In part 1 of this article, we outlined the Islamic terrorist problem. Before looking at a solution to a problem, one needs to understand the problem. Therefore, if you haven’t read part 1, click here to get a full understanding of the problem. Given that the evidence shows that foreign terrorists carry out their evil attacks by posing as refugee migrants, we are able to see the prophetic words that the wolf is coming to us in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15). Now, we have to ask, how does Jesus and his Church handle the wolf coming in disguised as sheep?
Jesus Has a Vetting System.
First, despite what people may think Jesus doesn’t pass out his graces to everyone. Indeed, we see examples in which he did not perform miracles to some (see Matthew 13:58) and he held back from fully accepting people (John 2:23-35). The reason he had to tell people no is because he knew their motives were corrupt. Also, before performing miracles to people, Jesus often converses with them so as to examine their hidden internal motivations. If people’s motives were legitimate, he performed the miracle for them. We can see this because in Jesus’ miracles he explained to that person that their faith had saved them. In other words, they came seeking a miracle for the right reason (see Matthew 9:28-29, 9:22, Luke 17:9). This can be seen in that exchange Jesus had with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15: 21-28. Notice in this exchange Jesus at first hinted that he was not at all interested in helping, in fact, referred to her people as “dogs” (verse 26). Now, what is he doing? He’s testing her to see if her motives for requesting a miracle are pure and without deception. Indeed, when she expressed humility in her response by acknowledging she’s associated with a dog and “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the masters’ table” (verse 27), Jesus granted her miracle because “her faith” (her internal motives) proved great. Now, if Jesus could tell that people didn’t have good motives and were simply using him for a miracle show, he didn’t perform a miracle. One such example is when he was in his hometown: “And he did not do many miracles there because their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58). So, bad faith = bad motives = no miracle from Jesus. This idea is clearly seen when the Pharisees demanded a miracle from Jesus. Jesus refused to give them a sign right then and there because he knew they were not concerned about healing themselves, but were merely attempting to trip him up (see Matthew 16:4). In another example we see that Jesus held back from people and didn’t embrace them:
“Many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in man” (John 2: 23-25).
In this scene, the people believed and trusted in Jesus, but Jesus didn’t trust them. Why didn’t he return the favor? Well, look at the next verse. Because he knew what was in man. He knows their thoughts, thus, he knows they are just using him to get what they want. Jesus knows their real motives are flawed, so he denies them. In fact, Jesus says in a somewhat frustrated way from another miracles request, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4: 48). It should become obvious to the reader that Jesus had a vetting system when people approached him. If people are coming to him for the wrong reasons, he rebukes their request or gives them a response they don’t necessarily want to hear. From this we can conclude having a thorough vetting system to weed out the bad motives is necessary, if fact, Biblical!
Now, admittedly no human person on Earth has the ability to know people’s real motives like Jesus. So, in the refugee situation, the vetting process is a bit murky because it is impossible to know the real motives of refugees. However, since Jesus gave us his guarantee that the gates of hell wouldn’t take down his Church, I suspect a good rule of thumb is to listen to the Church. After all, if we listen to the Church we are listening to Jesus.
The first thing we need to realize is that Jesus does not want us to be in the position of the gullible Catholic who makes themselves unaware of the situation by approaching this topic in a purely emotional way. In other words, if your thinking is primarily guided by feelings, you’re going to open your self up to being manipulated by clever emotional appeals. Approaching a topic with feelings of compassion and empathy is good so as long as it is not the only way you think. You also need wisdom. Now, we can apply this idea with what Jesus instructed to his disciples. In Matthew 10, our situation of terrorists coming to us as wolves is put into reality. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Let’s look at the first part of that verse. What happens when a sheep approaches a pack of wolves? The wolves devour the sheep. With this statement, Jesus is preparing his disciples to die in the same manner he died. We see that a few verses later Jesus teaches his disciples the uncomfortable but necessary fact that they need to be ready to die in a brutal fashion to carry out the faith: “They will deliver you to councils and flog you . . . and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake to bear testimony before them” (Matthew 10:17-18). And in other verses, he declares, “He who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10: 39). We also hear the uncomfortable message that to be a follower of Jesus will entail suffering and ultimately painful death: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8: 34-36). Moreover, Jesus plainly declared to his followers, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). So, Jesus is teaching in many instances that his followers need to be so committed to his teaching that they are willing to endure persecution, hardship, and death in the face of evil.
The reason he does this is because the Church grows more from the blood of martyrs than anything else. Indeed, the book of Revelation indicates the martyr’s death has the power to transform the lives of others (see Revelation 6:9-11, 12:11, Romans 12:1, Philippians 2:17). In the 2nd-century, Church Father Tertullian wrote that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” implying that the martyrs’ willing sacrifice of their lives leads to the conversion of others. This fact should let people know that the death of the martyrs have immense power just like Jesus’ death has immense power. Indeed, Christianity grew in the first 300 years precisely because everyone was so impressed by the large followers willing to die to live out their faith. As the new Martin Scorseese film, Silence, shows (here) in a dramatic way, the faith paradoxically grows as more die for their faith.
Given that we know the Church grows through death in carrying out the faith, let’s now see how we need to approach the Church’s teaching with the threat of terrorists looming. Right after Jesus teaches the painful idea that he is sending them out as sheep among wolves notice in the very next line he is indicating that in order to do this you need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” So, in order to live this teaching out, you need to approach the faith with your mind along with your heart. As we apply it to today’s scenario on terrorists (wolves) coming in as refugees (sheep) we need to approach this topic not simply by our knee-jerk emotions of the heart (let the poor people in!) or neither only by our rational mind (data shows some of these poor people are terrorist, therefore, don’t let them in!), but by a healthy balance of both – and in the proper order. This correct order is mind first, then heart/emotions. The fact is emotions are not a way to get at truth. Emotions are a response to truth. So, when approaching this topic, you need your brain first, then your heart. In fact, science shows us that when a person becomes overly emotional, the rational part of their brain (the cerebral cortex) doesn’t work properly (see here).
If you’re all heart and emotion, the Devil is going to dupe you just like he duped sweet, innocent Eve. Additionally, in the parable of the sower, Jesus hints that if you try to receive God via emotions it won’t last (see Matthew 13:20-22). Conversely, if you’re approaching this topic with all mind, you’ll fail to see the deep meaning of God’s plan is to embrace pain and suffering. Using both mind and heart is necessary when we approach any of God’s teaching as Jesus indicated, “Love God will all your heart, soul, and mind” (Matthew 22:37).
So, it is important for Catholics to not approach this topic solely by the emotions that we need to help refugees because this way of thinking makes people gullible and naïve to the fact that the wolf is coming in wearing sheep clothing. Additionally, we shouldn’t approach this topic solely by our intellect because our intellect will only focus on the evidence of terrorism and miss (because of original sin) the fact that we need to die living out our faith. After all, intellect cannot grasp this hard teaching, only the heart can. Thus, we need both brain (serpent) and heart (dove) – and in that order.
We need to take these refugees in not despite the wolf coming in to kill us, but precisely because the wolf is coming to kill us. Jesus tells his followers, I’m sending you out as sheep among wolves. You should expect the wolves to take you down and destroy you. Indeed, all the disciples turned apostles were brutally killed. Even if we allow the wolves (terrorists) to take us down as we serve the sheep (refugees), the faith will grow precisely because of our willingness to die living out the Church’s teaching. So, even if the wolf gets at us and kills us, the wolf loses and the Christian martyr wins. While it is extremely hard to do we are called to serve the sheep anyway so as to become a martyr of the faith. The reason why we as Catholics need to let the refugees come in is not simply because we naively think in terms of emotion and compassion towards the other, the reason we need to let the refugees come in is precisely to serve them with the risk of dying. In this way we will be practicing the faith while literally being prepared to die -just like the early apostles.
Now, there are many who do not want to die to spread the faith. There are many who naturally would prefer to limit the threat over and above of serving others with the high threat of dying. How do we respond to these people? Naturally by understanding this is a hard teaching and obviously, no one wants to do this. It is totally unrealistic to verbally insult them. They are only doing what fallen humanity naturally does – revolt at the fact that we have to die to live out the faith. Even Peter revolted at this teaching (see Matthew 16:21-23). Can you imagine people verbally insulting someone because that person is scared and doesn’t want to serve his country in war? Well, this is exactly what Catholics are doing when they revolt at people who don’t want the terrorists to come in because they fear death.
Now, the Church gives us a bit of an answer to our refugee-terrorist dilemma in the Catechism – be sure to read both paragraphs linked together.
CCC 2241 “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
From here we see that both the U.S. government and the refugees have a duty to respect each other. Very often people unquestioningly perceive a refugee as an innocent victim that can do no harm. In other words, the victim is perfect! However, the sin and falseness of humanity is universal and also applies to refugees. In the parable of the unrepented servant we see that, yes, a victim is fallen too. In fact, psychology shows us that people often use their victim status as a way to manipulate their situation for gain. There is a whole volume of research that is known as victim psychology that prove – yes the victim is not a saint (see here).
So, what do we say the refugees that are caught in the middle of the necessary vetting system of the U.S. and the bad wolf who has corrupted that process? You say that we are praying for you – for your protection, for your strength. You also say (per the Catechism) respect the vetting process. What’s the next thing we would say to refugees? Don’t play the “woe is me” victim card. There is no hint in any of Jesus’ teaching that he endorses the victim card – quite the opposite. First, Jesus gives us the hard teaching that when someone is persecuting you simply take it and even go beyond what they are doing to you and give them more opportunity to persecute you. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:39-41). Now, the reason he says this is because like it or not going through suffering and persecution because of your faith is God’s plan. Second, when there is an indication that someone was offended at Jesus’ teaching, Jesus didn’t submit to their cries of being offended (see Matthew 15:12-13, John 6:60-62). In other words, if they tried to play the victim card, he didn’t take the bait. Why? He knows what psychology has recently uncovered. As noted above, there is a whole volume of study in psychology that shows that people often like to play the victim so as to draw attention to themselves. The second someone uses their plight or persecution to draw attention to themselves for their own selfish directives, Jesus has left them. God wants us to take on persecution so the Church will grow, not so the victim can use it for gain. So, what we say to the refugee victim is, “Don’t use your situation to your advantage simply so you’ll get attention and empathy from others. You have been given a difficult yet rewarding mission. While your situation is dreadful and if no one can get to you to help you, please have assurance that taking on persecution for God’s greater work will have immense rewards.” As Jesus declares, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake [God’s plan], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5: 4).
Now that we’ve addressed the victim, what do we say to the pro-Trump advocate who thinks the travel restriction is a good idea because the refugee line has been so compromised by Islamic terrorists? We say, “I totally understand your position as it is very reasonable. Yours is a position that 95% of Americans follow within their own home. Very few people would let a homeless man in their home for the night if they’ve heard news of criminal home invasions occurring by those who pretended to be homeless. I understand that those people that get so bent out of shape and call you names for your position are being hypocritical, so I understand your frustration. However, the person who doesn’t want to let the homeless man in because he is so protective of his family needs to understand the hard teaching that Jesus calls us to go beyond our family even if it hurts. The same logic holds true for a nation.”
The problem with Israel in the Bible was they were too concerned and too protective of Israel only. However, Jesus hung out with non-Israelites and also healed them. Also, there were several instances where Jesus teaches to serve those beyond our family is a noble and necessary requirement in God’s plan. Indeed, the following verses seem to hint that once a person has served his family, serving others through God is the greater calling. These instances show that one needs to go beyond only thinking about your family (see Matthew 12: 47-50, Luke 9: 57-62, 12:53, 14:26).
Finally, what do you say to those who think the Church’s teaching to welcome in refugees is a no-brainer, and if you are for the travel restriction you’re an immoral person. I am going to be pretty direct with these folks because the need to be zapped out of their emotional daze. First, we say, “I understand it’s heart wrenching to see these images of refugees, but in this situation you’re letting your feelings cloud your judgment. You are not thinking; you are feeling. Because of this, you’ve made yourself naïve to the full context of the situation in that you are unaware that terrorist elements have compromised the refugee process. You fell for the terrorists trap hook, line, and sinker. Sadly, you are gullible and don’t even know it. The other hard fact you need to hear is you are being hypocritical. As stated before you would never let a homeless man into your house if you had knowledge of home invasions happened because criminals act like homeless people. If pressed you would restrict who comes into your home, yet when people apply this concept to the country they are flawed and you are some sort of saint? Now that you know the Church’s teaching on this situation is to serve others even more so with the threat of dying in order to be a martyr so the Church will grow, you can see that your response to those not holding the Church’s teaching is way out of whack. You wouldn’t respond to people’s failures in not following other hard teachings of the Church (no birth control, frequent confession, fasting, etc.) with a sort of shock of horror in labeling them as a demagogue. Rather, you would understand that they have a reasonable position and what we are asking of them in accepting the Church’s teaching is difficult.”
Finally, as we draw to a close we have to listen to the hard teaching of the Church. I personally, would be that honest person who is too protective and afraid of the potential threat that I would say the travel restriction, while hard, is necessary. However, I have to concede to Jesus’ Church on this one. She knows more than me. She can see that while the wolf has corrupted the line it is still necessary to hold the line precisely so She can grow. Hold the line so refugees can be served and potential martyrs are made so the Church can grow.
I end with this verse in John Chapter 10. Here, Jesus teaches how the good shepherd saves his sheep when danger enters. This might apply directly to our current situation.
“He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. . .he goes before them and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. . . Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10: 1-15).