Syrian refugees: three worldviews collide

We have before us a choice between three colliding worldviews.

Can we blend two of them, or should we keep all of them separate? How do they relate?

1. Islamic worldview

I have already written on it at answering-islam.org. I have long since moved on, but one major goal I had back then was to inform US government bureaucrats to be careful about incorporating shariah into our society and to help them understand that radical Muslims yearn for the Old Days when, in their imagination, Islam was dominant.

But the larger context of my articles was that Islamic scholars were withholding valuable, but violent, information shortly after 9/11. I felt it my duty to offer the unpleasant (but true) counter-evidence about their religion.

So I hope no one accuses me of “going soft on Islam” (a religious-political-legal ideology) in this blog post. But I have always had a “soft spot” for preaching the gospel to Muslims (people).

The context has now switched up from when I originally wrote.

We have now a refugee crisis during a horrible war.  It is an image on TV of great need, one that we should all pity. It’s all about people right now, not abstract ideas and theology.

But does pity amount to a good guide for public policy?

What should we–both as Americans and some of us as American Christians–do about the crisis? (The two are not the same.)

2. Politically conservative worldview

Sometimes this worldview and the kingdom one (see below) match up nicely. Other times they don’t.

In the refugee crisis, the conservative worldview is best summed up by Thomas Sowell’s clear and strong article: the Past and Future of the Refugee Crisis.

He writes about the future generations of refugees who will forget about the current crisis and feel left out of the European Union and then build resentment.

With refugees, as with all other human beings, the current generation will pass from the scene. Those who may be grateful to have found a refuge from the horrors of the Middle East will have a new generation of children in Europe, or in any other place of refuge, who will have no memory of the Middle East.

All the new generation will know is that they are not doing as well as other people in the country where they live. They will also know that the values of their culture clash with the values of the Western culture around them. And there will be no lack of “leaders” to tell them that they have been wronged, including some who will urge them to jihad.

Sure enough, excluded future Muslims might wage jihad, and it only takes a very small percentage–much less than one percent–to wreak havoc on society.

He counsels wisdom: “Sending money to Middle Eastern countries that are taking in Muslim refugees makes a lot more sense for the West than taking in more refugees themselves.”

But what if the refugees are not Sunni, yet they move into Sunni-dominated countries? Will they suffer more persecution?

His assessment about Europe, anyway, is about the future, and who can know it except God?

Before we leave this second point, let’s look at other possible solutions.

This conservative says we should wage war to eliminate Asad and ISIS, which spawned the refugee crisis in the first place.

A Jewish conservative says Europe is making a “fatal mistake” to take in the refugees, because they don’t share Western values.

This one is worried that if we let in more Muslims we might cease to be a Judeo-Christian nation.

3. Gospel of the kingdom

It encompasses the entire planet. It’s a true, concrete worldview, not just a notional or theoretical one.

Christianity Today reports on why and how Christianity is surging in the heart of Islam, in the Arab world, in the Arab Peninsula.

Here is a long excerpt, which I hope you take the time to read:

It is an image [of Islamic tolerance in the Arab world] local Christian leaders are eager to promote. “Emiratis are not extremists. They are tolerant and want to live in the world in peace,” said Jim Burgess, pastor of Fellowship of the Emirates, whose 2,500-strong congregation meets in the luxurious Gloria Hotel in Dubai. “We want the government to know we appreciate this and want their attitude spread in the Arab world.”

His church participates in Easter services publicly on the beach. Last year, 39 expatriates were baptized in Gulf waters. And during this year’s celebration of the end of Ramadan, the ruling sheikh received Burgess and other local Christian leaders ahead of hundreds of prominent Emiratis jockeying in line for position.

“This was a message for those gathered,” Burgess said. “We believe God is answering prayer. We really need to get the message out that there are opportunities here that haven’t existed for 1,400 years.”

A quarter of Burgess’s fellowship identifies as non-Christian. Sixty percent had not attended church in years. Many are surprised by the opportunities to share their faith, even with Muslims, if done within a strong relationship.

“I never had more opportunities to preach the gospel end-to-end than I had here,” said Wael Qahoush, a Palestinian-American banking executive and deacon at Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi (ECC). “I was apprehensive, always trying to hide my identity, and everyone wanted to ask me about Christianity.

The kingdom of God is not the same as the Church; rather, the kingdom creates it.

In any case, it is all about saving as many souls as we can–including Muslim souls. These newly redeemed then create the church.

The gospel of the kingdom transcends conservative politics and policies (though they can overlap).

These gospel outreaches in the heart of Islam counter the first worldview that Islam must or shall dominate, a fear some have expressed in the West and in America about the refugees.

The kingdom of God is more powerful than Islam.

But how does this kingdom reality translate, if it does, into national policy here at home?

Conclusion

These verses have been going through my mind.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:38-40, as his disciples ask him about meeting needs:

38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Helping the needy under the auspices of the King always benefits society. Ministering in a practical way to the least, the lost, and the last is the same as ministering to the King.

But does preaching the gospel and giving shelter to the needy Muslim refugees add up to a national political solution? Are we mixing the kingdom of this world with the kingdom of our God and of his Christ, if we let the Bible guide us?

Should we take in the refugees and preach the gospel of the love of Christ to them since they might be more open to it in our society? Or should we just send money to Middle Eastern countries and to Christian missionaries and not invite the refugees in? Would 10,000 of them–or even double or triple that–hurt our society even if we preached the love of God and faith in Christ?

My own view won’t please some conservatives. Some might even dismiss it as naively optimistic and dreamy. One or two of them might claim I’m adding more “messy” people into a “third-world hellhole” that’s already bogging America down.

 

Revival has made this country great in the past and will do so again, despite the shaking of the world around us–no, in answer to the shaking.

But will the American Christian community rise to the challenge and help the refugees, if we take them in?

We shall see, but I have hope that with our message we shall see solutions.

As usual, more grace is needed.

Updated: Sept. 16, 2015.

Updated Nov 21, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s