Jesus the Refugee: Fox and Breitbart versus the Bible

From Fox News:

Rev. Al Sharpton has faced backlash on social media for his Sunday tweet saying Jesus was a refugee.

…There’s one problem though: Sharpton’s tweet is not exactly accurate, at least according to the Bible.

Raw Story relates the associated video segment, originally broadcast on Fox and Friends:

“Well, that’s not exactly accurate,” co-host Steve Doocy claimed.

“Well, according to the Bible, it’s really not,” agreed Carley Shimkus, who then read tweets claiming the holy family was just traveling to pay taxes.

“Who gave (Sharpton) his gift certificate to be a reverend?” co-host Brian Kilmeade said. 

The co-hosts’ mockery seemed to imply that to associate Jesus with the category of “refugee” is self-evidently weird and inappropriate.* Oddly, despite Fox News being a favourite media source for conservatives, this bizarre dismissal of one of the most famous stories in the Bible appears to have elicited little complaint from the target audience, although many liberal sites picked up on the error very quickly (e.g. Wonkette: “All Right, ‘Fox & Friends’ Idiots, Time For A F*cking Bible Lesson”).

The distortion appears to derive from a story that appeared on Breitbart (“the closest thing to a state-owned media entity” under the Trump administration, according to Fortune) on 26 December. The article, by one Victoria Friedman, was written following a Christmas Day sermon by an Austrian bishop, Aegidius Zsifkovics, who is known for his advocacy on behalf of refugees:

Nestled in a boat for a crib with a barbed-wire Christmas star, the infant Jesus was given a “contemporary face” by an Austrian Catholic bishop who claimed that “Jesus 2016 is a refugee in a boat”.

Broadcast live on Christmas Day via television to the German-speaking world, Catholic diocesan bishop Aegidius Zsifkovics of St. Martin’s Cathedral, Eisenstadt, Austria, compared the “scandal” of the migrant crisis to the Christmas story, alluding to the Virgin Mary as a pregnant migrant.

“For how can it be that a pregnant woman has to go on a strenuous journey? … It is precisely this scandal that is happening every day on our planet a thousand times, which makes the Christmas story more relevant than the evening news. For in the centre of Christianity stands the refugee child Jesus.”

Last year during the height of the migrant crisis, head of the worldwide Anglican communion Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also said that “Jesus … was himself a refugee.”

However, the pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph were not migrating to a different continent for better opportunities or fleeing war, but were returning home for a government-mandated census (Luke 2:1-7).

Readers then added comments linking censuses to taxation policies, which is where the further “traveling to pay taxes” distortion that appeared on Fox has come from.

I find it difficult to believe that the author of the above knew enough about the Bible to find the passage from Luke, but was unaware of the story told as in the Gospel of Matthew, which relates that before returning to Nazareth, the Holy Family first had to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod (Matthew 2:13-15):

When [the Magi] 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.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity...

This is not just some obscure footnote: Herod’s “Massacre of the Innocents” is proverbial, while “the Flight into Egypt” is a perennial theme in Western art. Matthew’s account is imaginative, written to compare the infant Jesus with the infant Moses – but historicity is hardly the point: the story expresses something very deep about the values that are meant to be at the heart of Christianity.

Was the Breitbart author truly ignorant of Matthew, or was the article a deliberate attempt to manipulate an audience that likes to think of itself as Christian but that doesn’t know much about the Bible beyond a clutch of self-serving proof-texts? The reference to Mary as a “pregnant migrant” in Zsifkovics’s sermon of course refers to the journey to Bethlehem before Jesus was born (which Friedman confusing calls “returning home”, rather than travelling to the home of Joseph’s ancestors), but the official church website makes explicit that his comments and the boat-crib also pertained to Jesus travelling to Egypt as a baby:

Diese Darstellung gebe der Krippe ein aktuelles Gesicht, so Bischof Zsifkovics. Die Heilige Familie sei nach Ägypten geflohen, um dem von Herodes angeordneten Kindermord zu entgehen. “Jesus 2016 ist auf einem Flüchtlingsboot unterwegs. Die Weihnachtsgeschichte ist vor 2.000 Jahren dort entstanden, von woher heute so viele Menschen zu uns kommen.”

The post is headlined “Jesus 2016 ist auf einem Flüchtlingsboot unterwegs”, and it is same article that Breitbart links to as its source, albeit at a different site (now paywalled, but confirmed by Google Cache).

Fox’s Steve Doocy is supposedly something of a Bible enthusiast, and in 2015 he invited an Oklahoma State Senator onto Fox & Friends to advocate for Bible classes in schools. Perhaps Doocy ought to attend one himself.

* On Twitter, the proposition that Jesus was a refugee has elicited incredulity and disgust, along with crude abuse aimed at Sharpton. One hazards that this is because of a new stigma around the very concept of “refugee”. Case in point:

2 Responses

  1. The Bible which came by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit takes the same Spirit to reveal it, to form what is called the Living Word , it is timeless , against which comes the error of what is called “Modernism” applied to faith, which came through the Anglican church out off the rebellion, falling into Sodom, the very marker. The Bible cannot be connected without the Spirit, for it is the same Spirit, the Spirit of God that reveals the truth of it, & to this there is only one truth. One’s own blindness has to be removed to know the blindness of another.

  2. A visionary in the spirit heard his name being called from a far off, to which the Holy Spirit prompted him to head the call, while so , one of the Cherubs from the Ark of the Covenant was at his side with a book in hand asking the visionary to look for his name in it, he did find himself in the book while at the same time witnessed a lake , silvery in color, dead still, death itself, the prophesied “Lake of Fire” for those whose names are not found in the Book.
    The Visionary in the spirit finds himself walking alongside a certain Captain having multiple stripes across his shoulder blades, walking up a slope to see the Captain off at the gate, conversing all along. While at the gate the Captain looking up, put his right palm over his lips gesturing “Jesus my Love” The visionary on seeing & hearing this, greatly rejoiced in his heart Exclaiming “Mine too” twice & so saying shook hands.
    Later on the visionary understood that event was a visitation from St. Michael.
    Archangel Michael, the Captain of the host of the Lord God of Hosts, the Elohim who wrestled with the Patriarch Jacob, naming him Israel. Even as it was prophesied to Daniel of the manner “At that time shall the Great Prince Michael, stand up for the children of thy people found written in the Book, which book invariably without doubt is the Lamb’s book of Life, in heaven.

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