A Few Thoughts on Jeff Sessions, the Bible, and Immigration

A Few Thoughts on Jeff Sessions, the Bible, and Immigration June 15, 2018

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I’m sure you’ve all heard the latest news about what is going on at our southern border. If you haven’t, please allow me to inform you: At this very moment, our government is ripping immigrant children away from their parents, in part, as a means to “deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children.” In other words, children are being used as leverage against their parents—roughly 1,358 of them since last October, in fact.

This is all a part of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration. And while treating foreigners fairly shittily is really nothing new for my country, what’s shocking is that it is self-proclaimed Christians leading the way in the brutality.

Case in point: Attorney General, and all around ignoramus, Jeff Sessions. Speaking on immigration in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he recently stated:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

Okay, so yes, Paul did say that. But let’s hold our horses for a moment. First off, don’t you find it just a tad bit dubious for a government official to take these words and then attempt to make the case that the State should have free reign to do whatever the hell they want, all in the name of law and order? I do, especially given the fact that the guy who wrote Romans was later executed by the State. Second, and this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise—maybe it is for Sessions—but Paul doesn’t stop at verse 1. If we read on to verses 8–10, we would discover the following:

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Now, I’m guessing Sessions and those like him would argue that this command is about loving one’s neighbor, and not illegal immigrants. Fair enough. But when Jesus gave the same command—to love one’s neighbor—when asked who the neighbor is, the Lord responded with the story of the Good Samaritan.

What’s striking about this story is that the Samaritans were not viewed too highly in Jesus’ culture (that’s putting it mildly). They were the bad-guys, if you will. They were reprobates. Scumbags. Assholes. Thieves. Criminals. Animals. And whatever other pejoratives you want to come up with. And yet, the Samaritan is the one who we are to emulate. Not the priest who passes by the dying man on the side of the road. Not the Levite who does the same. The Samaritan is the merciful one, and per Jesus, we are to be likewise.

This ethic of other-centered love is not necessarily unique to Jesus, however. The Torah is chock-full of it:

  • Exodus 22:21—You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
  • Leviticus 19:33—When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.
  • Deuteronomy 10:19—You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
  • Deuteronomy 27:19—Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice. All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
  • Deuteronomy 24:17—You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.

Now, I understand that Levitical law, as Hebrew scholar Mark Stone rightly pointed out in my previous post, only concerns those inhabiting the holy land. But my point is to meet these Christians who think that it is “biblical” to withhold mercy and love from the foreigner on their own terms. In other words, if we want to be biblical about things, if we want to apply the Bible to our modern times, then we have to take the statements above to heart. After all, we Americans were once upon a time aliens in this land; we Americans were once upon a time oppressed people; we Americans were once upon a time strangers; we Americans were once deprived, orphaned, widows of justice. I guess we’ve forgotten that.

At the end of the day, if Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration are going to enact laws that are unjust, then that is what they are going to do. I hope we as citizens of the United States of America will do our best to eliminate such unjust laws. And a good place to start, in my opinion, is to point out that it is beyond absurd to use the Bible in order to justify their abhorrent, loveless, and, dare I say, anti-Christ behavior. If more Christians could understand that, then I think we’d get somewhere. At minimum, maybe we’d at least cease our support for such nonsense.

May we remember how Christ loved us first, and how Christ commanded that we love one another as ourselves. This includes our neighbor, but it also includes the immigrant, the foreigner, the expat, the widow, the poor, the oppressed . . . everyone.

Shalom.

 

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