When did it become ok to demand that we should take or shape our national laws from Leviticus? Which ones? Is it ok to lift one verse from Leviticus 19 but none from 18 or 24? Why is the idea of the ‘Moral law’ of Leviticus suddenly popular but only when applied to the issues of immigration but not…sexuality, self defense or capital punishment?
When the “Moral Majority’, a Christian Right conservative political action movement of the 80’s did it they were ridiculed. Today if you bring up Leviticus 18 in reference to anything regarding morality and sexuality, you will be branded a homophobic, a right wing fundamentalist akin to Hitler, Al Qaeda or ISIS but use chapter 19 for Immigration and you lauded a compassionate saint!
If one appeals to the moral law in Leviticus 18 you will be labeled an ignorant buffoon who cherrypicks one verse but ignores the rest. You will be targeted as a bigot tied to an ancient religion of tent dwellers who forbid tattoos(Lev. 19:28), wearing mixed fabric clothing(Lev. 19:19) and is menstrual blood phobic(Lev. 18:19).
But now we see the exact thing taking place on the political stage on immigration and the verses regarding justice and mercy laws in Leviticus.
“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
We live in one of the most biblically illiterate times in American history and yet the Bible is being used by the left and right to justify, defend, demand and demonize certain political or moral actions.
The bible is being used to castigate supposed hypocrites and Jesus is being brought up as a character witness on shows that proudly advocates a host of issues that any average Bible acquainted person would know Jesus would never advocate.
One of the warning signs to pay attention to in politics is when people begin to denounce other people’s faith when their political positions or party doesn’t line up with the others. When religious or political voices attempt to make people question their own deeply held religious ideas it becomes what has been termed gaslighting.
Gaslighting: a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.
This is being done right now in the immigration debate. People are using children as political pawns. The left and right are doing it and gaslighting is being used to bully people to one side or the other. The right wants a certain set of immigration policies put in place and the left has their own policies they want in place. A power struggle happening and both sides is appealing to their constituent’s core convictions or demonizing them in various ways.
As I listen to the debate and see people pulling verses out of chapters of the Bible to defend or demand, I am growing more convinced that there isn’t even a biblically informed debate going on. Let’s avoid for the moment the chapters in Leviticus that are being referenced and look at a few others that I am sure no one on the left or right probably would advocate today.
The first involves separating families to show religious and national commitment.
“Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, a descendant of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God, for we have married these pagan women of the land. But in spite of this there is hope for Israel. Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children.
We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law of God. Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action. So Ezra stood up and demanded that the leaders of the priests and the Levites and all the people of Israel swear that they would do as Shecaniah had said. And they all swore a solemn oath.”
There is a biblical example of God’s people choosing to separate families in response to religious law. I am not advocating it, but it’s in the bible, does that mean we have to do it? No, but it also shouldn’t be ignored as if the bible has nothing other to say about immigrants or immigration. The left probably wouldn’t spend too much time on this story.
How about Exodus 12:43-49
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: “No foreigner may eat it. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it. “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
Should we mandate that all foreigners that come into our land, should circumcise themselves to align with our judeo-christian heritage? I doubt most people would approve of any laws that require that religious conformity.
If anyone is going to appeal to the Old Testament law they need to understand it’s context, culture and covenantal connection to the redemptive history of God’s people and His work in the earth. They need to be knowledgeable about what of the law was fulfilled by Jesus Christ and what extends through the Old Covenant into the New Covenant. To rip verses out of chapters to justify or demonize is to mishandle the scriptures and use them for one’s own personal political or policy agenda.
When read in this manner, one can see that the justice and mercy found in the Old Covenant informs and shapes much of the New. We can learn from and and be guided by the the spirit of the law in seeking to establish wise laws even from a secular angle. One doesn’t need to be religious to understand the truth in this verse:
“Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.” -Leviticus 19:15
That is a good principle of law.
With that understanding and view in mind we can see the principles in the law that can strengthen and even support certain aspect of our own judicial law without demanding they conform to a strict reading of the Jewish or even Christian law.
“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. “Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or volume. Your scales and weights must be accurate. Your containers for measuring dry materials or liquids must be accurate. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
This verse is about business more than immigration and again, as a principle, I think we all could agree that someone in business shouldn’t cheat people, especially those who may be from another country. But this isn’t a verse that is advocating open borders or demands that any modern country not enforce immigration laws. It should be argued that we need just laws and I think most sincere people from any side would agree that we need to work towards the most just immigration system we can come up with as a country.
I think any level headed Christian familiar with the bible and political history knows that people in power and people seeking to gain the upper hand in some matter, often choose to twist anything considered sacred or held in honor to their constituents or opponents to their own good.
This has been true of the current administration and has been true of everyone before it. Both political parties know how to rally their side to their cause. Right now the political left and the political right are power hungry parties seeking to insure their control or regain control of congressional seats in the upcoming congressional elections.
Both political parties are appealing to their base by using what they know will move or anger them. Children are being used as pawns in political matters that extend to issues that go far beyond justice and compassion. Patriotism, terrorism, crime, immigration, and economics are being used to rally people in solidarity and get more power.
This is politics and if you are not able to see it for what it is, you will get swept up in a movement of manipulation that will turn you against people that whatever side wants defeated. Be politically involved, but don’t be a puppet or pawn!
We live in a country with a representative form of government and it’s our civic duty to elect people who will represent us in matters of government and enact laws or defend laws that we feel do the most good for the most people. If you are someone who values the opportunity to be part of the civic process, than get educated, understand the issues, listen to the talking heads, your friends and neighbors, read, study and do the best you can to be an informed voter.
Then engage and hold your elected representatives accountable. Don’t be bullied around by people who want to force you into their political opinion or views. Don’t be fooled into losing the opportunities you have to be part of making change because your views may or may not be popular or supported by people you know. Be bold and courageous, be involved and discerning and use you voice when you feel the need. Freedom of speech is part of being a good and active citizen. Dialogue and debate are not bad, they help everyone who is sincerely after truth and justice to become a better person.
The political discourse in this moment is devolving to new lows and the anti-immigrant, bigoted neo-nazi infiltration of the Alt-right and the ‘F*ck You’ movement of the progressive, hate spewing alt-left is an example of this dangerous ugliness. Maybe we could turn to Leviticus again to help both sides to check themselves:
“Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Last of all, I think the wisdom of Leviticus that we all should honor which would truly make America Great Again is Leviticus 19:27:
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”
So let it be written…so let it be done.