"And when they were departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeareth to
Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and
take the young child and his mother,
and flee into Egypt, and be thou there
until I bring thee word: for Herod will
seek the young child to destroy him."
- Matthew 2:13, New Testament, King James Version
The Bible, much like the US Constitution, has been re-interpreted, and sometimes twisted, to bolster support or oppose various issues since it was laid to paper. Most recently, many Christians have held it up to oppose same-sex marriage or abortion. But unlike same-sex marriage and abortion, two issues Jesus never spoke to, the Bible's commands for the current refugee crisis are clear and unambivalent.
It could be said that seeking or providing refuge is the central theme of both the New and Old Testaments. The treatment of immigrants and refugees is addressed throughout the Bible, and nearly every major player is seeking or granting refuge. Abram fled famine to Egypt. Lot fled Sodom. Abraham is a stranger in Canaan. Jacob flees with his family to Egypt and and is granted refuge by Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame) and the Pharaoh.
When Moses and the Israelites fled Egypt, God commands him :"For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" and instructs him to give refuge to the Levites.
Most important to Christians would be the flight of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph into Egypt to escape the massacre of King Herod; the biblical story most similar to today's refugee crisis. It's no wonder that Jesus reserves one of his strongest condemnations to those that would refuse refuge to the foreigner, the stranger, or the refugee.
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
- Matthew 25:34-45, New Testament, New International Version
How Christians should respond to this crisis could not be any less clear. Romans 12:13 states that a mark of a true Christian is to "extend hospitality to strangers."
Yet, conservative American Christians can't seem to get this more wrong. When Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 101, the "Religious Freedom" bill, into law this Spring, he claimed it was so that government "may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion." Many however saw it as simply a way for Christians and government to discriminate against the LGBT community, having nothing to do with "religious freedom." This week it seems those critics were proven right as Governor Pence prevented Catholic Charities from resettling a family of Syrian refugees in Indiana, effectively burdening the exercise of their religion. The Governor is now facing a lawsuit over this decision.
Governor Pence is not alone. He is joined by nearly 30 other Governors, all of whom claim to be Christian. Combined with conservative Christian television and talk radio pundits, the Christian right in America is standing firmly against the teachings of their Lord and their God, turning instead to fear and hate.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, of courage and resolution." It's time American Christians do the Christian thing and welcome those fleeing war and destruction, lest they be those who would have left Jesus to the massacre of Herod.