Sunday, February 12, 2017

Travel ban

Recently, a number of "evangelical leaders" published an open letter in the Washington Post complaining about Trump's travel ban. I haven't said anything about his ban. 

It will be impossible to consistently defend or oppose some of Trump's policies, because, at best, they're a duke's mixture of good and bad. Even some of Trump's better policies will often be challenging for conservatives to defend because the formulation is so hamhanded. Even when we like the general idea, we have to distance ourselves from details.

Trump is a blunt instrument. Another one of Trump's problems is that even when he's right or approximately right, he doesn't make a case for his position. So that allows his enemies to define his position in the worst terms imaginable. 

It isn't hard to make a case for a ban on Muslim immigration. He could do a YouTube style video hosted at the White House website. He could document the uptick in jihadist attacks on American soil during Obama's tenure. He could document horror stories about sharia and jihad in the EU and the UK. Not just terrorist attacks, but the importation of a rape culture. Muslim immigrants who attack healthcare providers and overwhelm social services, &c. Honor killings, &c. 

He wouldn't have to do that singlehandedly. He could have advisors who write the script.

I think Trump's travel ban is a mixed bag. It's good to prioritize Jewish and Christian refugees. On the other hand, a blanket ban on Syrian "refugees" discriminates against persecuted Christians. 

Clearly we need a tighter screening process. However, what we really need isn't so much a travel ban, but a major change in immigration policy. The primary threat isn't coming from tourists, which is temporary (although there's a serious problem with people who overstay their visitor visa), but with Muslim immigrants, which is permanent. 

So Trump's travel ban strikes me as mostly for show. It does enough to get people riled up, but not enough to manage the problem. Given that he will get a catch flak for any restrictions on Muslims, he might as well go for broke by proposing something that makes a real difference, rather than half-measures. He has nothing to lose, and much to gain by taking a bold stance. 

Now for the letter:

As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement.

Our care for the oppressed and suffering is rooted in the call of Jesus to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus makes it clear that our “neighbor” includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country.

As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now. We live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions. However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades. For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.

Since the inception of the refugee resettlement program, thousands of local churches throughout the country have played a role in welcoming refugees of all religious backgrounds. Ministries to newly arrived refugees are ready and desire to receive many thousands more people than would be allowed under the new executive order.

As leaders, we welcome the concern expressed for religious minorities, including persecuted Christians. Followers of Christ face horrific persecution and even genocide in certain parts of the world. While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all. This executive order dramatically reduces the overall number of refugees allowed this year, robbing families of hope and a future. And it could well cost them their lives.

i) The appeal to the parable of the Good Samaritan is incompetent: Although the victim in the parable suffered violence, he wasn't "fleeing" violence. Moreover, he wasn't fleeing persecution. The parable says nothing about persecution. 

It wasn't the victim that was Samaritan, but the man who came to his aid. So the parable says nothing about treating people equally regardless of faith. 

ii) All religions don't have the same social mores. Islam poses a unique threat in terms of jihad, sharia, &c. 

iii) In reference to Islam, "compassion and security" have not coexisted for generations. Just look at what is happening in Europe. 

I daresay this is why some unbelievers don't take Christianity seriously. They see these softheaded statements by Christian leaders, and conclude that Christianity is a religion for fools. 


  1. I do believe that when it comes to our handling of Islamic refugees, compassion and security CAN coexist...BUT THAT'S THE POINT of the (temporary) travel ban!

    Until Trump actually does something demonstrably objectionable, the Left is shooting itself in the foot. Wait for him to genuinely goof, or expect a backlash of sympathy for "the poor guy."

    1. What does a temporary travel ban accomplish? My own position is that we should have a moratorium on Muslim immigration, and deport Muslim foreign nationals. But that's not going to happen.

    2. Steve--

      The stated purpose is to figure out how to sufficiently vet them. So it accomplishes something commensurate with how well they figure that out.

      No matter how we do it, we will be letting in a radical element. We need to figure out how not to let our Muslim communities reach some sort of critical mass. We need to learn from Europe's mistakes.

      The great majority of these people will not hurt us...directly. I once heard, however, that as many as 40% of Muslims worldwide support terrorism enough to vote for terroristic groups and/or financially support such groups. It is not some tiny, radical fringe we are fighting, but a significant proportion of the religion, taken as a whole.

      We need to step away from sentimental, individualistic rights for these people...unless we'd rather not exist in the not so distant future.

      I sometimes wonder how people's minds would change if the potential immigrants/refugees were members of a dangerous cult like the Branch Davidians or Heaven's Gate or Jim Jones' People's Temple. How many Americans know diddly about Islam?

      (On the other hand, the ignorance on the Right is just about as bad, seeing every single Muslim as a threat, denying the very existence of civilized Muslims.)

    3. The FBI Director admitted that we can't properly vet jihadis. There is, moreover, a difference between a travel ban and an immigration ban. This is a largely symbolic gesture that doesn't tackle the problem.