There are lots of places to get your news and information these days – CNN (leans left), FOX (leans right), NPR (leans intellectual), the Internet (leans – everywhere), gossip magazines (leans to the gullible & bored), the government (leans politically expedient) and then you own personal experiences which although definitely lean true, they might not be the whole truth.
Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point. In just the last couple of days Barbie has been told that Michelle Obama is really a man and that Barak is gay. Follow that up with the “breaking news” there is a project in Alaska called HAARP which “they” are using to cause (among other things) the drought in California and the earthquakes in Oklahoma. The sinister motive behind the infamous “they” is to cause everybody to move out of California and return the fertile valleys to Government lands and the earthquakes, which center around Cushing, are an effort to disrupt the oil industry and once and for all stop the Keystone Pipeline project. It didn’t take much checking to find out that the HAARP project was scrapped in the last few years due to lack of success and funding and earlier this year the entire project was deeded over to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. And here is the really scary part, the people who told Barbie of these ridiculous conspiracy theories were “mature” adults (55 years+) one of whom works in education at a local university and another attends our church. The internet was cited as the source of these stories when Barbie asked. I did some checking (on the internet) and the Michelle/Barak story was originated by none other than the trusted investigative reporter Joan Rivers.
By the way, I am not going to discuss either these issues here (or anywhere else for that matter), but I would like to discuss the fact that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it so. I have read or listened to numerous reports or rants about the proposed acceptance of Syrian refugees in recent days. They have covered the gamete from “they are part of a well planned Trojan horse” to keep out at all cost to “God is love” and because of that fact it follows we should let them all in. Most notably have been numerous reports that there is little to no risk in letting them in and especially the widows and orphans because the vetting process is almost foolproof in weeding out all (current) jihadists. There are likely elements of truth in all these angles.
I would like to share a story directly related to this discussion from my own personal life experience – not off the internet. When Barbie and I first lived in Israel in the late 70’s things were drastically different from today. It was very common for the population to tramp (hitchhike) all over the country accepting rides from whoever stopped, whether Jew or Arab. People didn’t think twice about shopping in East Jerusalem, the Arab quarter of the Old City, Bethlehem or Gaza. If you rented a car you could drive wherever you wanted with no concern beyond a flat tire. Yes there were occasionally terrorist attacks, but in most cases they were carried out by jihadists who had snuck across the border from Jordan or Syria in the hours before the attack. In other words, the vast majority of the Arab population were living and loving life in a peaceful co-existence with their Israeli occupiers. Fast forward to the early 90’s when we lived there for a couple of months as part of YWAM (Youth With a Mission). Imams from the surrounding Arab countries began to garner greater and greater control over the Arab population in Israel to the point there were significant security concerns at many of the traditional tourist locations such as Bethlehem, Jericho & Hebron. And a visit to Gaza was totally out of the question. The team we led got a pretty good feel for the deteriorating situation as we spent a lot of our time in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. We were strongly cautioned about taking our rental van into predominantly Arab sections of the country as ambush attacks on cars with Israeli tags were on the rise. Barbie and I have been able to visit Israel a couple more times in the last 20 years to include a spring trip last year. Now there are walls, fences and checkpoints everywhere, you are forbidden from taking rental cars into many areas and a population that some 30 years earlier was not radicalized has been, in just one generation, transformed into what may well be a radicalized majority who are carrying out knife, car and gun attacks (some by women and young boys) almost on a daily basis from Arabs within the country.
You see, to truly understand Islam, you must understand the huge influence the main Imams have over their “flock”. Not too unlike prominent Christian leaders such as the Pope, Billy Graham and Joel Osteen have over trends in Christianity – some good and some not so good. In Islam, there are a significant majority of the Imams calling for jihad. Take note that one thing that has been missing in response to the recent terrorist attacks has been any broad scale denouncing of them by the Imams of the Islamic world. Yes, there have been some Arabs who have denounced these acts, but what has dominated the headlines are things like what happened a couple of days after the Paris attacks when Turkish fans booed and shouted Allahu akbar during a moment of silence to honor the Paris victims before a soccer match between Turkey and Greece.
So is there risk is bringing the refugees here? Yes, there are absolutely great risks and anybody who dismisses the cautions claiming there is little to no risk either doesn’t understand Islam, has little interest in learning or they read something on the internet to the contrary.
Having said all that, as a Christian, I must try and view this situation through God’s eyes and a heavenly perspective. The US is not my real home, I hopefully count my life on this earth as no value for the sake of the Gospel and what if all this is part of Gods grand plan to bring those in desperate need of the Gospel right to our door step? As one who has been involved in mission work in the Middle East, I can tell you it is very difficult if not forbidden to do mission work over there. And this refugee challenge might just be a golden opportunity for the Church to strategize together for the sake of the Gospel. What if Churches across this country offered to sponsor refugee families on a grand scale? Not to cram the Gospel down their throat, but to love on them, serve them and help them get jobs and housing in a strange new country. What if?
I love and am challenged by the story of the Moravian missionaries Dober and Nitschmann who went so far as to sell themselves into slavery in order to bring the Gospel to the West Indies in 1732. There was of course great risk for them to do that, and although there is risk in bringing Syrian refugees to American soil we too could echo the cry heard from Dober & Nitschmann from the bow of that ship as it pulled out of that German Harbor –
“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”