Amateur theologians

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on November 19, 2015

The debate over the which Syrian refugees (if any) and how many of them to bring to the United States has brought out a cadre of amateur theologians—many of whom darken the doorway of a house of worship only for weddings and funerals—quick to tell us exactly WWJD when it comes to public policy.

The Hypocrisy

It's difficult not to suffer whiplash when the same people who were warning of a coming theocracy when George W. Bush was in office and mocked him anytime he referred to his Christian values and prayers guiding his public policy decisions now encouraging such behavior when there's a liberal Democrat in office.

These same people who are demanding "Christian" charity be extended to these refugees (with no worries that ISIS may use them as cover to insert some terrorists into the United States) wage war on Christians on a regular basis.

Christian florists, bakers and photographers' refusal to be part of a gay "marriage" ceremony is them "imposing" their religion on homosexuals. The Little Sisters of the Poor's refusal to pay for contraceptives is imposing their backward morality on the likes of Sandra Fluke. Crisis Pregnancy Centers—the vast majority of which are religiously based—mere existence as an alternative to Planned Parenthood are targeted and forced to refer women that come to them to abortion services.

These are the same people that want to appeal to the Christian faith now. A faith they commonly misrepresent. A faith they can't be bothered to investigate or understand. A faith they have nothing but contempt for the other 51 weeks of the year.

The Ignorance

Hans Fiene over at The Federalist educates the amateur theologians in our midst that the Christmas Story is not analogous to President Obama's refugee policy.

While that may be the most common Biblical reference that crops up in the mainstream media (likely because it's the only bit of the Bible they have any knowledge of, no matter how tenuous), it's not the only one.

Some people, including some liberal Christians, have pointed to Matthew 25:35-40.

Matthew 25, amateur theologians

Supposedly, the "stranger you invite in" is tens of thousands of refugees that the federal government invites in and pays to support with your tax dollars.

I'm not convinced that the King will reply along the lines of "you voted for a Democrat who used your tax dollars to do these things, you did this for me." At least, I think they better hope not. Because if that line of logic is persuasive with the Creator, then they better hope he doesn't look closely at that vote they cast for the guy who voted for infanticide.

This illustrates a problem that has existed on the quasi-religious left for decades: Biblical calls for personal acts of charity are conflated with public policy positions and votes. When activism, political posturing, Twitter, and Facebook posts are a substitute for real, self-sacrificing charity, you're not devout. You're a Pharisee. (Note for amateur theologians: That's not a good thing.)

Recent History

Why the rush? Even defenders of this effort say that it will take 18-24 months for the vetting of these individuals to be complete. But somehow a bipartisan, veto-proof House majority that includes 47 Democrats are anti-Muslim haters?

Is delaying the rush to admit refugees an evil thing?

This is curious. Because it's just what President Obama did in 2011 after it was revealed that two Iraqi refugees (whose case I mentioned earlier) who had killed U.S. troops in Iraq had been let into the country. And then there's this:

Why these refugees? As Rich Lowry notes in a Politico magazine column, there's lots of people all over the world that could use saving.

The fact is that, since our resources aren’t limitless, we are constantly slamming the door in the faces of refugees, as the president puts it. According to the World Bank, there were 2.5 million Afghan refugees in 2014; according to the office of refugee resettlement, in fiscal year 2014 we took 758 of them. There were 616,000 from South Sudan; we took 52 of them. There were 410,00 from the Central African Republic; we took 25 of them.

How can the president face himself every day betraying our values by taking so few refugees from these strife-torn countries? The problem with the argument that our values compel us to take refugees is that it isn’t subject to any limit.

We admit about 70,000 refugees a year. Is that the American level? Or would 700,000 be more American? And what’s the balance between prudential considerations — cost, assimilation, security — and American-ness? The pieties about immigration are a way to short-circuit discernment and argument.

A Reasonable Debate

The discussion we're having today is the wrong one. You won't find anyone serious on the "woah, wait a minute" side of the debate who doesn't think we shouldn't do something to help the people displaced by the Syrian civil war.

First, there is a non-zero danger that ISIS will be successful in slipping some terrorists through our vetting procedures. President Obama, slayer of millions of strawmen, derides those who point this out while simultaneously touting the long process and all of the intelligence resources that will be brought to bear to ensure this doesn't happen.

Second, is this the best use of limited funds? After all, amateur theologians, we're directed to be good stewards of our money.

A study by the Center for Immigration Studies suggests that we can help far more Syrian refugees by providing money to support them in neighboring countries, rather than moving them half way across the world.

  • On average, each Middle Eastern refugee resettled in the United States costs an estimated $64,370 in the first five years, or $257,481 per household.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $1,057 to care for each Syrian refugee annually in most countries neighboring Syria.
  • For what it costs to resettle one Middle Eastern refugee in the United States for five years, about 12 refugees can be helped in the Middle East for five years, or 61 refugees can be helped for one year.
  • UNHCR reports a gap of $2.5 billion in funding that it needs to care for approximately four million Syrians in neighboring countries.
  • The five-year cost of resettling about 39,000 Syrian refugees in the United States is enough to erase the current UNHCR funding gap.

Is the premium to support your self-righteousness worth it?

Finally, is it really of ultimate benefit both for America and the refugees themselves to be resettled in a country far from their extended family, where theirs is a minority religion (in the case of Muslim immigrants) and they are submerged in a culture very foreign to their own?

We could have this debate, if we had an honest, adversarial press that took its job seriously to "afflict the comfortable." They could push back against President Obama's caricature of his foes and some sort of reasonable compromise could be worked out.

We don't, so we won't.

A final note

Donald Trump is a Democrat, Hillary Clinton campaign contributor and a narcissistic jackass. (Even with this explanation, he can go to #311.)

Dr. Ben Carson is an excellent surgeon, a nice guy and someone who shouldn't be running for president. He'd get a pass on saying some of this stuff if he were a senator from Delaware.

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