by Esther Sun
“[The Lord] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing,” Moses declares in Deuteronomy 10:19, as the Israelite refugees are about to enter the Promised Land. “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
In contrast, the 2019 Chicago Council Survey found that eight in ten Republicans (78%) consider large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States to be a critical threat. According to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 32% of Republicans said it was very important to provide safe and sanitary conditions for asylum seekers. In the midst of the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border in 2019, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pushed an immigration bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would limit the ability of thousands of Central American migrants to apply for asylum in the U.S.
For a political party that espouses Christian evangelicalism as its core ideology, Republicans have failed to live up to their purported values at even the most basic level, especially during Donald Trump’s first presidential term. Republican attacks on sanctuary cities, support of deportations, efforts to cut groups out of welfare programs, and countless other policy stances directly contradict God’s call for Christians to protect and even take on self-sacrifice to help the vulnerable people in our society – undocumented immigrants, low-income families, refugees, and more.
Some may try to defend Republicans by arguing that Jesus does not require perfect actions from his followers – simply faith. To this I would respond: what kind of real faith in Jesus’s sacrificial love can produce these Republican acts of exclusion? Though the Bible says good actions can’t save a person the way faith does, it also points out that good actions are a pretty solid litmus test for whether or not someone’s faith is genuine. In light of this, Republican leaders have demonstrated clearly to me time and time again that they are simply exploiting Christianity as a political prop to rally support from America’s Christian evangelicals rather than legitimately using Christian principles to guide their leadership.
“What good is it, my brothers,” writes Jesus’s brother James in James 2:14, “if someone says he has faith but does not have [good] works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Not only has the Republican party repeatedly neglected this basic Christian tenet of elevating the powerless, but its actual focus on Christianity is severely misguided. Contrary to past Republican efforts, the Bible’s call for Christians is not to institutionalize mere tokens of Christianity in large-scale political frameworks that govern nonbelievers and believers alike. Take the debate over the Pledge of Allegiance for example. Nowhere in Scripture does God express a desire for nonbelievers to praise him if their hearts are not truly there.
In fact, we see the exact opposite sentiment: when calling out hypocritical religious leaders in Matthew 15, Jesus declares, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Though the context of the verse involves religious hypocrisy, God’s distaste for empty worship also applies to nonbelievers. When public policy forces all K-12 students in the U.S. to recite the phrase “under God” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance, regardless of whether or not they actually believe in God, this tradition becomes simply a human rule. What’s worse is that this Republican insistence on including “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is not only meaningless to God, but it needlessly alienates the non-Christians that believers are supposed to minister to.
If Republicans truly want to integrate Christian values into their policymaking, they need to reverse their attitudes on large-scale issues like immigration and welfare, as mentioned earlier. Rather than fighting tooth and nail to keep in place legalistic traditions like the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance, Republicans should fight to protect the powerless.
To conclude, I will leave you with a final Scripture passage from Isaiah 58, in which God calls out the Israelites for their hypocrisy in taking part in religious fasting while failing to show humanity in their worldly lives. God says: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
(Sources: Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Pew Research Center, Reuters, USA Today, Holy Bible English Standard Version)