Is the U.S. A Christian Nation? American Values and Syrian Refugees.
It is a tragic irony that on Holocaust Memorial Day Trump signed an executive order that bans Syrian refugees as well as those seeking visas from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Generally, Americans do not feel that they have any responsibility for those who died in the Holocaust. After all the United States was critical to defeating Nazi Germany. When visiting the Anne Frank House in the Netherlands, however, I was horrified to learn about how many Jews who died in the camps, including Anne,1 had applied and were refused entry into the United States. These preventable deaths should burden our hearts. Instead, the United States is going even further in banning refugees and consigning them to their deaths.
Trump and his supporters argue that this ban is necessary in order to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and destroying it from within. Lies claiming Syrian refugees are entering the country without papers and are unvetted by national security agencies are continuously repeated despite clear evidence to the contrary. The extreme vetting that Syrians go through has been thoroughly documented. Furthermore, the libertarian/conservative CATO institute has estimated that “the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year.”
It is reminiscent of similar arguments that turned away Jewish refugees in the name of national security. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explains that
By the spring of 1940, Americans feared that the Nazis were sending spies and saboteurs to the United States, possibly disguised as refugees. On national security grounds, State Department officials carefully screened all potential immigrants, rejecting anyone they found questionable. In July 1941, American consulates closed in Nazi-occupied territories. After the United States entered the war in December 1941, it became nearly impossible for refugees to escape to the United States.
Christianity and American Values
I tend to resist labels like good and evil, but there is also a danger in not naming evil when we see it. Everyone agrees that Nazi death camps were evil. But conscientiously turning our back on these refugees is also a morally reprehensible act. Additionally, It is profoundly un-American and makes a mockery of the idea that our country strives to be a “shining city on the hill.”
Americans like to claim we are a Christian nation when they protest that the Ten Commandments are not allowed in public classrooms and courthouses. The bible, however, establishes that one can only be a Christian by living their faith according to the teachings of Christ.2 Therefore, it is pertinent that Jesus provides the parable of the Good Samaritan as the central example of living according to God’s commandments.3 Our claims of being a Christian nation or a moral nation that affirms human rights are falsified when we reject refugees fleeing for their lives; and when our hearts are not broken by the pictures of innocent children dying in an attempt to escape the violence and destruction of Syria.
By closing our borders, we share in the responsibility for every death of those seeking shelter in the United States. It is and will remain a stain on the American flag. I will always wonder if I did enough to prevent this from happening. I do know, however, that I will not remain silent when our government undertakes such evil. This is a matter of patriotism as well as a test of morality. We will all be judged as to whether we remained silent or not.