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Recently, a discussion started on my Facebook page about faith, and the duties of Christians towards refuges, as a result of my response to what was then the latest round of continuing outrage. This specific bit of outrage was directed towards Christians, rebuking them over the EO issued by President Trump. As noted then, my response to that and some comments raised deserves a fuller and thoughtful reply.
In the hopes that some may actually read it and consider the comments, I present that response. I’ve been slow to post as I both have limited time, and because giving a more thoughtful response does take time. I hope you will forgive me for suspecting that none of the commenters were truly interested in a theological debate. I strongly suspect that for many or all that the responses were far more religious than Religious, in terms of Dr. Barnes outstanding work on rational discourse and persuasibility (see http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/09/repost_rational.html).
That said, there are three parts to this: theological, philosophical, and factual. The three are, as always, intertwined. Trying to separate the three is a quick way to be wrong, as well as a logical fallacy. On the first part I note that I am not a theologian, and I speak for myself.
I don’t think anyone, in my post or elsewhere, tried to argue that Christians (and those of the Jewish faith) don’t have a duty to Charity, or to charity. This does indeed include charity to foreigners.
A quick search shows that there are (at least) 46 verses that deal with strangers/foreigners/resident aliens. Of those 46, some involve smiting those with ill intent towards the Children of Israel. Others deal with taxing foreigners/resident aliens, and giving unto them unclean foods that could not be eaten by the Children of Israel. Others, commend particular care to do for foreigners/resident aliens as the Children of Israel had once been strangers in a strange land (Egypt). One reason for the delay in response was the interesting find that one of the terms from original scripture (Hebrew and Greek) does appear to translate as resident alien, a legal term then as it is today. One or more translations of scripture does use that term, and I’m actually wanting to explore that more.
If there is a faster way to doctrinal/theological error than cherry picking scripture, I am not sure what it is. A full understanding requires consideration of Scripture as a whole. One of my few quibbles with Dr. Barnes work is that I have found that faith and theology require not blind faith, but full discussion and discourse of any single verse in the context of the whole. And, yes, I note that faith and understanding of what scripture means has changed as we as a people have grown, studied, and debated. It has indeed led to what I call ‘Oh, that’s what you meant’ moments for all. Leaving aside Charity, I would note that charity does not demand that one aid and abet those of ill intent towards you.
For those who still want to focus on a single bits of scripture, may I commend to you
Psalm 82:3-4 and Romans 13:1-2.
With all that said, yes, scripture can be, has been, and will be, cherrypicked from now to the end of time. Anything can be taken out of context, and Man — with his free will — tends to find those things that justify his desires. Just as I noted above, however, cherrypicking is in and of itself a wrong act, philosophically and theologically, as it lacks the context of the full.
In fact, if you read the fullness of scripture, evil is to be resisted; and, unjust governance is to be resisted by passive and active means. Active does not mean, in all cases, armed. Rather, it is primarily resisted by peaceful actions to enact positive change by reason, discourse, and example. Keep the faith. Only at last resort, or to protect from imminent harm, is one to turn to violence.
In the great experiment that is our Constitutional Republic (not a democracy), we have voting, state and federal legislatures, and the courts as means of peaceful challenge and change. The peaceful transition of power in the Republic was a novel thing at the time the Great Experiment started, and few born here realize how rare it is even today in many parts of the world.
Now, let’s move from scripture to theology and philosophy. Both are in agreement that the ends do NOT justify the means. If one seeks to do a bad thing, that is wrong, even if the desire is to obtain a good thing, especially a “greater good”. To accomplish good, one must do the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. It is good and right to fast so that the money that would be spent on food can go to the poor or other good cause. It is philosophically wrong (theologically a sin) to fast and give that money if the goal is to gain fame and notoriety for oneself — in other words, doing the right thing simply to virtue signal others and glorify yourself is a wrong act/a sin.
Theology and philosophy both take note of the Principle of Double Effect, i.e. the law of unintended consequences. One can undertake something good, for good reasons, but still cause evil. if those consequences were indeed entirely unknowable and unintended, then great wrong has been done but theologically it is not a sin. If, however, one knows that these consequences are quite likely/inevitable, there are other reasonable courses of action, then one has committed a wrong act (sin) if you proceed.
Now, to current events.
First, every nation has control of its borders and regulates who comes in for a visit or permanently. One excludes visitors that you know are up to no good. One welcomes people who want to assimilate and become a net positive to the society of that country. The definitions on both applied by countries do vary quite a bit, as each has its own ideas on those principles.
Some are quite open. Our own country is, despite the outcry, a very open and welcoming country to visitors, though not quite as much to immigrants. Our Immigration Service and laws/regulations seriously need overhaul. A woman I come close to marrying was, in fact, was a resident alien and her efforts to become a citizen exemplify a good bit of the problem. She spent years and thousands of dollars in her effort, and to my knowledge still has not achieved her desire. Whatever my thoughts about her, the system is essentially broken in regards those who want to come here, become citizens, and pursue the American dream legally. That said, our system in regard to illegal aliens is also broken. Both need serious reform, especially in regards illegal aliens who come here and commit minor things like rape, robbery, and murder. We must do better by all.
An even better example is the plight of the interpreters who have aided us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. These are people who have proven themselves under fire, and almost all were being recommended and/or sponsored by the troops with which they served. They were supposed to be fast-tracked, as their service to us literally put a target on not just their backs, but the backs of their immediate, and sometimes extended, families. Instead, those applications were at best slow-tracked, far more often than not taking years. The appearance was that this was both deliberate and malicious, and is something on which the military community has been working with members of Congress and others to address. Sadly, there was not a lot of success with those efforts and it is my hope that the new administration and Congress will work together to address it.
As for why I talked about appearances, compare and contrast the extreme vetting and slow-rolling of the interpreters to the rapid and apparently cursory vetting given to other refugees from the Middle East. What was taking years for people who had proven themselves took literally days for them. Interesting, no?
That said, we are far from the most draconian, and I invite you to take an honest and objective look at them. Want to have some fun? Try immigrating to Mexico and buying land. Take a look at visiting Iraq, Iran, Somalia, North Korea, Nauru, Butahn, and Libya to name a few. We are not the best, but those claiming we are the worst need a serious reality check.
Every nation vets/checks visitors, and especially immigrants, in a variety of ways. That is simply being responsible to the greater good. In other words, governments have a duty to protect the people there (and their way of life). America has taken in the lowly and oppressed from around the world, and overall done very well by it. Hybrid vigor is a good term for it, and it comes from a variety of people coming here, assimilating and embracing the opportunities, and becoming good and productive members of society. It is part of the great experiment that is our Republic. However, not all individuals or groups have done so, and it is right (and a right) to deport them if they can not obey the law.
Daesh, which is the better name for ISIS/ISIL, believes in establishing a world-wide caliphate, along with starting a war between Muslims and all those of other faiths. It should be noted that those Muslims who do not agree with them are considered as bad or worse than Christians and others, and they spend considerable effort exterminating and/or enslaving them.
I suspect that a majority of people in the U.S. have only a limited idea of what Daesh has done and is doing. They routinely throw gay men from roof tops; what happens to lesbians is horrific; they crucify those they regard as apostate, as well as Christians and others (per the Koran, which lists crucifixion as one of the acceptable means of death for such); they enslave men, women, and children; they engage in sexual slavery, particularly women and children (male and female) of the Christian faith; and, I could go on but why bother. Few seem to care.
That is a bit of a blanket statement, but it comes from both watching efforts to help minority populations in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, and to aid or start new efforts to do so. I can make a very good argument that the UN has done little for them; and, will note that efforts by religious charities have done far more. They and the Martyrdom they have endured for their faith is astounding — and they deserve all we can do to help provide them security, healing, and more.
For much of last year, I had a housemate who was a practicing Moslem from Libya. He and other members of his extended family were forced to flee Libya because of Daesh. He shared a few things with us, and in regards Daesh some of what he shared can only be described as horrific. For purposes of this note, I will simply share that he accepted as a given that Daesh was using the crisis to export believers/fighters. Not a possibility, but a fact. For all that I think discussion of the demographics of the current refugee crisis is often used as a red herring, I will note that a mass influx of military-aged males (who are not interested in assimilation or adhering to the laws of the countries being entered) was in the past called an invasion.
I will note and accept that the latest wave of refugees is not the start of such a problem, though it has caused the issue to explode. England and Europe have long provided pretty much open and unfiltered immigration. I will simply note that few seem to know about Rotherham (https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2769601/rotherham-sex-abuse-gang-allahu-akbar-jailed/ as a start); the wave of rapes and murders in Germany (and elsewhere); and, the terrorist acts committed by those immigrants in Europe, of which the spate of attacks in Paris are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many valid citations of those problems, and I leave researching them to the (few) who are truly interested. I will also recommend you read https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/world/asia/isis-messaging-app-terror-plot.html?_r=0 as part of this.
Again, none of this is news to those who have been paying attention. it has been a topic of extreme interest to the intelligence community, and those interested in terrorism and those interested in helping those who have truly suffered from Daesh and others. Again, while I think discussion of demographics allows those who want to ignore reality a great opportunity to do so, almost all sources agree that out of the refugees let into the U.S. that are part of the current crisis, less than one percent come from those being persecuted and martyred.
The recent EO was a 90-day ban on people from six countries — not a ban on Moslems. It was, in fact, half the time of previous such orders — and again as an exercise for those truly interested, go to the Congressional Research Service and look at previous bans, which administrations had the most, and the length of them. It is a fascinating and telling read, all the way back to FDR turning away Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
The idea behind the temporary ban was to force those countries to do a better job of helping vet the refugees, while making improvements to our own vetting process. Will it miraculously make us safer immediately? No, it won’t. What it will do is allow the government to start a process that hopefully (and, no, I’m not sure it will given the nature of our bureaucracy) make us safer in the long run. Was it well handled/initiated? No. Was it a step in the right direction? In my opinion, yes. Is making those who are truly suffering a priority over those who are not the right thing to do? Yes, politically, philosophically, and theologically. Is doing all we can for them here and abroad the right thing to do? Yes. It is the least we can do.
Now, back to the law of unintended consequences/Principle of Double Effect. Given the multitude of evidence of what happens from unvetted immigration, the fact that rape, murder, terrorism, and other crimes against law and humanity will occur is NOT an unforeseeable side effect. It is, instead, a given. Which mean that those who demand such are complicit in those acts, and committing philosophical and theological wrong. Take your pick of either, it is the same in both.
Some of us have been paying attention to, and trying to address all the issues listed above for quite some time. From the issue of the translators on down, I have to echo the question asked by this man at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/world/asia/isis-messaging-app-terror-plot.html?_r=0. Further, I will not just ask where you were then, but where are you now. Are you virtue signaling, or are you engaged in any meaningful effort to address the multiple problems in our system or in general?
Steven Den Beste has moved on into the light. In the early days of the Internet as we now know it, his USS Clueless was a bright beacon of what it could be. I can’t remember how I found him, but I was amazed and delighted to find his work, work that made one think, epitomized rational discourse, reason, and much more that is good in thought and the world. His considered reasoning was refreshing, and even when you disagreed with a point, you were in awe of the way he arrived at it. More than once (many more) when reading you stopped and thought to yourself “Wow. Never looked at it that way before.” If you ever wrote something that got an attaboy from him, you knew you had done well. I still have the USS Clueless and the USS Clueless Essential Library bookmarked on my site, though his health had moved him on to other things. To say he was a giant in the field is a massive understatement. He was an inspiration to me in my early days, and also introduced me to people, sites, and concepts for which I am immensely thankful. The positive impact he had on the Internet and the world may never be fully appreciated.
Tom Hayden has passed.
Kerry Gilley has also passed into the light. Like Steven, health problems had driven him from the stage several years ago. He was not a blogger, but a good man and a good friend in Science Fiction fandom. I can’t remember exactly when and how we met, and it seems like he was always a part of my life in that arena. He had a truly rotten sense of humor (often quite dryer than many suspected) and pun, and for all that we disagreed on some points, it was a subject of fun banter and serious philosophical discussion that drew us together rather than apart. He had a huge heart, and would literally give someone the shirt off his back if they were in need. Sehlat salutes Mr. “Sliding Down The Razorblade of Life” and is much the richer for having known him.
Godspeed Steven and Kerry. Toasts are raised, prayers said, and smiles abound thinking back on that which was.
Post up at Blackfive, along with multiple pictures of the person wanted by the FBI. Be careful out there!
My apologies for the delays, but as some may know, I’ve had some health issues to go with too much going. Fact is, I’ve stepped back from a number of things and causes, and am focusing on dealing with the health and other issues — including a need to get back to writing before my Muse hurts me.
Meantime, will be working to get the site back up and to restore as many posts as I can. The efforts to save and bring things over didn’t work as planned.
Also, I’m trying a new spam filter/system on this site, hoping to reduce spam without too much annoyance to you or to me. We will see.