The Common Good

Evangelicals Battle Over ‘Biblical’ Immigration

Date: October 22, 2013

One branch of the evangelical Christian community knows what it wants up next on America’s political agenda: comprehensive immigration reform. Another would prefer what it calls “Biblical immigration.” As Congress turns back to the business of governing ahead of the holidays, the two sides are ramping up their rhetoric–and their lobbying–with dueling interpretations of the gospels’ guidance.

For months, some Christian groups have prayed for immigration reform. For eight days in October, over 100,000 Christian backers of the Evangelical Immigration Table have asked God for guidance on the issue through “Pray4Reform” events. Next week, they plan to visit Washington and press Congressional leaders directly about the issue.

The millions of undocumented people that live in the U.S., the Evangelical Immigration Table says, should be treated with charity as the book of Matthew says Jesus was. Leaders cite the gospel passage that quotes Christ saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

“Evangelicals finally realize that how we treat the stranger, these 11 million undocumented people, is how we treat Christ himself,” said Jim Wallis, the president and founder of Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization.

According to Wallis, and the leadership of the Evangelical Immigration Table, which includes the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention of the Southern Baptist Convention, the evangelical community has “never been more united on an issue.”