Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Response to Matt Walsh on Whether Christians Can Support Trump’s Immigration and Refugee Policies

Matt Walsh is a blogger who admits to being an extremist “if truth is extreme” according to his own words. In a recent blog he ripped at those who he calls Instalogians for quoting the Bible regarding the current administration’s recent immigration and refugee policies. The link is here: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/matt-walsh-yes-of-course-christians-can-support-trumps-immigration-and-refugee-policies/

He writes well, uses energetic and powerful language, appeals to emotion and generalization, but speaks very little of the truth, either theologically or Biblically. In fact, if we were put his arguments through an x-ray, we would discover that they have no bones, no foundation, they are simply skin filled with hot air floated out into our midst with the hopes that we will believe they are reality.

Let’s look closer. Walsh says that leftists claim that the Bible is fairy tales, but have suddenly become Instalogians quoting the Bible to oppose immigration reform. Clearly Walsh is very limited in his experience of liberal Christians. Like many who simply haven't taken the time to get to know us, he thinks that liberals have left behind the Bible and Jesus, religion and tradition. But he is wrong. The fact is that many liberals love Jesus just as much as he does, we read the Bible just as much as he does, we cling to religion and values and tradition just as much as he does.

Conservativism does not equal faithful Christianity. I have known many conservatives who were quick to quote the Bible on male dominance in marriage, others who confidently stated that the Bible clearly speaks against abortion (both of which are faulty). Yet when pressed, those individuals wouldn’t be able to name the four gospels or express what it means to be saved by grace. Bad theology has nothing to do with residing on the right or on the left of the political spectrum. Bad theology has everything to do with being lazy in one’s search for God – being an Instalogian to use his term -- and there are people of all walks who are Instalogians.

What Walsh doesn’t realize (or doesn’t want to admit) is that the roots of liberal Christianity stretch deep into the soil of history right into the Biblical writers themselves. Perhaps he hasn’t read such theologians (and if he has heard of them, he compartmentalizes them into some non-Christian heresy) or what they say about the Bible, but they are there. It is lazy and irresponsible to ignore that these liberal Christian voices exist – in fact, it is bad theology.

As to his argument itself about immigration and refugee policies, Walsh’s greatest failure theologically is that he has bought into the relatively modern and pervasive lie of our society – that all that matters is the individual. If you want to help the poor, do it as an individual. If you want to help refugees, do it as an individual. He quotes lots of Bible passages that seem to suggest that this is the only Biblical mandate. Sadly, he is wrong, dangerously  wrong. The Biblical prophets are clear that a nation is judged on its treatment of the widow and orphan, cities are spared or fall based on how they as a community respond to God’s word. Sin is not only individual, but also societal. When an Israelite king and his court oppress the poor for their own gain, the prophets speak for governmental change. If you don’t believe me, look at Elijah, read the prophets – any of them, all of them – and then read about Jesus. You see, Jesus was no conservator of the powers that be; he criticized the status quo, and he proclaims the creation of a new Kingdom – it is one of his favorite words and concepts, this Kingdom. He even urges us to pray for this Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. This is language not of an individual but of a community and a world to be created, and that cannot be done by simply pretending it is all about the individuals and not the larger social structures.
I sit on a board that interviews prospective pastors who are applying to be ordained. When a person comes before us who is as one dimensional in theology as Walsh is, we have significant questions. The theology lacks depth, and it is quite likely that we would encourage the person to read more, to take more classes, and to mature in their faith before they be ordained. His theology is that hollow. 

On to the specifics of his argument. Walsh argues that strong borders and safety are necessary, that there is nothing inherently non-Christian about those desires. He says it is not oppression to pass laws and create travel restrictions so that a nation can protect its own people. Therefore, he concludes a Christian can support Trump’s policies on these matters. While that is true, a Christian can support such policies; the debate is not whether a Christian can, but whether a Christian should. Good theology says we should not.

There is a reason that United Methodist bishops, the Roman Catholic Pope, and Christian leaders of many denominations from around the United States are speaking up. It comes from the understanding that there are two types of sin, sins of commission and sins of omission. I am way oversimplifying here, but essentially sins of commission are when we do things to hurt others, and sins of omission are when we do not do the things that we should do to help others. When we could save the life of a person who is at risk from the evils of war, we should. When we do not, we have sinned. It is a sin of omission, and for that we are held responsible – as individuals and as a nation. When children are starving in camps and there is a safe and warm place here where they could be, we should reach out. When we do not, we have sinned, and for that we are held responsible – as individuals and as a nation.

Yes, there is danger in acting in love. There is danger in following Christ. But I don’t recall anywhere where Jesus says, safety is more important than love. In fact, he suggests quite the opposite on the cross. If you and I, and all Christians welcomed these refugees in complete love, if we surrounded them in a community of compassion as we are required by Christ, if we overwhelmed them with just how wonderful we as a people are and our country is, not many of them would be even tempted in the slightest to do the things you worry about.

So yes, as a Christian you can support these recent policies, but should you? The voice of love seems to suggest, no. I would suggest that you listen to that voice before listening to the voice of a self-acknowledged extremist.

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