In a new full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s edition of The Washington Post, over 100 prominent Evangelical leaders—many theologically conservative— are denouncing President Donald Trump’s moratorium on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States. Although a federal judge has temporarily blocked the president’s executive order, the proposed changes to America’s refugee policies expose divisions within evangelicalism, with some leaders anxious over national security and others a lack of compassion.
The main force behind the advertisement appears to be World Relief, the Christian aid agency associated with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The compassionate aims of the advertisement are commendable, but not all Evangelicals agree with its organizers’ approach to aiding refugees.
Daniel Burke, CNN’s religion editor, notes evangelical pastors and authors among the ad’s signatories include Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Christian author Ann Voskamp, Bill and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, preacher and author Max Lucado, Pastor Eugene Cho of Quest Church and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The format of the advertisement is an open letter addressed to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In response to the refugee ban, the Evangelical signatories are “deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement” whose protest to the refugee ban “is rooted in the call of Jesus to ‘love our neighbor as we love ourselves.’”
“As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now. We live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions. However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades,” states the advertisement.
Missing from the advertisement, however, are aspirations to address the core reasons why so many refugees are seeking safe haven in the U.S. “For years, numerous organizations including the one I work for have been advocating for safe havens where ethnic and religious minorities would be safe from the ongoing sectarian wars,” wrote Luke Moon, Deputy Director of the Philos Project, a Christian non-profit promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.
“True love and compassion… drives my belief that the U.S. should help to end the conflicts that caused the refugee crisis in the first place,” Moon says. “Truly loving refugees means defending them where they are. Not using them as political pawns.”
Thankfully, the Persecuted Church and other religious minorities coming from the seven predominately Muslim nations are acknowledged by the advertisement. “As leaders, we welcome the concern expressed for religious minorities, including persecuted Christians. Followers of Christ face horrific persecution and even genocide in certain parts of the world,” says the advertisement. However, a similar full-page advertisement in The Washington Post and organized by World Relief denouncing the State Department’s exclusion of Christian refugees during the height of ISIS’ religious genocide would have been equally commendable.
In 2015 Faith McDonnell, Religious Liberty Director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, was among the few who reported the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) admitted outright to officials at the Barnabas Fund, a Christian relief agency, “There is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation.”
As Christians, we talk often of our transparency and authenticity. I don’t doubt the sincerity of these Evangelical leaders and signatories, but am cautious of the temptation to protest the plight of refugees when politically popular.
The advertisement is set to run in The Washington Post, but is currently accessible on World Relief’s website where supporters are able to sign their names in protest of the refugee ban. At the time of this writing, the advertisement has 1,049 signatories.