The recent news about Donald Trump's Executive Order seems to have created scores of new Biblical scholars. The interesting thing about these Instant Theologians (Instalogians, for short) is that many of them are secularists who regularly deride the Bible as a collection of childish fairy tales. But every once in a while they'll take a break from sneering at it to suddenly appeal to its moral authority. Of course, the problem is that these brilliant academics have never actually read the "fairy tales," so when they try to use it as a cudgel to beat conservative conservatives over the head, they more often end up smacking themselves. I've been called a "Bible thumper" many times, but I've never thumped anyone with a Bible. I prefer to stand back and let them thump themselves.
I've been observing this spectacle these last several days, as Leftists have chided Christians for "disobeying the Bible" and "betraying their faith" by refusing to join in the collective freak out over Trump's policies on immigration and refugees. I've heard over and over again that my faith requires me to advocate for the immediate admission of illegal aliens and un-vetted refugees from terror hot spots. The Bible clearly commands it, they say. You can't be a "real Christian" unless you're an advocate for open borders and unfettered immigration. National security and sovereignty are heresies!
Now, before I explain why these claims are inaccurate and downright silly, I need to mention three logical inconsistencies Leftists quickly run into when they go this route:
-First, if the Bible is a backwards, bigoted, primitive relic -- as Leftists usually claim -- isn't that all the more reason to ignore its (non-existent) advocacy for open borders?
-Second, if the Bible contains all of these exhortations to help the poor and the sick and the orphaned (which it does), isn't that evidence that it isn't a backwards, bigoted, primitive relic? The idea that we should humble ourselves and serve others was not, in those days, such an obvious concept. It's only obvious (though still only sparingly heeded) nowadays because we live in a civilization built upon Christian doctrine. At the time, however, Christ and the early apostles were preaching something revolutionary. If they could see this beautiful truth -- if they were capable of a compassion unknown to man up until that point -- does that not at the very least compel the rational critic to take a second look at the other moral teachings made by these radical humanitarians?
It's obvious that these men and women were not mere products of their time. They were capable of seeing beyond their time. They professed a doctrine that was timeless and, in the truest sense of the word, progressive. Yet St. Paul still told women to submit to their husbands and Jesus still defined marriage as between a man and a woman. If they were blinded by the biases of their age in these areas, how were they otherwise so capable of seeing through them?
-Third, no matter if the Bible is a fountain of moral and spiritual truth, or a backwards, bigoted, primitive relic, or some utterly inexplicable mix of the two, you must decide whether it can be used as an argument for public policy or not. You must choose one argument or the other. If "because the Bible says so" is anywhere on your list of reasons for supporting open borders and uncontrolled refugee admission from Syria, then you have admitted that "because the Bible says so" is a fundamentally legitimate defense of public policy. If it is, I guess we can say goodbye to abortion and gay marriage.
The interesting thing, however, is that I don't cite Scripture to support my position that abortion should be illegal. I don't even cite it to support my position that the government should recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. These are truths ingrained in our human nature. I say that the government should govern according to that -- Natural Law, I mean -- not according to the specific theological tenets of the Bible. So we arrive at the odd dichotomy where the people most likely to use the Bible to support their policies are the very people who don't believe in it.
OK, with that established, let's look at what the Bible actually says. Can a Christian be faithful to Scripture while also supporting Trump's approach to Middle Eastern refugees and illegal immigrants? Are we compelled by our religion to denounce Trump for putting a hold on the Syrian refugee program in order to strengthen the vetting process? Are we betraying the very faith we profess when we argue in favor of temporarily prohibiting travel from terrorist breeding grounds while the government reassesses how it handles such travelers?
The answers are yes, no, and yes. You can, it turns out, be an advocate for strong borders and national security while also being a sincere Christian. These two things are not in conflict. On the contrary, they're quite in harmony. Scripture does of course say quite a bit about helping the poor and the downtrodden, but one must pay attention to how these instructions are phrased. A few examples:
Matthew 25:35-40: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
Matthew 5:42: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Deuteronomy 15:11: For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Luke 12:33-34: Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Luke 10:25-37: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
You'll notice a few similarities in these passages. For one thing, they tell us what we personally should go out and do for others. Christ did not say, "I was naked so you petitioned your congressman to come up with a state funded program that might eventually lead to someone other than yourself supplying me with some clothing." No, He said, "I was naked so you clothed me." You. You, personally. Not your neighbor. Not the State. You. Scripture tells you to provide for the less fortunate of your own accord and with your own time and resources. If you aren't willing to do that, you shouldn't feel that you've covered that base because at least you complained on Twitter about Republicans not instituting policies that might make up for your personal lack of charity.
Another theme: All of these verses deal with people who are physically nearby. "Your neighbor," "In your land," are the key phrases here. That isn't to say that we should ignore other people's neighbors in other people's lands, but it does appear that Christ wanted us to particularly focus on those who are actually in our immediate vicinity. That ought to be our first priority, according to the Bible. Indeed, if everyone tended to that first priority, we would never need to have any priority other than the first.
As we can see, there is no way for an honest person to read these passages and arrive at the conclusion that they rule out things like border walls and temporary travel bans. These are measures the government takes precisely to protect those in our land, and certainly that ought to be the first (and second and third and fourth) priority of our government. It's for this purpose -- the purpose of protecting the people of its own land -- that government exists, and it's by God's will that it exists and passes laws to that end.
Romans 13: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Yes, Scripture does clearly exhort us not to "oppress" the "sojourners" from other lands (Exodus 22), but is it a form of "oppression" when our duly elected governing authorities pass immigration laws and travel restrictions designed to protect its own people? I don't see how a sane adult could interpret it that way. And if you do interpret it that way, then you've effectively argued that immigration laws are inherently immoral across the board. But if immigration laws are inherently immoral, that would make the government itself inherently immoral because one of the primary and most essential functions of government is to protect the nation's borders and maintain its sovereignty. How could a nation have a government if it has no borders? Clearly, Romans tell us that governments are necessary, and if it tells us that governments are necessary then it tells us that borders a necessary. You can't have one without the other.
So, if you feel that Scripture compels you to do something about the refugee crisis, I would suggest that you take your own money and send it to help those in need. If you feel that Scripture compels the government to admit all refugees without screening or filtering them, I would suggest that you go back and read the text again. And if you feel that Scripture compels conservatives to adopt a left wing approach to this issue -- even as you openly deny the validity of Scripture and mock those who read it -- I would suggest you find a better argument entirely.
To see more from Matt Walsh, visit his channel on TheBlaze.