Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Victor Chininin Buele

A very dear and good friend and colleague wrote something on Facebook about the President’s admission ban to the citizens of seven countries. Seeing his words gave me an opportunity to collect my thoughts on the subject and stop delaying this article. It has been bothering me for the better part of fifteen years. The world did change after 9/11. And I have felt it to the core.

This is an expansion of my already long comment left on my friend’s Facebook wall.

Historical Survey

Two quick points on this:

  1.  John Calvin welcomed a significant number of persecuted refugees to Geneva.  He helped them get established and gave them work to do in transforming the culture and reforming the church. You are entitled to your opinion about this colorful Christian. But he was indeed a Christian who loved Jesus. For more information on this, I refer you to the book Calvin and Commerce by David Hall.
  2. The Israelites of the Old Testament were given what we would call today visas by the Egyptians. The archeological evidence for this is presented in James Hoffmeier’s The Immigration Crisis. And besides that, the Old Testament is full of references to aliens and sojourners.

The Immigrant Story

It is going to be fifteen and a half years since I came to the United States on the day of my oath of citizenship ceremony. I know what it feels like to be humiliated by consular and USCIS interviews from diligent officers protecting the border and the homeland.  I know what it feels like to be assumed guilty unless proven innocent. When is the last time you went to Aruba on vacation and needed to think about taking with you a pay stub, an employment letter, and whatever else you can foresee an immigration officer ask you to let you back in?  I know what it is to have your grandmother, who sold the work of her life to pay for part of your education, be denied a visa to attend your graduation. I know what it is to beg until she was given a fifteen day visa, lest she were to overstay. I know what it is like to have your beloved sister be denied admission and not attend your wedding even though the consular officer knew that a legally-admitted immigrant and his U.S. citizen fiancée would be hosting and responsible for her.

And as sad and mopey as this may sound, this does not even come close to what my persecuted Christian brothers and sisters face today at the hands of oppressors, what was faced by fellow legal permanent residents at airports yesterday.

The Goal of Terrorism

The goal of terrorism is to disturb the balance of all normal life—it is for “us” to fear everyone, everywhere, all the time. The next sleeper cell could be your next door neighbor. White, middle-class, seemingly honest for decades. At your own child’s birthday party.

There is no foolproof way to search inside the human heart and iSadie a label “terrorist” or not. Only God is sovereign like that. No immigration system will ever be able to fully discover and eradicate evil.

A balance between protection and open generosity is required. Every government is to protect its people–to reward what is good and to deal with what is evil.  I don’t propose that welcoming refugees and immigrants would require any government to be foolish with open doors policies without any vetting, but this consequence of the fall of our world is also not to be used as an excuse for illogically, irrationally, uncharitably express fear-producing division. From whom much is given much is expected. A legal permanent resident should never be detained without having committed a crime. Period. Love your neighbor is the cry of your soul whether you believe the carpenter of Nazareth is a figment of my imagination or the Lord of All.

The Goal of Christianity

The whole point of the Christian faith is that the redeemed citizens of heaven are sojourners, legal aliens, so to speak, of this world today and a part of its cultural transformation. Mike Bull summarizes what must be our balance between this world and the next as follows–“We must not be so heavenly-minded that we retreat from this world nor so earthly-minded that we are disqualified from God’s blessing.”  We are indeed citizens of two worlds, looking forward to the new world and seeing that as motivation to work without ceasing in the renewal of all things today.

The point of the gospel breaks when we give in to fear that everyone who looks different than us will kill us. Christian, this is nothing else but a denial of God’s sovereignty and justice and power and love. This is also a denial that the gospel has changed hearts throughout history and will continue to change hearts. God has promised so, and so it shall come to pass.

The Bible is full of “Fear not!” statements. If you are afraid, know that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. Turn to Him, rely on Him, work heartily knowing He runs over all.

Therefore, anyone who openly and kindly and generously shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with his neighbor–refugee, immigrant or not– outdoing others, including the government, in showing hospitality, care, food, and the good news of His death and resurrection, can actually be an instrument of radical transformation in the life of a human being. It’s such shortsightedness to think otherwise!

The gospel calls the Christian to go to all the world, but when He brings the world to us, people lack the faith to believe that Jesus can change the heart of even an ISIS fighter ready to pull a trigger. That Love can’t melt the heart of stone.  

And if you say that this doesn’t make sense because “their” goal is to secretly infiltrate all things and then blow us up, let me assure you that I am aware of that counter argument.  But, do you believe in a more powerful gospel than even that extreme?  Or have you not realized that this was precisely Jesus’s point?  We love the phrase “Good Samaritan.” Go think about what’s behind that phrase. Go and be a neighbor. An excellent one. Tell people about the one who told us that the gospel of the kingdom will be like leaven that will take over the world and restore it to what it was always intended to be.  No more ISIS. No more humiliation. No more persecution. No more tears. No more sorrow. Jesus reigns and shall reign.

And YOU, my dear Christian reader, are the frontline of Homeland Security. Your neighbor needs to be radically loved by you.  Have you welcomed him and told him the good news?

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