While some people have responded to the refugee crisis with compassion, others have reacted with xenophobia. Geoffrey Botkin, Christian Patriarchy Movement adherent and head of the Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences, belongs to the latter group. In a November 22nd, 2015 sermon at Christ the King Church entitled "Loving Refugees: Why Christians Are Getting It Wrong", Botkin demonizes Muslim refugees as a fifth column in western countries. At a time when Trump's executive order is generating so much protest and outrage, it seems timely to share Botkin's sermon.
Botkin began his talk by describing Islamic extremist attacks, setting the tone for the rest of his talk. However, he assured his audience that he was not trying to frighten them, but to open their eyes to Islamic atrocities. "This message that I'm giving to you this morning is not to create fear, but to recover the wisdom that will end the destruction that creates widows, rape victims, orphans, and refugees," he said at the 0:48 mark.
Yes, Geoffrey, you ARE trying to create fear, I thought. Your whole schtick is instilling fear in your audience so that they endorse your agenda.
At the 1:03 mark, he prepared to discuss "what the Bible really says" about responding to refugees.
"Yesterday, the American broadcaster NPR asked an incisive question: what does the Bible say about refugees? And what they discovered was that presidential candidates and voters have an incredible Biblical illiteracy. Even those who should know better are offering mixtures of pragmatism and religious-sounding platitudes, and these have now taken the cultural place of what the Bible really says."Botkin quoted Proverbs 24:23-25 and argued that acts of mercy must be tempered with "sound judgment and discernment" at the 2:50 mark.
"The Bible makes a case for sound judgment and discernment as the basis for all deeds of mercy and compassion ... I want you to know today that I am extraordinarily optimistic about the solution that we're seeing about militant Islam and Muslim migration, because it is so remarkably simple. But to reach it, Christians in the west must begin to confess their own negligence in exercising discernment and courage and leadership. We're supposed to have good judgment. We're actually making judgments all the time. Everyone is, and we cannot get this one wrong."Botkin argued that Christians are demonstrating "foolishness" with regard to refugees. Many Christians, he claimed, are allowing nations to get info from "foolish" media stories and Facebook memes. After admitting that America is a nation of immigrants, he claimed that America's story is not one of "blind sympathy or careless compassion". A condition of acceptance was respect for God's law as expressed through laws of the land, he said.
At the 14:27 mark, Botkin claims that Islam has been an enemy of America since the country's founding.
"Islam was hurting the world at the time of America's founding. Even some of our own citizens were being taken, captured, killed rape, mistreated, insulted, right at the time that we declared our independence and shortly after. They took a special advantage of our weakness right after we became a nation because we didn't have a navy. And so pirate ships that were Muslim would ambush our ships on the high seas and take our men and women and children captive and sell them into the slave markets."When confronted with a migrant, Americans should ask if the migrant is a decent and lawful person, of if he plans to subvert American laws, Botkin advised.
Botkin was quick to remind listeners that he isn't racist. At the 16:14 mark, he insisted that his diatribe was against "lawlessness" and the "rival law system" of Islam.
"Pigment and race has nothing to do with any of this. This is about character and lawlessness. Does the migrant intend to replace American law with a rival law system? Does he intend to overthrow all freedom of religion, for example, forcing people to observe a different religious system of law? And these are the religious questions of immigration that Christians need to be offering solid answers to right now, today."Christians have been AWOL with applying discernment to immigration, he insisted. American Christians are "more passive than active" and "more confused than certain" in their analysis of immigration, and they have taught themselves and the surrounding culture to reject the law of God, he said. Even politicians are making "treasonous" mistakes with regard to this issue, he argued.
On the subject of Syria and its refugees, Botkin described ISIS atrocities, decrying the "typical Mohammedian brutality to Christians and Yazidis". Outrageously, Botkin claimed that the refugees who were escaping Syria first and easiest were not victims of ISIS, but well-to-do Muslim men of fighting age of same "religious brotherhood" as ISIS. Muslims are emigrating to West as part of stealth hijra, deceitful jihad, he warned, adding that the American media does not understand "Islamic migration warfare".
"Do Muslims come to new lands to improve them or to find refuge, or to trample them, insult them, defile them, destroy them?" he asked the audience at the 30:31 mark. At the 30:50 mark, he demonized Muslims as as "mob" whose behavior is consistently cruel and deadly.
"The attitude exhibited by the Islamic mob is consistently Islamic. Whatever the nationality, the behavior is consistent, whether in a refugee camp, where they tolerate the assassination of a Christian, Christian people, Christian families, or on board small rafts where Christians have been thrown overboard en route to Europe. And it's been consistent also in helping themselves to the plunder of Europe once they arrived. They entered Greek houses and took what they wanted when they arrived in Greece. Arriving in Hungary, they discarded cell phones and documents so that they could plead whatever refugee status was most beneficial."The demonization continued at the 31:41 mark, when he told listeners that Muslims have killed, enslaved, and "annihilated" cultures since the inception of Islam. "Christian nations" must not lose their "moral confidence" and good judgment, lest they experience the same fate, he warned.
"In its 1,400 year war against the non-Muslim world, Islam has taken the lives of 120 million people. That's an estimate. That doesn't even include the number of slaves that were sold into slavery. And Islam has annihilated every culture it has conquered, and this should never happen to nations with stable foundations of law, order, and justice, but it will ALWAYS happen when Christian nations lose their nerve, their moral confidence, their discernment, and their judgment."Botkin raged against once-Christian nations embracing a "politically correct version of niceness and committing treason to their own law, their own people". To frighten his audience, Botkin warned them about Islamic "rape gangs' in UK who terrorize their victims with little to no police accountability.
Great, I thought. He's using the scary-brown-men-gonna-bang-all-the-white-women scare tactic again.
One million English girls have been assaulted by Muslim attackers, he claimed. This claim stretched the limits of plausibility. According to the United Kingdom Office for National Statistics, the UK had a population of roughly 65 million people as of 2015. While I realize that sexual victimization is sadly common, does Botkin really expect us to believe that 1 in 65 UK residents has been raped by a Muslim immigrant?
Botkin asserted that no alien can claim to be above law of the land or get special treatment. "Most Muslims understand that they are to be and act and believe themselves and act accordingly above the law," he told listeners. After giving lip service to Bible passages on treating the foreigner justly, he added that Christians "are required to show our loves for aliens, but we do it on God's terms."
Predictably, those who think differently than Botkin were mocked when Islamic extremist violence befell then. For example, Paris "surrendered their right of expression" after the Charlie Hebdo attack, Botkin's told the audience. He depicted the French as weak in the face of the attack, asking "Are any Frenchmen willing to resist here?". At the 55:13 mark, he mocked the French for supposedly having nothing to defend when they grieved for the Charlie Hebdo victims.
"What does this mean? Je suis Charlie? 'I am Charlie, and all my thousands of friends are marching with solemn faces.' The journalists are suggesting that they're saying to the world here, 'We Frenchmen will continue in united solidarity to our collective irreverence, and we don't care if we die in pursuit of wine, women, and song. We don't have much worth fighting to defend, so we'll just keep eating and drinking and being French and just take whatever comes.'"Sadly, this rhetoric is what we've come to expect from Botkin: demonization of the Other, salacious warnings about the Other's supposed sexual menace, and cultivation of fearful us-versus-them thinking. In Botkin's world, the Muslim becomes a scapegoat, a depraved and violent Other who is blamed for society's ills. The terrifying Other serves as an excuse for fundamentalist Christian to retreat deeper into insular communities and unite against a perceived enemy. At a time when the racist Alt-right is clamoring to be heard and hate crimes against Muslims are increasing, such hateful rhetoric is dangerous. At a time when countless Muslim refugees are seeking refuge in the U.S., and being turned away, such rhetoric is heartbreaking.
While Botkin's sermon gives us insight into anti-Muslim hatred, the attitudes expressed therein are not mainstream. The beliefs of men like him must never be allowed to become mainstream. As decent human beings, we are obliged see past stereotypes and fearmongering, to treat Muslims and refugees fairly, and to welcome the stranger seeking asylum at the golden door.