“Cognitive dissonance” is a psychologically observed phenomenon when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values and experiences psychological stress because of the inconsistency. The discomfort caused by the contradictions motivates the individual to make a consistent resolution. Simply put, humans are psychologically wired to want consistency.
Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to consider the psychology of American Evangelicalism when it comes to the question of a biblical ethic toward immigrants and refugees. An objective observer will be quick to realize that American Evangelicalism — in particular, White Evangelicalism — ought to have a significant amount of cognitive dissonance. A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that 77 percent of White Evangelicals approve of President Trump’s job performance in the White House. This job performance approval is in the midst of the administration’s record low cap for refugee administration, policies of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border, promotion of white nationalist and anti-immigrant ideologies by the president’s senior policy advisory, among others.
However, the Bible provides clear teachings about what could be best described as an ethic of welcome and embrace for the vulnerable, the outcast, and the forgotten. This radical neighborly love that originates from God’s own heart for “the least of these” has historically had deep impact in Christian communities. The magnitude of cognitive dissonance in the psyche of American Evangelicalism should be startling. Yet, instead of reconsidering beliefs and values to make them consistent with biblical teaching, many White Evangelicals have downplayed or simply disregarded biblical teaching to make it consistent with the policies of the current administration. Christian nationalism that vehemently defends the actions and policies of the current president is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface is a worldview that continues to reshape Christianity to fit it within the grid of the Trump presidency.
It’s not simply a matter of a change of mind but a change of heart and change of will that is required for American Evangelicalism to be recalibrated toward a biblical ethic of welcome. In the midst of an expanded social media presence that enables disembodied, cerebral interactions between Christians, there is a real need for an incarnational presence. There is a real need for up close and personal interaction behind these arguments over issues and policies.
It is in light of this need that Welcome. produced a film with associated discussion guides titled “Who Is Welcome Here.” The Welcome. movement is a collaborative partnership between World Relief, The National Immigration Forum, and We Welcome Refugees. Welcome. is a community of Christian women committed to creating a movement of Christ-like welcome in the United States.