Syrian Refugees: Compassion vs. Protection
Editors note: The views expressed in this op-ed are those of our Executive Editor Dr. Richard Land, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Christian Post.
How do you balance Christian compassion for the very real suffering Syrian refugees with the God-ordained duty of the divinely ordained civil magistrate to protect the innocent and punish evil doers? (Romans 13: 1-7).
Millions of Americans have grieved over the terrible, heartbreaking scenes of suffering Syrians refugees (men, women, and children) as they have fled the horrible violence and the gut-wrenching atrocities that have characterized their country's civil war. Who can erase from their memories the picture of the little Syrian boy's (just a toddler) dead body being gently carried by a Turkish policeman after the boy had drowned in the Aegean Sea while trying to escape with his family from the nightmare of his homeland's civil war.
Any decent person would want to help. Christians are mandated by their Savior to do something.
However, when it comes to welcoming Syrian refugees into the United States, it is also necessary to give attention to the obligations and responsibilities the government and citizenry have to demonstrate compassion for the innocent Americans who may be endangered by allowing possible terrorists into the U.S. disguised as refugees.
ISIS has acknowledged that they intend to do just that. And, having infiltrated into America, they will rapidly duplicate the dastardly deeds in our cities that they perpetrated in Paris.
We have an obligation, and a duty, to show compassion to every man, woman, and child in America by not putting them at needless risk or in harm's way. Individual Christians may say that they are willing to take the risk to their personal safety in order to alleviate the suffering of these poor people. The problem is that you are not just putting your life at risk; you are putting your fellow Americans' lives at risk without their consent.
The plight of the refugees is heartbreaking. However, so is the death of American children from terrorist attacks (remember the children killed and maimed in the Boston marathon bombing?).
Christians are certainly free, and may feel obligated, to disregard their own safety in order to minister to others in distress. However, they do not have the right to make the decision to endanger others without their permission.
An example that makes this point is the distinction I made several years ago in an article I was asked to write on whether Christians could practice agape love, i.e. the sacrificial, turn-the-other-cheek love that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in redeemed people's lives, in their business activities.
My conclusion was that they should if possible, but that they were more free morally and ethically to practice the heightened risks associated with agape love if it was their own business and the business and resources they were exposing to increased risk were their own and not their employer's. They did not have the right to expose their employer's business and resources to such increased risk without expressed permission to do so. Frankly, I think practicing an agape business ethic would be a great business model that would earn you great respect and repeat business. Nevertheless, you don't have the right to make that decision while risking other people's wellbeing rather than just your own without their expressed approval.
Fortunately, in the case of the Syrian refugees we don't have to accept an "either/or" solution.
As a nation we can show compassion by providing the refugees a "safe zone" in their own homeland, guaranteed by American air and military power. We can also offer to reach into our national treasury, to help feed, clothe and house these unfortunate people in their safe zone, in refugee camps, or help relocate them in adjacent countries like Egypt and Turkey.
If someone feels led to show compassion more directly, they can make personal financial contributions and in other ways assist the refugees. They could work or volunteer for one of the private nonprofit organizations that provide humanitarian assistance. They could even volunteer to go overseas personally and minister directly to the refugees.
However, we cannot currently properly vet such people (according to the FBI director) to separate the good guys from the bad guys. It should also be remembered that at least a significant plurality of these refugees are young, unaccompanied men. In such a circumstance it would be criminally irresponsible for our federal government to ignore its duty to show compassion to its own citizens in order to extend the compassion of refugee status in the United States to the Syrian refugees.
It should be remembered that being "compassionate" includes being compassionate to all concerned, both those who are here in the U.S. as well as those who want to come. Being compassionate does not require, or even allow us, to voluntarily expose our neighbors' jugular veins to those who would do them harm without our neighbors' prior expressed permission.
Consequently, the Congress and the President must exercise their constitutional duty and suspend the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the U.S. until they can be properly and safely vetted, which will probably require the prior defeat of ISIS.