(Last Updated On: November 20, 2015)

The argument is less nutty than it sounds, I promise. But I’d still bet he’s in the minority of evangelicals on this.

Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that he was shocked by the “overheated” rhetoric being employed by high-profile politicians in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“Donald Trump is saber-rattling about shutting down mosques in this country, which, as somebody who works every day on religious liberty, I’m astounded that we could have a presidential candidate of either party speaking in such a way,” Moore said. “Evangelicals should recognize that any president who would call for shutting down houses of worship … is the sort of political power that can ultimately shut down evangelical churches.”…

“I don’t think we ought to have a religious test for our refugee policy,” Moore said, adding that a rigorous vetting process could still make room for innocent Muslims. “We really don’t want to penalize innocent and children who are fleeing from murderous barbarians simply because they’re not Christians,” he said, though he added that persecuted Christians in the region haven’t received enough attention from the U.S.

Santorum’s not recommending that refugees be left in for inevitable liquidation by or Assad. He wants them resettled, just closer to home. And there’s good sense in that, per Reihan Salam:

Recently, one of the most articulate defenders of refugee , Daniel Byman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown and a regular contributor at Slate, warned that “the true terrorism danger is that the refugees are not cared for or are welcomed briefly in a fit of sympathy and then scorned and repressed.” He’s right. The trouble is that Syrian refugees are not a monolithic bloc, and even the most generous resettlement policy might feel repressive to, say, Syrians who believe that the doctrines of gender equality and sexual liberalism represent an affront to their religion. Policymakers don’t have the power to decide how their actions will be interpreted. Nor do they have the power to dictate how ordinary Europeans will react to Syrians on a human level…

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There are certainly Europeans who believe that it is the duty of affluent countries to absorb brutalized refugee populations, particularly among the more educated and better-off. Resettled refugees, however, tend to reside in lower-income neighborhoods, where employment opportunities are relatively limited, and where their neighbors are Europeans, including European Muslims, who may well see them as competitors for access to scarce social goods. Given the manifest failure of France, Belgium, and Germany to successfully integrate native-born Muslims into the cultural and economic mainstream of their societies, despite decades of fitful efforts to that end, what reason do we have to believe that these governments will succeed in 2015? Byman writes that if Syrian refugees are not successfully integrated into local communities, “they risk perpetuating, or even exacerbating, the tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Europe.”

America does a better job of assimilating its immigrants than Europe does but there’s no escaping the clash of values that Salam describes here. He endorses the idea of creating economic incentives for Arab countries in the region to take in more refugees instead of Middle Easterners traveling en masse to the west. Help Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE fund special “industrial zones” that employ refugees and you might solve several problems, easing the tension in the west over integrating Muslims and potentially creating better economic opportunities for refugees than they’d have as marginalized western workers. They’d also be far better positioned geographically to return home to Syria or Iraq or wherever their country of origin is if/when the region stabilizes. That’s Santorum’s point. ISIS, he notes, is engaged in sectarian cleansing of Mesopotamia; whether that’s achieved by bullets or by mass emigration by the persecuted group may be academic to them. If Arab Christians move en masse to Europe and the U.S., the odds of them returning even to a peaceful Syria will diminish. If you want the region to be safe-ish for again someday, you should think carefully before encouraging Christians to flee far abroad.

Now all we need to do is dangle some cash and convince the Arab countries to accept many thousands more refugees. That should be easy, no?

However, not everyone aggress with Rick Santorium, one such person is Robert Mann

In a thinly veiled autobiography published after his death in 1902, the British author Samuel Butler wrote about the evangelical of his youth. In one scene, he describes his congregation as “tolerators, if not lovers, of all that was familiar, haters of all that was unfamiliar.” They would have been, he observed, “equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practiced.”

 

Butler’s insight was keen and likely applies to Christians everywhere. Too many of us love our civic club religion, and we expect our leaders to tell us constantly how virtuous and Christ-like we are – until it’s time to be virtuous and Christ-like. In other words, we love calling ourselves Christian until we are challenged by fate or circumstance to practice what Jesus preached.

 

When our leaders assure us that we are a nation founded on Christian principles, we rejoice. It often salves the psyches of those who wish to twist Jesus into a pious scold concerned more with religious dogma than caring for society’s outcasts.

 

Were he still alive today, I doubt Butler would be surprised by the millions of virtuous American Christians and their political leaders who so easily jettison the teachings of Jesus at the first sign of distress. This week, our collective anguish prompted many of us to turn our backs on Jesus and an entire group of fellow humans, otherwise known as Syrian refugees.

 

After listening to most of our political leaders, people who tout their Christianity in campaign advertisements, one might assume hordes of terrorists are about to push across our borders. Instead, decent, hardworking families have fled their once-secure homes in Syria, desperate to escape torture or starvation. With children and older relatives in tow, they risk death to reach the European continent in hopes of finding safe haven.

 

Even before the Paris bombings, the United States had been slow to welcome these tired, poor, huddled masses. Over week, dozens of governors, most of them Republican, tried to slam their states’ doors to any Syrian who dared to dream of a better life on our shores.

 

To be sure, Christian compassion wasn’t entirely missing from the debate. Many church organizations across the nation are showing their Christian compassion and welcoming these refugees. In Baton Rouge, however, such benevolence prompted death threats to Catholic Charities, which has helped most of the 14 Syrian refugees settled in Louisiana this year.

 

Let’s face it, no matter how much our political leaders tout their Christian principles, they often behave as if they’re unfamiliar with centuries-old teachings of their faith. As for ISIS, its barbarity bears no resemblance to what the Prophet Muhammad taught and how he lived.

 

Truth be told, people on both sides ignore and so radically distort the teachings of their spiritual founders that should sue us both for defamation of character. I’m not making a historical argument against the patently false notion that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on . I would argue, simply, that we often act as if we haven’t a clue what Jesus taught.

 

Too many of us are Christian only to the extent that we can attack Starbucks for the color of its coffee cups or harangue a department store for not requiring employees to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.” Ask us to take seriously what the man from Nazareth taught about justice and loving our enemies? That’s where we often take our leave of Jesus.

 

The early Christians I read about in my Bible glowed with love. They did not glower in fear. They welcomed outcasts; they did not vilify them. They radiated empathy, not self-interest. They lived lives of love, not fear. Those early Christians built bridges, not walls.

 

Is it so radical to hope that those who call ourselves Christian might emulate those early followers of Christ? No one is suggesting we should recklessly throw open our borders and let inside anyone who simply claims to be a political refugee. We should vet thoroughly anyone who wishes to live among us (for refugees, there is an arduous, two-year process).

 

But our leaders betray American and Judeo-Christian values when they bow to demands that our country close its borders to every Syrian refugee family, regardless of its circumstances. The demagogues stoke fear and hatred of refugees because they believe it’s a winning political strategy. They may be right. No one should underestimate the public’s capacity for panic and the politicians’ willingness to exploit it.

 

Read more: This is not how a ‘Christian nation’ behaves: Robert Mann

Rick Santorum: Accepting Christian refugees from Syria into the U.S. is exactly what ISIS wants

 

 

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