Republican, Conservative, and Supporting Syrian Refugees

Priscilla Alvarez:

Despite the heated opposition of the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and more than 30 state governors, conservative churches are welcoming Syrian refugees displaced by that country’s civil war.

“The plight of refugees is very much in front of our churches right now,” said Russell Moore, the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Christians have a special affinity for Syria because this is a place that is very much part of our geography and our backstory. The Syrian crisis prompted the attention of many Evangelicals.”

It’s been nearly a year since those state governors vowed to reject the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states, and since that time Trump has made opposition to taking in more refugees a centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, conservative churches have joined their liberal counterparts in working to help the refugees find new homes in the United States.

“We’ve consistently had significant support from churches across the board from very conservative churches to other more liberal churches. It’s never been an issue for us to really emphasize with churches that need to help some of these refugees,”  said Jenny Yang, the vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, one of the agencies that partners with the federal government to resettle refugees.  ….

In June, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution calling on churches to welcome refugees at their annual meeting. “Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner,” the resolution reads. “We encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His throne.” The occasion marked the first time in more than 20 years that a resolution about refugees was included.

The resolution approved by Southern Baptists, one of the largest religious groups in the country, is not binding nor a reaction to Trump’s proposals, Moore said. Still, it hints at a persisting problem: What happens when the Republican Party’s standard-bearer espouses policy positions that are contrary to the efforts of religious groups that typically support the party? Moore and Yang noted that for now there continues to be an increasing number of volunteers willing to help refugees.

The Obama administration pledged last year to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees. National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced late last month that the United States welcomed the 10,000th refugee, reaching its stated goal “a month ahead of schedule.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.