A Letter To Refugees From An American Christian

We have grounded our better angels and cleared our worst demons for takeoff.
01/25/2017 02:54 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2017
Syrian children march in the refugee camp in Jordan
Syrian children march in the refugee camp in Jordan

Come on in and sit down.

You must be exhausted.

Would you like some tea?

Can I get you something to eat?”

That’s what we were supposed to remember to say to you. And after you had a chance to rest and recover from your long journey we should have invited you to share your story with us or, if you preferred, to simply sit in silence and let tears tell the tale of what you have been through.

Instead, many of us are supporting the policies of a man who is slamming the door in your face. As you struggle under the crushing weight of hopelessness and enter into the hour of your greatest need ― that moment in which our Christian faith should have kicked in and inspired courageous and gracious action on our part ― too many of us are saying “no.” We have grounded our better angels and cleared our worst demons for takeoff.

You’ll have to forgive us, not only for our cruelty, but also for our forgetfulness. For as often as we go to our nice churches and listen to sermons delivered exquisitely by well-dressed preachers, we have a terrible time remembering basic things like how our own Lord Jesus Christ was a refugee forced to flee his blood-soaked homeland during the reign of a tyrant hell-bent on infanticide. We forget that our Lord instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves and our minds grow fuzzy when trying to recall his story about strangers putting aside their fear and helping each other in moments of crisis on the side of the road. Our memory fails us when it comes time to recall the passages in our holy books in which God’s heart bleeds for the strangers in the land. If you deem our forgetfulness to be unforgivable, don’t worry. You might not be the only one.

But some of us have not forgotten these things and we wake up every day thinking about the horrific suffering that you are forced to bear. We pray for you and also for the courage in our own hearts to resist compliance with the unjust and unmerciful policies forged in the forgetfulness of our faith convictions. We donate to organizations that specialize in assisting individuals confronting crisis in their homelands and we contact our elected officials to tell them that we would love to have you as our neighbors. We remember the words of Jesus ― even the words that give us an upset stomach for what they ask from us ― because we recognize that real lives are at stake.

Your lives are at stake.

And in some profound, perhaps even mystical way, our lives are at stake, too.

A life void of love and ruled by fear is no life at all. That’s what our refugee Lord taught us.

We were supposed to remember that.

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