So from this morning’s “Fix” at WaPo comes this from Eugene Scott, “One of President Trump’s evangelical advisers is getting significant pushback for introducing the immigration status of Christ into the conversation of immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration.” It’s about Paula White and her response to Jesus’ immigration status when He was a child. Apparently Ms. White said, “I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, “Well, Jesus was a refugee.” Yes, He did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.” While generally conservative and generally a supporter of the Trump administration (though not on everything) even I winced when I saw that last sentence from Ms. White.
Of course Jesus violated both civil and religious law – He was crucified, after a trial of sorts, after all. Yeah it was a bit of a kangaroo court and most Evangelicals will argue about differences in God’s law and religious and/or civil law, but let’s be real here, Ms. White was being overly simplistic and reaching in her point. She was fine up until that last sentence, but she just looks silly. BTW, the entire debate is silly – it’s not like borders were the same things then they are now, particularly when the entire area, though separate nations, were all conquered nations under a single Roman Empire. The underlying debate is comparing apples and oranges so it’s just silly. Why Ms. White chose to compound silly with sillier I have no idea.
But does that prevent Mr. Scott from committing the same type of error? Oh no, of course not.
Consider this paragraph:
But regardless of Trump aides’ interpretation of Scripture, there is another issue. Whether the foundation of the Christian faith was a refugee in the Middle East should not play a major role in justifying America’s immigration policy years later. Looking to a sacred text and specifically the immigration status of a religious figure to validate immigration policy could be viewed as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution, though it’s not likely one that will result in any legal repercussions for the policy.
Hold on – back up the truck here. First fact, Ms. White’s silly response was a response to a liberal citation of Jesus’ youthful movement in and out of Egypt. While it was, as I recall, AG Sessions that started the Jesus talk regarding immigration, Ms. White was responding to a specific liberal talking point not inserting Jesus into the conversation herself. That sentence, limited to “Trump aides’ interpretation of Scripture” while technically accurate is designed to make this entire imbroglio look like a Trump administration deal – when it simply is not. Why only mention the Trump administration with this chastisement?
But more importantly, give me a break on the church-and-state stuff. In this entire debate was the Bible cited with some sort of final authority, or even simply authoritatively? Not that I can tell. The Bible and Christianity have deep cultural roots in this nation as do Judaism and Jewish texts. Not to mention the role that has been played by numerous other texts of other religions. In my education I have read Shinto and Buddhist texts, and large passages of the Bhagavad Gita as simply influential literature. I even read some of the Koran as a part of an anthropology class in high school. The point is there is a difference between citing a religious text or religious story as a part of greater argument and assigning a specific religion special authority.
Apparently, under Mr Scott’s ideas we must bring to an end all citations of any text or story related to any religion. Where do we stop with that? The Lord of the Rings books are based and rooted deeply both in Christianity and Norse mythology – why that’s two religions influencing a single work – I guess that’ll have to go. Shakespeare cites the Bible with some regularity, and a few other religious texts as well. I guess the works of Will are out. Astronauts orbiting the moon have read Genesis to the entire world. Is that to be expunged from history? I am no expert on Presidential speeches, but many of the memorable ones I can recall off the top of my head cite some sort of religious text, often quoting. What shall we do about those?
Apparently, with silliness being exercised on both sides of the immigration debate, Mr. Scott thought he had an opportunity to take a shot at Christianity. But his effort is so forced that he just joined the silly.