On Jesus the Refugee

Jesus was an undocumented child refugee. After his birth Jesus and his family were forced to flee to Egypt in order to escape the madness of King Herod.

That line is how an article published earlier today by the Huffington Post began. Never mind that they didn’t have immigration documents back then. But it’s not just the overt liberals that use Jesus as an anecdote for open borders. Subtle social progressives, like Russell Moore, have also called Jesus an “illegal immigrant” in pushing for amnesty. It seems that for someone most folks don’t care about the rest of the time, Jesus sure becomes a popular rhetorical tool when the conversation turns to immigration.

For Jonathan Williams, senior pastor at Forefront Church and author of the Huffington Post article entitled Jesus the Refugee, opening our borders to Syrian refugees who may or may not be rogue terrorist agents for the Islamic State is a matter of following the example of Jesus. He writes…

I’ve seen the ISIS videos. I’ve watched the Paris attacks. I’ve read about refugees who have turned around and caused destruction upon the same people who welcomed them in. If I’m being honest, I agree with the sentiment of those who want swift and violent retribution. I empathize with those who need to close their borders out of genuine fear…But what if we actually followed this impractical, difficult, life-changing teaching of Jesus? What if we showed love and forgiveness for those who tried to hurt us? What if we served those who slander our names? What if we gave selflessly to refugees instead of debating their worthiness? What if we urged our governors to open their doors in the face of fear? What if we offered compassion in the face of cruelty?

The guy may be a great pastor. The folks seem to be enjoying the laser show and mood lighting at his church in New York, from the best I can tell by the photos, for what it’s worth. So there’s that. Maybe he’s a great shepherd. But I wouldn’t want Williams in any kind of office that would steward the safety of his fellow citizens. In fact, I wouldn’t want Williams to use his pulpit hipster stool to influence anyone in office who would steward the safety of his fellow citizens.

This is the clergyman I want to influence American policy…

As well-intentioned as it might be to use the story of Jesus’ infanthood flight into Egypt to guilt us into opening our borders all lily-nily under the white guilt-fueled guise of being non-judgmental and being compassionate in the face of cruelty, we might ought to temper our pacifist zeal with some photos of massacred French people. Yes, I know that’s harsh. But maybe, just maybe, preachers operating in the hypothetical realm of ideals need to be quiet for a bit and let people who know a thing or two about protecting people protect people.

Thankfully, not all evangelicals have been following Russell Moore and gone limp-wristed and jelly-spined on the topic of illegal immigration in the face of dire national security problems. Franklin Graham (who wouldn’t be endorsed by Pulpit & Pen on theological grounds, necessarily) has certainly proven his convictions on the evil of Islam and the necessity of protecting innocent people (protecting innocent people used to be a Christian value, too, before the Evangelical Intelligentsia took over as our braintrust…back a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away). Graham says…

“I will bow my knee to no one except Almighty God. The Bible says one day at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ – and that will include the knees of Islamists…We need to join forces with Russia who was our ally in WWII, France who is our oldest ally, Germany, and others to destroy this enemy.”

Neo-evangelical platitudes about compassion aside, I’m not sure how Graham’s comments are doctrinally unchristian. Unless the Evangelical Intelligentsia want to pick up the mantle of Menno Simons-style pacifism, the appropriateness of  killing people who are trying to kill you has been standard Christian fare since Augustine and is compatible with both Old and New Testament ethics. And yet, there’s no shortage of evangelicals who are standing metaphorically in the midst of dead and dismembered Frenchmen lecturing us on “compassionate” open borders because “Jesus was a refugee.”

Ed Stetzer, the Vice President of Lifeway who recently partnered to provide SBC-owned data to radical Muslims (click here for jaw-dropping link) shortly after the attacks in Paris said that we should partner with Muslim religious leaders (as he already is doing). Charisma News juxtaposes Stetzer’s view against Graham’s…

Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse and son of the famed preacher Billy Graham, wrote on Twitter: “Islam is at war with us—we’ve witnessed its evil face firsthand over and over.”

But some evangelicals rejected the “war against Islam” paradigm.

“I want to see Muslims come to Christ (as, yes, they want to win me to Islam). And, we can’t do that by going to war with a billion people,” researcher Ed Stetzer wrote inChristianity Today.

I have to genuinely wonder if Stetzer believes someone out there has called for “war with a billion people.” Obviously, they haven’t, but I wonder if Stetzer knows that. In other words, is he purposefully saying something so wrongly spoken or is it accidental? Obviously, no one is proposing war on Islam and therefore, upon all of the adherents of Islam. Graham and others (and anyone with common sense) are proposing we kill terrorists who are trying to kill us and that we treat others who may want to kill us cautiously.

In the above-mentioned article from Stetzer at Christianity Today, he writes, “The immigrants streaming across Europe are trying to escape the radical Islamists, they are not the enemy…But almost all of these people are just trying to live and protect their families—as you and I would do. If we start placing blame, and drawing quick conclusions from that, then we are saying that innocent people should have been denied protection. This is not ok. The gospel frees us to first—and always—be people of compassion.”

Stetzer seems to make several assertions. First, Stetzer asserts that the immigrants streaming across Europe are not the enemy. That’s a patently false statement. They are not all the enemy. But as the last few days have demonstrated, some of them are the enemy.

Secondly, Stetzer asserts that “almost all” of the refugees are people just trying to protect their families. This is why shallow religious platitudes are altogether insufficient in real-time political discourse. Stetzer is right. Almost all are just normal people. How many terrorists coming into the country is acceptable to Stetzer, one must wonder. Considering the reality that any innocent people who come in with covert terrorists are only more potential victims, common sense would dictate zero.

Third, Stetzer asserts that “quick conclusions” are somehow involved in this scenario. We heard the same thing after 9-11 when we were warned not to quickly draw a conclusion that the attack was from Islamic extremists. And we heard the same thing after every subsequent terrorist attack since – even when the perpetrator shouts “Allahu Ackbar.” This is where, quite frankly, the smugness of the intelligentsia smells most repellent. I think I speak for most common sense-minded Americans when I say, “Be quiet.” It’s not a “quick conclusion” that terrorists are masquerading as refugees. It’s not improper to assume so. In fact, it’s asinine to assume otherwise.

Fourth, Stetzer asserts that the Gospel requires frees us to be people of compassion, which is true. Unfortunately, with just enough characteristic nuance, there’s little question that this call to compassion equates, in Stetzer’s mind, to receiving refugees into our border foolishly and dangerously assuming the best. Compassion does not equate to optimism.

When it comes to real bloody corpses in our streets, the time to pontificate with compassionate nuance is over. Even though opinions in the Huffington Post religion column and Southern Baptist executives like Stetzer and Moore are billed as big-minded, in fact they are small-minded and unhelpful. Christians are left with two prominent imperatives. So long as we are using Old Testament ethical imperatives to be compassionate to the alien and sojourner (Deuteronomy 10:19) it would make sense we also follow those same imperatives to protect our citizens and property from foreign invaders (Zechariah 9:8). These two principles are not in opposition. Whatever compassion means, it does not mean carelessly opening up our citizens to attack in the name of compassion. Likewise, whatever protecting our citizens and property from foreign invaders means, it does not mean being cruel to the alien or sojourner.

Compassion for the Syrian refugees means destroying the ISIS combatants terrorizing them. It means providing food, aid and medical assistance in their home nation. It does not mean giving masses of unknown people the benefit of the doubt, leaving our own nation vulnerable to terrorist attack. That would not be compassionate, regardless of how the Evangelical Intelligentsia lectures us.

Neither Jesus nor his parents broke any law to seek asylum in Egypt. He was not “undocumented” in any meaningful way, and people need to stop saying that. Furthermore, had Egypt not received him, one would be hard pressed to accuse them of wrong-doing in any way. And for what it’s worth in a biblical context, whenever Israel was exiled to another nation, it didn’t lead them to blessing, but to curses. Compassion, in the context of the Syrian refugees, is best given in the delivery of hell-fire missiles and daisy cutters to their oppressors.

And that’s the type of Christian ethics that the Evangelical Intelligentsia is simply too ill-prepared to comprehend.

[Contributed by JD Hall]

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