for universalizing the love of neighbor. It is perhaps one of Jesus’ unique contributions to moral teaching in human history. In his depiction of the Last Judgment, Jesus is the King, and He clearly states that how we treat who He calls “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” is how we treat Him.

Who are “the least of these?”

Jesus says that those who reject “the least of these” will face eternal punishment.
In verse 28, we learn that one category of “the least of these” is the “stranger.” How does Jesus define “stranger?” Matthew was originally written in Greek, and the Greek word that we translate as stranger is xenos. Xenos can be translated into English as “foreigner, immigrant, or stranger.”

In other words, when we don’t welcome the foreigner, Jesus takes it personally.

Let us acknowledge that even though it’s an unpopular thought in twenty-first-century America, Jesus says that those who reject “the least of these” will face eternal punishment. Needless to say, that statement should give pause to all of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ, yet quickly reject the stranger.

We are wise, of course, to ask questions about public safety and the possibility of terrorists embedding themselves within refugee groups. I understand the apprehension that some feel who are sincerely concerned about the safety of U.S. citizens, and I do not dismiss their concerns as trivial. There is another view, however, for us to consider.

Turning away families in their time of need could prove to be a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS.
In addition to Jesus’ warning about the afterlife, conceivably there are earthly consequences to not welcoming the stranger. Perhaps not welcoming refugees would create more terrorists who would seek to harm the United States. Turning away families in their time of need could prove to be a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS. If a mother and father seeking a safe land for their children are denied hospitality, they will not feel goodwill towards the country that rejected them. Furthermore, if their children were to die because of hardship, why would be surprised if grieving parents were to act in revenge?

Finally, one could easily make an argument that rejecting the refugees allows the terrorists to win. Their most powerful weapon is, well, terror. If we fear an attack so intensely that we are willing to deny hospitality to refugee children, who could argue that the terrorists haven’t won? Not only have they taken human lives, they will have succeeded in taking away our humanity.

Many Christians, including conservative evangelicals, realize that Jesus speaks clearly on this matter. No matter how many governors claim there is no room in the inn, the teaching of Jesus is simply too relevant to the current situation for Christians to ignore.

(This article originally appeared at OnFaith here.)

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Social Justice

What Evangelicals Could Learn from the Pope

Pope Francis

(This article originally appeared in Huffington Post Religion.)

When Pope Francis visits the United States for the first time later this month, he will set foot in a country in which a segment of evangelical Christians are waging a crusade. I count myself as an evangelical, but there is a split in the party, so to speak. The centrist and progressive evangelicals are ready to move on from the culture wars of the past 40 years. The conservatives? They are moving, but seemingly backward.

An Apostolic clerk in Eastern Kentucky is being hailed as the newest evangelical martyr for refusing to issue marriage licenses, for God’s glory. The presidential candidate with the most evangelical support (20 percent) is the billionaire Republican frontrunner who “loves” a Bible he can’t quote and wants to build a wall to keep “illegals” (mostly Latino Catholics) out. And it’s impossible not to notice that as soon as same-sex marriage became law, the right wing culture warriors reverted back to raiding Planned Parenthood like it was 1992 all over again.

The theocratic fantasies of this segment of American evangelicals have now been laid completely bare. I support the protection of religious liberty as outlined in the First Amendment, but some Christians, like the emperor Constantine, seem determined to conquer under the sign of the cross. Even while forwarding chain emails claiming that Muslims are trying to enforce Sharia law in the U.S., culture war Christians are attempting to force all Americans to live according to their interpretation of religious law.

This culture war is taking its toll on faith in America. An alarming 36 percent of Young Millennials are now unaffiliated with any religion, and the percentage of “The Nones,” those who claim no faith, is up among all age groups. An earlier study revealed their reasons for leaving the faith; they believe that “… religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.” The rise of the Religious Right, an extreme politicization of conservative Christianity in the U.S., coincided with a rapid decline of faith.

While American evangelicals war against same-sex marriage and abortion rights, Pope Francis has clearly chosen a different path. Although the Pope supports neither, his actions have served to open the gate to those who have been shut out of their communities of faith. He agrees with evangelicals on many doctrinal issues, but his overall tone is one of bridge building instead of wall building. Pontifex means “bridge-builder,” so he’s living up to the title.

(Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post Religion here.)

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Social Justice, Uncategorized

5 Scriptures That Should End Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign

(This article originally appeared at Huffington Post Religion.)

“They have to go.”

That is the crux of the long-awaited Donald Trump immigration policy. This past Sunday, Trump repeatedly told Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, that the 11 million people who entered the country illegally must be deported. He did not specify how the country could afford the hundreds of millions of dollars that a national deportation bureaucracy would require, but that’s the deal he’s offering.

But wait, there’s more…

Trump added that their children who were born in the United States would have to be deported as well. That, of course, would require repealing the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution that grants birthright citizenship to every person born in the U.S.

Every decent human being, regardless of faith, should feel righteous indignation at a brash billionaire threatening to nullify the Fourteenth Amendment, revoke the citizenship of children born in the United States, and ship them to another country. This policy punishes the most vulnerable in our society who had nothing to do with their parents’ actions, and it has no place in the United States of America.

Not only is Trump’s immigration policy a moral outrage, it is also hypocritical. The Atlantic pointed out that Trump’s policy would have barred his own grandfather from entering the country. We also know that two-thirds of “The Donald’s” wives were born outside of the United States. Thankfully, almost a super-majority of the nation of immigrants disagree with Trump, as 65 percent of Americans favor some kind of path to citizenship.

While I support regulated borders and a sensible and compassionate immigration policy, one of the most often repeated values in Scripture is offering hospitality to the stranger. Even dedicated people of faith may be surprised to know how forcefully the biblical authors spoke out on the issue of immigration.

With Trump’s immigration policy now public, those of us who desire to follow Christ have the opportunity to examine what our faith tradition teaches us about showing hospitality to the immigrants and the vulnerable among us. While some Christians short-sightedly stop at quoting Romans 13:1, others will step back, look at the big picture, and acknowledge the existence of a higher law. For example, consider Leviticus 19:33-34…

(Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post Religion.)

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