Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph refugees?
“Yes!” say a multitude of sources who ought to know.
I am not a source who ought to know. I was raised Catholic and I was a slip-out-the-back-at-Communion type unless collared by my dad or, in later years, my sister. And in the religion classes that I went to, we studied catechism books, which, looking back, are basically Cliff Notes on the Bible. So Bible scholar I am not.
But some of what I heard back at St. Patrick’s church in my hometown has stuck. Whether or not you’re a believer, there is some powerful writing in the Bible.
Like this passage from Matthew 2:13: “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.“
James Martin, SJ (that’s Society of Jesus for those of you who didn’t have someone in your family educated by Jesuits) writes in America, The Jesuit Review, that soldiers were out to kill Jesus. And, Herod subsequently slaughters all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem. In short, writes Martin, they flee their homeland for a foreign country because they fear persecution. They go to Egypt, because it is a land beyond Herod’s reach.
Fleeing persecution and the threat of violence fits the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees definition of refugee, which is: “Someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”
Do a little Googling and you’ll find Christian publications from across this polygot nation’s religious spectrum talking about the Holy family as refugees.
In explaining its commitment to refugees, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America also refers to Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s flight into Egypt.
And the United Methodist Church publication Insight begins a story about its strategy for helping refugees with that same passage from Matthew 2:13.
So if so many Christian denominations think Jesus was a refugee, why does an administration that is cutting refugee admissions have so much support from the religious?
Well, does the administration have religion in its pocket? Maybe not. More about that next week.