Should Christians Favor Accepting Syrian Refugees?
The recent civil war in Syria, involving the Assad regime and various radical Islamic rebel elements and factions—both Sunni and Shiite (Seale, 2012; “Syrian Refugees…,” 2012; Cloud and Abdulrahim, 2013; “Migrant Crisis…,” 2015; “Kingdom Slams…,” 2015) has resulted in millions of Syrian Muslims fleeing their homeland. This circumstance has sparked a considerable discussion among Americans and the world regarding the propriety of refusing to receive refugees into one’s home country. Setting politics and other considerations aside, the Christian’s primary concern is to ascertain God’s will on such a matter. What does He want Christians to do in response to this “humanitarian” crisis?
The only way to know God’s will on any subject is to go to the only resource on the planet that contains that will—the Bible. What is God’s will regarding accepting refugees and immigrants from other countries? Interestingly, the only civil law code in human history authored by God Himself is the Law of Moses. When one cares to examine everything the Bible says about treatment of “strangers” under the Law of Moses, it is quickly evident that the #1 concern of God in the acceptance of foreigners into one’s country is their moral, religious, and spiritual condition. That is, God was vitally concerned about the spiritual impact the foreigners would have on Israel’s ability to remain loyal to Him, untainted by moral and religious contamination. Hence, God issued several civil decrees that strictly regulated the acceptance of foreigners into Israelite society. Among other strictures, foreigners were required to:
- observe the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14)
- be excluded from Passover (Exodus 12:43,45—unless the foreigner was willing to naturalize via circumcision [Exodus 12:48])
- refrain from eating blood (Leviticus 17:12)
- abstain from sexual immorality, including homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and adultery (Leviticus 18:26)
- not blaspheme the name of God (Leviticus 24:16,22)—an offense that at one time was upheld by American courts (e.g., in People v. Ruggles, the New York State Supreme Court declared: “Blasphemy against God, and contumelious reproaches, and profane ridicule of Christ or the Holy Scriptures, are offenses punishable at the common law, whether uttered by words or writings.”)
For those who (1) believe in God and trust God, and (2) understand that His directives in the civil law code given to the Israelites were “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12; cf. Psalm 19:7-11; Psalm 119:72,77,97,113,142,163), then such directives—which emanated from the mind of Deity—carry great weight in sorting out the current discussion regarding the acceptance of foreign refugees.
It would seem that foreigners who immigrated to Israel were not required by God to convert to Judaism. However, they were strictly forbidden from engaging in any religious practices that were deemed unacceptable according to God’s will. For example, one of the religious precepts practiced by the Canaanite peoples of Ammon and Phoenicia was to offer their children as a propitiatory sacrifice to their god Molech. Such a false religious practice was an abomination to God. He demanded that the death penalty be invoked for such conduct (Leviticus 18:21). Religious freedom did not extend to an Ammonite immigrant to the extent that he was allowed to practice his religion on this point; he was to be executed if he did (Leviticus 20:2).
Contemplate the following scenario. Suppose in ancient Israel the Moabites attacked the Ammonites, or the Ammonites themselves experienced an internal political upheaval, causing thousands of Ammonite refugees to flee north, west, or south to the corresponding transjordanic tribal lands of Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben (see map on previous page). Would God have insisted that godly love for neighbors would require that the Israelites take them in? The relevant passages indicate that God would not have wanted them received unconditionally. He would not have sanctioned a massive influx of pagan peoples into the heart of Israelite society, bringing their immoralities and false religion with them, with no safeguards or means by which to protect the moral and spiritual health of the Israelites. Further, what Ammonite would want to come to Israel where he would not be allowed to practice his religion, and where the morals and customs of the people would contradict his own? One could only imagine that Ammonites would not want to be subjected to such rigid moral conditions. However, they most certainly would want to come if they discovered that they could retain their evil religious practices, get welfare money from the Israelites, and locate in such numbers that they could take over local city government and schools.
The Founders of the American Republic possessed precisely the same concerns. To them, “freedom” did not mean permission to engage in any practice deemed by Christian standards to be immoral or threatening to the Christian community. Consider, for example, prominent Founder Gouverneur Morris, who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the New York State militia, was a member of the Continental Congress, signing both the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution, served as America’s Minister Plenipotentiary to France during the notorious French Revolution (1792-1794), and also served in the U.S. Senate. Though the French sought to establish a Republic like America, Morris’ observations of French life, which he witnessed firsthand, led him to believe the population of France was incapable of governing themselves and creating a Republic like we enjoy. Why? Among other concerns, he saw very little evidence of worship of the true God, and with an air of regret, he observed: “I do not yet perceive that reformation of morals without which liberty is but an empty sound” (Morris, 1888, 2:7-8, emp. added). As the storm clouds of the Revolution were gathering over France, writing from Paris in 1789, he explained:
The materials for a revolution in this country are very indifferent. Everybody agrees that there is an utter prostration of morals—but this general position can never convey to the American mind the degree of depravity…. The great mass of the people have no religion but their priests, no law but their superiors, no morals but their interest…. Paris is perhaps as wicked a spot as exists. Incest, murder, bestiality, fraud, rapine, oppression, baseness, cruelty;…every bad passion exerts its peculiar energy. How the conflict will terminate Heaven knows. Badly I fear; that is to say, in slavery (1:68-69,200-201, emp. added).
He concluded that the French were “a nation not yet fitted by education and habit for the enjoyment of freedom” (1:109). Consequently, the Founders did not encourage immigration from such countries whose population would seriously undermine the underpinnings of the American Republic. [NOTE: For another example among many, see the opinion of the State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Commonwealth v. Nesbit in 1859 which declared the attitude of the Founders and the nation as a whole in its utter rejection of pagan morality.]
The vast majority of the Syrian refugees are Muslims. They do not share Christian values in several key, critical points (including polygamy, treatment of women, and severing limbs as punishment—Miller, 2005, pp. 177ff.,192-197). Muslim enclaves already in America, like those in several European countries, gradually transform their neighborhoods into Islamic strongholds where Sharia law is applied (Gaffney, 2015; Hickford, 2015; Hohmann, 2015; James, 2014; Kern, 2015a; Kern, 2015b; Bailey, 2015; Selk, 2015a; Selk, 2015b; Sheikh, 2015, Spencer, 2014). Though it may take many years, gradual encroachment on American culture due to “immigration jihad” will conceivably transform the U.S. into an Islamic nation. The Founders so designed the Republic that the citizens govern themselves. Hence, the moral, spiritual, and religious condition of the majority of citizens ultimately determines which politicians are installed on every level of government, what laws are made, and what content the teachers will teach in public schools. In short, the influx of Muslims will radically transform American civilization. Such an observation hardly constitutes racism or hate speech.
But what about the “Good Samaritan”? Shouldn’t Christians show compassion? Most certainly. But how? What does God expect in such a situation? The story of the Good Samaritan pertains to individuals treating other individuals kindly. It does not refer to God’s will regarding the immigration policies of nations. On the contrary, God expressed His will with regard to immigration in His civil law code He gave to the Israelites. Further, when the Good Samaritan rendered aid to the stranger he encountered, he saw to his immediate needs (Luke 10:33-35). This attention did not entail transporting the man to the Samaritan’s own country or home—many miles away.
Many political and religious disturbances occur in many countries of the world and have for thousands of years. America has long rendered assistance to a host of needy peoples of various countries. Yet Christian compassion does not—in God’s sight—necessitate bringing large numbers of displaced peoples to America without suitable regard for the potential moral and spiritual threat to the health, safety, and future of the nation. There is nothing in the Bible that would lead us to believe that refusing refugees into the country is a violation of the Bible principle of compassion and concern for others. Should the good Samaritan have taken into his home a complete stranger without regard to the man’s moral and religious condition? Should he have jeopardized the safety of his own wife and children when he left to continue his business, as the text says he did? The Bible, in fact, teaches that we have just as much responsibility to be kind and benevolent to ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens as we do to peoples of other countries (Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 5:25,28). Is God, Himself, guilty of violating His own benevolent nature when He placed restrictions on immigrants and refugees to Israel? Clearly, carte blanche reception of refugees into one’s own country does not trump all other considerations—not the least of which is the spiritual impact of that reception.
A far more rational, appropriate solution would be to assist the refugees with returning to their own country, or other Muslim countries, by interceding on their behalf, whether diplomatically or militarily, to right the wrongs being inflicted on them by their persecutors. There is nothing about Christianity that necessitates relocating foreigners to America who possess conflicting—and counterproductive—moral and religious values.
So the question of receiving refugees into the U.S. is not about “compassion,” benevolence, or Christian kindness. After all, America leads the world in providing the greatest amount of humanitarian assistance in the Syrian refugee crisis (Chorley, 2015). Rather, in keeping with God’s own assessment of nations, the key, all-encompassing issue that our national leaders ought to be taking into consideration is: what will be the moral and religious impact with the entrance of these peoples, and will their presence over the long term affect the ability of America to retain its unique and historically unparalleled status? Indeed, will the moral and religious syncretism, that will inevitably result from such decisions, enable the God of the Bible to continue to bless America?
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