Biblical clarity in this cultural moment. That’s central to the mission of the Colson Center. And after the release of President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, and the resulting chaos of misinformation and hysteria, this is a moment when we need clarity.
So here’s a framework for thinking Christianly about the intertwined issues of refugees, immigrants, and national security.
Let’s start with clarity about what the order says. First, contrary to media, protesters, and Hollywood actors, the executive order was not a ban on Muslims, or on immigration, nor was it a radical break from U. S. policy. The order temporarily bans entry to the U.S. for those holding passports from seven nations previously identified by the Obama Administration as “countries of concern.”
The order also directs administration officials to develop a plan for uniform screening, it suspends the refugee program for four months and bars refugees from Syria indefinitely.
In addition, the order caps the number of refugees this year at 50,000, which, as David French noted in the National Review, is roughly in between what President Bush and President Obama would allow in a year. In fact, in 2011, President Obama himself suspended admitting Iraqi refugees for six months.
The order also prioritizes refugee status for persecuted religious minorities, which President Trump admitted is designed to give priority to persecuted Christians, and it allows for case-by-case waivers.
So, that’s what the order says. But how was it implemented? By all accounts, not well. There was initial confusion over whether green card holders — that is, permanent residents of the U.S. — would be allowed to return from overseas travel. Some legal residents were detained before Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stated Sunday they’d be eligible for re-entry. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lamented the confusion and uncertainty, calling for better coordination between government agencies and Congress.
Even now, things seem to be changing by the moment.
So which key biblical worldview principles can we bring to bear on all of this?
First and foremost, every human being is made in the image of God. Christians must start here, and therefore may never write off or refuse to care about the plight of whole peoples on any basis, and that includes being Syrian.
Second, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And Jesus told a parable about who is our neighbor. While ensuring America has uniform and effective standards for screening is both wise and necessary, shutting down the refugee program — for however long — should cause us grave concern. Lives are at stake.
Third, we cannot ignore Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats where he said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” American churches have a long history of loving Christ by showing love to refugees. And in this climate, we must ramp up our efforts toward these communities around us.
Fourth, as Chuck Colson often said, government has a biblical mandate “to promote justice and restrain evil.” To restrain evil, a government must, justly, defend its nation’s borders and determine who gets to cross them, and who doesn’t. This requires distinguishing between tourists and immigrants on one hand, and refugees on the other.
Finally, we cherish religious liberty, but not just for ourselves, for members of every faith. If the President’s order turns out to be a first step in fulfilling his campaign promise to ban all Muslim immigration, Christians must protest vigorously.