Is Jesus telling America to open its borders? To read the secular and religious Left — and to hear President Obama speak — you’d think that American Christians who argue against welcoming Syrian migrants to our shores are hateful, bigoted hypocrites ignoring clear scriptural imperatives of openness and compassion. In reality, however, Christians who urge that we care for Syrian refugees abroad rather than here at home are responding wisely to national leaders who’ve failed in their own God-ordained duties. We can be compassionate from afar, and we’d be wise to do so.
But don’t tell that to the Left. Writing in the Guardian, Giles Frazier declared that there is “no respectable Christian argument for fortress Europe, surrounded by a new iron curtain of razor wire to keep poor, dark-skinned people out.” His theological argument is that both the Passover and the Eucharist are a call to “re-live basic human solidarity” with the refugee “in the face of existential fear and uncertainty.” Indeed, Jesus’s flight to Egypt was “deliberately sampling” the “basic foundational myth of Exodus.”
Mark Woods, a Baptist minister, referred to the “stark and terrifying parable of the sheep and the goats,” where Jesus decrees, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” because “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me.” Think Progress used this same scripture to condemn Christian governors who oppose allowing Syrian refugees into their states. President Obama himself used biblical imagery to taunt opponents of his refugee resettlement program as “scared of widows and orphans.”
As a general matter, advocates of open borders often refer to Mosaic law requiring the Israelites to treat the “foreigner residing with you” as if foreigners were “native-born,” and to “Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” The laws of Israel, they point out, applied equally to the “foreigner” and the “native-born.”
Putting aside that Mosaic Law would prohibit refugees from worshiping Allah, demand the death penalty for many of the core activities of the sexual revolution, and impose dietary restrictions that the latté Left might find a bit onerous, we can see that these critics are making a basic error: interpreting commands directed at individuals as mandates for national policy. Jesus commanded his followers to “not resist an evil person” — to turn the other cheek when struck and to hand over your coat when they demand your shirt. He did not mandate that we surrender New Mexico if an invader demands Texas, or capitulate to Japan when it bombs Pearl Harbor.
#share#Indeed, Scripture draws a clear line between the responsibility of the individual and the role of the state. Individuals are to forswear vengeance, leaving justice to earthly rulers as God’s “agents of wrath” who bring “punishment on the wrongdoer.” The state has an affirmative responsibility to protect its citizens, even to the point of bringing a sense of “terror” to those “who do wrong.” There is no contradiction between personally welcoming the “strangers” among us while our leaders endeavor to protect us from a genocidal terrorist force that uses refugee status as a shield and disguise to perpetrate brutal attacks against innocent civilians.
This is not to say that Scripture creates a paradigm of compassionate individuals and heartless governments. Throughout the Bible, entire nations — not just individuals — are condemned for injustice, including unjust treatment of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. But to say that the only way to meet that standard is to open our doors to migrants when we know our enemy intends to plant terrorists within their ranks is once again to read far too much into Scripture.
#related#Those who claim that America’s choice is between accepting refugees and heartlessly doing nothing are simply wrong — and disingenuous. Americans have welcomed, clothed, and fed refugees by the hundreds of thousands in camps and cities overseas. In the past we have established and protected vast safe havens that allowed persecuted people to live and thrive (e.g., Iraqi Kurdistan after the Gulf War). America is the most generous, most compassionate nation on earth, expending vast amounts of treasure and spilling its precious blood to protect millions of poor and oppressed.
The true scandal is not that we’re turning our back on the poor, but that our Christian president has utterly forsaken his God-ordained duty to be an “agent of wrath” against our sworn enemies, allowing evil to thrive and placing America under direct threat. By failing in his God-ordained duties, Obama is failing in his constitutional duty to defend our nation — we are far weaker and more vulnerable than when he took office. Writing in the American Interest, Walter Russell Mead nails the source of the present refugee crisis and the cynicism of Obama’s moral preening:
Obama’s own policy decisions — allowing Assad to convert peaceful demonstrations into an increasingly ugly civil war, refusing to declare safe havens and no-fly zones — were instrumental in creating the Syrian refugee crisis. This crisis is in large part the direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to stand aside and watch Syria burn. For him to try and use a derisory and symbolic program to allow 10,000 refugees into the United States in order to posture as more caring than those evil Jacksonian rednecks out in the benighted sticks is one of the most cynical, cold-blooded, and nastily divisive moves an American President has made in a long time.
While the American people are undoubtedly imperfect, we have lived our Judeo-Christian values by establishing and defending the most generous, compassionate nation on the face of the earth. We continue to live those principles by helping feed, house, and defend countless refugees from conflict zones abroad. And we would not violate those principles by closing our borders to a specific group of people who we know will mask and facilitate deadly attacks against our friends, neighbors, and families. America can and should be both compassionate and wise. God expects no less.
— David French is an attorney and staff writer for National Review.