Sunday, January 29, 2017

Now That Something Has Happened

I will not be sharing this to social media. The arguments have become too deafeningly shrill to add to the noise. This is more for my own mental therapy. I will add to this blog as I continue to think about this issue:

Just a few days ago, the "Muslim Ban" was just a rumor, but now there has been an executive order signed. Now, America is in another fierce debate on what this all means.

The issues get muddy quickly when dealing with complex politics like this. What exactly does the language of the order mean? What is the full future intentions of the executive branch? How does this compare to past administrations?

I do not have the expertise or the emotional energy to say much more, but I will say two things:

1.  No amount of comparison to Obama should matter. To so many, nothing Obama did was good enough. So, it cannot now be a litmus test for this administration. Saying, "Well, Obama did something similar" is more than too late.

2. In a recent National Review article, it was argued: "He backed down dramatically from his campaign promises and instead signed an executive order dominated mainly by moderate refugee restrictions and temporary provisions aimed directly at limiting immigration from jihadist conflict zones." This was said in an argument stating that people are overreacting.

First of all, this is his very first action as President towards refugees. Thus, this cannot be called a step-back from his promise, but a step towards. He has only drawn closer to his (and this is a funny, but telling word choice) promise.

Second, from where I'm sitting, it seems that the only people satisfied with this argument as excusing these actions as "not that bad" are those who already supported Trump's position towards refugees before they knew the details of the order. Retrospectively arguing for the now "moderate" step that has been made seems short-sighted, and here's why:

This man DID say he wanted a COMPLETE BAN ON MUSLIMS (in reference to refugees in particular). So that people are frustrated that he has made this new order on top of the already extensive vetting process already in play and see this as a slap in the face of refugees isn't something being pulled from thin air. People are only assuming he is trying to do what he said he would.

I'd rather be quick to defend the refugee over the most powerful man in the free world, or his ego, or my own

We can sugar coat as much as we want, but there will come judgement one day. I sure hope I am not found as reasoning away the greatest commandment to love God through loving the other. If this makes me foolish and places my family and me in harms way, I will leave our life and fate to God, our Father.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thoughts On Possible Refugee Ban

Today, Trump is set to visit The Department of Homeland Security. At the moment, most people are focused on what it is he was so adamant about during his campaign, the building of the wall. However, this will not be his only agenda, as he signs several more executive orders during his visit today. One additional promise from his campaign may come to be today: the complete shut down of accepting Muslim refugees into the United States.

If it is happening today, there is not much we can do to either promote or hinder this agenda. So, we might as well spend some time in reflection. What might it mean to follow through with this ban? What follows now is a series of considerations. I will not be solving the issue, nor do I claim to be doing so. In this regard, may this be a meditation, not an argument.

First, let’s consider the major factor that causes most advocates to support this agenda. We may call it xenophobia, Islamiphobia, racism, or the like, but the truth is that, while these might be, for some, the means to fear, it is not simple bigotry that motivates people. Indeed, it is fear, and we cannot pretend that there are not some legitimate reasons for fearing the presence of more Islamic peoples in our nation. Terrorism is a real threat, as we well know from our own recent history and from current European events, but is it such a threat that we are warranted in our shutting out countless innocents, because of the threat that some individuals with ill intent might sneak in with these innocents.

This might seem to move off point a bit, but, since it is inevitably where the discussion leads, we must face how radical Islam came to be, because some will say, “Well, it is not our fault radicals exist, and while I feel sorry for the people in areas they already infect, we cannot allow them to infect the U.S. This has nothing to do with the U.S., we are a Christian nation, and, since these people are Muslims, they are part of the problem, since it is Islam that creates radical Islam.”

Is this a fair and accurate consideration?

It is true: We make a mistake when we assume radical Islam is not related to religion, as if it is only a political movement using Islam as an excuse to commit its atrocities. Islam’s eschatology is intrinsically tied to political power. There is no doubt that many of Islam believe that the Islamic world must take over the entire globe, politically, for their desired end to take place. Whether this should happen through terrorism, war, or diplomacy is up for debate within the Islamic world:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.[1]

Likewise, we make a mistake when we assume radical Islam is not related to political unrest, much caused by the United States (as well as other Western powers) imperial presence in the Middle East. Our interventions have caused upheaval in the region over and again, one example being our covert actions in Iran, which eventually helped spark the rise of the Shia Islamic Republic and thorn in our side Iran has recently come to be:

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency coined a term for it: Blowback. The explosive boomerang that governments throw when, either by propaganda or through covert military operations, they deliberately stoke the flames of ethnic, religious or nationalist rivalries for political gain. Faustian monsters are created who then threaten to overwhelm the very governments that gave them birth. Blowback was first used by the CIA to describe unintended consequences of their covert activities in Iran in 1954. The agency warned of the possible repercussions of the coup d’├ętat it had engineered to overthrow the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq.[2]

Moreover, when we began to support unrest in Afghanistan to frustrate the Russians, we caused much fear in the region, and refugees began to flee the region. Just like today, they were gathered in large camps away from their homeland, where they were left to their own devices. Just like the current situation in Greece, the refugees grew increasingly disgruntled, as no one came to their rescue. It was this unrest that radicals used to recruit once normal Muslims to their cause. At the same time, the U.S. was funding and arming these radicals, creating movements that still exist today.

Yes, radical Islam is an Islamic problem, created, in part, by Islamic people, but it is also a U.S. problem. If we are really worried about the rise of radical Islam, perhaps we should consider how not accepting refugees create hotbeds, like the ones in Greece at the moment. These hotbeds of unrest and desperation are perfect harvesting fields for the radical movements like Isis. By bringing in the innocent, we protect them from desperation, which leads to radicalization, and, in turn, protect the global community, as well as the U.S., from avoidable, rapid growth of radicalization.

Now that we get the practical out of the way (practical from human, political perspective), let’s talk about the sacred, sanctified approach (what is practical from a divine perspective). Without considering the overwhelming biblical data, which calls us to care for the refugee, consider this:

As Christians, we must think very carefully about how we treat the refugees for the sake of our witness and mission. Yes, we must be prudent, but we cannot let fear control our treatment of those in need. A lesson from Christianity’s past here in the U.S. might help us to think more clearly about our situation today. It is not a perfect analogy, since our approaches are different in each case (the first case being direct contact, the second being complete avoidance), but they come together in their motivation and (possible) consequence:

For many years now, I have been traveling to and from the Navajo Nation to share the love of Jesus Christ, and, to be quite honest, there is a part of me that feels like a fool every time I go, because I know the sad history of the tradition I carry on of "sharing the Gospel" with the Native Americans. Our nation, wanting to control the situation with the Native peoples we feared, justified its actions by proclaiming the Native as "dangerous." So, the white man slaughtered thousands. Who were the dangerous ones again? After we had broken the backs of these tribes, we placed them on reservations and Christian boarding schools were then established.

"In the name of Jesus", it was these schools' job to kill the culture of the people. The tribal children would be punished if they did not comply. They were not allowed to speak their language. They were not allowed to see their parents for many months at a time. If they tried to escape they would be hobbled. And all of this was done by Christians "sharing the Gospel."

Generations later, I have been called in the name of Jesus to share His love with the Navajo, and each time I am out there I have to face the consequences of what my brothers and sisters in Christ did many years ago in the name of fear. I have to see the hurt still in many of these precious peoples' eyes. I have to remind myself each time that what sets me apart is that I'm not out there to take anything but to give my all. I am out there simply to love.

The Christian community was too willing to be motivated by fear of “the other” to treat them like human beings. We cannot do the same today to the innocent among the Islamic nations fleeing danger. Christians cannot allow fear to motivate how we treat “the other” now, lest we damage our relationship with these peoples for generations to come. If we refuse them rescue in their time of need now, (what else are Christians here in times such as these than offering such hope) how will we ever hope they will trust us in the future, when we finally realize they deserve love and the good news of the Kingdom as well? What if, wanting to share the good news with Muslims, today and in the future, our missionaries find that it is they who are really feared, because the Muslim knows we have considered them as we do wild animals, less than human? What we are willing to do to humans we devalue is clear, and, knowing this, those we mistreat may now and forever refuse us access to their hearts.

I hope I never do anything in this life to make the work of the church harder for the generations to come. We cannot allow history to repeat itself over and over again. We must lay down our lives as Christ. This is the ultimate principle as we see in Acts 5:17-42. When there is a choice between proclaiming the love of Christ with great danger of losing our lives or avoiding the situation altogether, we must proclaim the good news. Allowing fear to motivate us has no place. National protection is an added layer to the issue for sure, but supporting the total ban of Muslims, which inevitably leads to the ignoring of the innocent refugee God cares so much about, is, in my mind, equally dangerous.

Again, we have to be smart about this, but we cannot simply use our fear to dismiss the oppressed for whom we are called to care.

We must love, because he first loved us.

"But the lawyer wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29







[1] Wood, Graeme, March 2015: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/
[2] Ramachandra, Vinoth. (2008). Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World. Downers Grove: IVP Academic. pp. 17