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Syrian refugees: DFW clergy weigh in on what Jesus would do

The debate on Syrian refugees crosses many lines, as seen in the posters displayed by Tom Compton of Arizona, who recently showed his support of allowing refugees.
The debate on Syrian refugees crosses many lines, as seen in the posters displayed by Tom Compton of Arizona, who recently showed his support of allowing refugees. AP

The terrorist attacks in Paris continue to spark debate about the plight of Syrian refugees, a polarizing issue that crosses both theological and political lines.

With many governors, other politicians and religious leaders taking the stance that we should not allow Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States because of fears about terrorism, others say their actions fly in the face of Christianity, which urges followers to love thy neighbor and welcome strangers.

“One of the most important teachings from Jesus was the teaching about the stranger and offering hospitality to the stranger,” said Melanie L. Harris, associate professor of religion and ethics at TCU.

The safety of our nation, however, should also be considered, many people contend.

A Bloomberg Politics national poll released Thursday shows that 53 percent of U.S. adults don’t want to accept Syrian refugees. That same day the House approved a bill that would impose tighter entry restrictions for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The day after the deadly attacks in Paris, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Fox News that “President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America — it is nothing less than lunacy.”

Religious leaders weighed in as well, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

“We cannot allow Muslim immigrants to come across our borders unchecked while we are fighting this war on terror,” Graham posted on Facebook. “If we continue to allow Muslim immigration, we’ll see much more of what happened in Paris — it’s on our doorstep.”

A sampling of what North Texas religious leaders say, including how they think Jesus would treat Syrian refugees:

“I think to restrict and deny the admission, for example of Syrian refugees because they are Syrian or because they are Muslim, is contrary to our basic understanding of our nation’s values and it is absolutely contrary to Christian values. … It is a central component of the Christian faith that we care for the refugee — that we love the alien as you love yourself.” - Rev. Lee Ann Bryce, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Fort Worth

“Government is never called upon to forgive. Government is never called upon to turn the other cheek. The responsibility of government, according to the word of God, is to protect its citizens.” - Robert Jeffress, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Dallas

“I think Jesus told us what he would do in Mathew 25:35: ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.’” - Bob Roberts, senior pastor, Northwood Church, Keller

“For the Christian, true compassion is risky. We learn this in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. And, we don’t let the possibility of some unknown danger prevent us from showing kindness when it’s a reality in front of us.” - David Daniels, senior pastor at Pantego Bible Church, Fort Worth

“Remember that we are followers of one who was himself a refugee. As we move into the Advent season in the midst of this backlash against refugees, the story of how the infant Jesus, his mother, Mary, and Joseph were forced to flee into Egypt to escape King Herod’s terrorism takes on new power and poignancy. That holy baby survived because someone helped his refugee family.

“Jesus calls us to stand with the powerless, to speak for the voiceless, to protect the vulnerable, to feed the hungry, to comfort the bereaved. I call upon all Episcopalians to remember this in this season.” - the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

“Prayer for all those involved is the starting place. Prayer for wisdom. Prayer for those who are in harm’s way — the victims of terrorism and the refugees. … I think we need to avoid a polarity of extremes.” - Bishop Michael F. Olson, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth

“The Biblical mandate is that you should help, ‘You were strangers in the land of Egypt. You understand the heart of the stranger,’ is the moral basis for saying when people need a place to go to rebuild their lives. It is morally reprehensible not to help out.” - Rabbi Ralph Meckenburger, Beth-El Congregation, Fort Worth

“We read in Romans 13:1-7 that government is ordained by God and is given the function of maintaining peace and order in society. The government’s role in this current crisis is difficult because there is a desire to maintain order and avoid unnecessary threats to citizens. This particular situation is probably one in which no one will be completely happy as government attempts to balance its roles of addressing the crisis in Syria and maintaining order for its citizens.” - Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

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