Every December, as millions celebrate the birth of Christ, a bevy of people who know absolutely nothing about the New Testament try their dead-level best to trap Christians in a hypocrisy trap. Memes and quotes spread across social media like a virus, claiming the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus is analogous to the Syrian refugee crisis:
Jesus was a refugee
Matthew 2: 1-23 pic.twitter.com/zZZp3n1dPK
— Sara Proegler (@saraeproegler) December 6, 2016
Although there are multiple variations of the meme, most are similar to the one above, which reads: “Don’t forget to hate refugees as you set up a nativity scene celebrating a middle eastern couple desperately looking for shelter.”
A healthy debate about the Syrian refugee crisis is perfectly acceptable and necessary, however, it is in no way analogous to the story of the birth of Christ. Let us count the ways.
Mary and Joseph Weren’t Fleeing a Brutal Civil War
While thousands of Syrians are fleeing the horrifying civil war in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is killing thousands of his own people, Mary and Joseph were returning home for a government-mandated census.
Luke 2: 1-7 states:
“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.”
The two situations couldn’t be more different.
There Was No Room at the “Inn”
Tradition has long-held that the reason Mary and Joseph were sheltered in a manger was because there was “no room at the inn.” This is a mistranslation of sorts, and as seen above in the New International Version (NIV) of the New Testament, the Greek word “kataluma” is more accurately translated as “guest room.”
Regardless of exact meaning, the reason Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a room–be it a guest room, or a room at an inn–was likely because the town of Bethlehem was filled to the brim with travelers returning home for the census. They weren’t turned away because they were refugees fleeing a war-torn nation.
Mary and Joseph Weren’t Potential Terrorist Threats
Mary and Joseph were Jews returning to Bethlehem for a census; they weren’t potential radicals. There was no reason to believe they would enact violence upon the people of Bethlehem.
Syrian refugees are majority Muslim. Western civilization is currently waging a war with the socio-political ideology of radical Islam. As it stands, the United States has an extraordinarily difficult time vetting Syrian refugees because there is little (if any) data intelligence agencies can extract from Syria due to its ongoing civil war.
As FBI Director James Comey said: “We can only query against that which we have collected…with respect to Iraqi refugees, we had far more in our databases because of our country’s work there for a decade. This is a different situation.”
Fox News reports that Syrian refugees face additional vetting, including the gathering of biometric data, like fingerprints. They also face an interview:
There is also a “non-adversarial” in-person overseas interview of the applicant conducted by a DHS agent that’s been specially trained during an eight-week course in how to probe an applicant’s credibility.
However, even the most thorough vetting isn’t perfect:
One example is the case of two Iraqi refugees who were accepted into the U.S. and lived for a time in Bowling Green, Ky. – before they were outed as former Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists who had shot at U.S. troops and planted IEDs.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in September, 2015: “I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours.” One month later, two men entered Greece as refugees. The men later travelled to Paris where they participated in one of the most heinous terror attacks in European history.
Mary and Joseph were not terrorists.
They Fled to Egypt
Proponents of the “Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were refugees” argument frequently point out that the trio fled to Egypt when Herod called for Christ’s execution.
Matthew 2: 13-15 states:
“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.’
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 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.'”
Though slightly more analogous than before, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt is still not comparable to the Syrian refugee crisis. As was mentioned above, there was no fear that the blessed family were potential terrorists who would pose a danger to the people of Egypt. Moreover, it’s not known if authorities in Egypt even knew that the family entered the nation.
Progressives, many of whom have only a tenuous understanding of the Bible–if any at all–revel in making Christians appear hypocritical or disingenuous because it validates their belief that those who follow scripture are intolerant, bigoted fools. They publish memes on social media featuring punchy talking points about Jesus and refugees in the hope that people will take them at face value. Unfortunately, many do take such memes at face value, thus feeding the ever-increasing social hatred of Christians.