Trying to understand

I have friends who have very different political viewpoints than my own. There are people with whom I associate on a regular basis who don’t know much about my political beliefs, because I fear that I might offend them if I am honest. I appreciate having friends who think differently than I. I try to listen carefully to them. I try to understand their point of view.

But I am stymied about the political extremism that seems to have taken over our country. It seems that both of our political parties have certain litmus tests that require absolute faithfulness in order to call yourself a member of the party. The votes at the highest levels of government are all partisan. It makes big news when a single representative or senator votes differently from the rest of the members of her or his party.

I try not to be partisan. I try to be open to those who disagree. But there is one litmus test that is being applied to members of the Republican Party that I do not understand. It is the position of the President on immigration. This radical turning away of those who seek refuge in our country - forcing people to wait in other countries, exposing them to danger of kidnapping and murder while they wait - seems contrary to some of my deepest beliefs. If it genuinely is true that you can no longer be a Republican and favor welcoming refugees, I don’t know how some faithful Christians can be Republicans.

Our country needs good, loyal Republicans who stand up to the present administration’s policies and say, “We cannot support this approach to immigration and to refugees.”

Our Bible is too clear on the topic.

By the third chapter of the Bible, Adam and Eve are forced out of the Garden. We are all the descendants of refugees. In the 7th and 8th chapters, Noah builds and ark and takes refuge from the flood. We are all descendants of refugees. In the 12th chapter, God calls Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” And later, “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land.” Still in the first book of the bible, Lot takes his family and flees Sodom, Abraham is a stranger and alien in the land of Canaan, Jacob moves his family to Egypt to escape the famine and reunite with Joseph. All of this is the story of our people in just the first book of the bible.

As the law is given it is clear: “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.” (Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22). “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34, reputed in Leviticus 24:22)

The Bible goes on and on and on. The prophets warn us not to oppress the alien.

Jesus presents a clear parable about immigration in Matthew 25;31-46: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Paul makes it a mark of true Christianity in the letter to the Romans: “Mark of the true Christian: . . . Extend hospitality to strangers . . .” In Hebrews we are urged to “show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels . . .”

I am trying to understand, but so far I am not having success. At the same time as the number of refugees in the world is the highest since World War II, the United States has dropped to historic lows in terms of the number of refugees admitted. The US is no longer the world’s top country for refugee admissions. For deuces we led the world. No more. Refugee admissions into the US have declined substantially during Donald Trump’s presidency.

That isn’t what worries me, quite frankly. Refugee resettlement has risen and fallen over the years with changes in administrations and policies. The numbers of refugees and the countries of origin have changed substantially in the past. What worries me are the polls the report the attitude of the country. The attitude toward refugee resettlement varies widely by political party affiliation. According to the Pew Research Institute, about half of our country (51%) said the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country. 43% say it does not. Around three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (74%) said the U.S. has this responsibility, compared with 26% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Since I live in a state that is majority Republican, that means that the majority of my neighbors do not favor welcoming refugees.

According to Lutheran Social Services, the only refugee resettlement group in our state, the number of refugees welcomes to our state has been declining steadily since 2014. We are a state with plenty of jobs. We are a state with plenty to share. But we are a state that is developing a fear of those who are seeking to escape war and violence and fear.

I am trying to understand. I am convinced that God has not called me to judge my neighbors. God has not called me to determine who is and who is not a Christian. God has not made me the arbiter of who has a Biblical faith and who does not. But I can’t reconcile a “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that is it.” rhetoric with a resistance to welcoming refugees.

In a hyper partisan world where individuals are forced to choose sides, it is hard for me to understand my neighbors. I’ll keep listening, but seriously, folks, I don’t get it.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!