We face a moral challenge as a global people and a nation. Our species faces a moral challenge. It’s the question of turning on the most vulnerable and needful to vent our fear and rage. It’s the question of targeting the refugees of Syria as scapegoats for the sins of ISIS.
Even as State Governors embarassingly and proudly announce that they will not welcome refugees we need to be heard loud and clear as people of faith: attacking the most vulnerable is a moral outrage and wrong.
I cannot speak to the Muslim faith with authroity, nor to the scriptures and faith of Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism. These are neighbors and belief systems with which I am familiar and I respect, but am not an insider. I have spent a good bit of time with the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and there is a strong witness from both of our being a safe place for the hurting, a refuge for the vulnerable and peacemakers for the afflicted.
In the Jewish scriptures we find a beautiful image and phrase the heart of the stranger (Exodus 23:1-9, Laws of Justice) to describe the turning of one’s heart to the foreigner, the alien, the needful, because of our shared human experience. There are many ways that Israel was commanded to care for the stranger among them, but I have always felt that the reminder that we are all strangers was one of the most compelling.
Christians have a life and faith framed by what we call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), an ordering of life based on the mutuality of human needs, experiencing life together and making peace. Those ideas frame the sermon in which Jesus says we are to love our enemies, refrain from striking back and to pray for those who hate us.
The West has been supposedly built on these Judeo-Christian faiths, ideas and teachings, but in fact many politicians today appeal to their faith in one moment and attack the most vulnerable of fellow human beings in the next. Perhaps we have lived too long with these teachings without an opportunity or the will to actually practice them?
We need to be loud and clear: Targeting the Syrian refugees in fear and anger, further compounding their pain and loss with our demonization of them and a denial of their basic human needs, is immoral and wrong on every level imaginable. Any political figure who does so is not worthy of your time or attention.
Instead, let us embrace the chance to live our faith in amazing ways, letting our hearts enlarge to surround and serve the most needful, and possibly to even be broken in service to the least. While together we pray…
35. For the Poor and the Neglected
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
36. For the Oppressed
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the Book of Common Prayer page 826