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Rev Jules Gomes: Trump is entitled to protect persecuted Christian refugees


‘If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not clarity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.’ Yes, yes, I know! St Paul writes about “charity” not “clarity.” But if he were only to write to the Corinthians after having his inbox inundated with emails from Christian leaders gripped by Trump Derangement Syndrome he would call for “clarity” before “charity.”

Why are so many Christian leaders displaying plenty of charity but a scarcity of clarity? Why are the U.S. Catholic bishops, Church of England bishops, leaders of World Vision and Christian Aid and even evangelical leaders yowling and screeching like a thousand cats on a bed of red-hot coals, protesting Trump’s so-called Muslim ban?

Incandescent with righteous indignation they are hurling hardback Bibles at the White House. They have Goliath in their sights and are reaching for their sling and Bible verses to slay the evil Philistine Trump who has uttered unrepeatable blasphemies against their mushy religion of universal love.

How dare President Trump make a distinction between Muslims and Christians in his executive order on refugees? How intolerant of Trump to talk about a preferential option for persecuted Christians? Doesn’t the Bible command us to ‘love the stranger’?

Southern Baptist Convention leader Russell Moore writes to Trump, ‘Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner.’ ‘We oppose any religions test that would place the suffering of one people over another…. For us, it is first a biblical issue, and then it’s a human issue,’ says Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Church World Service ‘denounces the prioritisation of Christian refugees over Muslim refugees. We are called on by our faith to love the stranger. To do anything other than that is in violation of our Christian principles,’ says senior director Sarah Krause. The Bible-thumping borders on the hysteria of a hyper-Pentecostal service as Christian leaders compete to quote the Bible and match the “We are all Muslims now” slogan being paraded at airport protests.

A verse out of context is a pretext and can be used to prove anything. So why are church leaders playing Bible Bingo with President Trump? The injunction to ‘love the stranger’ occurs almost 30 times in the Bible, but it is always supported by the instruction to apply Israelite practices and law to the stranger. ‘There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you,’ is a biblical command that is reiterated many times as part of the process of integrating the stranger into the community of Israel.

The stranger can no longer practice his religious practices like idolatry or child sacrifice as that would be an ‘abomination’ (Lev 18:26). The stranger is required to keep the Sabbath (Lev 16:29). The stranger cannot eat blood with his food (Lev 17:12). All this makes the stranger no longer a stranger but a citizen! So will our Bible-spouting leaders apply these injunctions to strangers and ask them if they reject practices of female genital mutilation and the purdah and Sharia law and Koranic injunctions to ‘slay the infidel’ before handing them a visa?

When Pope Francis and the Rev’d Al Sharpton tell us that Jesus fled to Egypt as a refugee, do they not know that Egypt in Jesus’s day was part of the Roman Empire, so Judeans were free to travel unrestricted to Egypt?  And if Jesus fled to Egypt, why don’t the Syrian refugees go to Egypt instead of fleeing to the USA?

Why on earth should President Trump apply the Bible to his executive orders? Is the US constitution not enough? Has the US become a theocracy overnight? Don’t Christian leaders support the ‘separation of Church and State’? And does the Bible command us to love all the strangers? Does it not caution us to be wise when dealing with the stranger? ‘Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm’(Prov 11:15).

Apart from misquoting the Bible, Christian leaders are telling us that Trump should not privilege Christian refugees over Muslim refugees! This is political correctness and monumental stupidity. It is not biblical theology. Basic human decency and common sense dictate a preferential option for your own and not for the ‘other’. If two sick, elderly women in penury knock at my door asking for shelter and one of them happens to be my mother and the other happens to be someone I’ve never met before, who do you think I should welcome?

There are 48 Muslim-majority countries in the world. Many of them are ruled under Islamic law. There are no Christian theocracies. If Christian refugees are fleeing persecution from Islamic countries where are they expected to find refuge? Will other Muslim countries welcome them with open arms?

The Islamic world and Muslim extremists regard Western countries and the US as “Christian” countries. They often regard Christians living among them as a fifth column. When cartoons of Mohammed are published in Denmark, Christians in Pakistan are killed. When the US declares war on a Muslim country, churches in Muslim countries are burned down. Is it not fair for President Trump to privilege such Christians over Muslim refugees?

Why is it moral to play “Who wants to be a Victim?” when it comes to the identity politics of race or sexuality and have a preferential option for the victim who is more victimised—but treat all refugee victims on an equal footing?

How we treat our own says a great deal about who we are. Before one can be a universalist, one has to be a particularist. Christian leaders are in grave danger of falling into the Leftist trap of loving the whole world but rejecting their Christian brothers and sisters. I would suggest they go and read St Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians to ‘do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith,’ before parading their biblical illiteracy before President Donald Trump.

(Image: Gage Skidmore)

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‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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