I made this statement over a year ago. I still believe it is the more faithful way.
Statement from Bishop Matt Gunter to the Diocese of Fond du Lac
Regarding Terrorism and Refugees
[November 20, 2015]
The recent attacks in Baghdad, Beirut, and Paris have confronted us again with the fact that “the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God” are real. That evil has captivated and corrupted the imaginations of the people who perpetrate such wanton and callous killing and destruction. Let’s be clear. ISIS does not represent all of Islam. The religious ideology of ISIS and those like it is one corrupted by the evil powers of this world. And it is bent on destruction.
In baptism we renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God (Book of Common Prayer, p. 302). How might we do that in such dangerous times?
No doubt resisting this evil will include military and police action. We must pray for wisdom, care, and discernment for those charged with making decisions and acting in these areas.
We must also be willing to acknowledge and address the root causes and history of the turmoil in the region where ISIS flourishes that has made it fertile ground for such a misbegotten ideology to flourish.
Hard as it is, we must also pray for those whose imagination and actions have been shaped by the ideology of terror. As disciples of Jesus we must dare to pray “for our enemies and those who wish us harm, and for all whom we have injured or offended” (BCP, p. 391). We must not forget that they, too, bear the image of God and are loved by God.
And we must beware of the temptation to which we are all subject to cooperate with the evil powers that corrupt and destroy. We experience the effects of evil as suffering whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Instinctively we react with the desire to strike back and put an end to the source of the suffering. And it brings with it the temptation to constrict our compassion in defensiveness. But, this logic leads us to live in fear, anxiety, and suspicion of others. It is the same logic as those who wish us harm. For the sake of our own souls we need to take care not to live by that logic. It is not the logic of Jesus.
The logic of Jesus is love and mercy. Not sentimental or naïve love, but clear-eyed love that is prepared to take up the cross and follow the way of Jesus in self-denial. There is no doubt that in times such as ours this love involves risk. These are dangerous times and there are those who wish us harm. But, I do not see how we can be faithful to Jesus and not risk the love and the mercy that flow from belief in him. Can we ignore Lazarus at our gate (Luke 16:19-31)? Can we pass by those beaten and abandoned alongside the road (Luke 10:25-37)? Can we neglect showing hospitality to strangers knowing that thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2)? Can we say to those who come to our door in need, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and not supply their bodily needs (James 2:16)? If we do we will be acquiescing to those very evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy.
We live in dangerous times. There are evil powers in this world which corrupt and destroy. And so, there is no absolutely safe way to love with the mercy of Jesus. But our neighbors, Christian and Muslim, from Syria and beyond have been robbed and left alongside the road by the very evil powers we must resist. Part of that resistance is to welcome some of the victims seeking refuge from that evil. It is my hope that the people of Wisconsin and the Diocese of Fond du Lac will do so. We must do so wisely and with care. And we should do so trusting that God honors such love and mercy. Especially in dangerous times.
Under the Mercy,
The Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter
VIII Bishop of Fond du Lac