Jesus, The Refugee

Jesus in Egypt by Eugene Girardet

In response to President Donald Trump’s executive order halting refugees from various war-torn nations in the Middle East, a number of people have stated their opposition to his actions, some declaring that Jesus was himself a refugee.  For example, Al Sharpton made this claim and Fox News was quick to deride him.  As Fox News states, “There’s one problem though: Sharpton’s tweet is not exactly accurate, at least according to the Bible.”  One of their readers declared, “…they went to pay Taxes in Egypt. They went home. YOU need to pay your taxes and learn Bible!!”  Another writes, “Jesus Christ, whose parents were good taxpaying citizens, was no refugee and Al Sharpton, tax evading cheat, is no reverend.”

Although I don’t have any political affinity for Al Sharpton, I would argue that he is correct and that Fox News and their readers are the ones who need to read or reread their Bibles.  Don’t believe me?  Well, according to the Gospels, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem as a result of the Roman census.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. -Luke 2:1-5 NLT

True, at that time, they were not refugees, merely following the Roman law and returning to Joseph’s hometown for the census.  However, according to the book of Matthew, when King Herod hears of the birth of Jesus (who he thought might end up challenging his rule,) he ordered his soldiers to find Jesus and ultimately kill him.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. -Matthew 2:13-16 NLT

What is a refugee?  Well, dictionary.com defines a refugee as “a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.”

Did Jesus and his parents travel to a foreign country?  Yes, to Egypt.  Did they flee for their safety due to either political upheaval or war?  Yes, as the king sought to kill Jesus for political reasons.

Given that Jesus and his parents fit the dictionary definition of a refugee, how can anyone argue that they were anything other than refugees?  In fact, the Bible tells us that they stayed in a foreign land until King Herod was dead, thus ending the political threat against their lives.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead. -Matthew 2:19-20

Whether you agree or disagree with President Trump’s action to prevent refugees coming into the United States from several Middle Eastern countries, if you make the claim that Jesus was not a refugee and that Al Sharpton is Biblically illiterate for calling him one, instead of making him look foolish, you display your own stunning lack of Biblical knowledge.

A Killers’ Christmas

If you read last year’s posts entitled “‘Tis the Season Part I & II” you know that I don’t care much for the Christmas season.  Unlike our increasingly amoral and immoral society it’s not the Christian aspect I mind, but the focus on materialism, greed, and the well-spread lie of the man in the red suit.  If Jesus were to return to Earth during our supposed celebration of his birth, I think he would be appalled.

Anyway, for the last four years, the band The Killers releases a Christmas themed song  with the proceeds to benefit the charity Product Red.  Regardless if you support their charity of choice, isn’t the spirit of selfless giving a better representation of the meaning behind Jesus’ birth?  Of these, my favorite by far is 2007’s “Don’t Shoot Me Santa”.  I find the thought of a neurotic Santa bent on vengeance terribly amusing as it stands in stark contrast to the traditionally jolly and benevolent character children are taught to both honor and worship.  Although the song is great, the video adds so much more to the story.

After watching the video, I immediately signed on my iTunes account and purchased the video to share with friends and family.  So I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Forget Easter

To all my fellow Christian friends out there, I have what may sound as a radical suggestion for you…forget Easter. “What?!?” you might say.  Don’t you think it is important to remember the resurrection?  Absolutely.  The resurrection is a cornerstone of the faith.  As Paul reminds us “And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.” 1 Corinthians 15: 13 (NLT).

So what’s the deal with Easter?  The problem is that Easter is not a Christian holiday.  It is of pagan origins.  For starters, how many times does the day Easter show up in the Bible?  Unless you have a King James translation of the Bible, the answer is almost certainly zero.  For the record, in the King James version, Acts 12:4 reads, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”  Now even if you hold that Easter and the resurrection of Jesus are related, using the term Easter makes no sense here.  Why would Herod, of whom the above verse references, care about Easter?  Therefore, every (or most every) other translation uses the word Passover as opposed to Easter.

Easter itself is named after a pagan goddess, Eostre, and was a celebration of this goddess and the coming of spring.  Europeans celebrated this rite (or one similar) long before they had ever heard of Jesus.

So how did the most important date in Christianity and this pagan holiday wed?  After all, we know that Jesus’ death and resurrection historically took place before, during, and after the Jewish Passover.  Why then is his resurrection not tied to the dates of Passover?

Prior to the First Council of Nicaea in 325, some Christians celebrated the Resurrection at the same time that Jews celebrated Passover, while others did not.  At the Council, the majority opinion further distanced Christianity from its Jewish roots by detaching the celebration of the Resurrection with Passover.  The dates of Passover, taking place from the 15th of Nisan to the 21st, differed from year to year as the Jewish people use a lunisolar calendar (as opposed to a lunar year used both by the Julian calendar then and our Gregorian calendar now). The celebration of the resurrection was to now take place on the first Sunday after the full moon taking place after the vernal equinox, March 21.

With the Resurrection now divorced from the Passover, as Christianity spread to Northern Europe it supplanted and mutated with the previous pagan religions.  Old gods and goddesses such as Eostre fell out of favor but their holidays and festivities did not.  In order to make the transition easier, many local traditions melded with this new religion.  Thus bunnies and eggs, reminders of fertility, the arrival of spring, and foreign gods now share equal, or even greater time with the true Christian meaning for this holiday.

For example, while suffering with the flu a few weeks back, I visited my local drug store.  Signs wished customers a “happy Easter” and their shelves were filled with related products.  Guess how many mentions or images of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection I could find?  Zero.  The shelves were stocked with eggs and bunnies created from a variety of chocolates and other sweets.  Given a choice between Eostre and Jesus, clearly paganism wins out in our society.

The resurrection, like the birth of Christ, has become a mere marketing tool steeped in the religions of old!  For my commentary on the Christmas season, read ‘Tis the Season Part 1 and Part 2.

Looking back, it didn’t have to end up like this.  But the willingness to modify Christianity to coincide calendar-wise with old festivals, as well as a refusal to stand up for the true meaning of our holidays has led us to this state.  As opposed to focusing on Jesus, the Messiah, we now have Santa, the Quid Pro Quo Materialist god, and the Easter Bunny, the Chocolate god.

What would be the easiest solution?  Although many might scoff at the idea, change the dates of the commemoration of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus away from pagan holidays and back to their historic norms (likely sometime in September and the Passover).  Without the present trappings, maybe everyone will recognize Christian holidays as being about something else…Jesus perhaps?

If you want to celebrate both Easter and Christmas for the seasons that they have become, feel free to do so.  Just don’t confuse a Cadbury cream egg or a basket of plastic grass as a sign of anything Christian.

Until next time!