Perhaps the most fundamental, consentaneous, clear truth of the Bible is that there are few, if any, fundamental, consentaneous or clear truths within the sacred text at all. Many people spend their entire lives with their noses deep inside the dusty pages, attempting and failing to make sense of riddles and myths and figures-of-speech that — after centuries of mistranslation and lost history — ought to be embraced as holy mysteries. We cannot possibly know the exact contours and nuances of ancient society, fully understand their rumors and jokes, or perfectly interpret their complicated, messy, colorful agendas.
And yet there is one message within the Bible that is (or at least should be) a core, immediate tenet of Christianity: don’t mess with immigrants.
Over and over, in Scriptures written across centuries, the Bible proclaims:
“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner.” Exodus 22:21
“Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.” Deuteronomy 23:16
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33, 34
That last one is particularly striking, commanding Christians to not only treat immigrants well, but to love them as ourselves, as we were also “foreigners in Egypt.” In this passage, God dissolves any delusion that there is a difference between citizens of a nation and immigrants — the roles could be easily reversed with one natural disaster, economic downfall or despotic regime — all of which are terrifyingly possible scenarios for Americans.
Leviticus 19:33 also reiterates the central idea regarding immigrants in the Bible — Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was himself a refugee, desperately fleeing harm and danger with his poor, tired mother. Therefore, how dare we treat immigrants with anything other than empathy and respect?
Therein lies the hypocrisy of many “Christian” politicians. Ron DeSantis is purportedly a practicing Christian, even calling upon his supporters to “Put on the full armor of God and take a stand against the left’s schemes.” And yet not even a month ago he essentially trafficked 50 human beings, rounding them up in the streets and flying them from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard as a cheap political scheme. It’s the same tactic that Greg Abbott utilized when he sent busloads of asylum-seekers — 11,000 human beings — to Democrat-run cities. Exhausted, vulnerable migrants were lured onto the planes and buses with egregious lies. Abbot’s administration claimed there would be jobs in these new cities, their arrival was expected, and a fake brochure told them “Massachusetts Welcomes You” and offered “up to eight months of cash assistance” for the Venezuelan refugees.
DeSantis’s and Abbott’s concerns were apparently for the inhabitants of border towns: Americans supposedly inundated by the flood of frightened, sick foreigners. It does strike me as odd that a passionate, devoted Christian like Ron DeSantis would sympathize more with the likes of the inhospitable innkeepers in the Nativity story than the pregnant teenagers, babies and hard-working dads that so strongly resemble the Holy Family.
For too long my fellow Christians have usurped the words of the Bible to back up their hateful, cruel attitudes towards people in crisis. For too long my fellow Christians have ignored the words of the man they quite literally worship:
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Again, Jesus rips away the veil that blinds many Christians from helping the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, the immigrant. They are not to be pitied from far away, scoffed at, hated. They are not to be lied to, put on planes heading towards false destinations, and used as pawns in exclusionist political games. No, Jesus says: they are as holy, as divine, as beautiful and as deserving of love as the Savior of the World, as God Incarnate.
Excuse my use of another verse, but the Bible, for all its faults, is chock-full of words that defy every maxim of the far-right Christian nationalists who govern our country: “So it is. Everyone who is now last will be first, and everyone who is first will be last.” Matthew 20:16
Who, then, do we think will be first in God’s eyes: preening, smug Ron DeSantis, a privileged white man who seemingly only uses his power to oppress people, or desperate, good-hearted immigrants who have been failed by their government, our government, and countless people in between?
I have a pretty good guess.