“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)
We are now celebrating the birth of one of the most consequential people who ever lived. The facts around Jesus’ birth and early life are stark, despite the way they are sometimes sentimentalized. When Jesus was born, the corrupt leader of Israel, King Herod, was fighting to maintain power. To achieve this, he committed one vile act after another, including the massacre of baby boys in Bethlehem.
Jesus’ foster father, Joseph, was warned to escape these killings and go to a foreign country, to protect the baby and His mother. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to save Jesus’ life. If they had been denied entrance, history could have changed dramatically.
There are people today who are doing exactly the same thing, fleeing their home countries in order to protect their children from violence and death. How should a country which some want to claim to be a Christian nation react to these asylum seekers?
Historically, America has welcomed refugees and asylum seekers. There were times when we failed, such as our rejection of European Jewish asylum seekers during the 1930s, but generally, we have been a refuge for those escaping violence and danger.
In New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty stands, welcoming people from all over the world who are fleeing hardship and oppression. The last part of the poem on the statue says this: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Today, too many people want to obliterate this poem, saying the only people who should come to America are those who don’t need a refuge, who aren’t poor, who fit a narrow standard based on ethnicity and religion. Anyone outside that narrow standard is to be imprisoned and families are to be separated. They are then to be deported back to the horrors they are trying to escape.
A July 8, 2019, Daily Kos article said “An incredible 68% of white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees.” In line with this, the Trump administration has been systematically reducing the number of refugees allowed into America.
Interestingly, “65% of adults with no religious affiliation say we have a responsibility to accept refugees; 74% of Democrats agree with this sentiment.” In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus is clear how we are to treat immigrants and refugees. The word for “stranger” here actually means “foreign settlers.” So who is actually following Jesus’ teachings?
A comment from the above Daily Kos article sums it up perfectly:
Border Patrol: “What are your names?”
Refugee family: “I’m Joseph, this is my wife Mary and our baby Jesus. We need asylum from persecution.”
BP: “Where have you come from?”
BP: “That’s in Palestine. Application denied. You’re for prison and the baby is going to a special camp.”
This is the scenario too many Americans think is just fine. Is this consistent with Biblical teachings? The Bible tells about many famous refugees. Abraham himself was a refugee, as was his grandson Jacob and his family, escaping to Egypt because of famine. The Israelites were refugees from Egypt. Naomi was a refugee to Moab; she returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth, a refugee from Moab.
The Bible is unambiguous about how we are to treat refugees. “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” (Deuteronomy 27:19) Christians and non-Christians alike should appreciate the morality of this statement.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Some people want to claim there is a War on Christmas. The real War on Christmas doesn’t consist of whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Both are perfectly appropriate comments.
The real War on Christmas comes from those who ignore what Jesus taught us, who refuse to honor His teachings, who want to substitute cruelty, cages and razor wire for Jesus’ words.
At the end of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Tiny Tim exclaimed, “God bless us, every one!” We are very blessed in America. We should be welcoming those seeking refuge. As we celebrate this season, we must never forget that. Merry Christmas to us all!
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.