(NOTE: This is my “well thought and reasoned reply” to Katy Hinman’s friendly theological challenge on one of my highly opinionated Facebook posts. Katy is one of my favorite people I met during my time with the Atlanta Roller Girls. She is not only a derby girl, she’s intelligent, articulate, and kinda damn good looking, too)
In the aftermath of the Paris bombing on Friday 13, 2015, people in the USA started freaking out about the program in place for the Syrian refugees. It seems one of the bombers had a Syrian passport that showed he had come to Europe in the wave of refugees in October. This one occurrence was seen by too many as proof that Islamic terrorists had infiltrated the ranks of the refugees; therefore, all Syrian refugees are potential terrorists.
The fact that the passport was a forgery and that none of the terrorists were part of any refugee influx didn’t change the political rhetoric. US governors announced that their states wouldn’t accept Syrian refugees. Presidential candidates announced that only Christian refugees should be allowed in the US, and my FB feed was, once again, rife with memes and rants from conservatives about the dangers of Muslim refugees.
Then the liberal Christians kicked in with memes.
My response was a simple one:
Y’all know that Mary and Joseph weren’t trying to escape persecution, right? They were obeying a government edict. They weren’t refugees. Y’all need to read your Bibles (I cant believe I posted that).
I stand by that, Katy-bat. The Christmas story – particularly as read in Luke – is not a story of two innocent refugees seeking asylum and safety. It is a story of a man and his pregnant wife getting into town too late to get an AirBnB room, and having to stay in – essentially – the garage. As you noted, the Carpenters (sure – why not – they need a last name) did run to Egypt after being tipped off by a dream, and they could at that point be considered refugees. The Matthew passage of the flight to Egypt takes place after Mary’s ritual purification and after they returned to (probably) Joseph’s home.
But that is a different meme than the nativity one that started popping up (as well as not a few tweets).
I don’t see how the Christmas story – the Luke Christmas story – the December 25th babe in a manger oh little town of Bethlehem silent night holy night hark the herald angels sing story – can be construed as the story of oppressed people seeking safety in a foreign land. That comes later.
All that said, for the rest of you, the Bible has explicit declarations about taking in and caring for refugees. It is, without argument or interpretation, your Christian duty. Y’all need to read your Bibles!
P.S. This is not a post about Biblical criticism, scriptural history, or the risks of allowing Syrian refugees into the US. It is about what I see as a “heart in the right place but wrong on the story” message about Christmas and Syrian refugees.0