Why the mayor of the City of Roanoke felt it necessary to weigh in on Syrian refugees is beyond comprehension. It is hardly the case that Roanoke is overwhelmed by refugees, nor is it the case that the local citizenship has been been clamoring for some kind of stand from our public officials, as if any such stand would affect anything. I confess that I am surprised that a Democrat would issue a reactionary, asinine statement like this. Anyway, it seems to have backfired. Not only has the city council distanced itself from David Bowers, but the statement has gone viral, thanks to George Takei. Roanoke has been publicly shamed. For the record, let it be known that Bowers is not my mayor. I live in the county, not the city.
That the world is faced with a catastrophic humanitarian situation is beyond dispute. What is not crystal clear is how the United States should respond. Many of my fellow Christians on the net think otherwise. My FaceBook and Twitter feeds are presently being inundated by simplistic moral pronouncements. Everyone seems to have a hotline to God. “What would Jesus do?” The answer is obvious and beyond debate, right? If only the formation of public policy were so easy, but it just isn’t. Grownups understand this.
At the moment everyone seems to be “thinking” either from a position of fear and anxiety (“keep out the refugees!”) or from prophetic self-righteousness (“God wants us to let them all in!”). Neither is conducive to mature moral reflection or sound public policy.
My Christian faith demands of me—and my country, I believe—a response of generosity, charity, compassion, and hospitality toward all who are now fleeing the brutality and horror of ISIS. But this judgment need not entail unrestricted and indiscriminate admission of refugees. Other considerations, moral and political, are also legitimately in play here. These considerations need to be thoughtfully identified and discussed, without fear of being labeled xenophobic, anti-American, or whatever.
I am tired of twitter-bites masquerading as prophecy and wisdom.