A few days ago, I took to Facebook to express my disgust for governor Abbot’s refusal to admit any Syrian refugees into Texas. The reaction I got was, to put it mildly, jarringly unexpected.
I’d quoted a Bible verse, Exodus 22:21 – “You shall neither wrong a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” I’d expected that most of my friends and family would approve – I’d seen, after all, a long series of posts quoting Bible verses and theologians when other issues were trending on Facebook. Gay marriage got verses, as did abortion. Surely refugees would. The Bible says, after all.
I was wrong. Almost no one agreed, and of those in disagreement, the majority were the same that stood by the Bible on the previous issues. Among the rebukes and rebuttals was one, in particular, that illustrates a rule I’m going to make today: the Complicated Rule.
So, let’s begin. If you’re one of the two people who read this blog, you know my central thesis: we think with our feelings. If you’re joining me, let me sum up – our emotions hold a far greater power over our conclusions and logical thought that we can readily imagine, and only a study of how our emotions do this can lead to a better way to think about controversial issues. Which is what I’m trying to do here.
The sum up is, note, pretty boring. That’s why I stick to “we think with our feelings.” Something about that one feels edgier.
We think with our feelings, and my back-and-forth on the refugee debate is a prime example. Set the stage – I’ve posted one verse to express my disgust with governor Abbot’s opposition to resettling Syrian refugees. A friend of mine responded with disbelief, and included a word I absolutely hate – “complicated.” ‘It’s complicated,’ he said. I thought a number of things in response, but most of them can’t be summarized without seeming gratuitous curse words.
Mind you, before I go further, the debate, so far, wasn’t about whether or not the USG had a proper system in place for vetting Syrian refugees. It wasn’t about whether or not Syrian refugees should simply return to their homes and fight. It was focused on one issue, and one issue only – whether Americans, as Christians, had a moral obligation to admit refugees. I said yes, because it was simple – the Bible ordered it, and we must obey it. My friend said no, and answered with my most hated of statements – ‘it’s complicated.’
I hate ‘complicated.’ Not because I hate complication, but because it’s almost always false – it’s not complicated. That’s just what we say when we really, really don’t want to do something. Mind you, I would have said this, except for one meddling fact – the friend who rebuked my post was the only one, among all my friends and family, who had given his time and home to an actual refugee. Not volunteer hours, note, but his 24-7 care and shelter.
In short, the one person whose argument I despised the most was the one person who had done the most to help a living, breathing, person. A child of God. It’s difficult to tell that person that he just really, really doesn’t want to do something.
Part ii, 2 explains how I dealt with that jarring discrepancy.