Seeking Refuge Book Review

Seeking Refuge Book Review

The conversation about refugees has become increasingly hostile in recent months after terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernadino, and Orlando, causing both US politicians and citizens to question the merits of our immigration and refugee resettlement programs. Unfortunately, the fear that has surfaced in the hearts and minds of many people has affected large numbers of Christians as they consider these issues. One of my goals here at Faith & Forced Migration has been to educate others about refugees from a faith based (specifically Christian) perspective. So, I was delighted to learn several months ago that World Relief and Moody Publishers were teaming up to release Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. The book will be available on July 5th, but I had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy for the purpose of this book review.

Seeking Refuge is coauthored by Stephan Bauman, President of World Relief, Matthew Soerens, World Relief's US Director of Church Mobilization, and Dr. Issam Smeir, a counselor who specializes in trauma treatment for refugees. At 184 pages Seeking Refuge is a concise and well-written explanation of the current global refugee crisis and the opportunity (and responsibility) the Church has to respond with compassionate action. You can preorder the book by visiting this link.

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What I Loved

Seeking Refuge fills a significant need for a book that both educates and challenges a specifically Christian audience concerning the facts about refugees and the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. It is now the first book I will recommend to believing friends who have questions about refugees. The authors mastered a difficult balance including Scripture, facts and statistics, as well as practical ideas for serving refugees. The book is also sprinkled throughout with personal anecdotes and the stories of individual refugees, which, when combined with compelling facts and the conviction of Scripture will hopefully move many more Christians to get involved in ministering to refugees.

Seeking Refuge does not shy away from addressing the fears that are foremost in the minds of many Christians - fears about the risk of terrorism, the violence of Islam, and the effectiveness of the refugee screening process. The authors graciously and honestly address these concerns, while always coming back to the truth that Christians must "welcome refugees, even when it seems scary, not because we so trust the US or any government... but because we trust in God" (pg. 83).

A full chapter of Seeking Refuge is also dedicated to offering practical ideas for ways that the Church can respond to love and serve their refugee neighbors, both overseas and in the US. It's tempting for us to feel helpless to make a difference in the face of such overwhelming need, but these suggestions help contributing seem far more reasonable without oversimplifying the scale of the global crisis.

What I Didn't Love

I only have two bones to pick with the authors of Seeking Refuge, and I almost didn't want to mention them at all because it is such an excellent book and I don't want anything to discourage you from reading it and prayerfully considering what it has to say. However, in order to write an honest review, I must touch on two issues.

First, there were several statistics used to allay the fears I mentioned above that were not actually relevant to the arguments they were trying to reinforce. For example, when addressing fears of Muslim terrorism in chapter 4, the authors state, "since 2001, there have also been as many or more deaths from terrorism tied to white supremacists and antigovernment extremists as from those claiming to be inspired by Islam" (pg. 80). Such a statement, though technically true, qualifies as propaganda when used in this context. Muslims make up only 1% of the US population, while around 63% of the population is white, so this particular statistic should make us more concerned about the nature of Islam, not less. Using this statistic to support an argument that in reality it undermines, is propaganda. The message of the book would not have been weakened in any way (and in fact, might be strengthened) if such statements had been left out.

The second critique I have has to do, not with something that was included, but with something that was excluded. A large percentage of Christians have a negative view of immigrants and refugees, and very few think about these issues from a biblical perspective. While Seeking Refuge does an excellent job of explaining that biblical perspective for those who might not have considered it before, it fails to adequately address the non-biblical worldview that is currently informing the majority of Christian's thoughts on immigration.

I have heard many Christians support their distaste of Muslims and other religious minorities with arguments that their growing populations in our country will undermine America's "Judeo-Christian values," a phrase that is frequently used by GOP politicians as a buzzword to get evangelical votes. But touting "Judeo-Christian values" as a reason to not welcome refugees and immigrants makes no sense in light of God's heart for foreigners and His commands that we welcome them. So, if Judeo-Christian values aren't the same as biblical principles, what are they?

I believe most Americans who refer to Judeo-Christian values are embracing and practicing something that scholars call American Civil Religion. American Civil Religion refers to the quasi-religion of American culture, history, and politics that manifests itself in symbols, documents, and holidays (i.e. the American flag, Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Independence Day, etc.). For many Christians this civil religion, though not bad in and of itself, has become completely intertwined with their biblical faith due to a unique and somewhat revisionist view of American history that focuses on the Pilgrim's search for religious freedom and the supposedly Christian faith of the founding fathers. This view of history results in many Christians feeling that they need to uphold the reputation of America as a "Christian" nation by preserving her "Judeo-Christian" heritage. This confusion results in Christians who base their views of immigrants and refugees, not on their biblical faith and the commands of Scripture, but on their American Civil Religion.

I was disappointed that the authors of Seeking Refuge did not touch on this issue, since I believe exposing American Civil Religion in the Christian Church is vital to drawing her back to God's Word on many topics, including immigration. However, I understand that to include it could have introduced even more controversy and could have possibly taken them off course from their primary goal.

Where to Get Seeking Refuge

All in all, I highly recommend Seeking Refuge to all Christians, not just those socially or politically minded, or those curious about the refugee crisis, because how the Church responds to the refugee crisis will define this generation of Christians. The authors said it best in their conclusion when they wrote,

Millions of displaced people, desperate for hope yet reviled and feared by many, will decide what they think of Jesus based on how His followers throughout the world respond to this crisis, whether with welcome, love, and advocacy, or with apathy, fear, and scapegoating (pgs. 181-2).

Seeking Refuge officially releases nationwide on July 5th. Visit World Relief to find out where you can purchase the book. If you preorder online before July 5th, you can email in your receipt for some additional bonus resources. I would also encourage you to spread the word to friends and family through email and social media. Please feel free to link to my review here as well.

Image Source: Moody Publishers