Franklin Graham is dead wrong about immigration, refugees and the Bible. And his comments will have deadly consequences.
And by the way, if you support Samaritan’s Purse and its Operation Christmas Child next December, you will be supporting Graham’s kind of twisted Christian witness. More on that in a moment.
On top of previous outlandish comments about Muslims, the son of America’s most famous evangelist last week rushed to the defense of Donald Trump, saying the president’s hardline ban on immigration was just fine because it is “not a biblical issue.”
File this under the category of “alternative facts.”
Although let’s give the younger Graham a little slack because on one point he’s right: The Bible does not discuss American immigration policy. In the Old Testament, we read about the nation of Israel, and America is not Israel.
But here’s what God does say in Deuteronomy 10, when the Children of Israel have just escaped bondage in Egypt: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
That’s one of 92 times the Hebrew word we would translate to “immigrant” in English appears in the Old Testament. And in every case, the admonition is for acceptance and welcome and kindness.
The New Testament doesn’t conceive of a political nation, but Jesus’ directives are given toward individuals who are to act in Christ-like ways wherever they live. So, for example, in Matthew 25 we hear these words of Jesus about the kind of behavior God rewards: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
So, yes, the Bible does not give directions on American foreign policy, even though too many evangelical Christians act like it does. American foreign policy is not, strictly speaking, a biblical issue.
But how a nation full of Christians — and a government filled with professing Christians — should treat immigrants is indeed a biblical issue. And there’s no equivocation that the biblical mandate is for welcome, not building walls, not closing borders, not seeking our own welfare to the detriment of strangers in dire need. You cannot make a biblical case for the policies enacted by Donald Trump and tacitly approved by Congress’ silence.
As a result of this policy, people will die. Immigrants who need to flee horrendous situations will be trapped and will die. And then others will die because America’s protectionism will breed more terrorism and more hatred. How in God’s name is any of that biblical?
Franklin Graham has a voice not only because he is his father’s son but because of his work through Samaritan’s Purse. No doubt, this relief agency does good work and not everyone who works there agrees with Graham. But remember that he gets a hearing because of the scope of that organization.
Evangelical Christians across America enable this platform — and Graham’s mean declarations — by supporting Samaritan’s Purse financially and by teaching their children to support it through Operation Christmas Child. Do you really want to send a dose of hatred along with that shoebox of Christmas trinkets? Does handing out Christmas gifts counterbalance Graham’s declaration that many of those who receive them would not be welcome in America?
There are other — and better — ways to support refugees and children in need around the world. In reality, sending a shoebox of odds and ends is less effective than providing food and clothing and shelter and education. If you are outraged by Franklin Graham’s misrepresentation of Christian doctrine, channel your support somewhere else, like World Vision or any of the reputable denomination-based relief agencies.
Let’s plant seeds of hope, faith and love that will take root and produce a harvest of righteousness and not just dangerously wrong theology.