Sunday, October 11, 2015

Who would Jesus deport?

I've done a number of posts on illegal immigration. I won't repeat all that in this post. This post is focussed on the so-called "Syrian refugee" crisis. 

i) To begin with, there's a basic problem with how the issue is framed. Some professing Christians cast the issue in terms of "Who would Jesus deport?"

Certainly Christians should be concerned with what Jesus actually did teach. And it's proper to extrapolate from his actual teaching to analogous cases.

But frequently, the people who ask what Jesus would say are the very people who haven't bothered to study what he did say. They have a very casual and careless understanding of the Gospels.

What is worse, their posture often borders on blasphemy. What it amounts to is the person putting themselves in Jesus' place and saying, "If I were Jesus, this is what I'd do!" They presume to speak on his behalf.

Well, you're not Jesus! You don't have divine wisdom. You're no substitute for Jesus. So don't act as if you're in any position to tell us how he'd answer that question, unless you can logically infer that from something he actually said. 

ii) In addition, that framework is counterproductive. Take the picture of the little boy that drowned. A picture that went viral. 

Jesus was in a position to do something I wasn't. He was able to save that little boy from drowning. But he didn't lift a finger to prevent that tragedy. If you're going to cite Jesus as precedent for how Christians should respond, that would suggest nonintervention. A do-nothing policy, because Jesus did nothing. Appealing to the example of Jesus is a two-edged sword.

People who invoke the example of Jesus act as if he's just an inspirational figure from the past. But in NT Christology, he's very much alive. All power in heaven and earth was conferred on him. He sits at the right hand of the Father. Rules the world from heaven. Yet in many cases, he does not intercede, even though he has the power to do so. 

iii) Appealing to Jesus can be counterproductive in another respect. For instance, Jesus spoke of the duty to care for your dependents. In particular, to care for needy elderly parents (Mk 7; Mt 15). 

If, however, unregulated immigration destroys the national economic infrastructure, then you may be unable to discharge your duty to aging parents. It isn't possible to give equal care to everyone. Resources are limited. There's a point at which you must take from one to give to another. Caring for one comes at the expense of another–because there's not enough to go around.

Consider what Paul says the duty of a Christian husband to love his wife (Eph 5), or the standing duty to care for dependents (1 Tim 5:8). If you have prior obligations, you can't just assume a new set of social obligations in competition with your prior obligations. And certain social obligations take precedence. Certain social obligations are primary. What's left over can go to strangers, but they aren't entitled to cut in line. 

iv) Then you have professing Christians who cite OT passages on "immigrants." A potential problem with that appeal is cherry-picking. The same law code which talks about the treatment of "immigrants" also contains the laws of warfare, including the holy war injunctions. If you're going to analogize from the Mosaic law, are Muslim refugees equivalent to immigrants to be welcomed or combatants to be destroyed? 

v) In addition, the "social justice" appeal to OT passages on "immigrants" fails to take into account a number of caveats. For instance:

vi) I'm very sympathetic to the plight of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians. They need to be distinguished from Muslim invaders. We need a screening process. If you give everyone asylum, then there will be no place left on earth for Christians to escape from their persecutors. If you allow jihadists to overrun the West, they will pursue fleeing Christians wherever they go. There's nowhere left to hide. 

All you've done is to import Islamic terrorism onto your own soil. It's not a Christian duty to turn the US into another Beruit or Mogadishu.

Muslims have a habit of bringing their dysfunctional values with them. They destroy what they came for. When they settle in a new country, they introduce Sharia, rape, honor killings, female genital circumcision, &c., into the new country. The vicious cycle repeats itself. 

This isn't hypothetical. Even in the US, see what has happened with Somali immigrants. Likewise, Jews are no longer safe in Paris. For instance:

vii) To take another example, the US presently has the finest teaching hospitals in the world. And they train many international students who return to practice medicine in their country of origin. The world at large benefits from American med schools. If, however, you have an immigration policy that destroys the national economic infrastructure, then that will be a loss to everyone. Not just Americans. The whole world will suffer. 

viii) Some Christians don't know the difference between defending oneself and defending another (or others). To illustrate, suppose an armed intruder breaks into my house while my wife and I are at home. Consider two options:

a) I put my wife between the intruder and me

b) I put myself between the intruder and my wife

One is self-defense, the other is endangering myself to protect another. It's a fundamental moral distinction.

Here's an exchange I had a while back with some well-meaning but sappy-headed Christians who are woefully nearsighted, who have a half-baked grasp of Christian ethics:

Dalton Thomas
August 31 
I'm more concerned about America missing an unprecedented opportunity to exalt Jesus among Muslims than I am of America being Islamicized. Let's not let nationalism, fear and bigotry erode our ability to be what we are called to be to the widow, the orphan and the stranger in these tumultuous days.

Steve Hays 

"I'm more concerned about America missing an unprecedented opportunity to exalt Jesus among Muslims than I am of America being Islamicized."

If America is Islamicized, evangelism will be illegal and conversion from Islam to Christianity will be a capital offense. 

"Let's not let nationalism, fear and bigotry…"

What do you mean by "bigotry"? Since there's no Muslim race, you can't be racial bigotry. 

Sometimes "bigotry" is used as a synonym for people who aren't "tolerant" of every religion or behavior. But unless you're a religious pluralist or moral relativist, that can't be what you mean. So what do you mean?

Are you saying it's bigoted to disapprove of Islamic theology and morality? 

You know, there are Middle Eastern/Third World Christians who immigrate to the US to escape Muslim persecution. Do you think they are bigoted if they don't wish to followed by their persecutors? 

Do you think ISIS and Boko Haram isn't fearful? Do you think it's prudent to import honor killings into the US? Is it prudent to invite people in who format domestic terrorism? 

What makes you think that concern is equivalent to "bigotry" or "nationalism."

Dalton Thomas You've missed the point entirely.

Steve Hays So you don't have an intelligent response. Fine.

Mike Weigt I think he's saying that Jesus is more important than America. We should keep our focus on eternal things and not get so scared about western civilization collapsing.

Dalton Thomas Among other things 

Steve Hays It trivializes the issue to think concern about Islam is equivalent to western civilization collapsing. These are cheap, fluffy, feel-good characterizations that ignore the dire consequences of what happens when Muslims take over.

Dalton Thomas Steve, no one is advocating Muslims taking over America. I am saying that closing our doors to the most wounded, vulnerable, needy and historically unreached and inaccessible people groups out of the fear and insecurity that they're going to 'take over' is hollow, unbiblical and a horrendous example of muddled priorities. The 'keep refugees out because they're Muslims' narrative is American all to American and shallow all too shallow. We can and must be bigger than that. The majority of the people who are flooding into Germany, Sweden and any other hospitable nation who will receive them aren't desperate to establish the Islamic caliphate but rather are desperate to flee the Islamic caliphate because they don't want to be close to Islamic caliphate. No one is defending Islam or suggesting Islamic conquest is a great idea. We're saying that abdicating our mandate to the widow, the orphan and the alien out of hatred of Islam is at its base level, nationalistic bigotry. Whats more though, it is incongruent with, yea even offensive, to the heart of the slain Messiah we love and follow.

Steve Hays Now you're rewriting the history of the thread. You originally cast the issue in terms of "bigots" and "nationalists" who are afraid of America being "Islamicized"–as if that's a disreputable concern.

Claiming asylum is a common ruse to get into a country and become entrenched. The "refugee" status is often abused. That's gaming the system.

If you don't think Muslim immigrants are a serious threat to Jews, Christians, and civil liberties in Europe, you are massively ignorant.

Dalton Thomas Steve, you're demonstrating exactly the kind of spirit and attitude that's fueling what could possibly be the greatest squandering of the greatest opportunity we've ever had for a meaningful Gospel engagement of the House of Islam. Islam is evil, oppressive, and cultish. That is as true. It is as true as our mandate to care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger. 

On a separate but related note: The fact that you think the refugee crisis mounting on the earth right now (which happens to be the greatest in human history) is some kind of sham to infiltrate and take over the world and that refugees pouring over Balkan and European borders and applying for asylum abroad is mostly a collective disingenuous ploy demonstrates an urgent need of pause, education and empathy. 

If you're not a Christian, you get a free pass to be heartless. If you do love and follow Jesus, I suggest you reevaluate your worldview.

Steve Hays You're doing a bait-and-switch where you substitute a refugee crisis in general for Muslims in particular. And as a matter of fact, Muslims are taking over the EU and the UK.

You need to brush on the duty of Christian husbands and fathers to protect their wives and kids.

Dalton Thomas We have a fundamental clash of worldviews and values Steve.

Steve Hays So your worldview doesn't include a man's duty to protect his dependents from harm. That's not a Christian value. Got it.

Dalton Thomas Invoking self-preservation as a valid reason to disobey Jesus' explicit commands to us regarding how we are to care for the widow and the orphan, how we are to magnify the gospel among every people group, how we are to relate to hostile enemies as sheep among wolves is, well, not valid. There is no nobility or virtue in self-preservation. 

Steve Hays 

i) You lack rudimentary rational discrimination. I didn't invoke "self-preservation". To the contrary, I invoked the duty of a father and husband to protect his dependents. That's not self-preservation. Indeed, he puts himself at risk. That's the opposite of self-preservation. 

ii) You also make the same mistake as pacifists, who absolutize one duty at the expense of others. To begin with, caring for widows and orphans is hardly equivalent to allowing Muslims to immigrate to America. Do you think all the poor people of the world should immigrate to America? There are lots of widows and orphans who aren't Muslim. In fact, there are many people who were widowed or orphaned by Muslims. 

In addition, the NT also has commands about caring for one's family. That's a priority.

"It'll force you to put some names and faces to some of the people you are afraid of."

You have a scurrilous habit of stereotyping people who disagree with you. You say you oppose "bigotry," but you stereotype people who disagree with you. You need to become cognizant of your own unreflective prejudice. 

I didn't say or suggest that I'm personally afraid of Muslims. Actually, everything I said was in reference to concern for past, present, and prospective victims of Islam. 


  1. Thanks for your usual incisiveness and calling 'em like you see 'em. I'm curious about one thing, though, and that is the plight of MENA Christians: MENA is a place where religion and tribe are not as clearly distinguished as in America, and so there's the question of whether refugees are Christians by faith or merely by tribal religion; such professing Christians have been members of terrorist organizations, eg PFLP (eg Georges Habash), thereby being as potentially dangerous as Muslims; how do we as a nation distinguish between these Christians?

    1. I think the main thing is not whether refugees are Christian, although that's a priority, but whether they are Muslim, which is to be avoided.

      We can have nonChristian immigrants, but since we must be selective about who immigrates, Christian refugees should be a priority.

      As for ethnic/cultural Christians who belong to terrorist organizations, I guess that depends on the methods and motivations. For instance, is this a Christian counterattack in response to Muslim attacks?