Fear-based decision making almost always harms those that we consider “other.”

75 years after the signing of Executive Order 9066, the legislation that initiated the mass incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese and Japanese American people, we find ourselves at a critical time of reflection and action. It is no secret that the past few months in the United States have been marked by two significant drivers- fear and divisive self-protection. There is no more apparent reflection of this reality than in the signing and attempted implementation of the Executive Order that indefinitely detains, targets, and suspends the entry of refugees (most notably from Syria) and immigrants into the United States.


A recent study from Pew Research noted that 59% of the respondents disapproved of the ban, while 39% agreed that it was an appropriate course of action. The more revealing statistics however, was that 76% of White Evangelical identifying Christians and 50% of Christians in general approve of the executive order.


This is not surprising. American Christianity over the last 241 years has set its highest values on the protection of family, land, and property in the name of Jesus. However, while it is clear that Jesus has things to say about each of these issues, the values of family and safety first more resemble the teachings of John Locke who, in 1689 said:


“Reason, which is that Law, reaches all Mankind, who would but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions.”


Simply put, reason is not the law of a Christian- Christ is. With our Christianity set on the values of nationalism over the reality of Jesus’ incoming Kingdom, it is easy to be people who operate out of fear for our nation, for our own lives, and for the lives of people around us. Yet, the story of Jesus is inherently one of risk and sacrifice. Our American Christianity has been co-opted by the values of our nation instead of centering our lives about the law and life of Jesus. The continued mantra of Donald Trump to “put America first.” is in direct opposition to the King we serve who not only claims that the least are elevated and most valued in his kingdom, but who also made himself the least in taking on human flesh to sojourn on earth with us. It is deeply ironic that when Jesus invites his people to become the least, that we co-opt our nation’s obsession with power in the name of Jesus in order to try to be “the greatest.”


It is jarring what we as Christians will do in the name of self-protection and nationalism while simultaneously neglecting Jesus’ (and frankly the entire narrative of scripture) teachings to give ourselves generously on behalf of others. We must understand that the values of self-protection and nationalism do not come without great cost---self protection for some means the exclusion, incarceration, and demonizing of others. Our Muslim brothers, sisters, and family are certainly no exception.


The model of Jesus is one of lowering oneself and taking the posture of a servant to love and practically care for the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, and the sick. He says that when we practice these things we do so for him. It seems, however, that when the stranger is in our airport in deep need of a welcome, we turn them away. We are functionally deporting Jesus.


A false gospel rooted in self-protection, in the name of a God who gave his very life for his enemies, creates a reflex toward self-protection that has historically stripped and is presently stripping refugees around the world of the opportunity to have their basic needs met.


The clear experience of fear in Executive Order 9066 and Trump's refugee ban should serve as a mirror to our own theology. Do we believe in the goodness of the way of Jesus or are we more interested in the ideology of nationalism that calls fear-based decision making a conservative choice?


See, when our theology is rooted in fear and selfishness we will always claim that we are being conservative or “looking out for what is most important;” however, decisions made out of reflexive fear almost always end poorly. We are not meant to be controlled by fear (note the 350+ times scripture calls us to not fear) and excuse ourselves as simply being conservative. As Executive Order 9066 has taught us, conservative decisions can still cause the dehumanizing of people made in the image of God. We must choose to be a people who reject the norms of our cultural milieu and exchange them, risk and all, for the way of Jesus that welcomes the stranger and associates deeply with those who have the most need; not just spiritually, but as holistic beings.


If we cannot choose to see clearly the way of Jesus through our nationalism, we ought at least be honest that what we are choosing isn’t conservatism in the name of Jesus, but xenophobia and exclusion in the spirit of nationalism and empire.





Photo Credit//dryhead