Adventures in Internet-land
Part of today was spent at our local city hall for a meeting about refugee resettlement in our area. There were reps from the city, from the healthcare and education sectors, from immigrant services, from various other community support organizations, and one lonely pastor off in the corner. 🙂 We talked about all kinds of practical issues related to the challenges and opportunities that undoubtedly loom on the horizon as we prepare to welcome government-sponsored refugees. We also talked about how the tone seems to have shifted in the conversation since the events in Paris last Friday. Almost to a person, people remarked that they have noticed a dramatic increase in fearful, angry, xenophobic language around Syrian refugees in the last few days, particularly online.
Since the events in Paris last Friday, I have noticed a fairly dramatic spike in traffic on what I affectionately (and creatively) refer to as “the post.” I wrote “I’m Sorry Christian, But You Don’t Get to Make That Move” shortly after the photo of Alan Kurdi on the Turkish beach seized our collective imaginations and thrust the Syrian refugee crisis into the spotlight. It was meant to be a probably-not-so-gentle rebuke of Christian discourse around polarizing issues like the Syrian refugee crisis. It turned out to degenerate into a bit of a free for all. Nothing I have written in the nine-year history of this blog has even remotely approached the response that this post has generated, whether in terms of overall traffic or comments.
With the most recent surge of interest in this post, there has been a renewal of the steady trickle of comments. Many are positive and affirming. Many express concerns in respectful and rational ways. And then there are the others. The many strident, ignorant, and angry responses, which are depressingly predictable, and predictably depressing. I’ve been called everything from a Muslim to a communist to a liberation theology supporter (Gasp! Can you imagine? Linking Christianity to liberation?!) to a self-righteous hypocrite to being in league with the devil himself. There isn’t much that surprises me any more in the response to this post.
I have, consequently, been on the lookout for genuinely creative rebukes. It’s getting a bit boring to hear that I am either a terrible Christian for asking us to wrestle with Jesus’ command to love enemies or a hopelessly naïve exclusivist who doesn’t think anybody but Christians can be moral. I want some new and interesting insults!
(Irony alert: How interesting that non-Christians are angry at me because they [wrongly] think that I am claiming that only Christians can operate out of a paradigm of love and mercy, and Christians are angry at me for calling them to operate out of a paradigm of love and mercy… Sigh.)
At any rate, I found the creative respite I was seeking in this latest batch of comments:
Do you realize how much so-called “Christian” organizations are profiting from refugee resettlement? Ryan Dueck may very well be one of them. Here is a short list of religious affiliated charities that receive millions of dollars in government grants to help relocate refugees: U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Church World Service and World Relief Corp. A resettlement agency can pocket nearly half of the almost $2000 dollars per refugee they help to relocate. The U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops received 65.9 million in government grants, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 41.7 million in 2012 alone. Even Jim and Tammy Faye would blush! Looks like selling out your country under the guise of Christian piety is big business! Nothing rings quite as spiritual as lining your pockets with the blood of your brothers and sisters all the while lecturing them about how inferior is their spirit of hospitality.
Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken people this long to figure out that the real reason I’m involved in refugee sponsorship is to line my own pockets with the blood of my brothers and sisters. Selling out the USA “under the guise of Christian piety” is just an added bonus (and no small feat, given that I am not an American!). Jim and Tammy Faye had it all wrong—they should have been in the refugee business from the start! That’s where the real money is!
On a happier (and less hilariously stupid) note, I found two heartwarming messages waiting in my inbox after encountering the latest dose of madness on the blog. The first was from a group of quilters in the BC interior who were wondering if they could send a bunch of quilts to Lethbridge for the Syrians who will be arriving (likely in the dead of a Canadian winter!). The second was from a Muslim man who I have recently gotten to know here in town who wanted to express his sadness and condolences to me about what had happened in Paris last weekend. I stared at the message for a while, vacillating between being grateful for the shared connection with a fellow human being in the context of tragedy, and a deep sadness that this man felt like he had to say this to me—that he probably feels like he has to preemptively apologize for being who he is. I decided to settle on the gratitude part.
All in all, my online adventures today have yielded the not-so-remarkable reminder that human beings can be profoundly uninspiring creatures, at times. But not all the time. Thank God. No, wait, thank goodness. No, wait, umm… maybe just thank the internet. It’s probably safer that way.