Security is not A Christian Virtue

A number of churches throughout the United States are preparing to offer sanctuary to immigrants are in the country illegally.  They are doing so as part of a commitment to care for the vulnerable.  Following Pope Francis’ call to solidarity with migrants and welcoming the stranger, many Catholic parishes are discerning whether to offer space to one or more families facing the threat of deportation.

There are many issues involved in this discernment process.  Although the prior federal policy was not to do immigration enforcement in churches, the current administration may very well change that policy, opening up the possibility of legal action.

Without minimizing those issues, there is one concern that we hear over and over again, both in this particular debate and in the broader context of discussions about the refugee crisis and the current ICE activities.   Security, the fear that some of those who are in this country illegally or those seeking refugee status might be dangerous folks, is trotted out as a reason to refuse to offer sanctuary and as justification for not taking in refugees and for deporting massive numbers of people.

From the standpoint of Christian discipleship, security as an excuse for not giving aid to refugees, for massive deportations, or for not giving sanctuary to a family facing deportation is deeply troubling. The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable did not hang back, worried that perhaps the man lying on the road was feigning illness; he saw someone in need and took action.  And, not only does the list of Beatitudes not include “blessed are those who maximize their personal safety,” but Jesus was clear from the get go that following the standard he invites us to will risk persecution and danger.

Thus, while I think is perfectly appropriate to vet people entering into the United States and to vet any family/families the parish might take in, to not care for the vulnerable and welcome the stranger out of fear for safety is not an acceptable Christian response.

Simply put, security is not a Christian virtue.


3 thoughts on “Security is not A Christian Virtue

  1. Susan: I agree with your bottom line here, that security must not be the trump card for parish or nation, and that especially for the parish, Christian love requires risk. But I wonder if we can put this in terms as stark as “security is not a Christian virtue.” Security for oneself, I agree, is not a part of Jesus’s model and teaching; but maintaining reasonable security for others is part of the same love of neighbor that requires welcoming the refugee. So, as you say, a parish has to express the virtue of hospitality but can (and should) also do responsible vetting to ensure that its members remain safe. As I see it, this is yet another example of the longstanding problem in Christian ethics of how to apply the norm of sacrificial love in so-called “three party” contexts, where the interests of multiple neighbors, not just myself, are at stake. And certainly the same is true with the nation, whose duty moves further toward equality/fairness and further from sacrificial love. I agree that in doing this balance, and deciding which way to lean as parish or nation, we should recognize our human inclination to overstress our own security–and certainly our inclination to overstate threats from those who seem different. But I’d want to emphasize that it still is a balance, and maintaining security is part of love of neighbor. Thanks for raising these issues, and for making the key point about welcoming and the limits of “security.” — Tom

  2. Thank you. So well and succinctly put: “security is not a Christian virtue.” If we are to be anything like the good Samaritan, as Dr. Martin Luther King pointed out in his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, our question should not be that of the priest and the Levite who asks “if I stop to help this man, what will happen to me.” Instead, we must ask the question Dr. King imagines the Good Samaritan asked himself as he traveled along that dangerous Jericho Road: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” As Christians we must began to ask that other-centered question,not fearing for our safety, but doing all we can to continue to help and advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees. May our government’s deportation witch-hunt end soon.

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