“For I was a stranger, and you were afraid of me”

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I have frequent moments when culture speaks louder than faith, and this past week was one of those extended moments. You see, when I was younger, I would gauge the strength of my friendships by wondering who would be most likely to hide me and my family in the event of another Holocaust. Actually, I still find myself asking that question. Even if none of my relatives were killed (none that have been confirmed, anyway), it very well could have been my family, if the circumstances of birth, time, and place had been different.

I have to say…I’ve been horrified at what I’ve seen shared on Facebook by many Christians I have worshiped with over the last few years. I realize you can only judge so much of a person’s character by what they show via social media, but in such a dire scenario as this – a scenario in which thousands of refugees are fleeing their war-torn nations and hoping to seek shelter here in America – well, to say I expected better is an understatement. I understand the fear. I understand the apprehensiveness to open your home to people whose identities and backgrounds you do not know. I just figured, as self-professing Christians, that compassion would drive out that fear. I thought empathy would drive out prejudice and outright bigotry.

I was wrong.

Throughout my journey into skepticism, I’ve been exposed to plenty of No True Christian rhetoric: no True Christian supports gay marriage, abortion, whatever. And yet these same gatekeepers of True Christian behavior are acting and speaking in ways that are reminiscent of Germans circa 1939.

One side of my family fled to the US when pogroms started vandalizing Jewish businesses. There’s no way that I can’t, on some level, take these comments personally.

But one need not have Jewish ancestry to be mystified by the Christians who are so quick to condemn all of Islam by picking out a few Koran verses tinged with violence, despite the conspicuous violence in our own texts.

One need not come from a long line of persecuted ancestors to feel outraged by the lack of decency for desperate families trapped in circumstances beyond their control.

And if you think the comparison of Syrian refugees to European Jews in the 30s and 40s is apples to oranges – the Jews, after all, were not suspects of terrorism – the two situations are comparable in that both indigenous groups were, and are, considered threats. Hitler convinced a nation to blame the Jews for deep economic ruin. Fox News and a handful of politicians want to blame Islam for the murders of innocent Americans. Either way, people were, and are, looking for scapegoats. A certain demographic may fit that bill, but it doesn’t automatically mean they’re all guilty.

The difference between being an American and being a Christian doesn’t seem so clear lately. But American Christianity seems to prize a doctrine of fear, and that is when my allegiance between Judaism and Christianity is most tested.

I conclude this post with the immortal words of Hollywood philosopher, Cher Horowitz:

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4 thoughts on ““For I was a stranger, and you were afraid of me”

  1. Captain Cassidy says:

    There is nothing in or about Christianity that makes its adherents better people than non-believers. There is not one moral good that is uniquely Christian, not one moral act that a non-Christian has never done–but there is plenty of evil committed by those exact Christians who trumpet their belief and fervor to the skies. The more of both Christians and non-Christians I meet, the more persuaded I am of this truth: the religion is superfluous to being a good person. Don’t be surprised by the vast number of Christians who are at heart moving totally against the ideals of the Bible; be surprised by the few who are actually decent folks despite it.

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      It’s an interesting dichotomy that the dwelling of the holy spirit is supposed to make a Christian more like Jesus, but we also don’t stop being sinners, so we can’t not ever be awful.

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      • Captain Cassidy says:

        It’s not actually all that remarkable of a dichotomy. It makes perfect sense for believers to be more or less like non-believers, if one considers that there isn’t actually any supernatural presence in believers that is absent in non-believers. It’s only when one must believe that there is such a presence in believers that one has to start coming up with explanations for why Christians’ behavior contraindicates such a presence. The second one starts thinking there might not be one, their behavior makes perfect sense.

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  2. Doug Daniel says:

    Certain strains of Christianity in this country are invested in right-wing politics that actually work against the clear imperatives of justice and compassion in the Gospel. Some of those right-wing views have roots that go right back to 19th Century nativist know-nothing fear of foreigners. There are plenty of Christians in this country who understand compassion for the stranger is even more critical in times of danger, but you’re not going to hear those believers listening to Fox News. Hang in there.

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