Book Write-Up: Seeking Refuge

Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir.  Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis.  Moody, 2016.  See here to buy the book.

Stephan Bauman and Matthew Soerens work for World Relief, which partners with churches for the purpose of international relief and development.  Dr. Issam Smeir is a counselor who is a specialist in trauma, specifically for refugees, torture victims, and children who have been abused and neglected.

As the title indicates, this book is about refugees.  It addresses a variety of questions: Who are the refugees?  What are they fleeing?  What challenges do they face in the United States, and how has the church helped them to adjust?  Do refugees take jobs away from American citizens and burden the system?  And does allowing them into the United States increase the threat of radical Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil?

The book effectively makes the points that it wants to make.  It tells anecdotes that demonstrate the human face of the issue.  Its description of the economic and psychological problems that many refugees face is vivid.  Its critique of the claims that refugees may pose a terror threat and burden the U.S. system are well-documented.  The book draws from studies, including studies from such conservative organizations as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.  (Yet, one should remember that there are divisions within the right over issues.)  The book also stresses the importance of remembering cultural differences as the church seeks to assist refugees in the United States, and it encourages Christians to view refugees as an opportunity, as they can replenish the church as millennials leave it (though the book stresses that the church should not help refugees primarily to increase its numbers).

Although the book effectively critiqued the argument that refugees may pose a terror threat if they are let into the United States, there were times when it seemed to argue that this issue does not matter: God wants us to help the alien, and we should obey, period.  The book likens those who want to increase restrictions on the entrance of refugees for national security reasons to the Pharaoh of Exodus 1, who had national security concerns about the foreign Israelites in Egypt.  Their theological and religious arguments certainly deserve consideration, but they could have been developed further.  There are places in the Bible that call upon God’s people to trust in God: for example, prophets in the Hebrew Bible exhorted Judah to trust God for her national security rather than entering into foreign alliances.  At the same time, there are biblical passages that encourage wisdom in the pursuit of self-protection (i.e., the Proverbs), and those, too, deserve consideration in discussions about immigration.

While the book was informative, some topics could have used more detail.  What happens to the refugees who are waiting to enter the U.S., who are not allowed to enter, or who lack financial resources?  The book addressed this tangentially, but not always in detail.  More detail would have strengthened the book’s case that help is necessary.  While the book provided some details about the process by which the U.S. Government decides which refugees to admit, it should have explained what questions it asks.  Some argue that it is difficult to discover the background of some of the refugees, so the book could have further alleviated concerns about the refugees by explaining how the Government learns more about them, beyond saying that this agency compares notes with that agency.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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