Blessed are the Cowards

Did God's commandment to turn away people in need get lost in a Gnostic gospel somewhere?


Greb Abbott at his election party, 2014
Citing safety concerns, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced Texas will join more than a dozen other states in refusing to accept Syrian refugees.  Jen Reel

Blessed are the cowards, for they shall occupy the highest ranks of state government.

On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to President Obama announcing that Texas will not take in any Syrian refugees following the Paris terror attacks.

Later, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick piped up with his approval for Abbott’s attempt to dictate national foreign policy. “We adhere to Judeo-Christian principles and stand ready to help those in need,” Patrick said, “but not at the expense of the safety and security of our own people.”

I don’t claim to be a theologian, but I don’t recall Jesus often using the word “but” to qualify his teachings. Do unto others… sometimes? Judge not… unless you just absolutely have to? Blessed are the peacemakers… oh alright, bomb ‘em to smithereens, just this once.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz floated the idea of selective compassion, suggesting the United States only take in Christian refugees, while Belton state Representative Molly White, who’s beaten her Bible so often that the thing’s probably two-dimensional by now, seized the opportunity to encourage Texans to get their concealed handgun licenses, because we must be “careful and smart.”

White wouldn’t know “careful and smart” if their definitions were tattooed on the inside of her eyelids, and her grasp on the basic tenets of her own religion seems to be just as tenuous.

To claim Christianity and turn away tens of thousands of people so desperate to flee terror that they’re willing to die crossing actual oceans in the attempt? That is nothing short of craven.

If Jesus’ teachings are about anything at all, they’re about being relentlessly unselfish, unfailingly generous, ceaselessly joyful in providing for others, with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Jesus didn’t check passports before he fed the 5,000. He didn’t verify Lazarus’ insurance. He didn’t heal all the lepers except the ones from Syria.

Abbott, Patrick and their lot have campaigned on their Christianity, and yet their abject lack of compassion on the subject of refugees simply boggles. This is just plain not how that whole Christianity thing is meant to work. You remember the story about the sheep and the goats, right? God tells those who gave food, drink, clothing, shelter and protection to those in need that they shall be rewarded with the kingdom of the Lord. Those who did not? Well, I like the way the New International Version puts it: Those folks will be cast into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

God’s not over here taking a break after every other sheep to hear somebody’s excuses for why they just couldn’t help this one time, but they really had good intentions, promise. He’s not carefully reviewing the reasons why being kind is inconvenient. He’s sending some people to heaven and some people to hell. It’s not a negotiation, and the terms couldn’t be clearer: help people, go to heaven. Don’t help people? Hellfire.

Of course, Greg Abbott seems to think that God has absolved him of the responsibility of following the most basic of commandments. Just look at what Abbott posted on Twitter Sunday morning: a pastel-toned Bible meme featuring a verse from Jeremiah.

I can think of some tacky things to say after terrorists spend an evening murdering dozens and dozens of people, but bragging about how very safe God is going to keep (some) people, while actively advocating for the refusal of succor to thousands, is beyond even my own finely honed ability to offend.

If Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz and Molly White and company want to join the rest of their Republican cohort in celebrating xenophobic bigotry as some kind of bold stance on national security, they’re welcome to it. It’s an ostensibly free country, after all. They’re allowed to be selfish and scared.

But to claim Christianity and turn away tens of thousands of people so desperate to flee terror that they’re willing to die crossing actual oceans in the attempt? That is nothing short of craven.

Now, I haven’t read the entire New Testament in some time, so it’s possible I could have this all wrong. Is “Give no fucks whatsoever about the welfare of others” from the Gospel of Mark or Luke? I never can remember.