It’s become quite fashionable with the advent of social media for amateur theologians to posture as experts on Christian living, doctrine and to even claim confidence of what the historical Jesus Christ would support or oppose. Ironically, many personally reject any authority or validity of Scripture in their personal lives – it’s just something they pretend has authority when they ignorantly assume it supports their position.
The most common example by far people who quote the first two words of Matthew 7, “Judge not”, without reading the rest of that very chapter, which teaches Christians how to judge righteously, looking beneath the surface of every issue, identify the root by the fruit while discriminating against metaphorical pigs, dogs and wolves in sheep’s clothing and rebuking oppressors. Far from not judging, there’s an awful lot of good judgement required, not to mention self-examination.
Another oft-heard chestnut holds that, allegedly, Jesus was a refugee. Those who dispense this faux wisdom mean to embarrass anyone critical of their preferred open-borders immigration policy as being so callous of heart that even Jesus would be their victim. It’s a false equivalence to compare an angel warning Joseph flee to neighbouring Egypt with his family with an open border policy in the 21st Century Western world. Were the Holy Family refugees as depicted, they wouldn’t have stopped in Egypt but kept going, country after country, until they reached the border of one with generous welfare policies. At which point they would have paid Barabas to smuggle them all the way to that sugar on the table.
Let graciously indulge that odious comparison for a while and examine the claim that “Jesus was a refugee”. First, we need to establish the facts of the story.
Jesus was born and Kings from the East came to worship Him as King. Being a rather insecure ruler, Herod perceived the infant Jesus as a competitor and ordered all male children of about the same age killed. Joseph was warned in a dream by an angel to flee to Egypt, returning to Israel when Herod died not much later, which most biblical scholars guesstimate made Jesus no more than two years old.
It’s fair to say Joseph didn’t employ an immigration lawyer or a people smuggler because there were open borders in those day and people freely moved about. This wasn’t a huge issue, because was no welfare or subsequent burden to the taxpayers if one or a thousand people came to town. It was pretty much survival of the fittest. As Milton Friedman put it some 2000 years later, you can have unrestricted immigration policies or you can have a welfare state, but you can’t have both. All that aside, in going only so far as Egypt, Jesus, Mary and Joseph didn’t even leave the Roman Empire!
The real debate is about how what levels of immigration are sustainable and safe. Both sides are, for the large part, genuinely motivated by compassion to do as much good for as many people as possible. Where the disagreement arises hangs on the details of what is actually “good” and how to achieve it.
Any constructive debate features logic, evidence and facts. It’s not usually persuasive in a post-modern, pluralistic society such as ours to rest entirely on Scripture. Yet it’s often ‘progressive’ liberals who, having exhausted their low reserves of logic, resort to flinging “Jesus was a refugee” into the dialogue, smugly persuaded it must shame and silence their conservative opposition. Take for example Their ABC’s recent attempt to argue that Christians have Christianity all wrong.
Sadly for Mr Ballard & Co, the ABC show was axed before such taxpayer-funded lessons in theology could turn their comedic attention to Islam. What a laugh fest that would have been to see the sons of Allah make their objections known in the customary fashion.
Slighting Christianity by misrepresentation is the bitter fruit of the Left’s tree of knowledge, such as it is, attributing only irrational religion and callous hearts to those who dare to differ. They are wilfully ignorant of the deep compassion for human suffering and undiminished value of every stranger’s life which motivates most critics of their own harmful immigration policies.
There is only so much money a nation like Australia has to give away. Immigration built our nation, but mostly that happened when welfare wasn’t part of the equation. Until the mid-20th century, New Australians increased the size of the pie beyond and above the addition of their own presence and contributions to GDP. Today that no longer applies. Where once new arrivals undertook not to be burdens on the public purse, to work where assigned and reside in hostels until they could stand unsupported on their own feet, today the welfare system stands ready and inviting.
Devastating to the position that some bleeding-hearts are trying to argue via the claim that Jesus was a refugee is the facts of the matter:
- Joseph took his family to the nearest safe port.
- He wasn’t compounding any trauma by radically dislocating them from a familiar culture and family support networks.
- He didn’t flee for economic reasons.
- He didn’t pass through safe countries looking for a more desirable nation with better welfare offers.
- He didn’t impose any welfare burden on the government or taxpayers.
- Joseph broke no immigration laws, didn’t ignore or circumvent any border controls and paid no human traffickers.
- He didn’t presume to jump ahead of other refugees waiting the turn in refugee camps.
- The Holy Family returned home immediately when it was safe to do so.
The claim that Jesus was a refugee is not in the least a well thought through line of argument. What it reveals has nothing to do with Christian belief; rather it is the old strategy of character assassination. As the activist Left knows from its own sacred scripture, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, seeking to embarrass your opponent by flinging spurious charges and engaging in character assassination is a far more effective approach than engaging in honest argument.
If you want to argue from Christianity – for example quoting Scripture or asserting what you assume Jesus would do or support – you need more than a casual relationship with Christianity. It’s actually the rich complexity and complementarity of the 66 sacred books, grounded in history and two millennia of cumulative revelation and intellectual exploration, that is key. It’s hypocritical to assert the Bible’s logical authority as supporting your position while rejecting its personal authority to change that position, and yet unbelievers are often the first to introduce it into an argument.
Instead of being personal, let’s give each other the credit of good motives, put our heads together and try to come up with ways of making the limited money we have go further. Let’s expect those who become Australian to also do their part to grow the pie. This way we can safely and sustainably help as many more refugees as possible.
Dave Pellowe is a writer and speaker and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.