March 8, 2017
Should a 0.00003 percent chance of dying in a terrorist attack keep Christians from serving refugees?
Respectfully, Josh, your argument in this article is rather facile. There is infinitely more complication to the issue of middle east refugee resettlement in the US than merely calculating, from historical data no less, the odds of an individual American being murdered by a terrorist attack by a foreigner.
By your argument, both the Pearl Harbor and the 911 twin towers attack were quite meaningless. After all, neither attack, considered only statistical deaths imposed by foreigners, raised the calculable odds of a individual American being killed to the point where it would be rational for that individual American to be concerned that he or she would be killed by a foreigner.
But there was of course more to both Pearl Harbor and the 921 attacks than that statistical impact. Much, much more. All of which your argument here avoids and ignores.
It begins with enforcing the laws we already have. We can certainly see that when we do not, whatever the law is, that anarchy ensures to the destruction of the people. There is a proper way to become a citizen, and not necessarily at the expense of the citizenry. My mother came over from Germany in '57. She had to have a sponsor and she in a few short years became a citizen and a proponent of the freedoms we have which are like none other around the world. And this is freedom to pursue the goals one has, not the kind of freedom that expects a handout.
The confusion about which many in the church are responding to is a confusion of who is responsible for what: The state is responsible to punish law breakers and reward do-gooders (Rom. 13); the Church is the conscience of the state that serves the Gospel and the eternal salvation Jesus desires for all. Faith in Christ alone saves and serves the needs of those around us (even the alien) and not at the expense of law breaking. Scripture never says there is right time to do the wrong thing.
As the previous responder above said, this is more complicated than the simple solution many espouse to or are misinformed by.
I think the argument presented in the article is most compelling. Jesus did not defend himself from attacks of any sort. Doug's comment about Pearl Harbor and the twin tower attacks underscores the history. Neither of those attacks were committed by refugees. Fear, not love govern the desire to ban newcomers. A desire to love oneself above one's neighbour is what drives exclusionary practices. We are not more safe when we hate. We surely could learn a lot from the Good Samaritans of today.
In Reply to Ralph Hough (comment #30117)
I wonder, Ralph, if Faez al Sharaa will follow the path of your mother. He seems to be well on his way so far.
This article seems to present a false dichotomy that I see springing up all over the place. The choice is "open the US border to foreign resettlement or ignore the call of God to care for the needy". Why shouldn't Christians spend their money and time is helping these people where they are? The refugees that would come here are already safe from harm in refugee camps in Turkey. It seems that advocates for resettlement aren't aware of this fact. As Christians we should commit resources to providing food and shelter. We should certainly send missionaries as well. However, to require that public funds (from both believers and nonbelievers) be used to ship people across the planet, some of whom may be dangerous, is not to fulfill God's command.
Also, how would God be glorified if a secular government meets the needs of these people rather than the Church?
Last fall I sat in my local World Relief office during a volunteer opportunity and learned about Homeland Security's extreme vetting of Syrian refugees and other immigrants fleeing danger and seeking safety in once welcoming America. Yes, we do have laws that work and the process for opening a gate to freedom is already difficult. Because of the new policy and large reduction in immigrants allowed, the Nashville office is closing along with four others. This means 800 families in my town, my sphere of influence, with fewer resources for English classes, job training, clothes and food. This is what the church does - we extend ourselves, we do not withdraw, we do not isolate. It is sad, very sad, when the welcome mat that draws foreigners who would bind themselves to a people following the Lord, is shredded by fear.
In Reply to Alan (comment #30120)
Alan, the pre-Trump immigration and refugee-vetting process is nothing like what you describe. Your scenario is also not what I'm arguing in favor of in the article.
In Reply to Doug Vande Griend (comment #30116)
I agree with your perspective here, even though I think E. McLachlin is also correct to point out that neither of those attacks you reference were perpetrated by foreigners attempting to be resettled in the US. It's a perspective I often voice myself when I'm in conversation with other Christians on this issue: it only takes ONE bad apple in the refugee bunch to perpetrate a highly impactful act of domestic terrorism, and so, to the extent we have reasonable and actionable intelligence to suggest that foreign terrorists are attempting to infiltrate the US via refugee migrations, it's a PRUDENT security measure to cast a wide net.
That's, at least, how I've been thinking about it up till today. Now I can't help wondering whether I've been led to believe we have reason to suspect refugees of a danger they don't, in fact pose. I don't know yet. This article just makes me wonder.
If not, the statistics Josh cites do become highly significant, at least for me. Because a 0.00003% risk doesn't really tell me that I'm SAFE. Nor does it say that if an attack does occur it will have an insignificant impact. It just tells me that no amount of governance is likely to have any meaningful effect on the inevitability of something like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 happening. My desire for security might be an idol I don't quite realize I'm worshipping--and if that trumps my compassion for the poor and powerless, then that might put me as an individual Christian on the wrong side of providence.
By your own numbers and given the number of Americans in our country it would translate to 76 people killed by a terrorist attack. Is that sufficient cause to take a little extra caution for safety's sake?
I'm not sure how much faith I put in cnns information. Hey let's do nothing and when the next attack happens I don't want to hear complaints when your loved ones perish. This is a difficult situation and there are no easy answers.
In Reply to Ron (comment #30125)
The figures I cite indicate risk, not a guaranteed result.
In Reply to Andy (comment #30126)
No one is suggesting we "do nothing."
In Reply to Josh Larsen (comment #30119)
He seems to be. I don't his particulars, but my response was general in nature. There are always a very small percentage whose situations seem to be a fly in the ointment as far as getting some real progress done - in this case, immigration reform. But it seems that even if people are getting into the grey areas of these laws, they, as the process comes along will be taken care of.
We are called to love, the apostle John writes that anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is Love 1 John 4:8. Then in 1 John 4:18 he writes "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
Do we love God enough to not fear the foreigner? Is our faith so weak that we have to hold to (and protect) the things of this world so tight that the gospel is weakened by our attitudes and actions?
Are we are too comfortable with 'our' way of life, what about God's way?
Put yourself in the shoes of a genuinely needy foreigner trying to find a place of peace. Would you feel Christ's love and compassion if the greatest "Christian" nation on the planet says "NO"?
One more thought, should we not follow Christ's example? We were alienated from heaven, in fact the bible puts that we were God's enemies, but God made the way available to us through Christ, who didn't let fear stop him to make the way open for us to enter Heaven, a place that we are truly aliens and foreigners seeking, but God welcomes us because of Christ.
We do need to submit to government decisions regarding the foreigners, but if the government does tighten things up, then there are organizations that we can donate to (and claim tax deductions) who will do the dirty work for us. (and yes, i do give to such an organization)
I do suggest reading Luke 14 and if you don't want to read the whole chapter, try just vs 12-14.
For starters, a mathematical point to make. It's not statistically accurate to take historical data from the previous 40 years and predict the future when at the same time the ratio of refugees to citizens is a changing figure. Also many people arguing the security point are not just arguing about terrorist attacks but also about becoming victims of everyday crime. Apparently reports from Europe indicate that crime including rape and murder has risen significantly where there are a greater number of refugees.
As for the 0.00003 % chance per year (which is the same as 1 in 3.3 million) it seems like a small number so that it's highly unlikely that I will be among the unlucky ones. But even though I'm not the victim, the statistic suggests that 1 person out of every 3.3 million may become a casualty. When you apply that to the entire US population of 330 million, that comes out to 100 people per year. Should we not care about that?
It seems like there we need a multiple-pronged effort including ideas that others have posted, like (1) helping the refugees in places like Turkey and other countries closer to where the refugees are coming from, (2) good enough vetting of anyone coming to this country that we have reason to believe they a not a significant additional hazard, (3) working to solve the problems that are causing the refugees.
I will say that if I were a refugee, I hope somewhere there would be an open door. But I don't expect a blindly open door. I would expect to be checked out and deemed safe. So we certainly need to make our vetting process as rapid as possible while still being safe.
I believe this conversation should include that ISIS has promised to try to get terrorists in with refugees, so even if I accept the historical result of the Cato study of .00003%, our enemies are trying to increase the risk. Interesting discussion, everyone.
In Reply to Josh Larsen (comment #30122)
I did not describe a vetting process. What do you mean?
In Reply to Alan (comment #30142)
"open the US border to foreign resettlement"
That is not the situation that existed pre-Trump, nor is it one I suggest we pursue.
The goal of terrorism is to get the target of the terrorist act to respond in a way that weakens themselves. The terrorists have succeeded. Today, the US has abandoned core principles out of fear.
I don't necessarily agree with the .000 3% argument, but it does seem to me that to prevent foreigners coming in, to say that all foreigners are the ones causing the problem, is wrong thinking. It seemed to me that President Trump was implying in his last speech that it is the illegal Mexicans who are causing a lot of crime, and I just don't believe that. Of course some of them do, but I'll bet it is no higher percentage than our resident population. I do agree with tightening our borders, but for economic reasons, not because I think an immigrant is a higher crime risk.
That is a faulty argument.
I do agree with stricter vetting of Islamists though, regardless of where they are from, since they are causing the majority of the terrorism in the world.
You believe that no Syrian refugees were being resettled in the United States under the Obama administration? (the number is up to $15,400 in 2016 alone) If you are not advocating for refugee resettlement then why did you bother mentioning Faez al Sharaa? If your article is in opposition to the travel ban, then aren't you by extension saying that to fulfill Christ's call we must welcome refugees and travelers from this area of the world?
In Reply to Alan (comment #30147)
My point is that, according to the figures I cite, the vetting process that already existed made the risk very low.
Add your comment to join the discussion!