Don't Read The Comments

Normally, I try and write with a level head.  I take a step back from the heat of a moment, calm my emotions, and present what I have to say in a calm and rational manner.  Today is not that day.

You might remember a post I wrote about a year ago, with just a few of my tangled-up thoughts about the Syrian refugee crisis.  Right after that, the horrible attacks in Paris happened, and I'm sorry to say that I stopped speaking out on the matter.  The fear in the world was too volatile, and my own fear of backlash towards my speaking out was too great.  But sometimes faith has to be greater than fear, "for God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." (2 Tim. 1:7)

There is a local organization, called Canopy Northwest Arkansas, that was founded with the purpose of helping displaced refugees that come to our area to receive support as they acclimate to their new homes.  As the first group of refugees are preparing to move to Northwest Arkansas, the organization and resettlement efforts have gained some publicity, mostly through local news networks.  I know this, not because I watch the news (since we don't have cable, we survive on Netflix and Hulu), but because of the reactions, comments, and shares from friends on the online soapbox known as Facebook.  For every story on my newsfeed saying "so-and-so liked this article," there was another one following up with "so-and-so (whom I still love and respect) reacted to this article."  With an angry face.

Curiosity got the better of me, of course, so I clicked through to the comments to see what the local climate was towards these refugees.  The dark underbelly of the internet did not disappoint.

"Why are we helping them when there's still homeless people here that need help?"

"What about the hundreds of foster kids?  Don't they deserve to be placed first?"

"I hope these do-gooders are willing to let these parasites live with them, I bet after a week they'll be changing their tune."

"Why is this our problem?  They caused their own war, let them bomb themselves into oblivion."

The truth is, if you want to find out where the scared, xenophobic, petty people are hiding, all you have to do is put an article on Facebook about "scary foreign people" (italics added for sarcasm).  I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of amazing, loving people, so when I read words steeped in fear and hysteria, it honestly shocks me.  I forget how hateful we can be to each other sometimes.

I decided to post here, rather than 'feeding the trolls' online, so if you're someone who holds any of those opinions, consider this my open letter as a response.

If you genuinely want to help the homeless in our community, volunteer here:

If you want to help veterans wounded in the line of duty, start here:

If you want to find out more about how to welcome foster kids into your home, this organization is an amazing resource:

If you are a Christian who thinks that our love should only be extended to people in our community, who share the same beliefs, traditions, and birthplaces, I'm not going to respond with my own words.  I'll leave you with these instead:

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’[a] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies![b] Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends,[c] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."
(Matthew 5:43-48)

I can understand being afraid.  I spend all my time with my kids at the park counting to three, just so I know they haven't been abducted in the two seconds when I looked away.  I park next to the cart corral at Wal-Mart, so I can plunk two of my three kids immediately into a cart so they can't wander off in a dangerous parking lot.  I walk to my car after dark with my keys between my knuckles, just in case I'm attacked.  Whether I would actually be able to stab someone if necessary remains to be seen.  My point is, I understand wanting to be on alert, but at the end of the day, I'm not really in charge of my own or my family's safety.  God is.  And even if you're worried about living next to someone of a different religion, is it really the gospel if you spend your time and energy hating them?  If you say, "Muslims have killed so many Christians, so I hate you by association," are those the words of Christ, or your fear?

What if we acknowledged that most people don't leave their homes and families to travel via unsafe means to a strange culture because of a good situation?  If the U.S were to break out in a massive civil war, would we say that American citizens deserve to stay and die because their government caused a war?  Would you want to be the one who manages to move their family to safety, only to be greeted by hatred and racist slurs in your new home?

What could happen if these people, coming to our country out of their own desperation and fear, were showered with love?  What could happen if a group of people who might have been taught that Westerners were their enemy, were instead greeted with respect?  "Do I not destroy my enemies when  I make them my friends?" (Abraham Lincoln)

If you want to learn more about Canopy NWA's efforts, and how you can get involved in the refugee resettlement process, come hear from Emily Linn, director of Canopy NWA, during the Grace Collective Coffeehouse, this Sunday at 5:30 pm, at Grace Church NWA (2828 Crossover Rd. in Fayetteville).