In the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle this week, there is a letter from a group of nine Houston clergy reflecting a unified response to President Trump’s “ban” on refugees and immigrants from particular countries. A few pages later, there is a report that a Vatican senior official is calling out the policy, saying that recourse to walls and travel bans is counterproductive to America’s economic interests. The Houston clergy offer several references to Holy Scripture and, while acknowledging that on many issues the Bible often counsels in more than one direction, on this issue the witness of scripture is consistent and unequivocal: “receive immigrants and refugees with grace and compassion”.
That these leaders of faith are taking this stance is not surprising, particularly given the mission of the church as a source of sanctuary for the downtrodden, the persecuted, and the “least of these” among us. But I notice no recognition on their part of the primary duty of the state to protect its citizens, to recognize any practical limits to the openness of our borders, nor any acknowledgment of a responsibility to sustain the integrity of the sovereignty of the nation-state under the rule of law.
In a recent essay in The Wall Street Journal, Sohrab Ahmari, a London-based editorial writer for the Journal, wrote perceptively on his point that we are witnessing the widest rollback of the worldwide freedom of movement in decades and that, ironically, “freedom of movement is unraveling because liberals won central debates–about Islamism, social cohesion, and nationalism”. He writes that they accused opponents of being phobic and reactionary by, for example, refusing to acknowledge the link between Islamist ideology and terrorism or, I would add, as with Barack Obama, refusing to even call Islamic terror by its true name. And he says for many liberals, every Islamist atrocity was cause to fret about an “Islamophobic” backlash. In the end, this became a debate about the growth of nationalism and in Europe and the U. S. liberals treated nationalism and the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage as relics of a dark nativist past.
In response, the promise from Trump and politicians across the West are becoming the same thing–your days of anxiety are behind you, our nation will be coherent once more. So who is building the walls? Ahmari names the main culprit for the populist revolt against liberalism to be liberals themselves.
I suggest to the members of the clergy that their message of sanctuary will play better with their respective flocks if they promote a more open and honest discussion about the source of the anxieties of the people in the pews and the duties of the state in dealing with them.