To truly live in love…
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To truly live in love…
by Meg Schmalandt
I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a New York Times article chronicling a terrorist attack in Paris on November 13, 2015. Someone had shared it and over the course of the next few days and weeks, an outpouring of support for France flooded social media. People donned their profile pictures with the French flag and wrote posts about how they stand in solidarity with the European country.
Two days later, a segment came on NPR commenting on how 31 U.S. governors opposed letting Syrian refugees into the United States including Illinois, Maine, Tennessee, and Texas. Only 7 states openly supported admitting Syrian refugees into the country. Numerous politicians suggested stricter background checks, religious tests, and suspending government funding for refugee resettlement.
In Tennessee, right now, 3 months after the attacks on Paris, a handful of bills sit on the legislative floor opposing the resettlement of refugees in the state. While they target refugee resettlement in general, these bills also discriminate against people of Middle Eastern and North African descent or Muslim faith. What changed during these Paris attacks? How did fear overtake our politicians and citizens? How did 9 men strike fear into a nation with the largest defense budget? A nation proud of its history for welcoming immigrants and refugees suddenly hides behind finger pointing toward Muslims.
The sentiment toward refugees, particularly Muslim refugees, dramatically shifted after the Paris attacks. Ted Cruz, the Southern Baptist presidential candidate, said he would only admit Christian refugees and not Muslim ones. An outpouring of Christian politicians have enforced the barring of Syrian refugees instead of welcoming those orphaned and widowed and rejecting the “otherness” of those who are of a different faith than Christian. They have chosen to hide behind their status, country, race, and faith rather than standing up for the ideals preached by Christ. They responded in fear, rather than perfect love, the love in which Christ saved us, wretched sinners, while on the cross, the love which casts out all fear.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us, “’For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
The Gospel of John tells us, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
To truly live in love would be to extend a helping hand to those in need, those who are weary, those who are displaced, and those in the need of acceptance in the midst of rejection by their own country and the rest of the world. To truly live in love would be to feed those in the need of a good meal, to offer them a home after years of traveling, and to guide them in a foreign land. To truly live in love would be to embrace the strangers and welcome them into our families, just as Christ did with us.
As the Tennessee General Assembly begins to debate legislation what would harm our refugee sisters and brothers, I invite you to join me in asking our elected officials to be bold in choosing moral, just policies that defend refugee resettlement, combat Islamophobia, and build more welcoming communities. Click here (http://www.tnimmigrant.org/refugees-welcome-here/) to join the campaign and learn how you can stand with refugees now.
Meg Schmalandt is a junior social entrepreneurship major at Belmont University and a Scarritt Bennett intern this semester. While not studying or working at Scarritt Bennett, Meg mentors high school girls at Hillsboro high school in Nashville. Meg is passionate about youth engagement and development along with empowering their voices to rise up.