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Refugee Converts Aren’t ‘Fraudsters,’ German Pastors Say

Churches push back on immigrant officials' new skepticism of authentic faith.

Elias is waiting for a German official to evaluate his Christianity.

He converted from Islam in Iran secretly. He was afraid because he knew that other converts had been arrested and beaten, some even killed. He had also heard of converts finding asylum in Germany. He dreamed of going there and being baptized in public. He could worship in the open, start a new life, and join a church, free from the fear of reprisals for his newfound faith.

And so he fled to Germany. When he got there, he applied for asylum. Now, Elias (a pseudonym) waits for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) to rule on his case. He is far from alone.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 refugees are seeking asylum in Germany on the grounds of religious persecution because of their conversion to Christianity, according to a 2019 Open Doors report. Amid sharp national debates about anti-refugee sentiment, religious literacy, and religious freedom, a number of evangelical leaders have called for changes to the process of officially evaluating refugee conversion.

Currently, the BAMF judges the sincerity of conversion and the severity of potential threats to asylum seekers’ lives. There is, however, a lack of explicit standards, clear criteria, or legal precedent for these examinations, and the BAMF grants asylum at significantly different rates in different parts of the country.

“It’s like a lottery,” said Gottfried Martens, pastor of a Lutheran church associated with the Missouri Synod in the Steglitz neighborhood of Berlin. Martens cares for more than 1,000 baptized Iranian, Afghan, and Pakistani Christians in his church and is currently instructing hundreds more in preparation for baptism.

“If you’re in Potsdam, you ...

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White Fragility: “Eat the Meat, Spit Out the Bones”

Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility is not a Christian book, nor does it claim to be, but it can still be informative.

The murder of George Floyd has surfaced centuries-long racial tensions in American life, and people have started (again) to look for answers about how they might respond. Thus, the leap of Robin DiAngelo’s volume White Fragility up the sales charts to become an #1 overall best seller. The sudden prominence of the book has sparked its own sub-conversation of both praise and protest. In light of all of this, how should we as evangelical Christians think about this volume?

I am a white pastor who served for nearly nine years in a majority black church and community. I am now planting a church in a relatively homogeneous, white community in South Florida, with tremendous diversity literally across the street. I have been wrestling with conversations and tensions surrounding race for years, recently finishing my PhD dissertation on the subject of the multiethnic church. In light of my previous study and experience, White Fragility struck me as somewhat unremarkable. The book offers some helpful things for majority/white people to consider, while those helpful aspects are often undergirded by problematic worldview presuppositions and paralleled by other problematic assertions.

In this article, I want to explore four questions about the book so that we can think about it a bit more clearly.

Why is White Fragility so popular?

I have some theories about the popularity of White Fragility, especially among evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. Here’s my main one: too often, evangelical theology has a thin theological vision that leaves us vulnerable to overreaction. Too often, evangelical ontology (doctrine of being), theological anthropology (doctrine of humanity), soteriology (doctrine of salvation), and eschatology (doctrine ...

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