It’s Complicated

A Syrian refugee holding his son and daughter breaks out in tears of joy after arriving on the shore of the island of Kos in Greece.

Some questions have more than one correct answer.  Not every problem offers a simple solution.  For example, the ongoing debate surrounding Donald Trump’s executive order concerning refugees from certain nations.

Compassion vs. caution.  I’ve heard and read passionate arguments from both sides.  I tend to agree with them all.  Caution is good.  Compassion is obviously good.  But when it comes to a wise balance of the two, that’s where the wheels come off.

I’ve picked up just a few hitchhikers over the years.  Shouldn’t we all feel bad for the guy walking down the highway on a 10 degree day?  Sure.  But it’s always a risk.  The unknown.  But in the cases where I have given a ride to strangers, I never did so when I had my wife or children with me.  Why?  It’s one thing to choose to take risks for yourself.  It’s quite another to dive into the unknown and assume risk for others.  This is the problem that faces leaders of the USA.  How much risk is too much risk.  How much compassion is simply not enough?  Who can we trust when so many levels of “certainty” seem to exist.

My uneducated opinion is that Obama downplayed the potential risk involved in admitting refugees, and Trump simply undervalues compassion.  We are a nation made up of people who unquestionably have different views about how to properly balance the two.  But at the same time, people with opposing views mostly want the same things.  We want a safe country, safe from terror attacks.  And we want to do what we can to ease human suffering, especially in cases where the matter has an urgency to it, as it does in Syria. We just have different ideas about how to achieve these things.  Balance.

Some people lean toward the side of compassion.  Some people lean toward the side of safety.  I’m thankful to be surrounded by both types of people.  People care.  That’s a good thing.

I wouldn’t tell someone that they’re a bad person or a bad Christian for not being in 100% agreement with me on a stance of taking in as many refugees as possible.  I wouldn’t call someone a hate-monger if their position was that we should severely limit immigration from certain nations.

I’ve heard it said that the life of one American doesn’t have more value than the life of a person from another nation.  For an individual, especially for a follower of Christ, this is true.  But when it comes to our government, nothing can be further from the truth.  When we reach a time when our government doesn’t value our lives above the lives of those in other countries, then we may cease to have a country.

In the book, “All the Gallant Men”, USS Arizona crewman Donald Stratton recounts the horrors he witnessed and endured during and after the Pearl Harbor attack.  As his memoirs were put to paper 75 years later (at the age of 95, one of four living USS Arizona survivors), great attention was given to a burning question:


“What could we, as a nation, have done to prevent this terrible tragedy?”

Obviously, refugees aren’t the Japanese army.  But it does raise the point of the overwhelming responsibility of government to protect its people from danger, both seen and unseen.

How many people have looked for ways to blame our government for the Sept 11 terror attacks?  “They should have prevented it.”  I don’t buy that.  From the heartache, the conspiracy theories, and blame game arises a great need to learn from the past.


You can’t foresee every danger.  Every catastrophe cannot be prevented, but we have to do everything in our power to see that certain things never happen again.  We can’t downplay the presence of evil or of the hatred that exists toward our country.

I’m not saying we should let in zero refugees.  I’m not saying we should let in 2 million. But I am saying that some things are worth taking the time to get it right.  It’s a matter that’s worthy of swift movement, but diligence in our actions cannot be sacrificed for the sake of fear of inconveniencing a few.

“Never forget” really does mean “never forget” for some.

My hope is for a nation that’s safe.  My hope is for a nation that cares about humanity.  I don’t really know the best way to pull that off.  Maybe a good start would be for a lot of folks to stop pretending like they have all the answers.  They don’t.  When you take a look at the big picture…………

It’s complicated.


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