Robert A. Chesnut, Ph.D., author of Transforming the Mainline Church, co-authored this piece.
Full disclosure: The authors are part of a large extended family which includes dozens of Syrian Muslims. Over the past few days several of them have been tragically caught up in President Trump’s banning admission to the U.S. by nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries.
One is a student at Harvard Medical School who was refused reentry after having traveled to Jordan for a medical conference. The other is a young mother of four children who were denied boarding on a flight from the Middle East to rejoin their husband/father in California.
So, is Trump’s ban justifiable? Possibly so, were it were based on any coherent, effective rationale for protecting Americans from terrorism. That, however, is clearly not the case.
Over the past three decades not a single citizen of any one of those seven countries has been responsible for any act of terror in the U.S. In fact, Americans have a greater chance of being killed by a gun-toting toddler! Of course, the most curious omission from Trump’s list of seven countries is Saudi Arabia, the home country of almost all the 9/11 terrorists and the premier national source of radical Sunnism.
The ban is obviously nothing but a cruel and badly bungled back-door attempt at fulfilling Trump’s absurd campaign promise to ban Muslims from our shores.
In addition, the ban carves out an exception for Christians. How then can this be viewed as anything other than unjustifiable discrimination based on prejudice toward certain religious faiths and nationalities? That is clearly in violation of our constitution, our laws, and our values.
We are a nation of immigrants who have proudly celebrated our welcome to the “tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” in the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, one of our most cherished national emblems.
Is it Christian? We ask that question because President Trump claims to be a Presbyterian and because a large majority of white Christians (particularly Evangelicals at 81 percent) voted for him. Christians, Jews, and Muslims, of course, share an extensive range of sacred scripture and common values.
On the very weekend this ban was signed, Christians of many denominations heard read in their churches the prophetic words of Micah 6:8: “This is what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Justice, kindness and a humble attitude: This is the standard and this is the test of true faith, often enjoined upon God’s people in scripture as an imperative to welcome and treat fairly the alien and the foreigner.
Jesus said that at the very heart of the matter are the dual and inseparable commandments to love God with all our whole self and our neighbors as ourselves—practically expressed by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending to those imprisoned, and welcoming the stranger. Furthermore, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were refugees, fleeing for their very lives from the murderous tyranny of King Herod, just as millions of innocent Syrians have been fleeing the deadly tyranny of both Assad and ISIS.
Beyond the hundreds of thousands lives impacted, Trump’s ban runs contrary to the national interest. It will alienate a new generation of Muslim youth not only in the seven nations but also across the Muslim world. Commanders of the Caliphate must view Trump’s ban as a godsend, which will supply them with many fresh recruits who become convinced that the U.S. is embarking on a crusade against Islam.
And while the near-extermination of Christians in Iraq and Syria at the bloody hand of ISIS is of grave concern and demands action, the linking of it to the creation of Cristocracy in the U.S. must be rejected. If religion of all stripes flourishes in our country, it’s because of the absence of state-sponsored faith. Vice President Pence and others in Trump’s cabinet espouse a volatile mix of theocracy and Islamophobia that puts our cherished freedoms of both religion and non-belief at risk.
In short, Trump’s back-door Muslim ban must be rejected as inhumane, contrary to the national interest and at odds with Christian values.