What if Christians Were the Ones Being Banned?

Kent Van Til

Kent Van Til
February 9, 2017

Trump's pledge to prioritize Christian refugees should trouble, well, Christians.

February 9, 2017

Bad logic and bad theology.
Policy by its nature tends to single out some problems to address, while leaving others unaddressed. It's not about absolute equal treatment, which is impossible on the worldly level (or in our current age in general, though certainly something to strive for).
Christians are being singled out for inclusion because they have not, so far, proved to be a source of domestic terrorism; but they have been one of the most terrorized and persecuted groups in certain countries. (Muslims, if you count all repression, coercion, and worse, may be number one.) This is not intended, as far as I know, as a public judgment on the merits of the two religions or their ordinary adherents.
Once again .. as Christians, we should be peacemakers and helpers of the oppressed. That is not our government's explicit job, though we can seek to influence it to pursue these goals to the extent possible, without endangering the public it is charged to protect.
Also, let's please not lump in the 'willing to be killed' with the 'willing to kill'. They're sort of different things for a Christian.

Joe W
February 9, 2017

I would respond by saying, first, they should have a better system for vetting visitors/immigrants. Second, they have every right to deny entry into their country.

I don't necessarily agree with Trump's travel ban, but I also don't know if I agree with your comparison between Islam and Christianity, if you are suggesting there's no difference in how each religion views violence.

Tom Fisher
February 9, 2017

There is no ban on Muslims. There is a ban on travel from those countries that produce a disproportionate number of terrorists until their citizens can be more fully vetted. Why is it that you do not think it is important to know exactly who is coming into our country? Do you have the same attitude about people coming into your house? Do you let everyone who wants to come "visit" your family come into your house regardless of whether you know anything about them? My bet is that you lock your doors at night. Why would you do that if everyone can be trusted to have good intentions?

This is not a stand for or against any particular religion. It is an attempt to find out who is coming into this country and why.

February 9, 2017

I have followed your commentary for a few months, looking for "balance" against the evangelical party line. I am now convinced you are not balance at all. You hypothetical in this case is a straw man.It is Christians that are in danger of extinction and you are aiding and abetting. I will continue to follow the ACLJ, VOM ect. and discontinue your letter.

For God's people,
Paul Ernst

Richard Euson
February 9, 2017

I think the author is providing an example of mis-direction. First, Japan as a sovereign nation can determine its own immigration and visitor policies. To the best of my knowledge Japan allows virtually no immigration of non-Japanese to its country. Nor is there a legal mechanism for non-Japanese to become naturalized Japanese citizens. If I am mistaken, I am willing to be corrected. But this is my understanding of the current situation in Japan, based on a relative's recent and extensive business travel to that country.

Second, to the extent that Pres. Trump's executive order was to "pause" immigration of people from designated countries while the relevant agencies reviewed and revised vetting procedures and guidelines for immigrants, this seems to me to be entirely reasonable and within the scope of his executive authority. Calling his order "a Muslim ban" is disengenuous at best, since the order imposes the same pause in immigration upon all persons coming from the designated countries, regardless of their religion.

Third, while it is fashionable to characterize Islam as a religion of peace, even a cursory review of the history of Islam's expansion will show how deeply embedded within Islam is the reliance upon force to achieve its growth.

While the author notes that many different factors contribute to and foster a culture of violence, I believe it requires an act of willful blindness to ignore the role a totalizing ideology like Islam plays in the resort to violence. Naziism was another such totalizing ideology. I don't recall anyone seriously arguing that Naziism wasn't fundamentally evil, because after all Hitler was motivated at least in part by his frustration at being a two-bit artist. Similarly until Islam works through its own "reformation" and both owns and renounces its totalizing vectors, it will be only prudent to regard certain elements within Islam as posing a potential threat to the safety and liberty of the citizens of non-Islamic countries.

Johnny Price
February 9, 2017

The hypothetical case Mr. Van Til offers provides us with a comparison much akin to that of apples and oranges.

First, Chicago does not have a history of its citizens leaving for Japan for the explicit purpose of mass murder of the Japanese people and the destruction of Japanese property and its way of life.

Second, Mr. Van Til’s imaginary ban gives no indication that it is temporary, as is the case with President Trump’s: a TEMPORARY ban which provides an opportunity to improve the screening of those coming from the seven countries that President Obama listed as the most dangerous to Americans.

In doing so, President Trump (although, admittedly, somewhat clumsily) is exercising his God-ordained responsibility to protect the American people.

February 9, 2017

First, countries legitimately limit those who pass there borders. This is inherent in national sovereignty. The issue is whether this is being used in a way consistent with Christian values.

This is where the analogy breaks down. Assuming the Japanese prime minister is not a Christian, expecting him to act as one is unreasonable. If he is a Christian, then assuming his action is anti-christian bias is also unreasonable.

So we need to take such a ban on its face, and assume that our leaders are acting to protect and to assure quiet lives.

Both are consistent with scripture

Eric Van Dyken
February 9, 2017

Hello Kent,

I don't think the vast majority of Christians would be at all concerned with the hypothetical order that you pose. There is too much actual persecution of Christians world-wide to be worked up about temporary targeted travel restrictions put in place by a government charged first with protecting the safety of its citizens.

You are most certainly correct that there are many more factors than religion that lead to or predict violence, which is why depictions of Trump's order as a Muslim ban (which is the most common descriptor being used by media outlets) is dishonest and does not paint an accurate picture. It is exactly because other indicators are involved that the specific countries in the order are listed. If Trump wanted to ban Muslims based on fear and hatred of Muslims (as the picture with this article seems to want to communicate), why would he not list Morocco, Algeria, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey, Egypt, and Bangladesh, which collectively make up about 63 percent of the world Muslim population? Why list a group of countries that make up only about 12 percent of the world Muslim population? If Trump is trying to "ban Muslims", he is not doing a very good job. Maybe, just maybe, he took a list of dangerous and unstable countries formulated by President Obama (does he hate and fear Muslims too?) and said that we should examine our process for allowing people from these areas into our country, lest he fail in is most basic duty to protect American citizens.

February 9, 2017

I agree with the arguments that have been posted already... bad logic and bad theology.

There is no moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity - and quite frankly, there's no comparison between the persecution of the two either!

If the writer REALLY wants to make a comparison between Islamist and Christians, he would do well in writing a story about ""Muslim Privilege: What if muslims were being executed at the rate Christians are"

THAT's a story that would show the real difference in the world we live in...

February 9, 2017

In Reply to Joe W (comment #29956)
Not suggesting that at all. In fact that's part of my point. For some reason people now make false equivalences. At the root, we're all the same, but in historical / cultural / current events contexts, there is a lot of difference. Especially for those who want it that way.

Doug Vande Griend
February 9, 2017

If I'm not mistaken, the executive order Trump actually signed gave priority to those of "minority religions," not just those of the Christian faith. And there is some logic in that given that the those who seek to murder others are of the majority religion.

Also instructive in some way is the fact that Christians have to date made up a disproportionate minority of refugees allowed to come to the United States. No one knows why (everyone says at least) this is the case but it is the case. This Trump ordered preference in favor of Christians might be looked as as a kind of "affirmative action" to right past wrongs. Certainly, most opponents to Trump's EO have supported "affirmative action" before to right past wrongs. Why not here?

Frankly, I don't think American Christians would much care if Japan "extreme vetted" those who would come to Japan from Chicago, or even temporarily ban them while the mechanics of "extreme vetting" was figured out by Japanese agencies in charge of such things. Indeed, I suspect the American Christian response would generally be supportive -- or at least acquiescing and understanding -- of such a Japanese action. Nor would American Christians deem it such a great tragedy to be denied entrance to another country.

When Christians were being beheaded by ISIS, some took note but there was no public or governmental expression of outrage as to the religious targeting of the Christians that was anything near the size or intensity of opposition to this Trump executive order, even among most Christians, especially mainline denominations. My observation of the politically liberal Christian community is that they are relatively silent when Christians are murdered by Muslims, even by outrageous on-camera beheadings, but then come politically alive when Muslims are arguably slighted in much lesser ways.

February 9, 2017

I've read this piece five or six times now, and I feel like I'm missing something. I can't seem to articulate what the author's actual thesis is here--at least not without having to insert some unsubstantiated assumptions. It's obviously critical of Trump's executive order, but I can't quite tease out what the religious connection is between why Christians should be upset that persecuted Christians from a Muslim majority nation are getting preferred refugee status. The fictional Japan scenario muddies rather than clears up the picture for me, too, because there's not an analogous construct where by Abe is giving preferential status to non-Christians trying to enter the country from Chicago--hence no reason why Christians should really care any more than any other American about whether or not they can enter Japan.

Is the argument against the executive order in general, or is it specifically an objection to Trump's willingness to give priority refugee status to persecuted Christians?

Paul Robinson
February 9, 2017

I enjoy discussion and differing points of view and think trying to understand and think about issues from alternative perspective is a good and Godly practice.
But 'fake news' based on 1/2 truth, distortion of the facts or outright lies (something being practiced right across the political spectrum) is something else.
This is a Christian web site.
We do not serve the father of lies.
There is no ban against any particular religion.

Muslim citizens of every country in the world except for 6 or 7 are unaffected by this executive order.

And all citizens (of all faiths) of the 6 or 7 countries named are affected. And lawful mechanisms for case by case exemptions have been put in place.

This is a temporary measure to review the refugee / immigration system from an extremely limited number of countries to see if the government can do a better job of screening immigrants/refugees coming from area of high risk of Islamic Terrorism.

If there was an Ebola outbreak in several countries I would expect a similar action until effective and safe screening of immigrants/refugees from the affected countries were developed and put in place.

99% of the persecution and killing of Muslims around the world has been at the hands of Muslim extermists ... not Western countries, Israel or right wing rascist nationalist groups.

There are legitimate issues about any President's and countries actions. But this issue has been completely mis represented.

Most of the countries affected by this order have a total and permanent ban of entry of anyone with an Israeli passport (and people with other national passports with Israel entry /exit stamps in them are iften turned back from entry without cause or explanation). But no media outrage or commentary about that.

The main stream media is utterly complicit in this hyperbole and distortion of the facts. That's fine, they are their to make money and pysh agendas.

This website should not follow their lead and neither should any Christian to who honour truth.

There is no 'Muslim' ban.

Not in law or policy.

That is the truth.

Tom R.
February 9, 2017

This is not a ban. it is a delay to install a better vetting process so we don't have attacks within our country. ISIS has already stated they will infiltrate with the refugees. This is not bigotry against all Muslims. This is to protect the U.S. from being attacked. All should have to go through this though which is proper but the word ban should not be used. The word Ban has been stated and emphasized by the rhetoric of the media. Yes I know President Trump said it. But if you look at his actions you will see all this is, is to set up a more protective posture on admitting immigrants to our country.

Christopher Kanas
February 9, 2017

If Christians were the ones going around shooting crowds of innocent people, I'd be totally in agreement with the Japanese prime minister.

February 9, 2017

A better rollout of the implementation of the "travel ban" would have been great! However, the (7) nation's included of course we're from the list developed and efforts signed by then President Obama in Dec. 2015 and Feb. 2016. The Muslim population doesn't represent more than 15% of all Muslims and several predominately Muslim nations (IRAN was the only one to make the top 10 countries) . So, a "ban on Muslims" this IS NOT! Those that choose to protest every other breath, by the new administration, plan on no one latching onto their movement, doing any independent research, before they participate in knee-jerk reactions and posts. So too, with the poor analogy this article uses. Honest debate based on facts, not speculations of what the future might bring, analogies or talking points made out of thin air and incomplete logic, is what is needed to effect positive change. Instead most posts are nothing more than complain and moan sessions, that do not foster any solution. The TEMPORARY BAN instead, may well have been an effort to thwart any possible incursions, planned ahead of time to be carried out by "evil-doers" of any race or creed, during the inaugural year of a new administration, following one that had done precious little to beat back the ISIS or would be terrorists. This was the pattern successfully used, by the practice tests of the 1993 World Trade Tower garage explosions, and the many other "dry runs" by terrorists in training, during the Clinton Administration. Those efforts came to fruition, as we all know SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. You could argue why they did not do the same during the early months of the Obama administration, but while not perfect, we had not been tested, during the 8 years of G.W. Bush to the same degree and were much more alert to threats, than in 2001-2002. It seems foolish to blame a new president for an abundance of caution. I realize, that was then and this is now, but that effort to disqualify my remarks, falls short and instead supports the adage; "If you continue to do, what you've always done; you'll continue to get what you always got." Vigilance is important, whenever you live in a world that includes those that have raised HATE, to a fine art! Yes, more thorough vetting is needed, but exactly how do you do that, quickly and effectively, when people come from countries with so little government structure or accurate records, and many known forgeries of documents. Add that to ailing Visa Waiver system, with many nations that even Sen. Chuckey Schumer is on video saying MUST be revamped and improved! That's right Chuck, we have this in writing and on video. The only thing that changed is who is in the White House now, even though you made these observations in 2015. Solutions, will never come if people will not agree, that the problem is not each other, but a common enemy to the race of man.

Marion Van Soelen
February 9, 2017

Wow! I am thankful for the wonderful comments recorded on this site. I hope you learned something here Kent, and maybe others also who have joined the liberal media in mis-representing the desire of our President to provide for the safety (required by the Constitution) of those of us who live in this country.

Richard Sprandel
February 9, 2017

I agree that Christians, or any other citizens, that do not meet the standards of T admin branded religiosity could conceivably be subject to adverse consideration by political power brokers. First, there must be a seperation of church and state. We certainly do not need another McCarthyesque era based on religion or spiritual beliefs.

Lorraine Smith
February 9, 2017

In Reply to Patrick (comment #29954)
Great reply. Completely agree

Kent VanTil
February 10, 2017

I find it hard to believe that readers can't see or accept this analogy. In this fictitious case, Japan bans entrance to specific foreigners who are demonstrably and statistically more violent than their own people. The Prime Minister is motivated to do so in order to assure the security of his nation. He denies that religion has anything to do with the ban, although the ban does clearly single out one religion. Yet, recognizing that religion is an ultimate value would entail the belief that killing or being killed is almost always justified in broadly religious terms. All religions and ideologies have gone badly wrong and violent in their histories. I see very little space between the actual American ban and the fictitious one I created.

February 10, 2017

Not sure I totally agree with, "First, all people are inherently violent..." Nevertheless, an interesting analogy and thought-provoking article. Thank you for pushing the envelope to spur our thinking.

"Violence is, essentially, a confession of ultimate inarticulateness." -Time Magazine.

Doug Vande Griend
February 10, 2017

Kent. Respectfully, I think you "find it hard to believe that readers can't see...", as you say, because you latch on really hard to what the political left says. As much as you might think others should listen better to what you are saying, the reverse might also be true.

We live in political no-compromise, don't listen to the other side times. Right now, the political left, which to me seems to be your home, has committed to oppose anything, just anything, that comes from the "other side." Again respectfully, your article seems to come from that perspective. And just maybe, that's why you perceive that others just don't understand.

Clay Carlson
February 10, 2017

Hi Kent, thanks for the thought provoking article. The numerous comments suggest you have provided an idea worth thinking and writing about.

Taking your analogy further, Abe would then prohibit refugees indefinitely* from the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. Your scenario helps us see that a blanket prohibition on letting those fleeing terrible violence** from finding refuge in a safe land would be monstrous and absurd. Especially if there were already families on their way after years of screening***.

Lord have mercy on us.

Keep up the good work Kent and TC.

*Executive order, section 5C Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f). from: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/text-of-trump-executive-order-nation-ban-refugees/



John Twinem
February 10, 2017

The analogy is facile and breaks down readily. If the ban doesn't extend to the citizens of San Antonio, many of whom are Christian, it's obviously not a religious ban. On the other hand, to turn the analogy on its head using present day numbers, if 1/3 of Chicago Christians expressed agreement with a mission that involved destruction of the Japanese (as is presently the case for Islam) then it would be logical to give the vetting process a hard look.

Charles Green
April 7, 2017

Sorry to be so late to the party. Just one thought about both the parable and the comments on it.

Like any parable, the comparisons aren’t exact. This parable, like others, is intended to teach one big truth, not to have accurate one-to-one correspondence in every way between the parable and the issue it illuminates. Picking at the details is a (deliberately?) misguided distraction.

From that perspective, Kent’s parable teaches a very important lesson, the need for which is made evident by many of the comments written in response. It is a fact--not a statement of political ideology--that the vast majority of Muslims, even from the nations in Trump’s ban, are peaceful. Do we need to protect ourselves against potential terrorists, regardless of their religion or ideology? Of course. Do we need to protect ourselves against the vast majority of people affected by the ban? Of course not.

And most pertinent to the parable itself: are we insensitive to the pain this ban has caused innocent people because we would rather view them as sub-human caricatures than fellow children of God? Again, many of the comments make that answer clear, affirming the parable’s inherent truth.

Thanks, Kent, for your prophetic voice. I am grateful for it.

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