No, Jesus Was Not a Refugee and He Was Not Homeless

Every Christmas, we hear the same tired refrain from the same charlatans. Jesus, they claim, was a refugee. The implication is that if you are a Christian that you are obligated to welcome refugees because they are pretty much like Jesus.

The latest edition comes from Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg is one of those people who, despite living an immoral and dissolute lifestyle explicitly condemned by Scripture (that would be the proscription on homosexual acts) and in direct disobedience to the words of Christ (see Matthew 19:4-6), takes it upon himself to lecture everyone else about what it means to be a Christian.

This is patent nonsense.

First, at no point in Scripture, or, if you are Catholic, in Sacred Tradition is there any intimation that Jesus was born in poverty. Tradition holds that Saint Joseph was a carpenter. Lately there has been a debate among lefty theologians over his occupation, rendered by Matthew as “tektori,” and whether than meant “carpenter.” Tektori can mean any skilled artisan. There is a hint, based on the procedures laid out for a census in 1st Century Egypt, that Joseph might have had some property interest in Bethlehem that would have required him to register for the census there. The upshot is that Joseph was a skilled craftsman and while probably not affluent, he most likely provided a home for his family that was a bit above the poverty line for Judea in the 1st Century AD.

Jesus was not homeless. He was born in a manger because his parents arrived in a Bethlehem in the midst of an influx of people there to register for the census. There were no rooms to be had. It was the manager or nothing. The Holy Family had a home in Nazareth.

Finally, Jesus was not a refugee.

Joseph and Mary and Jesus were citizens of a province of the Roman Empire. When the Massacre of Innocents took place, they fled to Egypt and stayed, we think, in the rather sizable Jewish community there. Egypt was also part of the Roman Empire. The odious Reverend James Martin claims that Jesus was a refugee based on the UN High Commissioner on Refugees definition

refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Martin, by the way, is probably the most dishonest non-televangelist pastor/priest in any denomination. There is literally no lie he will not tell to warp Scripture to fit his personal goal of mainstreaming homosexuality. Here is the central lie in his argument:

The Holy Family, as Matthew recounts the story, was fleeing because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” because of their “membership in a particular social group,” in this case people with young children living in Bethlehem. I am not sure how you could get any clearer than that.

This is patent nonsense. A birth cohort is not “membership in a particular social group.” They Holy Family was a refugee in exactly the same way that anyone today on the run from state authorities would be called a refugee. The move from one region of the Roman Empire to another is not even remotely similar to that of a modern refugee. At a stretch, He could be classed as an internally displaced person, with an emphasis on the singular form of “person” because there were no others similarly situated. The period of time in which the Holy Family was away from Nazareth was fairly short. Herod the Great died no more than a year or two after the birth of Christ and then the family returned home. By age 12, we know the Holy Family was traveling openly to Jerusalem for Passover pilgrimage (again, not a mark of a family in poverty).

The truth here is very simple. Christ is not a metaphor for whatever political cause you are flogging. The Nativity is not a primarily a reminder of illegal immigrants or the poor or the social justice cause you are pushing. The Nativity is the a demonstration of God’s love for the world and his desire that we all be saved, for as Saint John, the disciple whom Christ loved, wrote,

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

It is really that simple.