The Bible says to welcome immigrants. So why don’t white evangelicals?
“Who is in charge of orchestrating the big caravan that is on its way to the United States border just in time for the election?” That was just one of the headlines on the website of the Christian Broadcasting Network, a religious media behemoth founded by Pat Robertson and which has emerged in recent years as a de facto spokesperson for the Trump administration. Vox is one of the several national media sites that have covered the caravan, which is made up of roughly 4,000 migrants, most of whom are from Honduras, who have opted to move collectively to the United States in order to avoid gang violence and political instability in their home country.
In spite of this, CBN constantly raised worries about the caravan in multiple pieces, claiming that “radical leftists” were behind it and that it was full of ” criminals” and ” exotics,” which is a phrase used by one of its sources to refer to migrants from the Middle East or Africa.
In response to an emailed request for comment, CBN did not answer.
Meanwhile, rumors of Soros-related conspiracy theories have proven to be lethal in other places.
He has not been identified.
In one tweet, he appears to have accused Jews for assisting and abetting “invaders,” which he appears to have meant the Honduran migrant caravan.
How did a religious community whose founding sacred book plainly commands care for the poor, the ill, and the stranger become a solid anti-refugee and anti-immigrant voting bloc?
White evangelicals have consistently upheld Trump’s policies on immigration and refugees
White evangelicals in the United States overwhelmingly saw “the government crackdown on illegal immigrants” as a positive development, according to a Washington Post/ABC survey conducted in January. This compares to only 46 percent of all Americans. In addition, according to a Pew Research Center study conducted in May, 68 percent of white evangelicals believe that the United States has no obligation to house refugees, a figure that is 25 points higher than the national average. White evangelicals are the only Christian group that has expressed this amount of antagonism toward refugees in the past decade or so.
Another study conducted by the Public Religion Research Initiative (PRRI) in July found that more than half of white evangelicals are concerned about the country’s diminishing white population, according to the results of the poll.
According to Isaiah 10, those who “turn aside the needy from justice and to deprive the destitute of my people of their due” will be punished by God.
A Methodist pastor mentioned this passage to Jeff Sessions on Monday while denouncing his address.
Most white American evangelicals have, at least since the 1970s, expressed trepidation about including nonwhites or those who are not American citizens among this “least.” According to historian Randall Balmer, the growth of the Moral Majority and the political evangelical religious right in America during the Reagan era was due as much to opposition to desegregation as it was to more evident disputed topics such as LGBTQ rights and abortion.
- Because white evangelicals have long been a politically powerful force in the United States, white American identity, Republican Party politics, and evangelical theology have become almost inextricably intertwined.
- The author John Feat told Vox in September that white evangelical pastors — and consequently their parishioners — are increasingly likely to accept sermon talking points and “marching orders” from an administration bolstered in part by its embrace of nationalism.
- Consider how Paula White (a longtime Trump adviser and well-known prosperity gospel preacher) used the Bible to defend Trump’s policies during the heated debate over immigration that ensued in the wake of Trump’s controversial migrant family separation policy in July.
- She told Christian Broadcasting Network that Christians who claimed Jesus was a “refugee” were incorrect.
- However, it was not against the law.
In America, children are not sent to jail with their parents, so I’m not sure why the only criminals who would be exempt from this policy would be illegal immigrants.” “I’m not sure why the only criminals who would be exempt from this policy would be illegal immigrants.” Aside from that, officials of the Trump administration have invoked biblical grounds in favour of family separation and immigration restrictions in general.
As recently as this summer, both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders appeared to cite Romans 13 — a verse in which the Apostle Paul warns a group of early Christians against rising up against the Roman Empire — to argue that the Trump administration has the biblical authority to set its own rules and that Christians have a responsibility to comply with those rules.
Some white evangelicals have advocated for a shift away from Trumpism in the evangelical community.
Consider, for example, Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, who has regularly expressed his opposition to Trump’s approach to and language on immigration.
Trump refused to do so.
According to the resolution, “God demands His people to treat immigrants with the same respect and dignity as those who were born in their country.”
Evangelicals’ increasing wariness of immigration reveals how close the interests of the GOP and white evangelicals have become
Despite this, the majority of evangelicals are sceptical about immigration policy. What can we make of this seeming mismatch between biblical theology — with its repeated exhortations to care for the poor and oppressed — and contemporary social justice movements? It is twofold, according to Diana Butler Bass, an American church historian and academic who specializes in the history of the American church, who spoke with Vox by phone. “The simple explanation would be that it demonstrates how secularized the community has become, as well as how it acts as an extension of the Republican Party.” I’m accepting talking points and marching orders from folks who have the strongest voices in the Republican Party,” she says.
White evangelicals are increasingly driven by a propensity to understand the Bible in a non-literal manner when it comes to passages that speak of, for example, caring for the poor, according to her.
Nevertheless, when it comes to these lines, which are about the poor and immigrants in particular, literalism is suddenly absent.
And the interpretation is that Jesus is not referring to everyone.
It demonstrates the extent to which white evangelical identity is increasingly predicated on politicized whiteness — as well as on an insular and isolationist vision of community — and demonstrates the extent to which white evangelicalism has become synonymous with Christian nationalism under the Trump administration.
“We’re witnessing literal verses with a lengthy history of interpretation, verses that benefit the poor and outcasts, verses that favor the poor and outcasts.” “We’ve redeployed people in ways that make sense for us right now,” Bass added.
In the Bible, one of the most renowned verses is Galatians 3:28, which emphasizes how Christianity is intended to be able to transcend barriers of race, class, economic status, and nationality, among other things.
The importance of interpretation is becoming more evident as it becomes increasingly clear that words are intimately linked to political violence and — in the case of the Pittsburgh shooting suspect — to suspected domestic terrorism.
What Would Jesus Do? Exploring the Biblical Perspective on Immigration
Overview Because of the deep ideological gap that exists today, Democrats and Republicans are unlikely to reach an agreement on the location of a Christmas celebration or the menu items that will be served. Numerous prognosticators have sought to articulate what the Messiah would say on a variety of Culture War themes, including immigration, during the course of the conflict. Journalists and politicians regularly attempt to prognosticate by attributing their own points of view to Jesus in order to gain political advantage.
- That I ended up with immigration law as a second practice area should not have come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.
- It was in the 1920s that my maternal grandparents, who were both Italian immigrants, immigrated to the United States.
- At West Point, I studied Spanish and Portuguese as a double major.
- It is fair to say that the President’s push for immigration reform has sparked a heated debate.
- With the worldwide threat, the potential for harm is ever-present, regardless of where you are.
- Although I support the principle of a merit-based immigration system, our immigration history does not support this approach.
- The real estate industry allowed him to make something of his life in America, just like so many other immigrants who came to this country from impoverished backgrounds.
Ann Coulter was on one side of the small room, hawking her anti-immigrant best book Adios America, which she had written.
When I inquired about Professor Latzer’s thoughts on significant crime and immigration, he said that the numbers did not support the allegations that illegal or legal immigrants are responsible for the majority of serious crime in the United States.
If you were to ask the Center for Immigration Studies, it would most likely argue that illegal immigrants are responsible for every problem that exists in American society.
This article seeks to overlay the Judeo-Christian history of the United States as a backdrop for reminding us of our immigration past and religious roots, as well as our religious heritage.
Ample hypocrisy could be found in all corners of the room.
Christianity owes a debt of gratitude to Judaism that will last forever since Christianity would not exist if it were not for Judaism!
In the field of immigration law, I’ve had the opportunity to defend illegal individuals who were in desperate legal straits.
When I first started practicing immigration law, one of my colleagues referred to immigration court as “traffic court with death sentence ramifications.” I thought it was hilarious.
What the Bible says about how we should conduct our lives, especially how we should treat the “foreigner” among us, is unmistakable.
I was disturbed to see a recent statement by Franklin Graham in which he stated that immigration is not a Biblical problem.
Unfortunately, evangelical Christianity is only perceived positively by the political right, and not by the political left, which has a more humane attitude toward immigrants and refugees.
Professor Joel Biden of Yale Divinity School and others have written interpretations on the Biblical commandment (both Old and New Testaments) to treat the foreigner/immigrant with dignity, which are summarized in this page.
If I wanted to do that, I would have to be a scholar, and I am not one.
We are living in dangerous times.
While our country has experienced prior eras of war and national security, immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world have flocked to this country in large numbers.
Once upon a time, Hebrew was regarded as a prospective candidate to become the official language of the United States!
The Israelites who managed to flee Pharaoh’s persecution struck a powerful chord with the Puritans, who felt a profound affinity with them.
In 1763, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, was established as the world’s first Jewish synagogue and colony.
As a Congregational minister and Hebrew student in Newport, Ezra Stiles cultivated close relationships with the town’s rabbi, who aided him in his Hebrew studies.
Harvard, Columbia, and the College of William & Mary all offered Hebrew courses in the early 18th century.
And, of course, all of the anti-English feeling that existed during this time period did nothing to help the case.
Refugees and strangers are treated in a variety of ways in both the Old and New Testaments, according to no fewer than sixty verses.
Genesis 12:1-3 (NASB): In response, the LORD instructed Abram to “depart from your home land and from your father’s house to the place that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1-2) Your name will become big, and you will be a benefit to others, for I will create you a great country and bless you.
In the days leading up to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham was visited by three visitors (angels).
Upon seeing them, he dashed from the tent’s entrance to welcome them and, bowing to the ground, he said, “My lords, please do not proceed beyond your servant if it is in your best interests.” Allow a small amount of water to be given to you; wash your feet and take a seat under the tree.
He eventually becomes not just a member of Israelite culture, but also the ancestor of David, and therefore the ancestor of Jesus, by intermarrying.
Many Old Testament passages eloquently urge the Israelites to treat the “foreigner” as though he or she were one of their own since they were once aliens who were oppressed by Pharaoh themselves.
B.Exodus 23:9:You shall not mistreat a stranger, for you are familiar with the sentiments of a stranger, having been strangers in the land of Egypt, and you understand their plight.
Due to the fact that you were foreigners in the country of Egypt, the stranger who comes to live with you will be treated as one of your citizens, and you will love him as you love yourself.
There will be a single law that applies to both you and the resident stranger; it will be a law that applies to all time and all ages.
Before the Lord, you and the foreigner will be on an equal footing.
E.Deuteronomy 10:16–19: In fact, the LORD your God is the supreme God and Lord, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who does not show favor and does not accept bribes, but who upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and who befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing in exchange for his friendship.
- You shall not oppress or exploit a poor or impoverished laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the towns of your land, according to Deuteronomy 24:14.
- H.Isiah 16:3–4 (NASB): Give advice or offer counsel if you want to.
- Allow Moab’s exiles to seek refuge in you; act as a safe haven for them in the face of the despoiler.
- Jesus, like Abraham, was an immigrant and refugee in Egypt, fleeing political persecution.
- Query: If Joseph and Mary were to go to the United States, would they be subject to additional vetting?
- Matthew 25:31-46 is a biblical passage.
- A great multitude of peoples will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats, placing the sheep at his right hand and the goats on his left.
“For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you paid me a visit.” “Lord, when was the last time we saw you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and gave you anything to drink?” the righteous will respond.
And when was the last time we saw you sick or in prison, and paid you a visit?’ When they complain, the king will tell them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of them who are also members of my family, you did it to me.” He will then say to those at his left hand, ‘You who are cursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, I was naked and you did not give me clothing, I was sick and in prison and you did not pay any attention to me.’ If they are asked the same question, they will respond: ‘Lord, when was the last time we saw you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in jail, and did not take care of you?’ When they confront him, he will respond, “Truly I tell you, just as you would not do it to one of the least of them, you would not do it to me.” And they will be cast into eternal torment, whilst the righteous will be cast into eternal life,” says Paul.
- God extends a warm welcome to those who, despite the fact that they are foreigners, want a homeland, a better nation.
- They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on this planet, because people who speak in this manner make it clear that they are looking for a place to call home.
- However, as things are, they yearn for a better country, namely, a heavenly one.
- SummaryDespite our religious and immigration traditions that have existed throughout American history, we, like the Israelites, are prone to forgetting that our forefathers were once strangers in their own land.
- Old-timers would not have been eligible for a Green Card under present laws if the proposed Green Card requirements had been in effect.
- The great irony of the “Bible Belt,” often known as the Old South, is that it is the region that is least welcoming to newcomers.
- Numerous objectives of the Administration are not mutually exclusive in their pursuit of the goal of reconciling current law with the biblical mandate.
- As an example of Christian charity, President Reagan’s allusion to America as “the City on the Hill” from Matthew 5:14 of the Sermon on the Mount was adopted by the Pilgrim leader John Winthrop, who used it as a model for Christian compassion.
This approach is imbued with the spirit of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the requirement to treat the stranger or foreigner among us as we would “treat” each other as fellow citizens of the United States.
What does the Bible say about illegal immigration?
QuestionAnswer Note: We wholeheartedly believe that Christians are called to be compassionate and merciful toward immigrants (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33–34; Matthew 25:35). We also believe that the United States should have a compassionate and merciful immigration policy. However, that is not the question at hand. The question at hand concerns illegal immigration—whether it is wrong to violate a nation’s borders and transgress its immigration laws. Romans 13:1–7 makes it abundantly clear that God expects us to obey the laws of the government.
- (Acts 5:29).
- There is nothing in Scripture that contradicts the idea of a sovereign nation having immigration laws.
- Illegal immigration is a sin.
- Some argue that the immigration laws are unfair, unjust, and even discriminatory—thus giving individuals justification to immigrate illegally.
- Again, the issue is not the fairness of a law.
- When Paul wrote the book of Romans, he was under the authority of the Roman Empire, led by Emperor Nero.
- Still, Paul instructed Christians to submit to the government.
Some think so, but that is not the issue.
There is nothing in the Bible to prohibit a country from having completely open borders or to have completely closed borders.
Whether the punishment is imprisonment, deportation, or even something more severe, it is within the rights of the government to determine.
The vast majority of illegal immigrants in the United States have come for the purpose of having a better life, providing for their families, and escaping poverty.
However, it is not biblical to violate a law to achieve a “good.” Caring for the poor, orphans, and widows is something the Bible commands us to do (Galatians 2:10; James 1:27; 2:2–15).
Supporting, enabling, and/or encouraging illegal immigration is, therefore, a violation of God’s Word.
While this may cause delays and frustrations, it is better than acting illegally.
What is the biblical solution to illegal immigration?
If disobedience is not a biblical option, what can be done in regards to an unjust immigration law?
If it is your conviction that an immigration law is unjust, do everything that is legally within your power to get the law changed: pray, petition, vote, peacefully protest, etc.
At the same time, we are also to demonstrate our submission to God by obeying the government He has placed in authority over us.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”(1 Peter 2:13–16). Return to:Topical Bible Questions What does the Bible say about illegal immigration?
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Franklin Graham said immigration is ‘not a Bible issue.’ Here’s what the Bible says.
Some prominent members of the church community, notably Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., have spoken out in support of President Trump’s immigration ban, despite the fact that many religious organizations oppose the measure. Evangelist Franklin Graham, in an attempt to justify the prohibition from a religious standpoint, claimed, “That is not a Bible issue.” He couldn’t be more completely incorrect. It is quite clear in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament about how we are to treat others who are not our family members or friends.
It is what God desires for us to accomplish, but it also acknowledges that we were once immigrants — and that we continue to be immigrants.
When you consider that nearly 80 percent of Americans, according to some studies, believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, what this culturally foundational document says about immigration, foreigners, and the treatment of the stranger — defined in biblical terms as any person who dwells in a land without being a citizen of that land — should not simply be a matter of historical record, but should also inform us today, too.
- It is the tale of immigrants and outsiders that tells the story of the Bible.
- The myth of Israel’s exodus underlines their position as foreigners in a land that is not their own.
- Israel flees Egypt as refugees and comes up against nations that, either out of fear or pure intransigence, refuse to let them pass, forcing them to go through the harsh desert of the Sinai Peninsula.
- The book of Ruth is perhaps the most well-known biblical account on this subject.
- Moreover, it is this stranger who turns out to be the ancestor of King David, and through him, the ancestor of Jesus Christ.
- If a foreigner comes to live with you in your country, you must not treat him unfairly.
It is said in Deuteronomy that “you must not usurp the rights of the outsider,” a statement that presumes that the stranger does, in fact, have rights.
The prophets were likewise aware of the predicament of the refugee, as was the rest of society.
Allow Moab’s outcasts to find refuge in you; act as a safe haven for them.” Another promise of the Bible is that one day the lines between citizen and stranger will be erased.
Caring for the stranger is not only something we should do; the Bible implies that it is also something God does on our behalf.
In response to the judge’s question about whether they had ever treated Jesus in this manner, Jesus says, “Just as you did to the least of them, you did to me.” Dr.
Joel Baden is a professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Author of “The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero,” he is also a historian. You may view a video of his presentation on immigration by clicking here.
22 Bible Verses on Welcoming Immigrants
Download a printable pdf version of this document. ‘I am a foreigner and an alien staying among you; please provide me property among you for a grave site, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight,’ says the stranger and alien. Genesis 23:4 (NIV) You must also love the foreigner, since you were strangers in Egypt, and you must love the alien now. 10:19 (Deuteronomy 10:19) The foreigner who lives among you will be treated as if he or she were a citizen among you; you will love the alien as if he or she were a member of your own family, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt, and I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 27:19 is a biblical verse.
He permitted no one to persecute them, rebuking rulers on their behalf, saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do not injure my prophets.” In 1 Chronicles 16:19-22, the Bible says I was the blind’s eyes, and the lame’s feet, as well as their feet.
I shattered the fangs of the unrighteous and forced them to release their prey from their jaws as a result.
Psalm146:9 Because, if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly act justly toward one another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not seek after other gods to your own detriment, then I will come and live with you in this place, in the land that I gave to your forefathers thousands of years ago, forever and ever.
7:5-7 (Jeremiah 7:5-7) You will divide it up as an inheritance for yourself and for any immigrants who have settled in your country and have produced offspring in your community.
Ezekiel 47:22 is a verse in the Bible that says This is what the Lord of hosts says: “Render right judgements, show love and charity to one another; do not harass the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, or the destitute; and do not plan evil against one another in your minds.” Zechariah 7:9-10 is a biblical passage.
- 5:43-44 (Matthew 5:43-44) I was hungry, and you fed me; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me with open arms.
- ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all of your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ says Matthew 25:40.
- Paul writes in Romans 12:13 that There is nothing that anybody owes anyone else but to love one another; for the one who loves another has completed the law of love.
- Romans 13:10 is a verse that states that When Christ reigns, there is no longer a distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free; rather, Christ is everything and everyone in all of creation.
- Allow for the continuation of mutual affection.
- It is important to remember those who are imprisoned, as if you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as if you were being tormented yourself.
- You would be wise to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God, for they embarked on this journey only for the sake of Christ, receiving no assistance from nonbelievers.
3 1 John 1:5 (New International Version) In that moment, I heard a booming voice from the throne say: “See, the dwelling of God is among mortals.” In his capacity as their God, he will live among them; they will be his people, and God himself will be with them.” Revelation 21:3 is a verse from the book of Revelation.
What the Bible Really Says About Trump’s Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy
Attorney General Jeff Sessions quotes the Bible to defend the horrible zero-tolerance immigration policy, which imprisons children as a result of their parents’ actions. The policy, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is “very Biblical.” It doesn’t take long for religious people to express their disapproval: “immoral” from Catholic bishops and the Pope; “unconscionable” from rabbis and Jewish organizations; “travesty” from nuns; and “near to indecent” from Jesuit priests. “Let the tiny ones come to me,” a Protestant leader quotes Jesus as saying (Matthew 19:14).
- This much seems obvious: removing thousands of children, including infants, from their parents, surreptitiously dispersing them around the country, and confining them in camps and pens goes against the compassion and love that are the characteristics of biblical preaching, and it is wrong.
- This traumatization of hordes of very young children serves as an epiphany, a climactic American moment of truth, in the making.
- A typical example of scapegoating, the President’s incessant demagoguery regarding the border with Mexico and people who escape there is a fundamentally human malevolence that is rarely recognized for what it is: a deep human malice that is rarely acknowledged as such.
- As a result of the suffering inflicted on the disadvantaged, members of the dominant, victimizing group feel liberated from their negative energy, creating a “collective effervescence,” which leads them to believe that the victims were deserving of the punishment they received.
- This interpretation was mistakenly triggered by Sessions when he brought up the Bible, because the word “scapegoat” originated in the book of Revelation.
- Sessions’ error lay less in his flagrant misapplication of a text from St.
- According to legend, Remus was murdered by his brother Romulus, who was subsequently elevated to godhood and immortalized as the city’s name-bearer by the goddess Athena.
(19) “From the earth, I hear the sound of your brother’s blood calling out to me.” As I’ve already stated, the Bible’s God, from the beginning, stands with the victims rather than with the perpetrators of injustice.
This is exactly what happened in the book of Exodus, which chronicles the account of a people banished into the desert, but does it from the perspective of the afflicted Hebrews rather than from the perspective of the all-powerful Egyptian ruler.
The Bible condemns them because they are delineations of disdain.
God does not only “feel” for victims; God is a staunch supporter of them on a permanent basis.
The fact that self-affirming Christians such as Sessions and Sanders appear to be completely oblivious of this significance demonstrates just how deeply ingrained the scapegoating instinct is in the human mind.
In the end, what should have been the ultimate debunking of scapegoating was itself undone when some of his traumatized supporters told his anti-scapegoating story in a way that immediately scapegoated “the Jews,” who were falsely blamed for his death and were branded as “Christ-killers,” despite the fact that they did so very humanly.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump described unauthorized immigrants as individuals who would “flood into and infest our Country,” and his rally-energizing remark that “They’re not sending their finest” fueled the crowd.
The fact that Trump’s organizing emblem is the Wall, no matter how absurdly impractical it may be, eloquently demonstrates the intensity of this malignant urge.
In order to combat Trump’s exploitation of the marginalized and disadvantaged – which now includes children – it is necessary first to identify Trump’s behavior as such. Immigrants, whether they are documented or not, are not the problem in America. They have been designated as America’s scapegoat.
Jesus, Paul and the border debate – why cherry-picking Bible passages misses the immigrant experience in ancient Rome
Immigration reform is back on the table, with Congress taking up important measures that could pave the way for millions of individuals living in the United States without legal status to gain citizenship. Because of this, as well as a spike in the number of migrants crossing the southern border into the United States, many individuals have retreated to two prevalent perspectives on the subject. The history of America as a country of immigrants is frequently emphasized by reform advocates. As for America’s adversaries, they argue that it is a constitutionally-guaranteed nation with the sovereign right to guard its borders.
For example, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew on the Apostle Paul’s perspective on the government in order to buttress his support for child separation immigration policy at the southern border. The Apostle Paul’s clear and prudent advice in Romans 13 to respect the rules of the government because God has instituted them for the purpose of maintaining order, he said, is a good example to follow. Some believe that the Bible has multiple verses that demonstrate a readiness to welcome outsiders and foreigners, which may be persuasive evidence in support of more progressive immigration policies.
During my research as a New Testament scholar on howforeignerswere portrayed during the first century, I came to the conclusion that selecting a few texts from Jesus’teachingon welcoming the foreigner or the Apostle Paul’steachingon the government does not provide the complete story on the immigrant experience.
Immigration to Rome during the time of Jesus and Paul was met with distrust and hostility from both the imperial authority and the native population of Rome.
Unfriendly Romans and noncountrymen
Immigrants constituted a large proportion of the foreign population in Rome’s capital. They arrived to the empire either as kidnapped slaves or as voluntary migrants in quest of better chances, according to David Noy, an ascholar of ancient literature. Some ancient Roman authors who lived around the time of Jesus had unfavorable feelings about the presence of immigrants. A wave of nostalgia for a time when Rome was less influenced by foreigners swept through the ranks of the Roman aristocracy.
According to ancient literature expert Benjamin Isaac, there was a “strong perception that Rome was losing strength and vitality as a result of its pleasures, as well as a dread of being undercut by foreign immigrants from among the conquered people.” The imperial power of expulsion was established by the Romans in response to the threat and presence of immigrants in Italy.
In the second century AD, according to Suetonius, another Roman historian, the emperor Claudius, who reigned in the decades following Jesus’ death, prohibited foreigners from adopting Roman names and drove Jews from the city of Rome.
49 is an interesting parallel to the Jewish expulsion, which appears in the New Testament for the first time.
Heritage Art/Heritage Photographs courtesy of Getty Images Expulsions were not always permanent, and they were not always restricted to foreigners.
The most well-known example is that of the Roman poet Ovid, who was exiled for authoring provocative sexual writings. He was transported to the territory of Tomis, which is now part of the country of Romania.
In order to understand Jesus’ teachings, it is necessary to understand the reality of immigrants and their condition during the time of the formation of Christianity. When Jesus instructs his pupils on the need of “welcoming the stranger,” this was in reaction to the political tragedy that had befallen a fellow human being at the time. It would be tantamount to murder to refuse them welcome. Not all immigrants left their home countries for economic reasons; for some, leaving their home country was their only option as a result of the imperial act of expulsion.
Considering that Paul was a Roman citizen, it would have been natural for him to advise other Christians residing in Rome about the need of maintaining political harmony with the empire.
The empire used its deportation authority indiscriminately, and persons such as Paul who established non-Roman religions were not spared from this policy.
When the writings of Paul or the teachings of Jesus are brought into the argument, it is important to understand the historical context in which they were written.
Aside from that, throughout the time of Jesus and Paul, both Roman citizens and noncitizens were subject to deportation from the city of Rome.
“White evangelical Christians tend to be more hostile to immigration reform and have more unfavorable opinions about immigrants than any other religious population,” says Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University.