I got hustled at a convenience store the other day. A middle-aged man hit me up for gas money with a sob story about trying to get his painting business off the ground. He told me how much he loved God and how he was a hard worker, he even flattered me with a compliment. Awkward. I didn’t believe his story, his compliment, or even his commitment to God, but I gave him some gas money and sent him on his way. When I paid for the gas, he hurried out to the pump without so much as a thank you.
I shook my head and laughed. It felt good to help someone in need, even when they probably didn’t deserve it and didn’t appear to be grateful for it.
Scottish author and Christian minister George MacDonald said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” How true! I didn’t trust the man in need, but I loved him enough to give him gas money. I didn’t believe his story, but I loved him enough to offer up a small token of my charity. Love is very different than trust. Love, or charity, will conquer all, eventually. But in the meantime, I must be careful with my trust. Love I must offer freely. Trust I must value more than gold.
We are facing a similar crisis of trust, or question of confidence. Do we follow our Judeo-Christian values to help our fellow man and allow Syrian refugees into our country and communities, or do we listen to the centuries-old intuition of self-preservation and keep them at a distance? Which counsel do we trust? The fate of our entire Western Civilization may very well be determined by how we answer this internal question.
One must take risks to win wars. Generals and Sergeants do not become famous without bold action laden with great risk. Risk is inherent in conflict, and to win a conflict, one must be willing to risk it all, both individually, and as group. We will not win the war against Al Queda, ISIS, or radical Islam without risk.
One must lead, or be led, to win battles, and wars. The greatest army in the world will sit inert and ineffective without competent leadership. Victory in conflict is impossible without leadership. We will not defeat radical Islamists without leadership.
Like almost every war, this war is a war of ideologies. It is a war for the hearts and minds of people. It is a war of thought, speech, and belief more than a war of tanks, airplanes, and bullets. Because we value the freedom of thought, speech, and belief, it feels strange having to fight an enemy that wants to restrict thought, speech, and belief. We deem the entire conflict to be unnecessary because those freedoms are so entrenched in our law and society that we cannot fathom someone trying to eliminate them. We trust, like our founding fathers, that these truths are “self evident” and are baffled that we must defend them or protect them. But defend and protect them we must, or we will soon find that they are no longer ours.
The Syrian refugee question has provided us with an opportunity to make a bold move in the field of battle. We have an opportunity to see thousands of potential combatants in this ideological fight converted to our way of thinking, but like most opportunities, it is fraught with enormous risk. If we choose to bring the refugees into our borders we have tremendous power to change the hearts and minds of thousands of potential, and perhaps actual, combatants. We also run the risk of bringing terrorists, who will flatly refuse to be converted to our way of thinking no matter how well we treat them, into our communities.
If we choose not to give haven to the refugees we may be playing into the ideology of the jihadists. The radical Islamists can then use our lack of willingness to help those in need against us. In the name of self-preservation we may be creating the next generation of enemy combatants that once radicalized will stop at nothing to see us, and our way of thinking, conquered.
We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
What makes the decision more difficult is the lack of leadership in the White House and the political hypocrisy in the media. The same people urging, practically insisting, that we bring the refugees into our borders in the name of Christian values, are the very same people that make fun of us for clinging to God and guns. The same shills that try to shame us into opening our hearts to the refugees in the name of human decency demand that we ignore the human indecency of abortion. The voices that clamor for charity and tolerance for the refugees, offer neither to believers who wish to express their faith in the public square. Like the panhandler in the convenience store, I love but I don’t trust.
How can we trust a leader who already ignores our immigration laws to handle the influx of thousands of potentially dangerous refugees? How can we trust a president that scolds us like little children when we disagree or question his judgment? Can we trust a leader who mocks opposing views and ignores anything that doesn’t agree with his narrow view of the world? We don’t trust leaders who don’t listen. We don’t trust leaders that ignore the rule of law and even try to subvert it. We don’t trust leaders that won’t take bold action in the name of safety, freedom, or even order, to keep us safe.
So where does that leave us? Sitting in our ideological foxhole waiting for someone to give us marching orders? Waiting for the next attack to be broadcast across the twenty-four hour news cycle? Hunkering down in fear and ignorance?
We are at war. We will not win without risk. We may not have leadership we trust, but we can trust in the principles of charity, kindness, and self-preservation at the same time. We must figure out a way to aid this wave of refugees, even though we know it is fraught with risk, or our children will be fighting their children for generations to come. We must trust that the principle of freedom will change the hearts and minds (of some) of our current enemies, and that the actions of self-preservation and self-defense will eliminate those who refuse to change.
Like my interaction with the man in the convenience store, whose story I didn’t believe, we must find a way to help, not because political shills demand it, but because we love our fellow man. At the same time, we must protect ourselves from wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must love, but we do not have to trust.
Love, or charity, will conquer all, eventually. But in the meantime, I must be careful with my trust.