Despite the claims of conservatives, the Bible was clear on this point
Like other religions that grew up in the harsh desert environment of the Middle East, such as Islam or Zoroastrianism (which has a surprising amount in common with Christianity), the Judeo-Christian Bible commanded its followers to treat strangers with generosity.
It makes sense. After all, if you were wandering through such a harsh environment, when you finally reach a human settlement, if the residents did not respond with hospitality, it could mean death to the traveler. And since people did not know when they would next be in need of assistance, they knew that caring for strangers was necessary because they never knew when they would be in need of the assistance of strangers. In a way, it was an ancient command to pay it forward.
Indeed, the Torah, the first five books in the Bible, include far more commands to love the stranger than it does to love the neighbor.
In Deuteronomy 10:19, God commands “you shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In Leviticus 19:34, God commands “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.”
And also in Leviticus 27:19, “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”
These are just a few examples, and from just a small portion of the Old Testament.
Jesus continued that command. In Matthew 5:43–44, he said “you have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”
Jesus was not saying to be kind only to those people you like. That is easy. Even Hitler treated his friends well. What is difficult is treating those who are different from you with selfless generosity and kindness.
Or as philosopher and British Member of Parliament Jonathan Sacks said, “The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.”
There are other similar quotes throughout the Bible. There is the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37). And remember something that we often forget today: Samaritans were hated by the Hebrews of Jesus’s time. When the Samaritan took care of the beaten Hebrew, it would be the equivalent of an American being taken care of by an Iraqi.
The point of that story is that the “neighbor” you are supposed to take care of might be very different from you.
Similarly, Matthew 25:31–46 describes what will happen at the end of the world, when God will separate us into the righteous and the cursed. The righteous will have been those who, God says “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
The cursed are those who did not behave that way.
Both groups are puzzled. “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
In both cases, the response will be the same. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
It’s hard to imagine that current American policy of separating families and imprisoning children in concentration camps is something that complies with this Biblical direction.
One might respond that the Bible was written in a different time and place, when NOT taking someone in could mean death to them, as I described above.
Why do evangelical conservatives support a sinner like Donald Trump?
The futile effort of the religious right to stop social progress
But many of Trump’s evangelical supporters, the kind who say things like:
- “There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!” — Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition
- “I think God was behind the last election. He (Trump) may go down in history as one of the best presidents we’ve had.” — Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham
- “He’s (Trump) God’s choice. They can try all day long to remove him, they will not remove him. God said, ‘I set him as the president,’ and they can fight, and they can curse, and they can do all that they want; the problem is that they’re fighting against God.” — Evangelist Robert Henderson on an episode of The Jim Bakker Show
These are the same people who believe the Bible is the unerring, literal Word of God. As Billy Graham wrote, “I Believe the Bible Is the Word of God.”
In other words, we have a contradiction here. On the one hand, Trump is the choice of God. On the other hand, God speaks through the Bible, which says, in no uncertain terms, that demonizing immigrants is immoral.
Peter Wehner of The Atlantic wrote that there is a “deepening crisis in evangelical Christianity” as a result of its support for Trump. His argument is that supporting such an immoral person flies in the face of Christianity’s traditional emphasis on character.
But Evangelicals face another problem: Trump’s policies in and of themselves violate God’s commands in the Bible. If they are to live their faith, they cannot simultaneously support his cruel immigration policies.
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