Saturday, November 21, 2015

Should Catholics help non Christian refugees come to our country?

Should Catholics help non Christian refugees come to our country?

This article is largely in response to one written by Dr Taylor Marshall, Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response or Both?  I linked this article to that one because, frankly, Dr. Marshall is way better informed than I am on the subject, and he is a Catholic teacher, writer, and podcaster for whom I have immense respect.  Because of that respect, it bothers me to say that I think he is wrong on this point, and so are many others who take his position. In short, Dr. Marshall argues that we are not obligated to bring in refugees, and I believe very strongly that we should.

First off, people might get hung up on term 'obligated'.  Marshall argues that we are not obligated or required by Christ to bring non Christian refugees into our country.  Ok, but technically I'm not obligated to have a daily prayer life or go to confession more than twice a year or receive the Eucharist... and I'm not obligated by my marriage vows to spend quality time with my kids-  but if I want to seek holiness or be anything more than just moderately good, I will do more than the minimum which I am obligated to do.

Let us for the moment assume that Marshall is not just saying that we are not obligated, but that we ought not take in Muslim refugees, since, if you read the whole article, that's clearly what he is saying.

Dr.  Marshall argues that Thomas Aquinas would say no to taking in Muslim refugees, and I am going to assume that he knows-  since he wrote a book on Thomas Aquinas' theology. However, if that is the case, I will disagree with Thomas Aquinas too, just as I disagree with him about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (which he denied) and his position that heretics are worthy of the death penalty.  I have to assume again that Dr. Marshall agrees with me on that, although it looks almost from his article as if he is suggesting that heretics, like Muslims, should be subject to the death penalty.  I'm guessing that's not what Dr. Marshall meant to say.

Aquinas aside, I think Dr. Marshall actually made some extremely weak arguments.  For example, he said

If you live in a democracy, a 51% political Islamic majority will allow “we the people” to promulgate Sharia law. They are following their conscience and religious beliefs in this matter. They will do this just as they have done in any other community where they captured the majority (Mecca, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, etc.)
Obviously real life democracies are a little more complicated than that, but let's not dispute that point.   The population of the United States is 319 Million. The percentage of those who are Muslim is 1%.  In other words, in order for the 51% of America to be Muslim (as a consequence of the refugee crisis) they'd have to take in 319 million Muslim refugees! Right now Obama wants to take in 10,000, and politicians on the right want to bring in even less. There's only 60 million refugees of any kind in the world. Can we therefore dismiss the idea that Sharia law is a threat?

(Someone pointed out that you only need 10% to make a big difference-  ok, only 32 million- or that distribution in jurisdictions is an issue- so it's not a slam dunk, but still, fear of Sharia is a pretty weak argument in my books!)

Marshall then makes the analogy of the Family Home, suggesting that bringing refugees into our country and helping them to get onto their feet is comparable to bringing a homeless man into my home and letting him sleep with my wife while I'm away. You can decide for yourself whether that is a good analogy. (Make sure you read the way he wrote it, and not just my simplification.  You can guess my opinion.)

Then he uses my least favorite argument of all from the anti refugee people;

There is also the further problem that 5%-20% of global Muslims are considered to be “radicalized,” which means that they are consciously willing to use terrorist tactics to advance their Muslim worldview against the West. If you knew that 10% of your child’s Halloween candy was poisoned, would you allow your child to consume any of it?
Mike Huckabee made the same point, using poisonous nuts in his analogy. This argument is actually stupid, and I'm disappointed in Dr Marshall and others who don't see why. No, I wouldn't let my kid eat their Halloween candy...  but there is an incredible difference between the value of human life and a candy.  Would I let my kid risk their life to save someone else's?  Yes. I would even teach them to do so.

Here's my analogy.  Suppose a ship carrying hundreds of passengers was attacked by a terrorist on the ship. Now it is sinking, and the passengers are floundering in the water. You are in a boat nearby, and can reasonably take in 25 passengers- not nearly all of them. The trouble is that you know that a few of the drowning people may be terrorists, and they may attack your boat. Would you take the risk to save 25?

A friend said no, not if my kids were on board the boat.  Others said they would prioritize, women and children first. Clearly many would say "Christians first".  For me?  I'd pull them into my boat, and if my children were there I'd teach them to do likewise.

My analogy is flawed too, but you gotta admit, it's better than the poisonous nuts' analogy.

The other problem with this argument is that it somehow assumes that the refugees will be representative of the global average-  never mind that they are being screened once by the UN and again by Canada or the USA or whoever is taking them in. Clearly this will reduce the percentage of refugees actually coming in who are radicalized.

But let's extend this logic to other stats.  Could your kid eat their candy if only 3% of it were poisoned? 'Cause 3% of Americans are presently under some form of correctional control for criminal activity.  Guess we'd better not let any Americans into Canada, since 3% of them are criminals. (It get's a lot worse once you start breaking it down by race or gender).  Anyway, pursuing that logic can get ugly quick.

I'm disappointed that someone as rational as Marshall would employ such a deeply flawed analogy.

The last argument I want to address is the "Samaritan uses the hotel" argument, that the Samaritan was commended for his humanitarian aid, and implicitly therefore that's the most that any Christian should expect to do.

Look, Mother Teresa did way more than the Good Samaritan.  Regardless of their faith, she helped Muslims and Hindus out of love.  Christ did way more.   Are we called to Sainthood in imitation of Christ, or are we called to moderate humanitarianism?

Scripture is full of passages like "I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matt 25:35) and about welcoming the foreigner (Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19, etc).  

Pope Francis encouraged the Church's of Europe to bring in one refugee family each. It saddens me that so many Catholic/Christian voices are arguing against the Pope's desire to help the refugees.  I'm certain there are more well reasoned arguments out there that what has been presented here.  But since the goal of every Christians life should be to 'love your neighbor as yourself', you will need to convince me that helping refugees to rebuild their life in Syria is more loving and feasible than helping them to get on with life here. 

If it were me, trying to save my family, I'd want the quick solution.  I'd want to be in Canada, surrounded by a welcoming community, with the opportunity of independence and freedom. I would not want to stay in a refugee camp waiting for everyone in Syria to decide they love each other after all.   Jesus' command was 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

So my question to Marshall and all the other objectors is this-  what would you have them do unto you?