By Jacqueline J. Holness
President Trump’s presidency is nearly six months old. From the day after his inauguration with women’s marches throughout the world to the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to his controversial tweets, his presidency has sparked conversation and controversy beyond the political arena.
One such development in Trump’s presidency that continues to reverberate in Christian culture is his executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” issued seven days after his inauguration. A temporary travel ban from Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen was the directive of the order.
Due to legal battles regarding the ban’s constitutionality, Trump issued a revised executive order in March. With the new executive order, Iraq was removed from the list of seven countries, Visa and green card holders are not banned from entry, and there is no preferential treatment for Christian refugees. However the number of refugees allowed into the country for fiscal year 2017 remains the same as specified in the original order—50,000 refugees rather than 110,000 from the previous year will be allowed into the country.
Religious Leaders Speak Out
Christian leaders have varying opinions about the executive order. Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, an offshoot of the National Association of Evangelicals, told Christianity Today’s Kate Shellnutt, “Our concern is that this action really does further traumatize a group of people that have already borne so much tragedy.”
In a Washington Post column, Ed Stetzer, who holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College, wrote, “Here’s an important fact: coming to the United States as a refugee would be one of the worst ways to try and get in our country if you wanted to do harm. There is simply no evidence that our refugee program has created a significant problem of terrorism. Anyone saying anything else is making up false facts.”
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, told The Huffington Post, “We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”
Carol M. Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University and author of Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise also supports Trump’s travel ban. “Instead of complaining about President Trump’s executive order preventing terrorist attacks from foreign nationals, when we invoke the words ‘We the People,’ we should celebrate the fact we have someone in the White House willing to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of our citizens. We should be thankful for the development and implementation of a rational refugee policy that will correct some of the biases and injustices of the Obama Administration,” Swain wrote in a piece for cnn.com.
Some Christian leaders have a more centrist view of Trump’s travel ban. In his sermon, “The Not So United States of America,” Andy Stanley, minister of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, pointed out that while the 9/11 perpetrators and the Boston Marathon bombers were not refugees, “about 40 refugees have been arrested in this country for planning or plotting some sort of terrorist activity.” He also said the refugees were radicalized only after arriving in the U.S.
In a tweet, National Radio Broadcasters President Jerry A. Johnson said, “Christians and churches must minister in love to refugees. Government must vet and limit immigration to protect citizens. Both are needed.”
How Will You React?
While it is important to consider the opinions of Christian leaders who have a platform, what matters most regarding the treatment of refugees will happen in the pews of individual churches throughout the nation in the days to come. Below are a few questions congregants may want to ask ourselves:
1. What does the Bible have to say about refugees?
2. Am I educated about U.S. refugee policy beyond the headlines?
3. Do I know any refugees?
As this is a global human rights issue that galvanizes Christians and non-Christians alike, it is of the utmost importance that Christians conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects Jesus Christ.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).