Prooftexting for Amnesty
Evangelical elites split with the people in the pews over immigration policy.

Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table, June 6, 2012.


Mark Krikorian

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent for Roman Catholics and most mainline Protestants. In some of the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church as well as in the Armenian Apostolic Church, Lent started on Monday. It’s a season of repentance, prayer, and self-denial, to prepare the believer for the commemoration of Christ’s suffering and death and for the celebration of his resurrection.

And a group of Evangelical grandees has decided to mark the holy season by prostituting scripture for political ends.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, a lobbying project of Sojourners, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, and others, is intended to promote passage of SB 1, the vehicle for the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill (when they finish writing it).

The lobbying coalition’s most arresting product is a video featuring various Evangelical figures reading the “I was a stranger” passage from the Gospel of Matthew (25:31–46). The video’s forthright message is that those who do not support amnesty for illegal aliens “will go away to eternal punishment,” “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

The message is not metaphorical: It is suggested that opponents of congressional plans for “comprehensive immigration reform” face eternal damnation. Just as the advocates of liberation theology characterized Christ as a Marxist revolutionary, these practitioners of what might be called open-borders theology characterize him as a member of the National Council of La Raza.

Another scriptural passage used by this and similar efforts is Leviticus 19:33–34:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat him. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Like the leftist who argues that Matthew 19:24 requires confiscatory taxation (“it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”), the Evangelical amnesty campaign claims these lines from the Hebrew scripture as proof that laws against illegal immigration are unbiblical. But, in the words of Stephen Steinlight, former vice president of the National Conference of Christian and Jews (and now a senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies):

One of Scripture’s great expressions of human empathy, the passage from Leviticus is not a press release from God’s Legislative Affairs Office endorsing “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” It says nothing about immigration — for which there is no word in Biblical Hebrew — or amnesty, extended family reunification, bilingualism, birthright citizenship, guest workers, identity theft, ICE raids, eligibility for Obamacare, etc.

Old Testament scholar James Hoffmeier, author of The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, explains that the problem with such uses of scripture “is that they make a simplistic correlation between the ancient Israelite social law and the modern situation as if the Bible was addressing the same problem.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but few members of the Evangelical amnesty campaign are likely to make such a “simplistic correlation” between, say, Leviticus 20:13 and the legal status of homosexuality in the U.S. in the 21st century.

One might wonder why Evangelicals are involved in such a political effort, since they are seen as largely conservative. For some member organizations, the reasons are obvious. The National Latino Evangelical Coalition, for instance, is simply lobbying for its members. Sojourners, a leader in the coalition, is a Soros-funded group led by left-wing activist Jim Wallis, so there’s no surprise that it’s pushing amnesty.