Hey GOP, My Christian Family Welcomes Refugees Because We've Actually Read the Bible

As Republican lawmakers push to ban refugees, they should realize that, in doing so, they aren’t just being incredibly callous to people fleeing a war zone – they are alienating many of the evangelical Christians who are so central to the party’s base.

The Republican party has been quick to claim the Bible’s authority in opposing gay marriage – an “authority” built on a handful ofcontroversial verses. But when it comes to giving aid to needy widows and orphans from Syria, these lawmakers ignore the staggering number of biblical passages related to compassion, hospitality and loving one’s enemies.

This week, Texas state governor Greg Abbott informed President Obama that Texas will not accept Syrian refugees. Local lawmakers supported this political grandstanding, justifying their lack of compassion in terms of safety and security. They fear terrorists are intent on attacking the US like they attacked Paris. They wonder if those terrorists are hiding within the wave of Syrian refugees.

But, in our neighborhoods and churches, few locals bat an eye at people from other countries. Evangelical and Catholic churches in particular view them as families to help rather than people to fear.

While it is understandable to be concerned about safety, taking an anti-refugee position is contrary to the beliefs of the faithful votersthese Republican leaders rely upon every election day. They are also taking a position contrary to the Bible these leaders supposedly care so much about.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), welcome strangers (Matthew 25:40), and show mercy to those in need (Luke 10:25-37). No doubt these teachings apply to families on the run from Isis.

These passages represent only a sliver of biblical teaching on the topic, and the Christians I know don’t just believe these verses, but act on them.

Consider my conservative Republican family. We live in Amarillo, Texas, a highly religious, conservative stronghold in a very red state. Amarillo also has an abnormally high ratio of new refugees to residents – higher than any Texas city. What’s more, many in the city are on the front-lines of welcoming those fleeing war or persecution. You wouldn’t know this from the political stances of the Republican lawmakers claiming to represent Texas, or Amarillo, as their constituents.

My mother and mother-in-law teach English to refugees and immigrants at my childhood Southern Baptist church. Both women love interacting with these foreign families, many of whom are Muslims from war-torn nations like Iraq, Iran and Sudan. They have shared meals together. They have visited these families in the hospital. They have become friends.

My brother, who runs a religious nonprofit, mentors youth at apartment projects across Amarillo. In recent years, the resident base at these complexes has shifted from low-income minorities to immigrant and refugee families. This makes my brother one of the first Americans they meet – and definitely one of the first they trust.

On a typical weekday after school, he might lead activities for 15 children and hear 15 different languages. He tells me the Muslim families in particular work harder than anyone else and are more welcoming to him than anyone else. They have never made him feel unsafe.

Unfortunately, the politicians claiming to represent us don’t feel that way. Greg Abbott has been a loud opponent of the US supreme court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriages. A few weeks before that ruling, at a prayer breakfast in Washington, DC, he worried that social issues like abortion and homosexuality were attempts to “purge God from the public square”. Abbott continued: “We see this in the never-ending battle to defend the unborn and we see this with the legal assault on marriage defined by God, but we know that God’s law cannot be undone by man’s law”.

By ignoring a common biblical teaching - that of compassionate hospitality – Abbot’s position against Syrian refugees is doing a pretty good job of undoing the scriptural commands he claims to follow. His statements directly oppose the beliefs of many of his religious constituents. If anyone is purging God from the public square during the refugee crisis, it’s Republican lawmakers and the GOP presidential hopefuls.

I hope Abbott and the rest will realize their mistake before Christmas, when they remember an innkeeper who showed hospitality to a family of poor, tired, desperate Middle Eastern travelers. It’s a story from the Bible. Perhaps they’ve heard of it.

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