Jesus’s Refugee Status Biblically Examined

As per the norm, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) said some pretty stupid stuff, on Christmas no less. Apparently it’s not beneath her to ineffectively use baby Jesus as a pawn to advance her leftist immigration policies. Below is her first tweet. Try to figure out where she went wrong.

AOC Christmas Tweet

Her “including refugee babies in mangers + their parents” inclusion was obviously a direct reference to Jesus. Given that it was a Merry Christmas tweet, it’s pretty unambiguous what her message was. She believes that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were refugees at the time of Christ’s birth and those who oppose her particular position on immigration now would have opposed Jesus, Mary, and Joseph then due to our “anti-immigrant” policies. So, is she correct? Were Jesus, Mary, and Joseph refugees at the time of Christ’s birth? The answer is no. Nice try, AOC.

Luke 2 gives the historical context for why they were traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Does this sound like a family fleeing persecution? Verse five states clearly that “He (Joseph) went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Joseph and his family were lawfully following the decree put in place by Caesar Augustus to participate in the census. Joseph and Mary were being responsible citizens of the Roman Empire by following the law. This flies in the face of the unlawful approach to immigration policy that AOC has fervently adopted. If AOC would have read and prayed on this scripture with more attention to detail, she would have noticed the political example that it gives to law-abiding citizens.

Of course, I was far from the only one to notice the Biblical ignorance. Once she started getting slammed with Tweets about her theological ignorance, she then Tweeted out something else to try to save some face. Unfortunately for her, she tweeted out an article that didn’t directly address the Nativity story at all.

AOC Christmas defense tweet

Without notice, AOC redirects her followers from Luke 2 to Matthew 2, where the story changes from the Nativity story of Christ’s birth to shortly after the birth of Christ. Matthew 2:13-14 states, “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.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  AOC’s slight of hand transition from referring to Jesus as a “refugee baby in a manager” to depicting Jesus and his family as refugees hitting the road to Egypt to avoid murder without historical context is dishonest. Within the historical context of Matthew 2, Jesus and his family were refugees.

I don’t expect her to know all the fine nuanced details of the Bible. I honestly don’t. However, if you’re a public figure in a congressional seat at a federal level and you misuse the Christian texts to advance your political agenda, I think everyone with a voice should call you out. Many people, like me, who have spent many years studying theology and politics, shake our heads at the level of ignorance someone like AOC has for the level of office that she holds. It’s bad enough that the first tweet was as historically flawed as it was but to follow up it with content that didn’t support or clarify her first claim and deceptively redirected her followers to a period of time where Jesus was a refugee is not appropriate for someone in her position. It makes you wonder whether she bothered to read the article, yet even more bothersome a prospect, whether she’s even bothered to read the Gospels.

As Christians, we should always extend grace whenever possible to a non-Christian’s lack of knowledge of the Word. However, we should also keep in mind that people in positions of power wield greater influence. When someone like AOC spreads misinformation, it’s important to correct the misinformation publicly. Was AOC wrong about baby Jesus in his manger being a refugee? Yes. Her second tweet redirected her followers to a different part of the Bible where Jesus was a refugee following the nativity story. Both tweets should be addressed as much as possible to help people understand the Biblical story of Christ better but also to help people come to grips with the reality that supporting a strong immigration policy isn’t equivalent to saying your position on immigration would have killed our newborn Savior.

This sort of politicking is irresponsible, immature, and deceptive. AOC was attempting to tug at the theological heartstrings of her Twitter followers to win support for her side of the immigration debate. Misusing Christian history at Christmas is immoral and should be condemned. Going into the new year, we should strive to be authentic in all that we do. While we should accept the reality that we’re imperfect, we should proudly strive to be as Christ-like as possible in our approach to life.

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