"Mercy," said the Pope, "is much more effective than walls."
A few days before the U.S. presidential election and at a time when European countries are hastily constructing barricades along their borders, Pope Francis said that nations should not be building walls, but bridges. "Mercy," said the Pope, "is much more effective than walls."
He added that "all walls fall." Well, yes. At the Last Trumpet we can expect all the walls to come tumbling down, but until then, walls will still prove useful and even necessary. Despite the Pope's suggestion that walls are somehow un-Christian, they are certainly not un-Biblical. In several places, the Bible acknowledges the importance of walls. In the Book of Revelation, the Holy City of Jerusalem is described as being surrounded with "a great, high wall" (Rev 21: 12). And in Isaiah, the Lord says:
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen. (Is 62: 6)
Why do you need watchmen? To keep an eye out for enemies, of course. The Old Testament authors took the existence of enemies for granted. So did Jesus. He mentions enemies on several occasions. Moreover, in the parable of the householder and the thieves, he acknowledges the legitimacy of defending one's house against break-ins (Mt 24: 43). That would seem to imply that walls and bolted doors are not necessarily unreasonable. Just as you can assume that the poor will always be with you, you can assume that, human nature being what it is, you will always need to take precautions against enemies.
But that's the point that Pope Francis seems reluctant to admit. Judging by some of his statements, he seems at times to assume that human nature is not what it always has been — damaged by original sin, and prone to lawlessness. At times, Francis seems to assume the emergence of a new and improved human nature — one that has no need of walls, locked doors, and borders. Pope Francis admits that there are still some nasty characters around — arms dealers, capitalists, and enemies of the environment — but he sometimes gives the impression that the vast majority are as innocent of sinful tendencies as any noble savage in a Rousseauian rainforest. You can let them into your country by the millions and they will only repay you with kindness and gratitude.
Three things need to be considered in regard to mass migration. First, sin never goes out of style. It is built into our nature. And third worlders, the poor, and the needy are not exempt from it. We should trust our fellow man to the extent that he seems trustworthy, but we should also trust that he, like us, is flawed by original sin, and take precautions accordingly. If he is coming to your neighborhood in the company of 10,000 other flawed humans, those precautions might even involve the building of walls and fences.
The second point to keep in mind is that Christ's commands are by and large directed to individuals, not to nations. It's one thing to take a chance with your own family's security by sheltering the homeless in your house. It's another thing altogether to have the homeless quartered in your house by state authorities without your consent. The former is an act of charity, the latter is an act of submission.
For the most part, the resettlement of refugees into Europe and America is being accomplished by government diktat. You, the citizen, are not being asked to consent, you are being told to comply. In many cases, you are not even being told. You just wake up one morning to find that the majority of the population of your quaint European village is now composed of Syrians or Iraqis. Or, if you live in Arlington, Virginia, or Waterford, Michigan, or Shelbyville, Tennessee, you find out, after the fact, that the federal Refugee Resettlement Program has targeted your town to take in X number of Syrian refugees or Y number of Somalis. Charity used to begin at home, now it begins at the home office of some giant federal bureaucracy. To paraphrase the SS officer in a 1940s movie, "Vee haf ways of making you charitable."
The third point to keep in mind when considering what to do about mass migration and resettlement is the common good. It's not enough to have good intentions. There should be some reasonable expectation that the resettlement will not result in more harm than good.
In the case of the U.S. government and the various European governments that have opened their borders to Muslim refugees, it's not at all clear that they act with the best of intentions. For example, Bat Ye'or, the historian of dhimmitude, sees a deliberate plan by elites to turn Europe into "Eurabia." But let's assume that the various Christian groups who support mass migration do act out of good intentions. Here in the U.S., for example, the actual relocation of refugees is carried out in large part by church organizations such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (in conjunction with Catholic Charities) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
Some critics claim that these Christian agencies are motivated primarily by the lure of sizeable government payments, but let's assume that the motives are for the most part genuinely charitable. Even in that case, however, there is an obligation to consider the common good. And in order to do that, you have to make a reasonable assessment of the situation. This is not an argument for situational ethics, but an argument for being sure that you understand the nature of the situation. If the homeless person you invite into your house has a record of stealing money and abusing children, your act of charity may turn out to be an act of irresponsibility.
In other words, you have a responsibility to get your facts straight. Take the case of the British foster mother who discovered that the 12-year-old Afghan refugee orphan she cared for was actually 21 years old. A dental check revealed that the "boy" who shared a room with three of the woman's children was approximately a decade older than he had claimed. Moreover, a subsequent investigation found Taliban and child abuse material on his cell phone. His last words to the mother were "I'll kill you and I know where your children are."
This is not an isolated incident. There have been a number of cases in the UK of young Aladdins who, on closer inspection, turn out to be more of a Jafar-ish age and disposition. Last year, of 574 "child" refugees whose age was called into question, 371 were found to be adults.
Like the foster mother who mistook a 21-year-old for a 12-year-old, Christian leaders who encourage Muslim migration and church agencies who actually resettle refugees should be careful to get their facts straight. Here are some facts that ought to be taken into consideration:
- During the first six months of 2016, migrants committed 142,500 crimes in Germany (the data includes only those crimes in which a suspect was apprehended).
- On New Years' Eve, 2016, over 1,200 German women were assaulted by Arab and North African men.
- Sweden, which has admitted an extremely high number of Muslim refugees in proportion to its small population, is the rape capital of the Northern Hemisphere.
- Christians in European refugee centers are regularly intimidated, assaulted, and raped by Muslim refugees.
- The Islamic State has promised to infiltrate the refugee population with jihadists.
- Six of the jihadists involved in the Paris massacre entered Europe as "refugees."
- According to a Red Cross poll, more than half the French population live in constant fear of a jihad attack.
In view of such facts, it's reasonable to ask if the common good is served by the admittance of millions of unvetted refugees and migrants. Are Christians who support and encourage this resettlement process guilty of naïveté, or worse, reckless endangerment? Are they to be commended for their charity or criticized for their short-sightedness?
And — perhaps the most important question — have they become participants in an effort to undermine the Christian character of the West? Have Church leaders and Church agencies become unwitting accomplices in a deliberate attempt to alter the political and religious balance in Western nations? Have they, in short, become unsuspecting agents of the Islamization and de-Christianization of the West?
From one perspective, Church leaders who endorse and support the settlement of Muslims in the West are simply obeying the injunctions to welcome the stranger and shelter the homeless. From another perspective, they, like the citizens of Troy, are opening the gates to a mortal enemy.
According to an African proverb, one shouldn't tear down a fence until he knows why it was put up. Until we have a better handle on the nature and purpose of today's vast Muslim resettlement, it might not be wise to tear down all the walls.
William Kilpatrick. "When Walls Are More Merciful Than Bridges." Crisis Magazine (November 14, 2016).
Reprinted with permission of Crisis Magazine.
William K. Kilpatrick is Professor Emeritus of Education at Boston College and the author of: Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West, Great Lessons in Virtue and Character: A Treasury of Classic Animal Stories, Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching your Child Moral Values Through Stories and Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong. William Kilpatrick is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.Copyright © 2016 Crisis Magazine
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