Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
Thanks to the Supreme Court, Donald Trump got a victory last week. From late 2015 Trump pledged to halt Muslim immigration; his “Travel Ban” from six majority-Muslim countries is a campaign promise kept. The court’s decision to allow a restricted ban effectively gives Trump everything he wanted: by the time the court rules in October, the 90-to-120 day travel “pause” will have passed.
By definition, the travel ban is now law. Yes, legal scholars and others have different ideas about whether or not the travel ban is constitutional. But the simple reality in the United States is that, no matter what anyone might think, nine men and women have the final say on what is and is not “legal.” It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about this particular executive order or about gun rights or free speech or gay marriage: the Supreme Court decides what does and does not violate the US constitution.
But the fact that a law is “constitutional” does not mean that Christians must support it, or even obey it. Traditionally, Christians hold that no document is inspired God in the same way as are the Old and New Testaments. God wants Christians to base our ideas about right and wrong on the Bible, not legal documents. So when governments make laws which contradict the Bible, Christians must protest.
One of the central ideas in both the Old and New Testaments is that God is serious about wanting His people to aid those in need: the poor, the oppressed, orphans, widows, and strangers. Do an internet search and you will find many websites like this, with long lists of Bible passages instructing us to help the disadvantaged. If the Bible uses this much space to tell us to aid those who are seriously disadvantaged, then perhaps we should do some serious talking about our national responsibility toward those in need.
By any rational standards, refugees from war-torn countries certainly need help. Some Americans think that the United States is nice, even generous, to allow refugees from war-torn countries to live here. For Christians, however, helping refugees is not a matter of being “nice”: by being good to others we are simply obeying to God. And out of obedience to God we must oppose United States laws which deny refugees the chance to live here.
President Trump and his administration of course claim that the travel ban is necessary and/or wise in order to fight domestic terrorism. If we could rely on Trump to tell the truth about refugees and domestic terrorism, then it might be possible for Christians to not oppose the travel ban. But aside from Trump’s reputation for dishonesty, history tells us that the government may well be exaggerating the immigrant danger.
Since before the time of Exodus 1, governments have routinely cited “security” to justify the oppression of minorities. A twentieth-century American example is the 1942 internment of Japanese-Americans, which was based much more on racism than on any real danger. Let’s keep in mind also our 2003 Iraq war, begun after our government largely convinced the public that Iraq was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. Like most governments, ours is prone to using fear in order to get citizens to do what it wants. So Christians need to treat government claims of “safety” with skepticism.
Isi it likely that some refugees from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen will turn out to be terrorists? The evidence says “no.” Since the Refugee Act was set up in 1980 refugees have committed exactly zero terrorist attacks in the US. Yes, zero. Why so low? One reason may be that refugees are already extensively vetted.
Of course, the travel is not just about refugees, so let’s ask a different question. If Trump’s travel ban had been in effect continuously since, say, 2000, how many fewer terrorist attacks would we have had? Again, the number is zero. Immigrants who would have been affected by the ban were not involved in 9/11 or in any of the other terrorist attacks in this century.
Trump and his administration of course know these facts. But they also know what Trump promised when he was running for President, and they know that the travel ban makes Trump look serious about preventing terrorist attacks – even if the travel ban actually makes America less safe.
Worst of all Trump and his administration know that many Americans don’t care enough about the plight of foreigners from war-torn countries to make sure that our government tells the truth. Many of us are very willing to extend the suffering of refugees, just in case one of them might be a terrorist.
If the Bible is true, then the travel ban is wrong. And even if the travel ban is “legal,” Christians must oppose something that so clearly violates God’s Word.
A Christian blog and podcast by Ray Burns.
Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts