Taking Scripture out of Context to Make a Political Point
Politics have always been divisive, and it is always especially sad when Christians allow politics to cause them to behave in un-Christian ways.
Yet what is also problematic is when Christians take Scripture out of context in an attempt to defend their political views. I’ll give you two examples, one from the right and one from the left.
From the Right
The passage: 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The use: Many well-meaning Christians, in an attempt to persuade other Americans to turn from their wickedness and turn back to God, quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 as motivation. “If our nation will just turn back to God’s ways,” goes the argument, “then God will bless our nation and heal our land.”
The problem: The problem with using 2 Chronicles 7:14 this way is that it is a promise given uniquely to the nation of Israel. God had covenanted with Moses and had promised that if the nation of Israel did what was right in the sight of the Lord, he would bless the nation, but if they disobeyed him, he would punish them and send them into exile. This is a national promise given to no other nation on earth than Israel; it is not a promise applicable on a national scale to America or any other modern nations. Ironically, this kind of argument is often used by dispensationalists, who should especially know better. The fact is that even if the entire United States were to turn back to God, God has no obligation to bless the nation. Further, even if the nation continues on a trajectory toward hostility to God, God may choose nevertheless to continue blessing America. To connect God’s blessing to good works is called legalism.
On the other hand, it is true that high moral standards and principles on a national scale that are consistent with God’s ways do have naturally good consequences, which is why I do believe that Christians should be active in promoting good. But a Christian’s activity in the political sphere should out of a desire for peace (1 Tim 2:2) and out of love for fellow humans (Mark 12:31), not with a legalistic hope that national morality will demand God’s blessing.
From the Left
The passage: Leviticus 19:34 – “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
The use: I say this kind of passage is used by “the left,” which is certainly true, but it is also used by otherwise conservative Christians in defense of open borders or amnesty for illegal aliens.
The problem: First, once again, this command is given uniquely to the nation of Israel. Ironically, some of the same people who scoff at conservatives who quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 because America is not Israel fall into the same trap themselves in defense of open immigration policy. But even if it encapsulates a principle that should be adopted also by Christians, it is important to recognize exactly what is being commanded here. Taken in context, this passage (and others like it) refers to legal immigrants (Hebrew: ger), who have entered the nation of Israel in good faith and who desire to convert and integrate into Jewish life. It does not refer to foreigners whose allegiance remains with their native country and whose intentions are unknown. So even if these kinds of passages apply to American immigration policy (and that is questionable), this does not mean Christians must support open borders, acceptance into our nation foreigners whose intentions are unknown, or amnesty for illegal aliens. Rather, the concept of sovereign nations whose governments protect their citizens and punish wrongdoing is a very biblical concept.
On the other hand, if there is a principle from passages like these that should influence Christian thought about immigration policy, it is that we should indeed welcome immigrants who desire to integrate fully into American culture and society, who desire to work hard and provide for their families, and who follow the necessary procedures in order to gain legal citizenship. Further, individual Christians and churches should treat all foreigners (legal immigrants, illegal aliens, and visiting foreigners) with dignity and should actively share the gospel with them.
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.