Epistle of Brendan to the Renoites
About 2,000 years ago, as the story goes, a man and his pregnant wife were refugees from a tyrannical king who sent his soldiers to kill the male children in his kingdom lest one fulfill an ancient prophecy and overthrow him. The refugees were also forced to travel by an equally tyrannical foreign emperor who demanded his subjects return to their birthplace so they could be counted like cattle to determine the worth of his empire. When the couple came exhausted to a small village, there was no room in the inn for them. The innkeeper took pity on them, and offered them shelter in his stable. There Mary gave birth and named the boy Jesus.
That village, Bethlehem, is today one of the few places in the Middle East where Christians, Jews and Palestinians live together peacefully. Perhaps it is the legacy of that miraculous birth or maybe just a healthy respect for tourist dollars, but in the birthplace of Jesus there is peace while all around is war.
As vile as old King Herod, the Kings of the House of Saud in Arabia have for decades sent Imams to spread violence by jihad (religious war), preaching a fundamentalist version of Islam called Wahhabism. And a powerful foreign empire, the United States, has allied with them. By allying with this Sunni faction of Islam, we have become the enemy of another Muslim faction, the Shia. We have helped set brother against brother now for decades.
Like Joseph and Mary, tens of thousands are fleeing the violence we helped to inflame. Many escape to Europe. But the world asks the United States to accept refugees as well.
The American Empire is ruled by about 600 satraps and one revolving potentate, called the POTUS. The call to accept refugees caused division among the ruling factions. One side says it is our duty to bring them in, but don’t worry, we will insure your safety. The other side says no, wait, we do not trust you, we do not trust them, no way.
But neither side says much about the reasons for the refugee crisis, let alone admits to any responsibility for it. The rivers of desperate humanity are, as always, caused by others. Blame Assad, or certainly the Islamic State!
Some intone: Of course we will accept the refugees because we are a magnanimous, exceptionally tolerant nation.
Learned rabbis say, “Beware those who take pride in their humility.” Or their compassion.
Those who would deny them entry say there might be an Islamic State plant among them. Even counting the San Bernardino massacre, bathtub accidents kill more Americans every year than terrorists do.
Some call for admitting only Christian refugees. They are swiftly denounced as un-American to propose using a religious test. But America has used religious tests for refugee status before. We had a policy of admitting primarily Jews from Russia, and we denied entry to Jews from Germany.
Our invasion of Iraq was the catalyst for the sectarian murders of thousands of worshipers in ancient Christian congregations that go back to the time of Christ. Perhaps we owe Christian refugees the most. Remember that broken pottery principle!
But who owns the entire Pottery Barn we bombed to rubble?
Refugee restrictionists risk the anger of evangelical Christians who have a wonderful history of ministering to refugees. Many evangelicals would answer “yes” if asked, “Would you accept a Syrian family into your home?”
It has been centuries since that star shone over Bethlehem. The meek have still not inherited the Earth. But hopefully some can be allowed to inherit the American dream.