Syrian refugees

Gov. Mary Fallin loves to shout from the rooftops about her faith in God. But she and her fellow Republicans aren’t the only ones who do that: The Democrats do it, too. You’ll see both on the TV news, out at the same disaster areas, talking about their faith like they’re talking about sports scores or their kids’ report cards.

Campaign season is when both parties Biblethump the hardest. It’s almost as if they’re trying to out-Christian one another. I’m actually waiting for our next gubernatorial debate to include a smack down of literally Biblical proportions, in which we find out who can recite, from memory, the most New Testament verses.

These kinds of politicians claim to be Christians, but they are putting party loyalties and politics before their Christian duties.

In the case of allowing Syrian refugees into the Sooner State, hypocrisy knows no party line, and so-called Christian politicians are turning their backs on their fellow man.

Divisions begin to form

The world has been wrestling with what to do with the millions of refugees who have fled the violence related to the Syrian Civil War. Since 2011, the U.S. has taken in only 1,500 Syrian refugees. President Barack Obama has told his administration to be ready to take in at least 10,000 next year, according to CNN. Once the news broke that a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Nov. 13 attackers in Paris, all hell broke loose, and the political pandering began.

By the numbers

Refugees fleeing Syria: Millions
Killed in Syrian Civil War: 250,000 (estimate)
Syria (sq. mi.): 71,998
Oklahoma (sq. mi.): 69,960

Locally, the story about states denying Syrian refugees gained steam Monday about 11 a.m. when News9 posted a piece about Oklahoma lawmakers asking Gov. Fallin to refuse to accept Syrian refugees. The showdowns in the comments of such stories aren’t for the faint of heart — they show you how truly divided this state (and country) is.

Not to be outdone, KFOR ran its own NIMBY story and included a poll to add more fuel to the fire. According to that poll’s results, as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, 88 percent of respondents favor barring any Syrian refugee from entering the state whatsoever. Also on KFOR, a story ran about Gov. Fallin calling on President Obama to suspend a program bringing Syrian refugees into the country.

Only two local stations that I could find, KOCO Channel 5 and KOKH Fox 25, refrained from running over-hyped or sensationalized stories.

More than half of all U.S. governors have stated they will “not allow” the federal government to settle Syrian refugees in their states. Seven states will be welcoming, and 12 states remain uncommitted to any action, according to a story posted on KFOR. Oklahoma is one of the 31 states that will “not be allowing” refugees into our borders.

Anti-Terrorism Caucus head Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), who spearheaded the call to disallow the refugees into the state, is not the only person to blame: It’s Gov. Fallin, Sen. Jim Inhofe and every other “good Christian leader” in Oklahoma politics.

Can you imagine?

April 19 marked the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Can you imagine how you would have felt if the rest of country had turned their backs on us 20 years prior? How about the rest of the state? How pissed off would you have been if people in Tulsa and Lawton refused to help simply because it was Oklahoma City?

Or how about the tornadoes that flattened Moore and other parts of the state in recent years: Can you imagine being denied assistance from other places just because we are from Oklahoma and, one time, some anti-government lunatic decided to blow up a building in OUR city and murder 168 people? To be refused a place to stay temporarily because of something that didn’t even involve you and your family? That’s what our leaders are doing to the Syrian refugees by telling the federal government that they will deny them entry into our state.

Historically, two of the worst acts of terror ever committed in our state weren’t committed by Muslims, Hispanics, Asians, Arabs or African-Americans: They were committed by white men. The Tulsa Race Riots and the Oklahoma City Bombing have this distinction in common. (And yes, the Tulsa Race Riots were an act of domestic terrorism — it just wasn’t called that back in the 1920s.) Timothy McVeigh was far more dangerous than any of these refugees, but no one screened him to make sure he wasn’t up to anything nefarious.

Oklahoma Standard?

Denying Syrian refugees is not what we do. It is not the Oklahoma Way. It is certainly not the Oklahoma Standard. And if this is what is passing for the Oklahoma Standard, then maybe we need to find a new definition, because what we are doing with the refugees isn’t it. This might pass in Texas, Alabama or Arizona, but it doesn’t pass here in Oklahoma.

Oklahomans don’t turn our backs on people just because they’re from a different country. Oklahomans don’t refuse to help someone just because their skin is a little darker than our own, or because their religion is different. And Oklahomans don’t pull their hands away when someone reaches out in need.

It’s times like these I think that we all need to be reminded of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Put up or shut up

It’s time for elected officials who keep telling us how “Christian” they are to put up or shut up as far as their faith is concerned. If they really had that close of a relationship with a God that teaches love for your fellow man over everything else, then this wouldn’t even be up for debate. If our “leaders” actually paid attention to the teachings of Jesus, whom they claim to follow, they’d know to treat these refugees as if they were members of their own family.

Our state leaders want us to believe it is more important to stand up for “Christian principles” by fighting for the monument to the Ten Commandments instead of showing those same principles by helping people in need. They want us to believe that it is more important to defend an idol as opposed to real people.

That isn’t what real Christians do. Real Christians ask if there is anything that they can do to help the refugees, like the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. They’re ready to help these refugees should Gov. Fallin decide to do the humane thing and allow them entry.

I fear there will come a day when we, the United States, will need someone’s help. It might not be in our lifetime, or our children’s lifetime, or even our great-great grandchildren’s lifetime, but it will come, and, when it does, those we ask for help will look back at our history and see how we acted and reacted in similar moments.

The Syrian refugees’ situation demands our help. Right now, more than half of this country isn’t very worthy of help at all. We can still change that … if we want.