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An Open Letter to Governor McAuliffe on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

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November 17, 2015
The Honorable Terry McAuliffe
Governor of Virginia
Dear Governor McAuliffe,
     Having read today of your disinclination to join other state governors in refusing entry to Syrian refugees, I am writing to congratulate and encourage you.
     Although politically conservative myself, I confess that I am ashamed of the position taken on this issue by many of my ideological kin. Following the Islamists’ attacks on Paris on November 13th, and the discovery that one of the terrorists involved may have entered France as an ostensible refugee from Syria, several Republican governors signaled their intention to oppose the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. No doubt, such hard-line positions play well to a far right-wing crowd— more’s the pity—but they are unbecoming of national and world leaders.
     The fact that some political conservatives want to shut down our borders to those seeking legitimate asylum disturbs, but does not surprise me. The fact that many of these political conservatives also profess to follow Jesus Christ confounds me. As the pastor of a Christian congregation in southern Virginia, I consider the certain threat to my flock’s souls should they turn their backs on those in need to be much more grave than the potential threat to their earthly lives should a terrorist enter the country. The latter carries with it the danger only of death; the former, that of damnation.
     While our political traditions require the state to protect its citizens, our Bible requires God’s children to protect the aliens as well (see Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33–34; Matthew 25:34–40, etc.). Nor are these two goals mutually exclusive. The Department of Homeland Security carefully scrutinizes those who apply for asylum within our country. This scrutiny should continue. This scrutiny should, almost certainly, be intensified. But such an intensification ought to be undertaken with a view to greater effectiveness in admitting refugees, not keeping them out.
     You, Governor, can lead the way in providing for both the safety of your citizens and compassion for those in need.
     But to the sheep of my little flock in Henry County—and to all other followers of Jesus—allow me to remind you gently that nowhere in Scripture are we called to safety. Everywhere in Scripture we are called to give up ourselves for the good of others. In doing this, we imitate our Lord Jesus who gave himself up to death so that we could end our spiritual wandering and find our true home with God.
     Governor McAuliffe, stand firm in your resolve to remain welcoming and hospitable to refugees from Syria. Send some to Henry County, if you like—I can take one or two, and we’ll find the rest a place as well.
     Please know that, as our Lord instructs us to do through Saint Paul (in I Timothy 2:1–4 and elsewhere) we pray for you regularly, that God would provide you with wisdom and courage and that he would keep you and your family safe. I trust also that he will return you home to us from your current travels in safety.
Yours Humbly,
Andrew Shanks
Pastor, Fontaine Baptist Church
  1. Michael Jordan says:

    Well written Andrew. Thank you for the thoughtful letter, and giving me a well reasoned argument to share with others.

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