A Gaudy and Spectacular Flim-Flammery


So we have a caravan consisting of thousands of refugees, heading for our southern border. What are Christians to make of this? How are we to think of such things? We do live in a world, after all, in which our Lord told the parable of the Good Samaritan . . .

We also live in a world where the apostle Paul told us not to be childish in our thinking, but rather to think like adults (1 Cor. 14:20). So there is that also.

And that same verse tells us that our malice needs to be immature. We should think like adults, but with no malice in it. That will be better for everyone in the long run.

So Analyze It First

What is this situation exactly? We need to define it first. If we always develop our “Christian worldview response” on the basis of what things purport to be, we will find that our Christian worldview analysis resembles Simple Simon going to the used car lot more than anything else.

So what is this refugee column? It is, in the first instance, something other than a refugee column. Actual refugees from an actual hellhole like Venezuela wind up in places like Colombia, right next door. Actual refugees might also make it a few countries over. One thing they generally wouldn’t do (by the hundreds of thousands) is load up their push carts and head off for Manitoba. And if they did, they would not find Soros-funded port-a-potties lining the route.

So this caravan of ours is not exactly behaving like a normal refugee column. What is it then? I will tell you, and I am glad you asked. This is a staged event. This is agit-prop. This is theater-in-the-round. This is a photo-op.  

And—since we have all learned recently what a bad thing this is to do—this is a foreign attempt to meddle in an American election. Do we really want to say that a disturbing Facebook ad from someone who has a Russian grandmother is a threat to the Republic, and a column of people marching on our southern border right before the mid-terms is not?

Now notice that I did not say that this was a competent attempt at influencing our mid-terms. This might just be the immigration policy equivalent of the attempt to dismember Brett Kavanaugh. It might just be the latest box delivered from Acme to the doorstep of Wil E. Coyote. It seems that this move is more likely to make people think something like “by gum, we do need a wall” than anything else. But let us leave the competence issue aside.

Countries and Individuals

One of the central problems that people who are both thoughtless and compassionate have is their simplistic tendency to argue that what is an obvious duty for an individual is therefore an equally obvious duty for a nation. No variables need to be taken into account.

Take the parable of the Good Samaritan again. If I find a guy beat up by the side of the road, what is my responsibility? Who is my neighbor? The answer the Lord gives is plain enough. Your neighbor is the person God has placed in front of you today. Your neighbor is the guy lying by the road.

But let us complicate this somewhat. Suppose the good Samaritan traveling down that Jerusalem/Jericho road has taken a total of five first aid classes, and he has flunked—spectacularly—every single time. He means so well that he just can’t help enrolling repeatedly, but he is so compassionate that when faced with anything like a real crisis, he invariably does the wrong thing. In this case, he loads our victim up on the donkey in just the wrong way, breaks his neck in doing so, and leaves him paralyzed for life.

Put another way, wisdom is required, not just compassion.

And when you transfer from the world of individuals to the world of nations, it turns out that a lot more wisdom is required, not less. What does it mean for a nation to be beat-up and left for dead? What does it look like when someone helps out and leaves two coins with the innkeeper? How much money is that two coins now? And who is the innkeeper? How do you transition from two guys on a bad stretch of road to two nations with hundreds of millions of people between them? And both nations have armies, and borders, and economies? And you are a socialist millennial who has flunked that first aid course five times, not to mention all your econ courses? Now what?

Whatever else we might say about it, the ethical thing to do is not determined by simply assuming that a nation’s moral responsibility is identical to an individual’s, because it simply isn’t.

At this point, an indignant someone is going to draw themselves up to their full height and say something like, “I don’t care what you say. The way of Christ demands that we intervene. Whatsoever you do to the least of these . . . I don’t care about your sophistical arguments. There is a moral imperative to intervene.”

Okay, I’ll bite. Let’s assume that we have moral imperative for intervention in a humanitarian crisis that we could do something about, and let us also assume that there is no mutatis mutandissing about it, and we are simply to intervene right now.

Like I said, I’ll bite. When are you going to join me in calling for the president to send the Marines into Venezuela? I used the example of Venezuela earlier, and I did so because that is a place, in our hemisphere, that has a genuine humanitarian crisis going down. The refugees there are real, not hired. The name of the crisis is socialism, and particular infestation of that crisis is named President Maduro.

There is no real moral necessity to intervene in a photo-op, in someone else’s drama production, even if that drama production is marching toward our southern border. They’ve already got port-a-potties.

If there is a moral obligation to intervene anywhere, then Venezuela has to be at the head of the line. It is a genuine, bona-fide humanitarian crisis, and we have the resources to make that crisis disappear. We could do it through the simple expedient of making President Maduro go away. We could buy him a condominium in Tacoma Park, Maryland, and we could make him stay there. Give him an ankle bracelet or something.

Our position—since we have just now learned that transitioning from individuals to nations is so darn simple—is precisely that of the good Samaritan arriving on the scene just a few moments earlier, while the guy was getting beat up. Luckily, he was better with a gun than he was with first aid, and so he ran all the bad guys off. Doing something like that is therefore our bounden Christ-like duty. Right? Your logic, not mine.

So unless and until all the socialists who are yelling about letting this caravan into our country start yelling just as loudly for the U.S. Marines to overthrow the socialist regime in Venezuela we may continue to believe that their concern for the hapless and helpless residents of Central America is a sham, a fraud, a swindle, a cheat, a fast shuffle, a hustle, a species of gaudy and spectacular flim-flammery.

Whimpers and Bangs

One more thing, an afterthought. Some online Christian commentators, on the libertarian end of things, are doing their part as fellow-travelers with the socialists, arguing that this column, this caravan, is not an “invasion,” don’t be ridiculous. The demand for admittance is being taken at face value, for some mysterious reason, and we are being told that this kind of thing presents no threat whatever to the United States.

Perhaps I will write more about this later, but underlying this cynical take is the supposition that nations have to end with a bang, and that trailing off in a whimper is not a possibility.  A moment’s reflection should show . . .