Refugees, Regulations and Righteousness

Franklin Graham

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue.We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”

 

The world’s a little bit crazy right now. I’m really concerned by the level of hate and vitriol demonstrated by the Anti-Trump people. Theirs is a movement that was once identified by the #LoveTrumpsHate hashtag and now is known by #notmypresident. During the march in Washington we heard the marchers and spokespeople saying vile things about the President and wearing genitalia inspired hats and costumes while demanding respect. It’s a crowd that has come a long way from espousing love.

Meanwhile, the Trump people flood Facebook and Twitter with mean-spirited gloating about winning the election. There seems to be much more than political motivation for their gleefully nasty position. There seems to be much of it fueled by hate and anger, That side has felt held down by media and public opinion for so long that the unexpected Trump victory has them acting in ways that in no way are acceptable.

A quick scan of my blog will show that I, in no way, support Trump. I withhold that support on the basis of my understanding of Catholic teaching. At my parish I don’t recall hearing the name of any candidate mentioned during this election cycle. The priests were just very consistent in presenting Catholic social teaching from the Ambo each day and trusted the laypeople to an make enlightened choice. My parish is a Jesuit serviced parish and I  hear quite a bit about the Preferential Option for the Poor. It’s an easy position for me to accept.

We have some serious issues in this country, indeed, in the world. Watching the campaigns, it seemed to me that the Clinton people were totally fine with the way the world was going and felt no need to change anything. Trump  was the only candidate addressing the hot button issues of immigration and terrorism. Not in a way I could reconcile with my religious beliefs though. His solutions seem harsh and uncaring. Yet, the voting block that put him over the top was comprised of Christians. I’ve yet to be able to understand that.

Unlike Franklin Graham, I cannot separate these issues from my religious thinking. Graham said that the refugee problem wasn’t a Bible issue. But, I contend that every issue is a Bible issue. The Bible isn’t a compilation of lovely thoughts bound in a book on a shelf in our homes. It’s a comprehensive overview that compels us in a way that imitates the actions of Jesus Christ. Simply put, there is no secular world. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therein. Everything belongs to God and he leaves His mark upon all creation. Every person is God’s, made in His image, and he marks each one with dignity.

So, let’s find a way to protect our borders. Let’s come up with a stern, sure response to terrorism. Government has both a right and duty to keep it’s citizens safe. But we must do it in a way that respects the God-given dignity of our neighbors. With either issue, we must find a way to achieve our goals without demonizing entire populations of people.

If we don’t do that, if we pass by our brethren without helping them, our religious convictions are like that of the Levite who left the traveller suffering by the side of the road. God didn’t call us to that kind of faith. He called us to a daily walk where we are kind to strangers, love our neighbor, help the poor and marginalized. We are called to an active faith where we work to realize a more equal distribution of God’s earthly gifts. And this must be the parameters within which we walk, because every issue is a Bible issue.

More than merely granting assent to our responsibility to share, we need to respond. Like Jesuits, we need to become contemplatives in action. Of our great Catholic faith, St. Basil the Great once said, “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”