Response to Governor Walker:
In a polarized political climate where minds are pretty much made up when it comes to politics, I find letters written by church leaders to be less helpful than they used to be. After all, our Governor has a right to his political views and in fact represents the views of some of the good people in our synod.
At the same time, I find it difficult to say nothing at all about a statement in which the Governor plans to deny Syrian refugees a place in the state of Wisconsin. This is a pastoral issue which goes far beyond the limits of political differences.
A blanket refusal, whether or not it is within one’s power, seems to play perfectly into the hands of terrorists around the world. If indeed the goal of terrorism is to make people fearful, then we have been invited to live in fear rather than freedom.
In an unsettled world I have witnessed a clear path which begins with ignorance, embraces fear, evolves into hatred and eventually erupts in violence. In my mind that was exactly the path followed in the senseless act of violence at the Sikh temple here in our own state. It is a path that I have seen duplicated time and again in senseless acts of violence around the country.
Isolationism of any kind, especially when it involves turning away innocent, often desperate people, does nothing to make the world a safer place. It only invites ignorance and increases fear of the other. Furthermore, it cuts off a path to the building of relationships which I consider to be the true building blocks of a more peaceful world.
This great nation has been built on the backs of immigrants, many of them refugees, who have found welcome and safety in coming to this country. I dare to believe that caring about others rather than shunning them is who we are still called to be.
In my mind, the choice to ignore the cries of those seeking asylum runs contrary to the values of this country. I am most certain that it runs contrary to the way of Jesus.
Bishop Jeff Barrow