To Pro-Life Christians: Please Support Refugees

To Pro-Life Christians: Please Support Refugees January 31, 2017

As Vice President Mike Pence addressed crowds of supporters at the March for Life, protests raged across the country decrying President Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.  This executive order includes an indefinite ban on refugees from war-torn Syria. The Vice-President did not mention immigration in his comments to Pro-Life activists, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on our minds.  It is the height of hypocrisy to march for protection of the unborn and ignore the plight of children around the world.  Mr. Pence, it seems, is unaware that immigration is a life issue

The Pro-Life movement has fallen into a dangerous trap of one-issue politics.  The fixation with overturning Roe V Wade has chained us to the Republican Party, distracting us from vital work and weakening our stance. In fact, the Republicans often oppose measures that are vital to our cause: a stronger safety net for single mothers, fixing our broken foster-care system, and putting an end to the death penalty.  Lessening our focus on these goals has given weight to our opponent’s argument that we don’t really care about life at all. They perceive Pro-Life Christians as only focused on controlling women and forcing them into motherhood.  We, they argue, are hypocrites who only care about the life of a child while it is still in the womb. This stance would be insulting if it wasn’t so close to the truth.  We have lost touch with our calling as Christians and fallen into the simplistic story of the culture war.  And now President Trump has slammed the door on immigration. This is our chance to prove ourselves.

Not to be outdone, conservatives are quick to point the finger of hypocrisy at the left-wing outrage surrounding the immigration ban. Obama took similar measures in 2011. (The seven countries on Trumps list are drawn from the Obama-era’s Visa Waiver program.)[1]  It’s natural to want to point fingers and say “Where were your protests then?” My question to pro-life activists is this: who cares? We have no time to waste removing splinters from other people’s eye’s- our beam is enormous.  We owe no loyalty to the Republican Party. We are Christians.  Our loyalty lies only in what is true. The question is not why are they outraged all the sudden but rather why weren’t we outraged before?  Pointing out the flaws in others is a distraction.  We only have time for the flaws in ourselves.

We’ve known for years about the refugee crisis in Syria, but we chose to do nothing.  We’ve known that translators who risked their lives to help our military were being denied entry into the United States.  We in the Pro-Life movement should have been the first to take up this cause. Instead, we are making excuses and blaming others. Worse, we are allowing our fears to control our actions.

The story of Jewish refugees being turned away at the border during the Second World War has been passed around so much in connection with the current crisis, that it has started to feel like empty rhetoric.  But it is not.  The fears about allowing these refugees into the country are almost identical to the fears being expressed today: we haven’t vetted these people, we don’t know who they are, the enemy could be hiding among them, their values seem different than ours.  Roman Catholics often forget that we were at once suspected of wanting to set up a Papal Kingdom in the United States, echoing the current fear that Muslims will try to institute Sharia Law.  None of these fears ever came to fruition in our country, but we allowed them to guide our choices.  Every passenger on that ship of Jewish refugees died in concentration camps.

I want to be clear:  I am not suggesting that all the rhetoric around this issue is accurate- popular media is rife with misinformation, which is certainly fueling the protests. I am also not suggesting that the Pro-Life movement ought to side with the Democratic Party.  On the contrary, I’m begging that we become entirely non-partisan. From the outside, it is much easier to perceive how both parties are right some of the time.  It is reasonable that a Pro-Life person might feel immigration policy needs to be reexamined, and a temporary hiatus may be necessary to do this. But if this is the case (and I’m not convinced it is) these changes must be made as quickly as possible.  An indefinite ban is not acceptable.  And, once the process is completed in a swift manner, we must dramatically increase our acceptance of refugees.  The numbers under President Obama were not remotely high enough. Every day that our borders are closed is a gift to ISIS and a victory for death.

Finally, I strongly urge Christians to take the charges of religious discrimination seriously.  Virtually every religious group has experienced persecution at some point in their history.  It is tragically rare for members of one religion to stand up for members of another.  This is to our shame.  Once again, conservatives will argue that the phrase “Muslim Ban” is hugely inaccurate, used to spur partisan rage.  The undeniable truth is that banning Muslims was one of President Trump’s (admittedly contradictory) campaign promises.[2]  If he intends to keep this promise then this executive order is the first step, as was disturbingly described by Rudy Giuliani [3].  While the immigration ban may not directly forbid entry based on race or religion, when taken within the context of President Trump’s previous statements, it sends a very specific message. As Senator John McCain, observes, “This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country.”[4]  Now, the President will wait and see how the Christian majority will react to this message.  We must not allow ourselves to be comforted by legality.  There is always a division between what is technically legal and what is morally acceptable, and we can only fall down on one side. We must protect the sacred right to worship, and vociferously oppose anything that comes close to challenging that right.

The United States has so far failed to protect the innocent victims of our greatest enemies.  Some of these people are fellow Christians and ethnic minorities, many more are Muslims- all are targeted for extinction by extremists.  This is unquestionably a life issue.  When meditating on the moral path, we must remember Christ’s words in what is significantly known as the Judgement of Nations:

“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, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt. 25 v34-36)

Will Pro-Life Christians demand protection for refugees, or will we once again fail in our mission?

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-order-muslims/514844/

[2] https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/donald-j.-trump-statement-on-preventing-muslim-immigration
[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/29/trump-asked-for-a-muslim-ban-giuliani-says-and-ordered-a-commission-to-do-it-legally/?utm_term=.2fbb7b78df6e [4] http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=587F2A2D-8A47-48F7-9045-CF30F0A77889
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