Jesus and his parents were not migrants in going to Bethlehem

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Around this time of year, I start seeing posts on social media about how Jesus was a refugee, an asylum seeker, an immigrant, etc.

It’s based upon a version of the Nativity story, where the Holy Family was forced to “flee” to Bethlehem to avoid persecution.

This is at best a “whisper down the lane” misinterpretation of the Christ child’s birth, and at worst an attempt by modern day activists and rhetoricians to frame Jesus as a liberal icon who represents modern day victims of persecution.

In the first place, the gospels never state that Mary and Joseph were forced to “flee” Nazareth, and move to Bethlehem for their child’s birth.

According to Luke: “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.” (Luke 2:1-6)

So if we are to read this correctly — and who wants to mess up the Bible, right? — Joseph took his little family to Bethlehem to be counted in a census.

There is no actual indication that the couple, with Mary heavily pregnant, made this trip because they were evading imminent persecution.

But even beyond the issue of biblical accuracy, there is just something wrong about trying to graft the Nativity story, something that belongs to every Christian, onto a political agenda. And that is exactly what these progressive activists are doing when they try and frame the birth of Christ as some metaphor for the plight of immigrants.

I am one of the first people to acknowledge that the world is dealing with some horrific crises, many of which involve refugees.

You do not have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to understand that economic devastation, war, rampant globalization and yes, climate change have had a devastating impact on innocent citizens of communities we do not see.

Every day, I meet these people, and the vast majority do not want to be here. They would much prefer living in their own homes, speaking their own languages, enjoying their own traditions and honoring their own histories.

For a refugee, to immigrate is a necessity, not a choice.

But that was not the case with Jesus.

The other day I happened to see a post from a self-described “post evangelical” minister in which he stated that he’d just moved to a Southern town, and had decided to greet his neighbors with a sign erected on his front lawn.

The sign read “Rejoice in the birth of a brown-skinned Middle Eastern undocumented immigrant.”

Now granted, the post didn’t suggest that Jesus was a refugee. It did, however, make three points, one of which is absolutely true, one of which is possibly true, and one of which is demonstrably false.

Jesus was clearly a Middle Eastern. It is even likely that he had dark skin, although many of the Middle Easterners that I’ve met are lighter, even than me. One thing he was not, is an immigrant.

Bethlehem and Nazareth were not different countries. You were not “crossing borders” by moving between them.

And I’m fairly certain the same language was spoken in both towns. The people who do this sort of thing are dishonest, because they are mixing in a few legitimate facts with demonstrable falsehoods, in order to make a questionable and political point.

Why say that Jesus was brown-skinned? Why point out his nationality? And why lie about his “documented” status, particularly since going to Bethlehem to be counted in a census makes you probably one of the most documented people on the planet?

The answer is as clear as it is troubling: People who probably don’t accept many of the teachings of Christianity want to use one of the most central of its stories to advance their own secular agendas.

And to those of us who understand the importance of compassion toward immigrants, refugees and those with skin that doesn’t match our own, that is repellent.

My faith, which is the faith of billions around the world, should not be used as a bargaining chip in some political game of oneupmanship.

Let us celebrate the birth of the son of God with joy, and not as a campaign slogan.

Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)