No Easy Answers


I listened to a podcast this morning as I ran, one on the creative life, on finding your voice. The men on the show discussed a number of topics, from being aware of your audience to determining your identity to overcoming fear in order to achieve new things. It was while they were discussing this last point that the guest (Todd Henry) said something that stuck with me:

Fear often comes disguised as wisdom.

He was speaking specifically about being creative, about doing something new in your art or your writing, about the things your friends or relatives (or even your own inner critic) might say when you announce some big, bold thing you want to try. The words they say to you, the words you say to yourself, might encourage caution or care, might warn against potential pitfalls, might entreat you to stay warm, comfortable, safe, doing what you’ve always done, and they might sound like wisdom. But there’s a good chance there’s some fear at play there, too.

Fear often comes disguised as wisdom.

He was speaking specifically about being creative, but his words apply to the rest of life, too.

There’s this: the situation in the Middle East is a thorny, difficult, complex one, with no easy answers, no black and white solutions. It’s an ugly world we inhabit, where right is not always clear, where good often masquerades as bad, and vice versa.

There are those who say allowing refugees to enter our country invites the kinds of attacks we’ve seen in Beirut, in Paris, in Kabul. That this is unnecessary risk, that we can help those who need it where they are without bringing them here, to our soil. They say that it is right and good and prudent to close our borders, to refuse to allow anyone of Middle Eastern descent to come in, that any other action is naïve and foolish.

This sounds like wisdom, perhaps, and they might be right. They might be. I don’t have all the answers, though I wish that I did.

This sounds like wisdom, but still I wonder: is it merely fear, disguised?

There’s a fine line to walk here, because sometimes what seems wise really is wise. Sometimes, what seems right really is right. But sometimes, it isn’t.

And when all is said and done, I would prefer to act out of misguided love, to act in a way that is, perhaps, foolish, than to act out of fear.

There are many ways to show love. There are many ways to help. But all of these displaced people? They need somewhere to go. They need somewhere to land. And if the US closes her doors and Europe follows suit, where does that leave them? What option will they have but to return to their homelands, return to poverty, return to the arms of the terrorists, return with the message that ISIS was right, that the people of the West are greedy and evil and uncaring? What option will they have? To stay in the overcrowded and underfunded camps? They are no place to build a life, no place to raise a family. What choice will they have but desperation and poverty, which, when coupled with a smoldering resentment toward those who refused to help, creates a perfect breeding ground for the next generation of terror?

There are many ways to show love, but there’s only so much that I, as an individual, can do. I cannot rehouse the refugees, cannot welcome them into my home, cannot, indeed, travel to where they are to work with my own two hands without the blessing of the various governments involved. If some long-term, far-reaching change is to happen, if some mass project is to be undertaken to care for these people in need, it will be with the aid and the blessing of the nations of the free world, and we, as citizens of a free country with a government that is for the people and by the people, must petition our leaders to act, must tell them we stand with the refugees.

This does not negate our individual responsibilities, of course, to give and to pray and to act and to help in ways that we see fit. But the refugees need new homelands, and that cannot happen without governments acting.

We can be wise in this, and we can still help those in need. The 10,000 refugees in question, the ones around whom all of this uproar originated, are in the middle of an extensive vetting process, one that takes 18-24 months to complete. If their demographics match those of the refugees who have already entered the United States, more than half of them will be children.

Is there still risk, even with the vetting process, even if half of those who come are kids? Of course there is. There is always risk when we open our borders, be it to refugees from Syria or to citizens of London. Is the system perfect? No. Some evil might slip through the cracks. Could these 10,000 bring crime with them? Yes. But there is always risk, always danger when we choose to love.

We can let these 10,000 refugees come. We can, and I believe we should. We should not allow the attacks in Paris to cause more harm to people who have already suffered enough at the hands of ISIS.

I wrote a post with, perhaps, an inflammatory title, though I did not mean for it to be. For the sake of humility, for the sake of clarity, I want to say this:

The terrorists, as their very name implies, wish to strike fear and terror into the hearts of their victims. They want to dominate, yes, to take over Western civilization and subjugate it to Sharia law, and they hope to bring that about by making us afraid, by making us cower before them. They win when we react out of fear, when we change what we do and who we are because we fear what they might do to us. If it is fear that closes our borders, then the terrorists have won.

I know, I know, I know there are no easy answers. The situation in the Middle East is complex, and I am sorry if anything I have said in this space implies otherwise.

If my words seemed too strong, if they seemed to castigate those with opinions that do not match my own, please forgive me. They were born from a place of passion, from a deep desire to help those who are suffering. I look at these pictures of children lying on the ground and I see my own daughter there and, with everything in me, I want to give them somewhere safe to call home. If that was me, in those photographs, in those camps, desperate with nowhere to go, nowhere to turn, I would want the world to let me in. I would want the world to offer me a safe place to land. I would want the world to show me love.

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. –Deuteronomy 10:17-19

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