Christians can welcome refugees and support national security

Refugee resettlement in the U.S.

October 9, 2019

If we as Christians truly stand as defenders of the sanctity and dignity of all human life, our nation’s current response to the global refugee crisis ought to be of significant concern.  

God’s love for the immigrant, refugee, and foreigner is a consistent biblical theme, and he calls his people to do the same. Jesus Christ himself, the greatest example of love, implores us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, regardless of race, nationality, religion, or status.  

The UNHCR estimates more than 71 million people are forcibly displaced around the world. This is the largest humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen. If no one intervenes on their behalf, the vast majority will remain displaced in or around their countries for 10 years or more.  

When the current administration’s travel ban was announced in 2017, promises were made that we would continue resettlement with a shift in focus toward persecuted Christians and others in the most desperate situations. Instead, we have dismantled many parts of the program and reduced the total number of refugees resettled each year from 85,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2016 to less than 30,000 in FY 2019. Now the White House has announced the ceiling planned for FY 2020 will be 18,000, with stipulations put in place that could reduce that number even further depending on decisions made at the state level. This means our resettlement numbers will be even less than 2002, the year after 9/11.   

If this decision stands, many people in the most desperate situations who would add great benefit to our nation will continue to languish in dreadful conditions. Furthermore, threats to national and global security will increase because of prolonged exposure to extremism. As the rest of the world watches us, other developed countries will follow our lead, and global refugee admissions will drop, as occurred after our reductions in 2017.  

It is entirely possible to articulate a generous position toward the world’s most vulnerable people while also being committed to national security and upholding our laws. 

We all know immigration-related topics are just as contentious in our churches as anywhere else in our current sociopolitical climate, but it is entirely possible to articulate a generous position toward the world’s most vulnerable people while also being committed to national security and upholding our laws.   

According to a report published by USCIS in 2018, our refugee resettlement program is continually improving its already stringent screening and vetting processes. These include biometric and biographic checks at multiple points, in-person interviews, and multiple security and medical clearances before a person or family is admitted into the U.S. The highest priority is given to people facing the gravest dangers, including women and children, and to family reunification of spouses, children, and parents. Many people are surprised to learn that the top four countries from which the U.S. government currently resettles refugees are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Bhutan.  

Our church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was blessed to receive a young refugee family from one of these countries in 2017. They were accepted for refugee resettlement because they were experiencing persecution for their Christian faith. The parents and children immediately became involved in our church and remain an active part of our ministries. The wife often reads Scripture in worship in English and in her heart language. Both parents have secured jobs and are contributing to our city. To us they are living proof that refugee resettlement is of great value to both the refugees themselves and the communities who receive them. If the changes at hand do take place in the U.S., no Christian refugee families from their country will be considered for resettlement.  

In July, evangelical leaders, including Russell Moore and several pastors connected to the ERLC, sent a letter to the White House which began with the words, “Recognizing God’s love for the vulnerable and the persecuted, we are concerned for all who have fled persecution and who urgently need protection. And we are particularly concerned about the potential impact of your decision on fellow believers who are being persecuted for their faith.”  

In August, a group of 18 U.S. senators representing more than a third of U.S. states crossed the political aisle by sending a bi-partisan letter to the executive branch, imploring them “to increase the refugee resettlement cap and to admit as many refugees as possible within that cap.” The letter goes on to state:  

“At a time when global leadership is needed more than ever to solve the complex refugee problem — both at home and abroad — the United States is well-positioned to continue its long legacy as a protector of human rights. Refugee resettlement combines the compassion of America with an important tool necessary to pursue foreign policy objectives.”  

After the White House made its announcement on Sept. 26, 2019, Sen. James Lankford, who was a co-author on the letter mentioned above, released a statement which said, in part:    

“I’m disappointed to see that the Administration has once again decided to decrease the number of refugees we allow into our country . . . Just this week, the President spoke at the United Nations to implore the rest of the world to end religious persecution. Doing so means we should continue to share our values throughout the world, and we can also be an example of being a safe haven for those legitimately fleeing persecution. The Administration should consult Congress and finalize an FY2020 cap that is consistent with our nation’s values and foreign policy goals.”  

Several military leaders have also recently added their voices in support of increased refugee resettlement. A group of more than two dozen retired U.S. generals and admirals sent a letter to the White House stressing that our refugee resettlement program has “provided life-saving assistance, demonstrated our humanitarian leadership and values, supported allies hosting the vast majority of refugees, and served critical national security interests.”  

If senators from both parties and commanding officers from multiple branches of the military can come to an agreement on continuing to resettle refugees generously and responsibly, certainly Christians and churches can work toward the same. We should be the most willing to overcome differences of opinion and partisanship for the dignity of hurting people. There are still important decisions to be made on behalf of displaced people all over the world. Let’s continue to implore the leaders of our incredibly blessed and prosperous nation to maximize our commitment to the vulnerable in a way that reflects how gracious and generous we are.  

A form of this article originally appeared here

Eric Costanzo

Eric Costanzo (Ph.D.) is lead pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and executive director for RisingVillage.org, an organization with initiatives to help marginalized people become full participants in their communities. Eric is also co-author of Inalienable (IVP, 2022). Eric’s other publications are available from his website. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24