I don't have the answer on the Syrian refugee crisis. It is a complicated issue. Maybe my own story will shed some light one one angle of the debate. I don't plan to address the elephant in the room -- the fact some of these "starving refugees" look like strapping, seasoned soldiers and potential terrorists, because that is not a topic I feel qualified to discuss. But here is the OTHER problem I see with bringing refugees and illegal aliens into our communities.
For years I underwrote Christian Activities working retail jobs, and after one natural disaster in 1997, I was already in bad financial shape with no savings left, so I was ill prepared for a 2nd natural disaster in 2010. My house was gutted after the Nashville flood, and I had no place to go. My parents are gone, my brother is disabled and lost his own home in the flood. So I moved to a tiny Microtel room for 9 months while the possessions that survived the flood were packed out and the long process of rebuilding my house on limited funds began. I ran out of money, had to move back home with no heat, air, hot water or appliances (or even plumbing for a while but we won't discuss that). When my little dog got sick, I didn't have enough money left to pay for an emergency vet, so I lost my beloved pet. I couldn't afford a cell phone or TV and was driving a 17-year-old Jeep in bad shape. I couldn't replace appliances or repair my hot water heater. I could barely afford food, and had no medical or dental care.
I was posting these things in my Facebook updates. The interesting thing is NONE of the people I see posting on Facebook about how our Christian faith dictates that we must bring the Syrian refugees into our communities -- NONE of them offered to help me, put me up, let me wash my clothes, or brought me or my dogs a meal when I was struggling.
So, is charity just for Syrian refugees, illegal aliens from Mexico and Africans with AIDS? Do you not have any hurting friends and neighbors who need your help where you live? Because I sure did and your friends in other disaster areas sure do. Clearly we should care about strangers and offer assistance when we can but how about those right here next to us that we allow to fall through the cracks every day? Have you seen how the sick and disabled veterans in your area live, for example??? Are you inviting them to come live with you? Why not? Because it would drain your resources? Because it might not be safe???
Before anyone starts pointing to the specks in the eyes of those of us who are very cautious about bringing Syrian refugees into our communities, maybe you should check to make sure that large plank in your own eye isn't blocking your view of the hurting friends and neighbors with limited resources you are not helping. These disenfranchised in the community will suffer even more with an influx of new people draining resources. There is a limit on resources, aid, assistance. Do you know how quickly FEMA ran out of funds after the Nashville flood? I do. The funds were gone by the time I discovered my house would have to be gutted because so much water had wicked through the floors and walls.
Although I am still rebuilding, I am truly thankful for my blessings now and am reminded daily how blessed I am today. This is not about me -- I simply want to make people aware that there are plenty of hurting people right here, right now, and we are not doing a very good job taking care of our own. And I don't consider ubiquitous government handouts "taking care of our own." We have friends, neighbors and family that need our care, and the Bible is clear that we should provide for our families and households first. I don't think it is a stretch to say the people we sit next to, interact with, talk to on social media, our neighbors, those who live in our local area or who are "local" because we have an ongoing relationship with them -- those are our immediate concern including widows, orphans, the disabled, the sick, and veterans.
There is also a time to offer assistance to people in other areas. But when we can't or don't take care of those in our own communities, we sure don't have a good infrastructure to bring others in and offer them assistance -- especially if we have to take aid away from our neighbors. How many of the homeless in your area did you offer aid to today? And I am not talking about a $1 newspaper donation. Have you brought any of the homeless off the streets to live with you? Why not? I am betting it is for some of the same reasons some of us are wary of the refugee situation. So don't tell me it is fear or lack of love that makes me extremely cautious about the refugee situation. It is the same wisdom and discernment that tells me picking up a hitchhiker might not be the best idea.
Christians are NOT doing enough -- that is clear -- but part of the problem is the guilt overload from people who make lots of noise about one crisis or another but who don't do anything but protest and post memes. We are so inundated with guilt-inducing posts about illegal aliens who need our help, inner city youth, the homeless, Africans with AIDS who need our help (what about Ebola? Why were there no star-studded charity drives for Ebola victims?). Now it's the Syrian refugees who need our aid, but in all the clamor about all these different groups, we are overlooking our neighbors. I know because I was totally overlooked by most of my meme-posting friends when I needed help so badly.
The sad fact is most of the people posting these memes are not going to do ONE THING ABOUT IT other than try to make themselves feel good and others feel guilty by posting memes. It's called "slaktivism" and is no more effective than posting a super-hero cartoon as your profile photo and saying you helped fight juvenile diabetes. Donate money -- that will help. Instead of throwing talking points at others, demanding we provide aid for all these groups--YOU donate YOUR own money to every cause you post about and stop posting memes.
If you personally want to take a refugee family into your home, maybe that is your calling, but don't start making noise about how it is everyone's responsibility as a Christian to take care of refugees. Some of us are busy helping the needy who already live in our communities. Put your OWN money where your mouth is. YOU dig deep and give sacrificially if you think this cause is important. YOU give up space in YOUR home. Don't TELL ME where to put my money or resources. I give where I am led to give, and neither you nor the government should be able to tell me where to give my money or resources.
However, if you choose to give your money to Syrian refugees after you let me go without food, heat, hot water, clean clothes and medical care for a couple of years, don't blame me if I am a little curious why their lives are worth so much more than your neighbors' and mine.
1 Tim 5:8 "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Matt. 10:6 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.