Some provisional reflections on the refugee situation

In the aftermath of the horror last weekend, a lively discussion has broken-out over the United States’s role in sheltering Syrian refugees. The issue came into focus shortly after the attacks when it was discovered that one of the Paris attackers was carrying a Syrian passport that was used to enter Europe through Greece as a refugee from Syria.

The United States has already taken in 1,800 refugees from Syria over the last few years. And President Obama intends to resettle about 10,000 more in the United States in the coming months. Just yesterday morning, President Obama reaffirmed that commitment and upbraided Senator Ted Cruz (though not by name) for suggesting a religious test for future refugees. The President insisted that our security procedures are sufficient and that the U.S. would go ahead as planned.

After that speech, a majority of the nation’s governors announced that they would not allow any of those 10,000 into their states. And now the issue is front and center before the American people. What are we to think about this?

On the one hand, I am heart-broken about the refugees fleeing persecution in Syria. They are women, children, and families who have undergone horrific abuses at the hands of their own government and at the hands of Isis. Some of them are Christians. They are not all terrorists, and it is unconscionable to imagine turning all of them away. On the other hand, we know that at least one terrorist has used the EU’s refugee program to gain access to France to conduct attacks in Paris. Couldn’t the same thing happen here?

I don’t think this is an easy issue. And I agree with Trevin Wax that we need to have “prudent compassion” as we think about resettling refugees from Syria. But what does that look like in terms of an actual policy? Here’s what I hope we’ll see:

(1) I hope that the United States can continue receiving at least some of those who are fleeing persecution in Syria. There are apparently about 4 million of them right now, so obviously we can’t accept all of them. But I hope that we find a way to accept some.

(2) Because our government has the God-given responsibility to distinguish refugees from terrorists (Rom. 13:3-4), any refugee policy that doesn’t make that distinction has to change. In other words, we cannot allow a refugee policy that has a high likelihood of being exploited by terrorists who wish to carry-out attacks in our country. It is neither prudent nor compassionate to put innocent citizens at that kind of risk.

(3) We need assurances from our government that our vetting of refugees works. President Obama said yesterday that our refugee vetting procedures are “rigorous.” The President of the International Rescue Committee agrees and believes that the risk of terrorist infiltration is no concern. Yet President Obama’s own FBI director testified to Congress just last month that our vetting procedures are not sufficient, saying “My concern there is there are certain gaps … in the data available to us.”

In particular, the lack of solid on-the-ground intelligence assets in Syria has clouded the U.S.’s ability to crosscheck the backgrounds of every refugee hoping to come to the U.S., Comey and other national security officials told the Senate panel (source).

There is a wide gap between what President Obama said yesterday morning in his speech and what his own FBI director testified last month. It seems to me that this has to change if citizens are going to have any confidence in our government’s program to resettle refugees into the homeland. A temporary moratorium on the status quo may be in order until this gets sorted out.

(4) We need to explore other ways of helping refugees until the refugee policy is clarified and all the relevant agencies (FBI, CIA, DOD, etc.) have reasonable confidence that it will work. Can we resettle women and children while making other arrangements for young fighting-age men whose status cannot be verified? Can we make a haven for refugees offshore? Are there other nations in the region that we can offer incentives to resettle a share of our refugees? I don’t know what the answer here is, but surely there are other possibilities besides giving needy people the stiff-arm while we get our security situation in order. I would like to see our government work that out.

I do not pretend to have all the answers here. And even what I have suggested above is provisional. At best, these suggestions do not amount to actual policy but to policy goals. In any case, I don’t have confidence in the status quo, so we need our government to do its job here and to come up with solutions that work. The debate goes on, and we need to be paying attention as it does.

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UPDATE: Right after I posted this blog, I noticed that Kevin DeYoung has some really helpful reflections here. I think he probably says things better than I have here, so go read it. His conclusion:

The issue of immigration—both for those inside the country already and for those wanting to get in—is bound to be a pressing political, international, and humanitarian concern for many years. We need Christian writers, thinkers, pastors, scholars, and activists to be a part of the conversation. My plea is that the conversation reflect the complexity of the situation and goes beyond the familiar dichotomies of love versus hate, inclusion versus exclusion, and fear versus compassion. There are too many important things, and too many human lives, at stake to move quite so quickly from solid Christian principles to simple policy prescriptions.

UPDATE #2: This from Ben Domenech is also on point. Beware of pieties masquerading as policy.

Remember something as you watch the refugee coverage coming in the next few days, highlighting the xenophobia and underlying bigotry of Americans and particularly Republicans: the other side of this argument will not actually engage in a debate. They refuse to admit any possibility of cynicism or skepticism about the virtue of this approach. They jump right past the point of admitting that yes, some terrorists could be among this migrant population, and that yes, this could potentially lead to the deaths of hundreds or thousands of innocent American civilians. And in doing so, they skip right past the argument they would need to make – that those risks are worth it. They won’t even admit there are any risks. And that’s why their position – noble, pious, and insulated – will find little truck with Americans who have more practical concerns, such as: will any of these people try to kill me?

The media’s response to that question may be: That’s racist or bigoted or backward. But that is not an answer that will satisfy.

49 Responses to Some provisional reflections on the refugee situation

  1. Bob Shaffer November 17, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    “We need to explore other ways of helping refugees until the refugee policy is clarified and all the relevant agencies (FBI, CIA, DOD, etc.) have reasonable confidence that it will work.”

    Sadly, it appears that our president it set on moving forward. It will be interesting to see how the congress, the governors, and the courts respond to him. Also, we need to come to terms with the fact that Islam by definition wants to destroy us, the idea of moderate Islam is a misnomer. There may be a few who take to themselves the name Muslim who are not violent but they are like those who call themselves Christians but do not know Jesus Christ as Savior. Mohammad himself killed those who refused to convert, on 9/11 there were reports of American flight attendants and other civilians cheering for our loss.

    “Can we resettle women and children while making other arrangements for young fighting-age men whose status cannot be verified?”

    Sadly, there are many terrorists who are women and children. Most recently, there have been women killers reported in Israel and Nigeria. My understanding is that a great part of not being able to verify people’s identity is that we do not have human resources in Syria and fake documents are very easy to obtain.

    “I don’t know what the answer here is, but surely there are other possibilities besides giving needy people the stiff-arm while we get our security situation in order.”

    As a believer, I agree with you that it is unconscionable to not help those in need but at another level, it comes back to the almighty dollar. Does the government borrow the money to help them because we have no money of our own in D.C.?

    Is the issue really with the government or is it with the church? I believe that the heart of God is grieved by the materialism in the Western Church. How many evangelicals support Donald Trump for president whose campaign in built on greed? I believe the real issue is what can the church of Jesus Christ do themselves and not just how much cash can we give but how many of our homes can be shared? How many missionaries do we have in this region?

    Finally, all of this discussion about displaced people, is missing the underlying question of what is our responsibility as a nation and as Christians when we are the greatest military power on earth? We had it within our power to take out ISIS and to avoid all this human suffering and we did not. Although we can point a finger at our president for that, the truth is that as a society we are increasingly soft on taking to ourselves such responsibility.

    • Lynn Burgess November 18, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      From this morning’s news:

      “Seven terror suspects were arrested Wednesday morning and two others were killed, INCLUDING A WOMAN WEARING A SUICIDE VEST WHO BLEW HERSELF UP, after police stormed a suburban Paris apartment targeting the alleged mastermind of last Friday’s massacre in the French capital.”

      ….

  2. Brian Holland November 17, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    Denny, this is a no-brainer. The humanitarian crisis in Syria is a nightmare, but it’s also worth noting that it could have, and should have been avoided with the right kind of American leadership. This was a crisis that did NOT have to happen, but for Obama’s disastrous foreign policy (drawing red-lines in the sand that get crossed without consequence etc). Now here’s something that is not being reported in the MSM (I’ll include a link if you like) that since 2011, when the crisis first began, 2,098 Muslims have immigrated from Syria to America, and only 53 Christians have! This despite the fact that they are systematically persecuted for their faith! The primary reason is that we’ve allowed this process to be taken over by the completely corrupt, and immoral U.N. and the Christians are afraid of going near their refugee camps because they know they’ll be targeted there as well. Even if our intelligence, and vetting procedures were 90% at weeding out would be terrorists (which no one in their right mind should assume) then we’d still be taking a huge risk with the other 10 percent. This is especially true considering the fact that two of the Paris attackers were posing as refugees.

    I honestly have no idea what point DeYoung is trying to make. Ultimately you have to come down on one side of the issue or the other. The risks here by far outweigh the “reward” of being able to say to critics like Obama that we are not “Islamaohobic.”

  3. James Stanton November 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    There’s a lot of demagoguery on this issue and Ben Domenech is attempting to deflect from the fact that Republican politicians are attempting to the leverage the issue for partisan political gain using fear of Muslims. This is obvious.

    But you’re right that its a serious issue

    1) Governors have no authority to decide where refugees are settled or ultimately decide to settle once approved to come to the US. The hysterical stampede yesterday was pure political theater.

    2) Here’s an overview of the vetting process.

    http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/index.htm

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/politics/syrian-refugees-u-s-applicants-explainer/

    One of the reasons we accept so few refugees is because the process is fairly strict and time-consuming. It should be made even more rigorous per concerns of the FBI Director and concerns of the public. If a moratorium is needed, so be it.

    Nothing President Obama says or does on the issue will convince Republican politicians that the vetting process is secure or that he is doing enough to combat ISIS. They think this is a political winner for them and so they will continue to attack on the issue regardless of the facts. It’s Benghazi in 2012 all over again regardless of the fact that the Paris attacks happened in a different country.

    I fear we’re making the same mistakes that were made from 2001-2003. There’s a reason President Bush was hesitant to scapegoat all Muslims and did not impose any religious tests for refugees accepted after invading Iraq in 2003. And yet the right (and the left) has seemingly learned few lessons about our enemy after ~15 years of war against radical jihadists. ISIS wants the West to lash out against Muslims so that they will be seen as the legitimate defenders and protectors of the Muslim faith. They want all Muslims to come to their territory and live subject to their rules. We are playing into their hands with our reaction instead of soberly analyzing and dealing with the problem.

    • Brian Holland November 17, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      No, actually we’d be playing into their hands if we open the floodgates, because it’s extremely naive to think that ISIS won’t infiltrate refugee camps. Far too many non-violent Muslims are still sympathetic to terrorism, and filled with Jew hatred. I’m still not sure why anyone (let alone on a Christian blog) would believe anything Obama says at this point. He has zero credibility, and a lot of blood on his hands.

  4. Joe Blankenship November 17, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Thankful for your post. I know there are complexities & risks but though we don’t expect our government leaders to root their policies in Scripture – we should hope that Christian leaders would frame their policy suggestions based on the Scripture. There is a clear call in the Scripture to love the foreigner in our midst and to welcome the stranger. There is a call to be willing to risk our lives for love because we have a better country. Acting in faith doesn’t prohibit acting with wisdom and prudence (Example – Hebrews 11:23). The Romans 13 passage you site is applicable. In a political season & environment that our country is in-it seems like the republican position is almost always the anti-Obama position & the democratic position is always the defend-Obama position. Jesus would be a very difficult guy to fit on the political spectrum of conservative or liberal. He was pretty “off the charts” – extremely liberal and extremely conservative depending on the issue. I’m praying for Christian leaders who will be more concerned about being biblical than political.

  5. Chris Ryan November 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    I’m pretty comfortable with this president’s security posture. He’s done a good job on focusing resources on real security threats. No false bravado from him, no ‘shock and awe’ masquerading as a security strategy. There is some risk in letting anyone immigrate, but then there always is. This is the time to trust in Malachi 3:5 and Leviticus 19:33-34. Ted Cruz, whose father immigrated here, should be ashamed of himself. Should we have said to his father, “We can’t let you in because you might be one of Fidel Castro’s agents?” Chris Christie, who bills himself as the Tough Guy amongst the field, says he wouldn’t even let in a 5 year old. He’s scared of 5 year olds but he thinks he can face down Putin? Fear and paranoia can easily give way to xenophobia. We can’t be the leader of the free world if we’re not willing to lead. Europe, which is roughly the same size as the US, is taking in roughly 30-50 times more refugees than the US is taking in. This is the price of leadership. And this is how we exhibit leadership. In Matt 25:35 Jesus calls on us to love the immigrant and we can’t go wrong listening to Him.

  6. Louis Cook November 17, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    It does not matter how many Governor come out against accepting any refugees as it is not an issue over which they have any control. It is just political theater.
    Is the stated desire of many Christians to bar any refugees just an extension of the prosperity gospel? Keep ’em out so we can keep our distance and we will put some nickels in the jar for them once a year. Is that what they are saying? Why are Christians so fearful? Who is sovereign in this world?
    Might be a good time to read Luke 10:25-37 again. Will we show mercy or turn our back in fear?

    • Brian Holland November 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      No we should take in refugees, but we should prioritize Christians and Yazidis, who are being systematically slaughtered. The potential for ISIS sneaking in terrorists is too great, and our government is too corrupt, and incompetent to allow large numbers of Muslims in. Sorry but that’s the reality of it.

    • Ken Abbott November 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

      Why is it considered fear when we take prudent steps against potential danger? Your comment seems to say that we have just two options: welcome everyone indiscriminately or keep ’em all out. Where is the wise *and* compassionate middle, the path of discernment? Our Lord instructed us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves when it comes to our interactions with men. I see no warrant in the Scriptures that we are to rush headlong and unthinking into harm’s way even as we are performing his work.

      If I wish to embrace the asp, that is my choice. But I do my neighbor harm if I release it into his garden. We have more than our personal selves to consider.

      • Christiane Smith November 23, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

        I do believe that ‘the spirit of fear’ cannot co-exist with Christian compassion.

        I can pick up a book famous for its language of ‘wonder’ and there, in the middle of my desire to escape into it, reality can still intrude so sharply . . .

        comes to mind that photograph of the little drowned refugee child being cradled and carried by a soldier . . .so frail and beyond our human help . . . and still my country seems so turned away from the plight of the Syrian refugees

        the fate of those refugees calls to me even as I read from a masterwork of ‘wonder’ these words:

        “‘It’s not always a misfortune being overlooked,’ said Merry. ‘I was overlooked just now by—no, no, I can’t speak of it. Help me, Pippin! It’s all going dark again, and my arm is so cold.’
        ‘Lean on me, Merry lad!” said Pippin. ‘Come now. Foot by foot. It’s not far.’
        ‘Are you going to bury me?’ said Merry.
        ‘No, indeed!’ said Pippin, trying to sound cheerful, though his heart was wrung with fear and pity. ‘No, we are going to the Houses of Healing.”
        (JRR Tolkien)

        trying to momentarily escape from the harsh realities of our time can be futile when our choice of recreational ‘fiction’ is deeply rooted in a truth that calls up that reality even more painfully

        . . . and I think, ‘what are we doing abandoning those poor people’?

  7. Christiane Smith November 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    My father was an immigrant. He served this country for over twenty-years in the USN and when he passed away, an American flag draped his coffin and he was given a military funeral with honors.

    My father spoke no English when he came here from Canada at age five. The Family spoke French at home. The nuns taught my father in English in the mornings and French in the afternoons. And so, he learned. I do not know if my grandparents were even ‘legals’ in that long-ago time, but I do know that this country won by having my father come here. The best person I ever knew was my own father.

    The Islamophobia and the politics will likely win the day. But I think there must be at least some recognition of the command in sacred Scripture to care for the strangers in our midst. Even Our Lord was a refugee in the land of Egypt.
    Even Our Lord . . . we need to remember that.

  8. Cindy Young November 18, 2015 at 2:20 am #

    I appreciate your GOD fearing, diplomatic, compassionate, thought provoking discussions. If Americans do not engage in the conversation we will never find the right solutions. Reading your posts have provoked me to brain storm ways I can make a difference. Our government has various web cites that encourage the little man (neighborhood moms and dads) to be leaders within local communities. They are starting local cell groups all over the country that train everyday people like me to be active,aware,alert, and responsive in many situations. Our government is in the process of appointing key people in every little community across the country to be first respondents. I personally believe the only way to deter terrorists attacks is for all the people in our country to be active right where they are. Our government needs us to keep a watchful eye in our little community’s. I know we the people will overcome. I believe our government is part of we the people. I personally have put off engaging in the classes because 4 children can be a little overwhelming. I have set my mind to engage now so my children may continue enjoying our little community. Thank you for the opportunity to have the conversation.

  9. Brian Holland November 18, 2015 at 5:33 am #

    One thing we have to consider is that there is absolutely zero evidence that scooping people up and dropping them off halfway around the world in a country that is completely foreign to them would ultimately help them. It’s as impractical, and as unrealistic as Donald Trump’s “import all the illegals” plan. Even if we took on 10,000 or even 100,000 there are 4+ million reported refugees. The amount we were able to take would only be a drop in the bucket.

    We also have to consider why so many of these “refugees” are young men? Why aren’t they fighting for the future of their country against ISIS, and Assad? We also have had at least two of the Paris attackers who were confirmed to have come through Greece as refugees. So don’t lecture us on “Islamophobia.” The threat is very real!

    We would be better off building a safe space for them over there in Syria, or getting other Arab speaking, Muslim countries that are close to Syria to take them in. This was not done during WWII, when there were refugees from all over the world simply because it was so impractical, and unworkable.

    We should prioritize bringing over Christians, and other religious minorities though, not just because they won’t try to kill us, but because they will certainly be killed if they stay over there, and as one of the ministries that I support told me via email, the Christians are afraid to register at UN refugee camps, because they know they’ll be targeted by members of the so called “religion of peace.”

    • Lynn Burgess November 18, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      Brian: You make several excellent points. First, what we can do by bringing people here is a drop in the bucket and does not really address the problem. Better in my opinion to deal compassionately with the illegal immigrant problem we have of our own. I agree with you that Donald Trump’s plan is not practical (or compassionate) – it does not even make good horse sense to uproot law-abiding people, deport them, while telling them they can turn around and come back legally.

      Monica Crowley visited several locations in Europe and reported on O’Reilly that it is almost exclusively young men immigrating; she observed almost no women and children. Elsewhere I heard/read that the journey is too difficult for women and children to make and/or survive. Your question asking why the young men are not fighting against ISIS and Assad is excellent.

      There are Christian Ministries equipped to help in these situations such as Samaritan’s Purse and others. We might do better to get something coordinated with them to both help over there, and do our own screening of who might be Christian and/or be better served by a Christian family here sponsoring their relocation.

      This is a time for America to reevaluate what exactly are our values and priorities because this is not a one-time event, there is always one crises or another and much of it comes down to dollars and cents.

    • Christiane Smith November 18, 2015 at 10:23 am #

      “Islamophobia” is something that needs confrontation. Here’s why: ISIS is recruiting people by telling them that Islam, as a religion, is being targeted by the West. We know that there is a vast difference between ISIS and people who practice the Muslim faith who are honorable people . . . whereas ISIS is made up mostly of thugs, bullies, murderers, and other assorted lowlife. When people here in the USA play into the hands of ISIS by condemning ALL Muslims, then these Americans are providing ISIS with more credibility to recruit their members.

      Time out: consider when Westboro ‘Baptist’ Church tried to re-define what a Baptist Church could become . . . how did people react in this country? People KNEW that Westboro was not credible as a Baptist Church, nor could it ever be, because of what it was doing to harm others emotionally (families of dead soldiers at funerals).

      Now look at your own town’s people who are Muslims. Are they not law-abiding and honest folk? Would you consider them to the ‘the same’ as a monster who takes pleasure in burning a Jordanian (Muslim) pilot alive? No. You cannot do this.
      But if you choose to malign all Muslim American people as terrorists, then ISIS will welcome your statement to that effect. They can use your words to recruit future members. This is something to think about. ISIS is waiting for the support of Islamophobics in this country.

  10. Christiane Smith November 18, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    I know people who are Muslim. They are not terrorists. They do not believe in the things of ISIS at all and consider the followers of ISIS to be apostate Muslims, if anything, anti-Muslims. What I cannot agree to nor will I support is any policy that restricts political office to certain religions only, or a policy of immigration that openly discriminates against people of any race, religion or point of origin. The reason: we are Americans here. We are a country that offers sanctuary to people fleeing persecution. If we change our way of life, then ISIS ‘wins’. We need to stand our ground against ISIS by not caving into fear and letting go of ‘who we are’ as an American people.

    Who we are as a people should never be changed by our response to a group like ISIS. That is what I know as an American. We need to stand strong on our values of non-discrimination.

    • Brian Holland November 18, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

      Please go back and show me where I said or even implied that, “all Muslims are terrorists.” If you can’t then I submit to you that you owe me an apology. Please go back and read my earlier post where I demonstrated that we are (in essence) discriminating against Christian refugees in favor of Muslim ones, and also keep in mind that Christians are the ones who are the targets of genocidal maniacs. Let me also say this that it even if it’s only 10% of Muslims who are Jihadists, that figure is very misleading. Only about 10% of WWII Germany was comprised of Nazis, but a majority of the rest of the country came to support them. There are some alarmingly high percentages of people in the Muslim world who support policies that are completely incompatible with freedom and Democracy. And women are treated horribly under Sharia law. That’s an understatement.

      • Roy Fuller November 21, 2015 at 11:35 am #

        I think it was your last line, “because they know they’ll be targeted by members of the so called “religion of peace.”

  11. Johnny Mason November 18, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    Part of the problem is the President, who musters up more anger and outrage at fellow Americans than he does groups like ISIS. The Governors have legitimate concerns. The people who are pushing back have legitimate concerns. They may be overblown, but it is the job of the President to reassure them that procedures are in place to ensure the safety of Americans and the refugees.

    But we get this instead:

    “Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” Obama said of Republicans. “At first, they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of three year old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me.”

    Then, the man who takes every opportunity to make political points from national tragedies says this:

    “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” he said. “We don’t make good decisions if its based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”

    Apparently, making decisions bases on hysteria and exaggeration of risk after Newtown or Umpqua is perfectly fine. The mantra of “if it can save one life” that is used so often in regards to gun legislation (legislation that would not have prevented any of the shootings, mind you), now is thrown out the window.

    So, maybe the people just don’t trust a President who is more comfortable winning political arguments than actually providing solutions. Who is more comfortable fanning the flames of division and partisanship, than bringing people together.

    Ben Domenech is right, rather than make the moral case for the refugees, that the risk of terrorists gaining entry through the refugee process is worth it given the horror these refugees are facing, the President, instead, resorts to school yard antics and sick burns.

    • Brian Holland November 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Great points! And let’s not forget the global warming/climate change non-sense which has already been completely debunked, but “we have to act RIGHT NOW or else everyone’s gonna drown!”

  12. Matt Martin November 18, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    France announced they are going to continue to welcome refugees over the next two years despite the attacks. It’s quite the contrast compared to the GOP.

    Intelligence has pretty much shown that refugees are not the concern. ISIS has been able to move as needed between Syria and Europe. Abdelhamid Abaaoud even came out and said the following:

    “I was able to leave and come to Sh?m (Syria) despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies. My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”

    • Ken Abbott November 18, 2015 at 11:18 am #

      And then we have news reports such as this: http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/nation/2015/11/18/reports-eight-suspected-isis-militants-posing-refugees-detained-turkey/75977926/

      So whom are we to believe?

      • James Stanton November 18, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

        This isn’t a matter of belief, Ken. No one doubts that ISIS would like to infiltrate Western societies as refugees in order to conduct terror attacks. Repeat: no one in political office, law enforcement, or national security doubts this. It is projection to believe otherwise.

        The doubt is over whether nations need to completely halt programs offering safe haven for refugees fleeing war zones. The latest reports have cast doubt on whether any pseudo refugees were actually involved in the Paris attacks. This is still a threat but it appears the greater threat are radicalized Muslims who are already living in Europe (and the US) as citizens.

        • Ken Abbott November 18, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

          Mr. Martin stated, “Intelligence has pretty much shown that refugees are not the concern.” I posted the news report to demonstrate that suspected ISIS militants have apparently posed as refugees in order to gain entrance to other countries. I want to know if I am to believe Mr. Martin’s rather nonspecific statement about reassurances from “intelligence” or quite unreassuring statements from journalism. So indeed it *is* a matter of credibility.

          • James Stanton November 18, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

            Ah, I see. Matt might be right about the Paris attacks specifically but radical jihadists posing as refugees is still a potential threat.

    • Brian Holland November 18, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

      What are you talking about? France closed down there borders immediately after the attacks. Obviously it’s a case of too little, too late though…

  13. Ike Lentz November 19, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Denny, are you going to speak out against all the republican candidates who are completely opposed to taking in refugees, and those who have proposed a religious test?

    • Brian Holland November 20, 2015 at 12:32 am #

      And why should he?

      • James Stanton November 20, 2015 at 3:44 am #

        Well, social conservatives like Denny haven’t been too positive about someone like Trump. I think we’re going to find that Trump is the biggest beneficiary of the anti-refugee sentiment on the right because it fits in perfectly with his nativist platform. Quite frankly, everyone on the right sounds like Trump now.

        • Brian Holland November 20, 2015 at 8:40 am #

          Ok James, let me ask you a very straight forward question: let’s say it’s WWII, or in the lead up to WWII, should be take in Jewish refugees from Germany who are facing certain death, or other Germans, who may or may have Nazis and or Nazi sympathizers in their ranks? Who should we prioritize knowing that we have no real data on a goat farmer in a remote village from Syria? It makes way more sense to set up safe zones there in Syria, and or relocate them to other Muslim countries. Again, show me evidence that scooping people up from halfway around the world and transplanting them in a culture that is totally foreign to them will actually help them? With Christians and other religious minorities it’s different, because like the Jews in WWII Germany they are facing genocide. If that makes me “nativist” then so be it.

          • James Stanton November 20, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

            Brian,

            It seems in this example that you think that Syrian refugees, who are indeed facing death, violence, starvation etc, are much closer to being like the Nazis or Nazi sympathizers than to Jewish refugees. This requires us, as Christians, to put aside our humanity and join in demonizing people that are actively persecuted by the likes of ISIS and the Syrian regime.

            *I have no problem in setting up safe zones for refugees in Syria or other Muslim countries. I also have no problem accepting a small number of refugees as long as our vetting process is strong.

            The vast majority of the victims of war in Syria and Iraq are Muslims. We should help Muslims refugees just as we should help Christian refugees. Better yet, we should worry less about the religion of people that need help and simply help them as Christ would have us do.

            We have accepted roughly 750,000 refugees in this country since 9/11. Where was this attitude towards refugees then? The latest reports from Paris indicate that none of the attackers were either Syrian or refugees. They were all European nationals if those reports are accurate.

            I’m glad that there are principled and courageous social conservatives like Russell Moore who are exemplifying Christ rather than give in to emotional hysteria and fear-mongering.

            • Brian Holland November 20, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

              James, I don’t know where you get your “facts,” but it has been confirmed that at least two of the Paris attackers were posing as refugees, who came from Syria.

              You completely avoided answering my question, but I will answer yours anyway. The FBI director himself has said that we can’t properly vet these people, and that it poses a huge security risk. You are entitled to your opinion, but keep Jesus out of it. Don’t pretend like this is the Christian thing to do unless you can point to a passage of Scripture where we are commanded to put our lives, the lives of our neighbors, and our national security at risk for the sake of letting people into our country. We don’t even have control of our borders as it is. Trust me, I just moved out of California. The demographics there are a disaster, and it’s definitely not compassionate. It’s already too late for Europe, but if the light of freedom goes out here there’s nowhere else to go. Perhaps we are already under God’s judgement, and perhaps there is no escape from it, but that doesn’t mean we embrace something that is suicidal. And please allow me to answer the question that you dodged. You do have to favor people that the are being slaughtered for their faith (whatever that faith may be) vs those who’s religion is doing the slaughtering.

              I would also encourage you to look at some public opinion polls about Muslims actually believe. For example 40% of Muslims in the UK want Sharia Law…

              Thanks for letting me know that Russell Moore came out in favor of this. That confirms, and reinforces my belief that this is a very bad idea. He’s consistently on the wrong side of the issues, in my opinion.

              Why is that people on the left always have to resort to name calling? Islamophobic, racist, sexist, xenophobic, intolerant, bigoted etc. I’ve learned to wear it as a badge of honor now, because I know the person doing the name calling doesn’t have a real argument.

              • James Stanton November 21, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

                Brian, I don’t think anyone called you any names here so I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

                If you read my posts carefully you’ll see that I think we should only accept a small number of refugees and that we should make sure that the vetting process is as rigorous as possible. I don’t think we disagree all that much. I happen to think that the greatest danger is from radicalized Islamists who are already citizens of Western countries.

                As for the rest of your posts… you are telling a Christian on a Christian blog to keep Jesus out of it. You might not like it but that’s not going to happen.

      • Ike Lentz November 20, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

        Because its easy to call out the speck in the other party’s eye. harder to call out the plank in your own party’s eye.

  14. Christiane Smith November 20, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    what is wrong with the current vetting process for refugees? . . . I can think of other ways terrorists can get in a lot more easily than coming through our refugee vetting program, which is quite thorough and takes a year and a half . . .

    and what is this ‘Christians only’ thing? Is there no respect for other faiths among those who practice the conservative Christian beliefs?

    there comes a point where ‘fear’ and ‘fear mongering’ become far more acceptable in a sub-culture than common sense . . . don’t ever confuse ‘fearfulness’ with ‘caution’, or ‘Christians only’ with Christianity . . .
    if you do, then you become much easier for demagogues to manipulate

    we must try to do what is right, yes with all proper caution, but we are Americans and, IF we are Christians, we will know the duty we owe to God in caring for those who come to us for asylum . . . not only will we know it, from sacred Scripture, but we will actively want right to be done for the sake of helpless people

    where does the ‘fear’ come from? not from a good place, folks, it is born in the darkness . . . let’s keep it where it belongs and live our Christian lives uprightly in the light of Christ

    • Brian Holland November 20, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

      Christiane, I’m really just stunned at the argument you’re trying to make. I know you have a huge heart, and I’m glad you trust Obama so much, but the FBI director thinks this is going to be disaster. The governments primary role is to protect it’s citizens. And if we advocate for something that is unsafe, and may very well result in the loss of innocent life, are we really being good witnesses for Christ? Again, I really don’t see how this is seen as the “more Christian” thing to do. I can however answer your question about favoring Christians, and that’s because there are 0.00% of ISIS members who are Christian, and they are they ones being slaughtered for their faith.

      • Christiane Smith November 21, 2015 at 8:46 am #

        Hi BRIAN,
        I do think we see things differently, and it is kind of you to say that I have a ‘huge heart’ . . . well, I don’t have a bigger heart than anyone here at Denny’s blog, I’m sure, as all seem to want the best outcome in this struggle against evil, and I am grateful to be included in the group that comments here. But we do all know the One who has the ‘great Heart’ . . . in my Church we call it the ‘sacred Heart’ and He calls us to have compassion for those who suffer, and not to walk past the injured whom He places along the side of the road while we are on our journey.

        I think we have to determine the difference between how a Christian person is called to minister to those who suffer . . . I don’t think it’s just with words and verses, but with actual help . . . we must remember that it was a Samaritan who helped the injured victim . . . Samaritans were despised among the Jews and still Our Lord chose to explain how it was that this person had a heart for a helpless victim. Who are we? Who do we follow? And if we follow Him, what is our response to those refugees who suffer now?

        I don’t think we need to have ‘huge hearts’ as long as we trust and depend on His great Heart for those who are ‘lost and confused and without a shepherd.’ I think we KNOW we cannot behave without compassion and still say we follow such a Lord. He sends us as He was sent. I don’t think we need to ‘fear’ anyone if we are in His service.
        We have the honor of having some people to help now in HIS Name. If we can do this, with all honor and respect, they will remember Who we serve when we helped them. Our Lord gives us the chance of a lifetime to show what His ‘huge Heart’ looks like. This, the refugees will not forget. Have a good weekend, BRIAN.

        • Brian Sanders November 21, 2015 at 11:36 am #

          Christine: I wonder if you have considered that the question at hand is not what we should do as individual Christians or even as the Church corporately. The question is what is the primary God-ordained responsibility of our government. The responsibility of government is really rather limited in the Bible but it is their responsibility to protect its citizens and land.

          • Christiane Smith November 21, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

            Hi BRIAN SANDERS,
            I have considered our role as a nation. I think we do have a MORAL duty to assist the refugees. We have failed in the past . . . a ship filled with 900 Jews came to our country and to Canada and to Great Britain and was turned away during WW2 . . . the ship returned to a port in Europe, the Nazis came, and the rest of the story is told by the children of those who perished in Auschwitz eventually . . .

            ISIS is killing people . . . more people die in Syria daily (including women and children) than died in Paris last week during the horror. We know these refugees are broken, and terrified, and in great need. I think the world, including our own country (maybe ESPECIALLY our own country, a nation of refugees from persecution), have a MORAL DUTY to intervene on behalf of any group that is facing anialation. I don’t even see it as a ‘choice’ . . . if we don’t, you know we can’t continue to have the Statue of Liberty stand in New York harbor, don’t you? You know why it’s there???
            We are better than that nation that sent the Jews away to die.

            Yes, I have considered our ‘responsibility’, maybe from the wider moral issue, but yes, very much: my father’s family were immigrants, but in our family, we have had three Navy chiefs, a Coast Guardsman son, a Navy captain (he commanded the air-craft carrier Bennington long ago), a Navy commander (my sister-in-law’s father), a Navy nurse, a Navy doctor, all six of my brothers-in-law served in WWII . . . there is no reason for me not to think about the COST of defending not just our country, but also its honor. Yes. It’s HONOR.

            BTW, as Christians, I can only appeal to people to think how true it can be that we sometimes sin more grievously when we FAIL to take moral action when we are presented with that choice . . . this may be one of those times . . . we can sin in what we do NOT do , especially when the result breaks God’s moral law. We need to think and pray about this more.

            • Brian Sanders November 21, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

              Christine: There is movement today among some to picket at abortion clinics and look down on any Christian who does not join them (AHA). But are they really only putting a Band-Aid on the problem of abortion which will continue so long as it is legal? Who is really addressing the macro problem, those who picket, or those who work to make abortion illegal?

              Some refugees were turned away during WWII but how did that story end? In addition to the danger of terrorism, we cannot move all the displaced Syrians to western nations. It we would truly help them we must address the problem over there and sadly that means involvement in another civil war, a civil war that now has Russia involved on one of the opposing sides.

              If we allow x-number of Syrian refugees to immigrate to the U.S. it is only a drop in the bucket. It makes us feel as a nation we have been righteous but it by no means solves the macro problem.

  15. Nyc Walters November 21, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    The same people who continue to insist that the USA is a Christian country are, all to often, the same ones advocating for closing the borders to Syrian refugees (without looking at the facts — the instigators of the French attacks were all EU citizens, not refugees, and the refugee vetting process is long, rigorous and has not failed.)

    Jesus asked us to do two things — love God with all that we are and love our neighbors as ourselves. He also, in the story of the Good Samaritan and elsewhere, tells us who our neighbors are; whatever you do for these the least of these… When the Samaritan stopped, the Bible does not tell us he did a grid search to for robbers before offering aid. He saw someone injured and needy and offered help. Those of us who spend more time considering the potential for our harm rather than answering the call to address the harm befalling our neighbors are not worthy of the Name.

    A Christian country should be reaching out to embrace these terrified, wounded and displaced people not reject them. After all, where would we be as Christians, if Egypt had ignored the plight of three refugees, a couple and their infant son, fleeing violence and certain death in their own country.

    Pax

  16. Christiane Smith November 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    who was it said ‘compassion cannot co-exist with fear’ ? Aquinas? Augustine?

    ISIS hates compassion. They work to engender fear. In that light, they seem to have inspired many Americans to turn our backs on the victims of ISIS who seek asylum here.

    It doesn’t have to end this way. Does it? Not in THIS country. Not among Christian people.
    Dear God, I hope we are better than this.

    • Brian Sanders November 24, 2015 at 5:11 am #

      Nyc, Christine: The Syrian situation is a great tragedy to be certain. But I have an idea there are needy people in your town and in mine… people who are poor, hungry, homeless, sick, lonely, in need of a friend, etc., etc. The veteran sleeping under a bridge is no less needy than the Syrian refugee but he is less “glamorous” and gets less media attention. I wonder if as you and I are bemoaning what our government is not doing for the Syrians what we are doing ourselves for the many special needs children waiting for someone to adopt them and love them as their own. How many people even in our own churches will spend Thanksgiving Day alone and how many “strangers” will you and I entertain at our Thanksgiving table?

      • Sandra Stewart November 24, 2015 at 9:41 am #

        It is a false dichotomy to think that we can not take care of both those in need in the US and refugees. It is just that the will in congress is not there, witness that the Republicans voted down aid to vets very recently.
        The rich are getting richer faster and the poor are getting poorer faster.

        • Brian Sanders November 24, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

          Sandra: My question is not what is it possible to do but what are we the complainers doing ourselves. It is also a false dichotomy to talk about the rich getting richer since the average person in the U.S. is vastly more wealthy than most in the world. As for the will of the congress, did you happen to know about the national debt. We would likely not borrow money as individuals to feed strangers and yet we expect that our government should do that very thing – and who is going to pay that debt and when?

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