Not only is there a split in the country during these polarizing days but there is a split within the evangelical community. We all know the Franklin Grahams and others very publicly supported Donald Trump and delivered their flocks for him. Less known are the men who stood up to their religious peers — Dr. Russell Moore who is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastor and author Max Lucado, Matt Barber, Dr. Michael Brown, and others.
As a Southern Baptist, I was grateful when Dr. Moore held onto his faith and sound ethics as reasons for not getting behind Donald Trump. You can bet he is now in a battle to save his position because, in the religious world just as in the political world, sharks are waiting. Because he didn’t climb on the band wagon but instead stood by his faith, he has a target on his back.
Which makes me even more grateful for the letter he wrote today to The Donald concerning the botched immigration ban that was enacted Friday by executive order and has caused mass confusion and chaos since.
Dr. Moore begins his letter with a reminder that Southern Baptists are on the front line caring for refugees:
In June 2016, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirmed its decades-long commitment to care for and minister to refugees. The resolution states, “Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner.” Southern Baptist churches throughout the United States lead the way in carrying out this calling.
When Vietnam fell in the 1970s, my church in Richmond took in Vietnamese families who lived in church housing and had help finding jobs, becoming acclimated to their new lives, and learning English. It is what we are called to do:
” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ ” –Matthew 25:35-40
And so with that in mind, Dr. Moore continued:
The church’s commitment to welcoming the stranger has long been reflected in our country’s policies toward those fleeing persecution in their home countries. A commitment given voice through the inscription on our Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Indeed, as our country recalled on Friday, one of our nation’s darkest chapters was our refusal to allow European Jews fleeing the Third Reich to find safe harbor on American soil.
Ah, yes, the Voyage of the Damned — the MS St. Louis — with 900 Jews who were turned back from America’s shores in 1939 and then rejected by every other county it applied to, leaving it no choice but to return to the beginning of its journey. Two-thirds of the passengers perished in concentration camps. The last ship allowed in, just before the St. Louis, had a young boy on board now known to the world as Dr. Henry Kissinger. I read the book Voyage of the Damned in my 20s and was impacted by the tragic events of that World War II event.
After noting the necessity of protecting American citizens, Dr. Moore’s letter got to the point — the ban on immigrants:
However, we have concerns about the Executive Order’s consequences. We share the concerns of Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.), a Southern Baptist lawmaker, who said, “The language of the order should not apply to legal permanent residents of the United States, and if it is being enforced in any other way, the administration should step in swiftly to clarify.”
Preventing the Iraqi interpreters who served our military — crucial allies in the fight against global terrorism — from following through on their acceptance into the very country they risked their lives and the lives of their families to serve is unacceptable.
The disruption of those caught in the middle of this unexpected and unannounced executive order continues as some were turned away and sent back, and others are stranded in airports. One family of five was turned away once they reached America after working years to obtain visas. Both the husband and wife had quit their jobs, sold the house, the kids had been pulled from school, and they were ready to begin a new life. Now their lives are in suspension.
Another couple with a little girl are stuck in Singapore after flying to New York and being turned away. The husband who was near tears explained that their U.S. visas would expire while waiting in Singapore, and that they would not be allowed to remain in Singapore because they had no jobs since both had terminated employment to go to the U.S.
These are the Catch 22s that are going on around the globe. Dr. Moore continued:
We understand the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, State Department, Department of Defense, and National Security Council legal counsel were not adequately consulted before the implementation of the order. We join with Southern Baptist Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), who stated, “This executive action has some unintended consequences that were not well thought out.”
Southern Baptists are among the many Americans living in majority-Muslim countries to carry out the biblical call to love their neighbors. We are deeply concerned that the order will cause widespread diplomatic fallout with the Muslim world, putting Southern Baptists serving in these countries in grave danger and preventing them from serving refugees and others who are in need with humanitarian assistance and the love of the gospel.
He then calls on the president to help alleviate this situation and lists the steps that could make it happen. I’m not holding my breath.
This is supposed to be a temporary ban. Care to take bets on whether it will be extended? Everyone wants to be safe but why is this so disruptive when President Bush kept the calm after 3,000 were killed on 9/11? Besides, security experts have expressed concern that these bans will make us less safe by now giving radical Muslims a target because their countrymen were banned. Military in the field are also now in greater danger.
Perhaps part of the complete chaos is because this all came on the heels of a week of executive orders. It’s not even been two weeks. Stay tuned. And remain vigilant.
Update: Why did I call Dr. Moore “courageous” in the title of this piece? He had the courage to speak up for his beliefs even though it would rattle those who surround him on the right. It is difficult to be the lone fish swimming upstream (although I have certainly been there at times over the years). Dr. Moore is that lone fish.