The growing Syrian refugee crisis (nearly two million externally displaced in overcrowded and insecure camps) has created a controversy over what role, if any, the United States play in the situation. Very recently, Canada has announced that it will begin resettling some of the most vulnerable refugees within their borders and many are now looking for the U.S. to follow suit. Recently, I shared on my own blog an article about this crisis which raised the prospect of resettling Syrian refugees within the United States and I was shocked to see the level hostility which this idea created.
Let me say first that I cannot help but feel somewhat embarrassed to be a citizen of the same country as many of the people who have voiced such racist and evil comments regarding the relief and resettlement of Syrian refugees. Sometimes I wonder what has happened to this nation. For years I have been hearing from fellow Christ-followers about how our nation has drifted from it’s original, godly foundations by the promotion of abortion rights, the degradation of marriage, and the like. What must be understood however is that the growing, anti-immigrant sentiment in this nation is just as much a departure from the great American tradition as anything else. Our hatred of aliens and foreigners is a moral collapse not less severe than anything evangelical Christians have spoken out against in recent memory.
To give you a taste, one commenter suggested that resettling Syrian refugees in the United States would mean bringing thousands of new terrorists into the country. One thought that this was simply a tactic of Barack Obama to get additional voters. Another suggested instead that the 1.6 million Syrian refugees should rather be shipped to the North Pole to feed starving polar bears. Still another believed that not only should we not accept Syrian refugees into the US but that we should send “our Mexicans” over there. Sick. Disgusting. It is difficult to imagine lower forms of humanity. Most disciples of the Lord Jesus are quite familiar with what he called the second greatest command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We are also familiar with the story that Christ told to illustrate what obedience to this command looks like (Luke 10:30-7). What we are less aware of is the fact that the famous parable of “The Good Samaritan” is the tale of an immigrant who behaves in a more Christ-like way than the local religious elite. I have little doubt that in the current American evangelical context, the Lord would make the hero either an undocumented Mexican or rather a Pakistani Muslim immigrant. And who would play the role of the priest, the Levite, the scribe? Perhaps an evangelical pastor, a middle class suburbanite, or a congressman? Perhaps someone a lot like you and me? Do you know this command? “Love the immigrant as yourself” (Lev. 19:34). Jesus did. Perhaps that has something to do with why he told the story the way he did. My ancestor, Johannes Lorentz came to this nation in 1710 as a refugee from the region of Germany called the Palatinate. Information suggests that he converted to Protestantism during his lifetime and consequently left his homeland with his family to escape persecution. Originally arriving in New York, he later settled in New Jersey and established a life for himself, built a house, helped to plant a German-speaking church, and multiplied into many different branches of Lorentz, Lowrance, and Lorance clans throughout this nation. This is the classic American story. But sometimes I wonder if this is who we are anymore.