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About the Syrian Refugees: It's more complicated than you're saying it is


I've watched for the past couple days as the Starbucks cup outrage has been replaced by refugee rage. I'm sure by next week, the outrage will have moved along. Frankly, I'm a little surprised so many people are so focused on the refugee issue this quickly after the Russian plane, Lebanon bombings and Parisian terrorism. The refugee question is really not connected to these occasions of terrorism. (I know it seems like it, but it really isn't)
Anyway, I've been wrestling with this for a couple days and feel like I might as well throw some thoughts out. More than anything else, I hope anyone who reads this can recognize that I'm calling for EVERYONE to think through this a little bit more. There are lots of sides to this issue, and not all of them line up neatly into one concise talking point.
 So, here are 8 things I think about the stuff I see going on around me...
  1. God loves a cheerful giver. When we use the gifts God has given us to help those in our spheres of influence, we are exercising generosity. When the government becomes the agent of generosity, they rob the individual of freely and cheerfully choosing to give. I know for some, this may not make sense; but the greater the tax burden imposed, the less opportunity for true generosity. Spending government money isn't always the BEST way to exhibit generous behavior.
  2. Loving our neighbor doesn't mean the same thing in every situation. I try to love my neighbor. We give a lot away, but we don't give the same to everyone we help. Sometimes we might give someone a couple bucks one time to help them out. Sometimes we might give away a large gift card that will last a couple weeks. Sometimes we help people make changes in their lives over a significant portion of time. In every situation, we try to wisely assess the situation and don't assume our first idea is the best idea. Just because someone wants to slow down and assess a situation doesn't mean they're unloving. They might just be wise.
  3. The God-given obligations to those who govern are unique. God's expectation of civic leaders is that they punish wrong-doing and reward those who do good. Those who suggest it is not the place of Christians to seek revenge are right. However, it is the place of government to meet out punishment to those who do evil.
  4. One cannot give what one does not have. No matter how much compassion you might have, you cannot give cash to someone if you don't have any. Governments can always print new money or deficit spend until the cows come home; but at some point these policies will create even bigger problems than we have right now. The cost involved in any humanitarian effort MUST be offset by a cut in spending somewhere else.
  5. It is possible to love the displaced AND not want our government to intervene. Did you know that Glenn Beck (yes, that Glenn Beck) has raised $12 million and has mobilized thousands of people to help resettle refugees from the middle east? He is clearly acting lovingly toward those people AND he does not want our government to bring in refugees right now.
  6. Some people are putting forth creative ideas for directing our compassion. Shipping people thousands of miles across the sea might not be the BEST thing for them. An Egyptian telecom mogul is trying to buy an island in the Mediterranean to temporarily house millions of refugees. Another real estate investor is working on the possibility of creating a new country, specifically for the displaced.
  7. Misrepresenting the opinions of others is never helpful. If you believe you have a strong argument, make your argument. If you can only appear right by debating with your mischaracterization of someone else, then keep thinking about whether you're right. I see this happening lots of places. Some paint a less than accurate picture of the refugees who have come into Europe. Some use inflammatory language to prop up their views. Even the President did it today when he accused his political opponents of "being afraid of orphans and widows." Their opinion is slightly more robust than that. (please don't make this post about the President. It's not about him.)
  8. Most issues are complex. If you think you can settle a debate with a 140 character slogan or a clever picture you made on your phone, you have undoubtedly failed to grasp the entire issue... You've probably completely missed the point. If you are making pronouncements about how foolish/evil/hateful someone else is because they aren't lock step in agreement with you, you might be the one in the wrong. If you don't have even a small sense of conflict in your soul about these issues, you might want to go back to the drawing board and rethink the whole thing.

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