It's been a long day, but things are finally quiet. My kids are sleeping under layers of blankets. Their teeth are brushed and their stomachs full. The heat is on, the doors locked, and the dryer is running with clean clothes for the morning. When I shut my eyes tonight, I'll do so in the peace of knowing that my children are safe and happy and that when they waddle in my room just before dawn, I'll simply walk them to the kitchen where we will have the luxury of choosing what we'd like to eat.
Somewhere across the ocean tonight, there is a mother my age, my sister across the sea. Her children are the same age as mine. She is holding them on the cold ground, shielding them from the November air. They are hungry and scared and nothing about tomorrow is certain. Their childhood was stolen by violent men who burned their home, destroyed their town and murdered their family members. She is living in a vacuum of peace.
I've been trying to understand. Since Friday, I've read everything I can find to better understand what is happening, how it developed and what happens now. I won't even begin to assume I know the first thing about military strategies or global politics. I know enough to know it is extremely complex, with no easy answers, only tough calls and long roads towards justice.
BJ and I have talked a lot about how our convictions shape our response. We've been honest about our fears and we've refused to be ruled by them. Instead, we are standing alongside the families displaced by the worst refugee crisis since WWII, by making five commitments:
1. We will not be afraid.
Fear is not of God. Not now, not ever.
"“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -Jesus
You should know that fear has been one of my best friends since childhood. Fear would like me to believe that it keeps me safe by giving me some semblance of control. Fear has lied to me for most of my life, promising protection while siphoning out my life. It has no place in the freedom of the Cross.
Those who seek to promote and capitalize on fear for the sake of ratings or political brownie points do not have our best interest at heart.
We will begin by refusing to be afraid.
2. We will be informed.
I’m sure you saw the “article” floating around the Internet this weekend that supposedly showed thousands of Muslim men arriving in New Orleans? I use the term "article" loosely, because when a site knowingly deceives in order to capitalize on tragedy and promote their own political agenda, "article" is too generous a word. As it turns out, a total of two Syrian families have recently been resettled in New Orleans. TWO FAMILIES. Panic flooded newsfeeds and misinformation swelled into heartbreaking backlash against the most vulnerable.
To listen to the political rhetoric, it's easy to imagine thousands of refugees simply boarding a boat and stepping off into America, when in fact, the opposite is true. To receive refugee status, you must first be approved by the UN as a refugee, an extensive two-year process to vet potential candidates. There are over 4,200,000 Syrians refugees in the world. Since 2001, only 2,370 have resettled in the United States. NEARLY 50% OF THOSE ADMITTED ARE CHILDREN.
To enter the US as a refugee is extremely difficult. It would be much easier to obtain a student or work visa, which is why the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 did exactly that.
In stark contrast to the reactions coming out of the United States, the President of France has announced that they will take in 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. This message came just five days after the attacks in Paris, simultaneous to the French military attacks on ISIS strongholds.
Meanwhile, over 1,400 American children were killed by guns in the last year.
"Americans are 1,400 times more likely to be killed by another American with a gun than by a terrorist attack. Americans are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun in America than in other developed countries." (If you read one thing today, please read this)
Between 2004 and 2014, over 2,000 suspected terrorists were able to legally purchase guns in the United States, because Federal Law does not prohibit you from buying a gun if you belong to a terror organization.
I hear the argument that the vetting process for refugees cannot possibly catch every crack, and yes, I accept this is true. This is that place where I refuse to bend towards fear. It is also true that there are members of ISIS or other terrorist organizations who are American citizens. It's true that they could be foreigners traveling to the US under the guise of business or education.
But if tighter regulation is really what these governors and politicians are asking for, let’s start by refusing to willingly sell assault riffles to suspected terrorists, and let’s make it harder for James Holms, Adam Lanza, and Dylan Roof - born and raised under the Red, White & Blue - to buy automatic weapons.
3. We will start and end with Jesus.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." -Jesus
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." -Jesus
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other." -Jesus
When one of the religious leaders asked Jesus how he could have eternal life, Jesus told him to love God and love his neighbor as himself. Wanting to justify his prejudices, the man pressed, "Who is my neighbor?" What followed was the story we now refer to as The Good Samaritan - the story of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead, only to be repeatedly ignored by the religious elite before finally being cared for by a foreigner. Then Jesus asked, "'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'”
Either we believe every word of that, or we stop claiming to be disciples of the man who said it. Jesus consistently ran right down the slippery slopes, without fear or hesitation, to embrace the ones the world rejected.
It’s ironic (and sad) that many of the voices who have bemoaned other policies this year on the grounds of scripture are now suggesting such radical legislation that stands in opposition to the very message of the Gospel. When I say that I am unequivacly pro-life, I mean all life. The unborn life, the woman in crisis life, the minority life, the Muslim life, the refugee life.
If we allow fear and self preservation to close the door to the most vulnerable, it is not only a victory for ISIS (which it absolutely is), it is most certainly a victory for hell itself.
4. We will replace outrage with action.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." -Fred Rogers
There are legions of incredible people on the ground, doing everything they can to meet the immediate and long term needs of these families.
My four year old walked in as I watched this video. "That boy looks like me!" he said. He then asked why the boy was afraid.
This list is extremely short. As a family, we have partnered with World Vision for years. What organizations do you love that have rolled up their sleeves to do the hard work of replacing outrage with action? Post links in the comments below and I'll add them here.
5. We will pray until they are home.
An alarm rings on my phone everyday at noon. Months ago, Christine Caine and the A21 campaign called for collective prayer everyday at noon, to storm Heaven with cries for those suffering in the devastation overseas. Everyday at noon - sitting in the preschool pick-up line, making lunch for the boys, laying them down for a nap - everyday it sounds and invites me into a moment of prayer, lifting up the lost and displaced and alone, because the light of God is so much bigger than the darkness of the enemy.
We will not be shaken. We will not live in fear. We will pray until the end.