In the Obama years, white evangelical Christians loudly declared their fear and hatred of foreign refugees. They shamelessly appealed to racism and xenophobia, demanding that the U.S. bar its doors against them. And according to a new Pew poll, it’s only gotten more vicious:
By more than two-to-one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.
Meanwhile, as noted by Pew, the nonreligious are a comparative beacon of morality and decency. We overwhelmingly support giving shelter and succor to refugees, by the same huge margin by which Christians reject it. The difference between us and the bearers of this wicked, racist theology is almost literally the difference between night and day.
In a further demonstration that changes in evangelical attitudes are driven by political partisanship, Pew also finds that Republicans, who were opposed to immigration, have become even more so. (Democrats have always supported admitting refugees, and that hasn’t changed.) And note that the percentage of Republicans saying this matches almost exactly with the percentage of white evangelicals, showing that the two groups are one and the same:
Today, about a quarter of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) say the nation has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, down from 35% in February 2017…
Opinion among Democrats and Democratic leaners has changed little over this period: Currently, 74% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees, about three times the share of Republicans saying this.
However, it’s not only white evangelicals who want to blow out Lady Liberty’s torch and slam our sea-washed, sunset gates closed. Even among the supposedly more liberal and tolerant Protestant mainline churches, a majority is opposed to allowing refugees, albeit by a smaller margin. The Catholic church is close to evenly split. The only religious group that’s clearly supportive of refugees (by almost the same margin as the nonreligious) are black Protestants.
Again, partisanship probably explains this. White evangelicals and, to a lesser extent, the other white churches have cemented themselves to a half-remembered, never-accurate image of the past, when America was peaceful and prosperous, white Christian men were in charge and everyone else was content to stay in their place, and we didn’t have all these problems caused by pesky minorities demanding equal rights. The Republicans as a party have wholeheartedly embraced the goal of bringing back an era that never existed.
Meanwhile, the nonreligious, black Christians, and other groups in the progressive coalition have embraced the ideas of tolerance, human rights, and free movement of people. All these ideals are wrapped up together in what should be a self-evident moral: when someone comes to your country because they’re fleeing war, persecution or violence in their homeland, you help them! Basic humanity demands no less.
It’s exactly the same moral as saying that, if someone knocks at your door on a snowy night to tell you their car is broken down, you let them into your house and give them something hot to drink while they call for assistance. Republicans and white evangelicals want to be the party of bitter, hostile recluses who’d slam the door in that stranded traveler’s face.
Tragically, under the current administration, the bigots are getting their way:
Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center analysis of State Department data found a sharp decline in the number of refugees who have entered the U.S. so far in fiscal year 2018 compared with prior years.
This is partly due to an admissions cap the Trump administration placed on refugee resettlements, which now limits the number who may enter the U.S. to 45,000, the smallest total since Congress created the current refugee program in 1980.
As I wrote in 2015, for Christians to stand against refugees shows astounding hypocrisy. Both the Old and New Testaments are founded on stories of the chosen who are forced to become immigrants and refugees in foreign lands. Both the Old and New Testaments contain explicit, unmistakable commands to welcome the alien and the stranger. The New Testament explicitly says that to not do so is like spitting in Jesus’ face. I’ve quoted this passage before, and I’ll keep doing it:
“Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’
Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I’ve often said – and still believe – that because the Bible is such a mixed and contradictory set of books, containing so many obscure or metaphorical verses, it’s possible to find support in it for almost any political viewpoint. Liberal and conservative believers are alike in that they read and interpret the Bible selectively; they only differ in which passages they emphasize and which ones they gloss over.
But there are some passages that are not ambiguous, and this is one of them. As I said at the time, there are those who call themselves Christian, yet scorn this moral and aspire to be numbered among the “goats” that their own Bible sentences to eternal damnation!
There’s no reaching people, no reasoning with people who support this degree of moral depravity. They need to be cast from power so that they can never harm anyone again. And since religion seems to be part of the problem, we should replace them with decent and compassionate nonreligious people of which, happily, there seems to be a surfeit.
As I wrote all the way back in 2006, the nonreligious are much more likely than white Christians to say torture is never justified. We’re more peaceful and more opposed to war and violence. We’re far more pro-choice than society in general.
While the atheist community has its own problems and blind spots, there’s much we can say for ourselves in our own defense. Compared to white Christianity, which embraces the willful and wanton promotion of cruelty and evil, it’s not even a contest.