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The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate

December 1, 2011
By James K. Hoffmeier

In this Backgrounder James Hoffmeier looks at immigration from a religious perspective. Secularists and liberals, both political and religious, are typically loath to consult the Bible when it comes to matters of public policy.

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In this Backgrounder James Hoffmeier looks at immigration from a religious perspective.  Secularists and liberals, both political and religious, are typically loath to consult the Bible when it comes to matters of public policy. So it is somewhat surprising that in the current debate about the status of illegal immigrants, the Old Testament is regularly cited in defense of the illegal. Debra Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister — a denomination not known for taking Scripture seriously — offered a recent critique of the Arizona illegal immigration law in the Washington Post online (May 25, 2010), saying “It’s as if the 70 percent of Arizonans who support the law have forgotten the Biblical injunction to ‘love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’” This verse and others like it are frequently quoted in the name of “justice” for the illegal immigrant. A left-wing Christian advocacy group Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which is affiliated with Sojourners, had this passage on its website: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you.” (Leviticus 19:33)

A second area where advocates for illegal immigrants rely on the Bible (whether they know it or not) is the “sanctuary city movement” that defies the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Cities like New York, New Haven, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Denver have declared themselves to be “sanctuary cities” and will not cooperate with federal authorities in matters related to illegal immigrants. Some churches have even permitted their facilities to be so-called sanctuaries for illegals.

The author is not saying the Bible should be discarded in consideration of issues before the public, but that if used, the Bible should be used in context.

 


James K. Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern Archaeology at Trinity International University. All translations are from the ESV unless otherwise specified.

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Immigration