I tried to steer clear of the Meme Wars over Syrian refugees on Facebook last week. I saw things on both sides that irritated me; from friends on the right I saw things that were occasionally racist, and from friends on the left I saw things that mocked both religion and culture. I learned a lot about friends on both sides of the divide — and not necessarily good things.
When I say “mocked… religion,” I mean the memes that pointed out that that the xenophobia directed at Syrian refugees was incompatible with Jesus’ teachings. That’s certainly my read of Jesus’ teachings, but then, I’m a liberal atheist. A conservative Christian may see no conflict between being a good Samaritan at home and closing the door to Syrian refugees.
Neil Carter, the writer of “Godless in Dixie,” wrote last week about the Great Syrian Refugee Facebook Meme War and why the memes from the liberal side about Jesus’ teachings found no targets on the right. As he puts it, “Culture trumps religion every time.”
The conservative Christian who says to shut the doors to Syrian refugees doesn’t see a religious angle to their viewpoint on the question. They see it through their cultural and political prisms — they’re opposed to immigration in general, they’re opposed to helping refugees when there are homeless and veterans who need to be helped. These aren’t excuses. These are things they genuinely believe, and pointing out that their stance is opposed to the ethical teachings of their religion will fall on deaf ears. They would deny there was a religious dimension to the question at all. Badgering a Christian with Jesus’ teachings to make them accept something they don’t want to do won’t work. “Culture trumps religion.”
Some people live in fear. Others live in hope. Religion is just a gloss on that.