Hector Avalos has updated his chapter “The Bible Is Not a Friend of Immigrants” in The Bible in Political Debate: What Does It Really Say? and posted a link for its PDF version to be downloaded from The Bible and Interpretation.
Once more on Romans 13:1-7. Avalos’s chapter contains the following comment:
Romans 13:1-7 could be used by authoritarian regimes to justify their rule, and we might have to repudiate our Founding Fathers for their rebellion against Britain.
True. Yet was not the passage written to justify the authority of none other than imperial Rome, an authoritarian regime that treated rebels with the utmost cruelty.
The Bible is too morally contradictory to be a friend to immigrants. For every immigrant-friendly prooftext, someone else can find one that says the opposite. . . . .
It is very difficult for Christian biblical scholars to criticize what they worship. Christian biblical scholars are, in general, worshippers or admirers of Christ. Jesus is definitely one character who is “protected” from moral criticism, and one can see it today on immigration issues. He is portrayed as uniformly the friend of immigrants, when his portrayal in the Gospels is far more complicated and contradictory.
The result of these religionist approaches is the perpetuation of a textual imperialism that retains the authority of the Bible. More importantly, the denunciation of “bad” or “illegitimate” interpretations of the Bible, when based on theological rationales, continues an orthodox-heterodox model of biblical interpretation that has caused so much conflict and violence throughout Christian history.
Most biblical scholars I have seen comment on the current family separation crisis are more involved in a sectarian war about biblical interpretation than in a battle against using the Bible to debate immigration issues.
We certainly need biblical scholars who will publicly challenge bad interpretations of the Bible, whether they be from Jeff Sessions or Jesus. But we also need more biblical scholars who will help this world move beyond the very idea that the Bible should be a moral, social or political authority at all.
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