Evangelicals and the Honduras Caravan


How can evangelicals, who supposedly believe in the teachings of the Bible, refuse to welcome immigrants and refugees? This is the subject of Tara Isabella Burton’s piece at VOX: “The Bible says to welcome immigrants.  So why don’t white evangelicals?”  It is written in the context of the large group of Honduras migrants fleeing gang violence and political instability.  Here is a taste:

How did white evangelicals come to so fully embrace the Trumpian rhetoric on immigration? How did a religious group whose foundational sacred text explicitly mandates care for the poor, the sick, and the stranger become a reliable anti-refugee, anti-immigrant voting bloc?

Read the entire piece here.

Many conservative evangelical Trump supporters, including almost all of the court evangelicals, will argue that immigrants are not welcome in the United States unless they enter legally.  But for Christians, immigration policy is not so black and white. Christians must remember that they are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God.  The ethical mandates of this Kingdom often contradict the ethical principles of the nation-state.  There will be times when our citizenship in the Kingdom of God will come into conflict with the laws of our nation.  I think the case of refugees fleeing persecution is a prime example of when the ethics of the Kingdom of God must trump the ethics of the nation-state.

Those who invoke Romans 13 (Christians must obey government at all times), or who believe that the ethics of the Kingdom of God as related to refugees and immigrants should not be applied to this caravan of Honduras (and others) refugees, will inevitably find themselves in a difficult situation.  At what point does opposition to illegal immigration give way to the Christian call to love the immigrant and refugee?  Where do evangelicals draw that line?  What will these conservative ministers do when they encounter refugees in need of love and compassion?  Should they send them away because they have violated the law of the land by entering illegally?  Or do they follow the teachings of scripture and welcome these refugees in need of God’s love?

35 thoughts on “Evangelicals and the Honduras Caravan

  1. Lynn,
    Thanks. You are a worthy interlocutor and I hope we might find a new future subject to discuss as Dr. Fea introduces brings them forth.


  2. Jeff,
    Your reflections about Flake were interesting. Personally, I think Flake will go nowhere presidentially. If Trump stumbles in some big way and the GOP turns to a so-called moderate, I would expect Kasich to have a broader appeal. He is in the Republican dog house right now, but he is nonetheless a wily pragmatist who has a much greater leadership demeanor than Flake.
    As far as your supposition that Trump’s base would shift to David Duke——I sincerely hope you don’t really mean that. Have you not read about the increasing black support for President Trump? Many black voters are starting to see that Trump’s economic policies have done more to help them than the jaded shrill rhetoric of the DEMs. The weekly tragedies in places like Chicago will sadly continue if failed DEM social and economic policies are retained.


  3. James,
    Thank you for providing the additional information, and for your concern that I might have misunderstood some of your statements. Thank you for your civil and fairly complete comments.

    For me, your additional information confirms that I have understood correctly. We do disagree about several things of importance, but I think it’s best left with that acknowledgment, rather than either of us to attempt to convert the other via piecemeal blog comments.
    So, thanks again, and may God bless you,


  4. I don’t know. Flake maybe? Thing is, such a number of republican voters aren’t big on genuine compassion and someone who is probably won’t make it through the primaries.
    I don’t know if Trump will still be there between his age and Mueller. If Mueller’s investigation leads to removal then angry supporters would back David Duke to show the so called swamp what.


  5. Dear Lynn,
    Thanks again for your collegial tone.

    Please go back and take another look at Galatians 6:10 and reread my statements. I hope I did not create the impression that we shouldn’t help people in need. The point St. Paul was making was not that we shouldn’t help nonbelievers but that the real focus of our charity should be toward Christians in need. By extension I stated that the current Honduran caravan of intentional lawbreakers would not fall within the scope of recommended Christian largesse.

    As far as hermeneutical approaches to scripture, everyone has a “system” even if it is not very well organized or internally consistent. Even religious liberals, who don’t even believe in the inspiration of the Bible, have their their mode of interpretation, no matter how loose and inconsistent.


  6. James, Thank you for your response.
    If I held your hermeneutical and political orientations, it is probably how I would have defended my views on these issues as well…except for your belief that Gal. 6:10 limits the giving of comfort and relief to fellow believers until some nebulous future time. (I’ve known this view exists, of course, but you’re the first person I’ve heard actually describe it as their view.)

    So thank you for engaging on these issues, and may God richly bless you.


  7. Jeff,
    I don’t know who financed the current caravan. If you will read my notes, you will see that I never made a definitive statement about it. As I said to Lynn, I think that the billionaire DEMs are too smart to do it immediately before an election since it plays well into Trump’s hands. I hope, however, that the funder eventually comes to light. At that time we can ask him why he did not use his resources to aid the Hondurans in their own country but elected to use them instead as international pawns on his chessboard.


  8. Dear Lynn,
    This is in response to your Wednesday evening posting regarding my response to Gerald.

    First of all, if you knew me personally, you would not find me to be callous. Furthermore, I concur with you that callousness is not a fruit of the Spirit. Thirdly, I will admit that I do not know every member of the caravan.

    With all of that being said, I am very conscious of our Lord’s admonition in Matthew 10:16 where He warned his followers to be “….wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” I realize that the historical and speciific doctrinal intent of the verse pertains to Christ’s earthly ministry, but I think we can see these same principles carried out in the lives of the apostles. The problem we have today in certain Christian quarters is a paucity of discernment and a wealth of unhealthy sentimentality.

    I realize that the living conditions in Honduras are far from optimal, yea they are terrible, for many individuals. The same is true in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Bangladesh, Liberia, Nicaragua, and Chad. The list could be extended, but I think you get my point. A lot of people in the world do not have the standard of living which we thankfully enjoy. I have no problem aiding those people economically in their own countries. Furthermore, those who are politically victimized should be allowed to apply for U.S. asylum status.

    This brings us to the Galatians 6:10 principle. Christian relief agencies have a responsibility to seek to aid fellow believers in their suffering. To indiscriminately disperse scarce resources to random people who have no respect for the rule of law is a clear violation of the spirit and letter of Paul’s guidance.

    I don’t know who is funding the current Honduran caravan. There are plenty of theories and we might eventually get an answer. Ironically, if it is Soros or one of Trump’s billionaire opponents, the funding might actually be playing into Trump’s hands since American voters see it as a chilling harbinger of future, endless caravans. I have also heard theories that Maduro might be behind it which likewise would end up ironically playing into our President’s hands. In any case, hopefully we will ultimately uncover the money source and be able to ask him why he did not use his resources to aid these people in their own country. Personally I think Soros is too smart to do it right before an election. Maduro is another matter.

    I appreciate the link you sent me, Lynn, and I did read it. The author, Ricardo, strikes me as a man promoting a baptized humanism. I don’t know what organization he represents but his language struck me more as representing something like the Friends Service Committee or a similar outfit. He did not come across as an evangelical who wanted to tie his humanitarian relief work to the mission of saving souls.

    Please let me know if I have answered your obviously sincere questions.



  9. Jeff,
    It sounds like you are in a conflicted position. On one hand, you believe in the sovereign borders of countries and a country’s right to maintain border integrity. On the other hand, you do not like our current president who has vowed to enforce border security. Your dilemma is how to find a 2020 candidate who can guarantee border integrity while still meeting your personal standards of compassion. Do you see anyone on the political horizon who will fulfill that role?


  10. This idea that the caravan people are funded by some unknown entity and have cell phones and enough support that they can leave jobs to travel north reminds me of the pre-Civil War rhetoric about how good the slaves had it. To which Lincoln mused a question as to if it is so good, why don’t any of the proponents volunteer for it.
    Maybe some Americans who think the people in the caravan are financed by secret Dems should take advantage of a free, all expenses paid, tour through Mexico.


  11. A secular government has a right, I believe, to control entry into the territory it governs.
    As a Christian I don’t have a right, I believe, to view “others” as lesser, or not quite worthy of compassion. I don’t have to like what the government does.
    As things are going currently I am grateful that I don’t like this President’s perspective on immigration. I don’t like his lies. I don’t like that as blatant and mean a liar he is, that so many Christians apparently identify with his mean spirited perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. James, I may be misreading you somehow, but just as your response to Rick about Gal 6:10 was weird (and I don’t think is either logically or biblically defensible – a subject for another forum) so your response to Gerald here seems to be without any compassion whatsoever. You speak as if you know all the details about these individual people and their motives, and that it’s just a lark, or a flim-flam effort apparently all financed by anti-Trumpists. (they “Obviously have enough money to quit work and join a daravan…”) What!? I think some humility about the people and their circumstances is in order. We are likely on opposite sides of this, but last time I checked callousness isn’t part of the fruit of the Spirit.

    Here’s a link to just one religious aid worker’s recent post as he accompanies them, with the short comments of 4-5 of the people about their home circumstances and reasons for joining the effort. I’d say the word “desperation” is the most descriptive of the people’s motives.

    Your thoughts, of course, are welcome.


  13. We are not talking about Spaniards here, Gerald. We are discussing Honduran economic immigrants who obviously have enough money to quit work and join a caravan which seems to have plenty of food and other resources. Just looking st the photos they appear to be well-clothed and I bet most of them have individual cellular service. Someone connected with the caravan has money.


  14. Brother,

    Many very very very poor and needy
    Spanish people do not have the funds to meet immigration fees to meet immigration fees.

    My heart cries out for the poor Spanish brothers and sisters in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. And, Lynn, I appreciate your willingness to dialogue about these issues and must apologize for the typos in my postings. I am rather ham-handed on my iPad.


  16. James: Thanks very much for giving the additional information. This is now enough for me to know where you’re coming from hermeneutically and politically, to reach the views you hold.


  17. Dear Lynn,
    I am glad that none of the four commentators suggested that Christ broke the divine law. The fact that He put human needs on a high plane is not in dispute. My point is that He did not advocate law-breaking. His concern with the religious hypocrites of his day involved their self-righteous, man-made religion. (By the way, there are strong elements of Phariseeism in liberal Christianity but that is a matter for another discussion.)
    As far as the current caravan, these folks could have gone to the U.S. embassy or a consulate and filled out the paperwork for political asylum. Their requests would have been handled in their native tongues and expedited if their lives were in danger. And as Tony previously stated, Mexico offered them refuge which, of course, they turned down.
    The fact that the previous administration dishonesty applied related rules and statutes tells me more about the political maneuvering of the Democrats than it does about their genuine compassion.
    These Hondurans do not have to come to our border in order to get an asylum hearing.
    . Lynn, can we at least be honest with one another and admit that their tactic is an easy way to gain entry and then to enter an interminable backlog of others who have used the same trick? How many years can this charade continue thus keeping valid poliyrefugees from achieving legal status?


  18. Hello Rick,
    I am not sure why you call certain statements “facile.” Every organization has finite resources and we are accountable to God how we those resources. Until Christians have implemented Galatians 6:10, why would you advocate using scarce monies to fulfill another agenda?


  19. James: Thank you for the reply and clarification.
    Regarding the commentaries: no, no one said Jesus “broke” the Law. The relevant point of all 4 commentators on the passage was that Jesus’s care for the needy person was clearly preeminent, while the Pharisees’ principal concern was that the Law be kept, and that this was one of Jesus’s principle “lessons” in the incident (which Christ-followers should emulate). This is, of course, also a key point of the preceeding verses over the Pharisees’ dispute over his disciples’ gathering and eating the grain on the Sabbath. (Matt. 12:1-8)

    On the Honduran group: So your contention is that the civil laws concerning “the group’s reason” do not justify them individually being allowed to present themselves to the US border authorities, to make a claim for asylum or refugee status? Doesn’t a proper (legal) judgment of their case require that each person do just this? Each family, each person, has their own story and legal claim, right?

    And didn’t the previous Administration use guidelines that made it easier to qualify for such status (such as if one’s life is under threat by organized crime)? My point here is that the criteria for status is not static; it has changed with the change of Administration. So, while your and Tony’s view may not be – as you put it – “out of slavish support for Trump” it seems to be in support of his Administration’s guidance in application of the laws as opposed to those of the previous Administration. Am I right?


  20. I will never understand the facile statement used by conservatives that goes like this: “until x is fully addressed, let’s not tackle problem y.” As though a country can only do one thing at a time. And further, if you truly have a heart for persecuted Christians, you should be outraged by the Trump Administration. Their drastic refugee/immigration restrictions have slowed Christian refugee admissions to almost nothing. If you need help writing your Congressman about this issue, let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Tony, thanks for the response.

    You’ve asked more questions than a blog reply is suitable for, so I’ll address two overarching principles which create a foundation for answers for all of them.

    1) What is your foundational principle regarding civil law and Christian responsibility: 1a) that a Christian should always support and follow the civil law, or 1b) that a Christian should support and follow the civil law only to the degree that it corresponds to their understanding of Christian responsibility? If the second, then the Christian should work to change the civil law so that it best corresponds with their values.

    2) You also asked “What are some suitable “Christianly” (compassionate, humane) actions the US administration can implement in the face of this situation?
    I’m retired now, but during my career we frequently had problem-solving situations arise in our daily responsibilities; the process of problem-solving is not new. In our case, we selected the best people available (depending on the issue) to create a team and they would take responsibility for the objective. The team met regularly to brainstorm and critique what things we could do (given our resources, and within the company’s legal and moral bounds) to ensure success. We tried various things, evaluated the results, ended things, added things, tweaked things, all on behalf of the product’s success – all based on the variety of training and insights of the various team members. I’m sure you’re familar with the kinds of things an organization does in such a situation.

    I currently live in Mexico, so as a US “team member” with a particular vantage point, maybe I see some things another team member doesn’t (of course, I have my own filters as well). With the Honduran group, what I see is that the first problem is not “keeping this group from coming to America,” the first problem is to set America’s “political emotions” aside (by both politicians and their followers) so scoring points (votes) is no longer the biggest objective, and “treating the humans in the group” can be dealt with. Moral people – Christian or not – can do this if they have the will, but this is the toughest step: put the people in need one’s first priority, take a “can-do” attitude to it.

    The US has tons of expertise with these kinds of things among its professional foreign service staff in Latin America and various NGOs (non-governmental organizations) – such as the former employee of World Relief who commented above. Much of what needs to be done is already underway through our foreign aid programs and diplomatic efforts. Much of our existing, ongoing effort can be targeted to this particular of group, if we stop using our resources to demonize and rouse the voters. The current Administration actually prevents a lot of these people from using their expertise and relationships to deal with actual issues, so they can stir the pot of fear and anger back in the States. The most recent past Ambassador to Mexico – a career diplomat now teaching at the Univ of Chicago – recently described this in an op ed.

    Meanwhile, the Mexican federal government, and state governments, and local citizens in Mexico, are doing a lot of practical things for the people in the group. The first Mexican state the group is passing through is probably the poorest in Mexico, was devastated by an earthquake just one year ago, has yet to be able to rebuild – and yet the people in these poor towns turn out to feed and house the trekkers, give them rides, give them emotional comfort, and encourage them to stay and make this place home. Doctors provide medical care, local people give clothing and food and diapers. All this is happeniing in a country much more poor than America because the people have empathy for others in need. A fair number of the group have, in fact, accepted Mexico’s offer of asylum and a job. But the vision of the Promised Land – flowing with milk and honey – in their imagination is tough to overcome.

    America and Americans don’t have to wait for this group of needy and desperate people to arrive at the US-Mexican border, and present them with a line of 20 year-olds in National Guard uniforms to be working on solutions to the human needs.


  22. Dear Rick,
    If I am not mistaken, World Relief is connected with the NAE. Please correct me if I am wrong. If that is indeed the case, it is my opinion that the NAE today is hardly what it used to be. A lot of leaven has filtered in over the years. I personally could not indorse it.
    But with that being said, the emphasis upon indiscriminately aiding all refugees at the expense of persecuted Christian believers is misplaced. The guidelines set by St. Paul in Galatians 6:10 should apply. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Until persecuted believers are fully aided, we don’t need to seek out Muslims and totem worshipping cannibals to aid. Ha ha. I am being slightly facetious in that last sentence but my point is that we are to help fellow believers first if at all possible.


  23. Lynn,
    Thanks for your response.

    I am not sure which four commentators you used but if any of them are alleging that Jesus broke the letter of the Mosaic Law, they are incorrect. Specifically, did any of them cite a verse from the Pentateuch which our Lord supposedly broke?

    As far as Tony and I viewing law in general, we have been around enough to know that laws do often require interpretation. In the case of this current caravan, however, it is not a matter of us following Trump slavishly. It is rather obvious that these people are economic refugees and not victims of state persecution. As such, no honest lawyer is going to agree that they merit classic refugee status.


  24. James: “To be honest with you, Lynn, I can’t see the connection.”

    Interesting. I checked with 4 theologically conservative commentaries, and all presented the principal point of the passage as the same. My paraphrase of that point: That Jesus demonstrates here that people’s needs are preeminent, over the letter of the law, while the Pharisees who were present placed following the letter of the Law as preeminent.

    Both you and Tony seem to be stating that the letter of the (US) laws as currently interpreted by the Trump administration (seeing as the laws are subject to different interpretation and application depending on each particular administration’s guidance) should be preeminent for Christ’s followers. Is this a fair judgment of your position?



  25. Alex,
    I doubt that many evangelicals would be in favor of turning away a genuine victim of political repression. But that’s not what we are dealing with in the case of the Honduran caravan. As Tony has pointed out, the world is filled with people who would willingly tap into the resources of the USA.
    I worked overseas among Third World people back in the 1980s. Most of them were eager to come to America, but they also knew we had immigration laws. These folks from Honduras don’t seem to share the same respect for our laws.


  26. I worked for World Relief for many years, on the public relations/fundraising side. World Relief is the largest evangelical refugee resettlement agency in the US. It was always my hunch that, although we had widespread support from church and denominational leaders for our refugee work, the people in the pew weren’t always so enthusiastic about it. (This varied, obviously, from church to church; we had many congregations that were actively involved in sponsoring refugees.) I think there has always been a strain of mistrust of immigrants in America, and the church is hardly immune to prevailing cultural attitudes. At various times our country has resented Irish, Italians, Russian Jews, Chinese, etc. who settled in the cities and farms in large numbers. Today, the immigrants come from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. If people in your local town aren’t too fond of families in robes and burkas, it’s a pretty good bet those feelings are present in your congregation. And that gets magnified if your church members are filling their ears with right-wing media, which exploits and manipulates immigration fears. The preacher urging open-armed acceptance of other cultures is getting drowned out by the louder voices urging otherwise, IMO. It’s pretty sad, and lately it’s getting alarming.


  27. Lynn: I couldn’t help but notice that while you reject a “binary” view of this dilemma — to wit: what a secular government should do with a caravan of economic migrants who are demanding entry into our country — you did not manage to articulate a “flexible, humane, creative” third option. If you have a concrete proposal in mind which does not involve allowing these people into the country, en masse, I would be pleased to hear it.

    Here is the reality on the ground: as James has pointed out, the vast majority of these people are not fleeing war or religious persecution; they are seeking an escape from endemic poverty and the omnipresent threat of violence that, sadly, is the hallmark of nearly all third world societies. Their desire to flee from these circumstances is understandable; I would do the same. But most of them would not qualify for asylum under U.S. law. (Or, put another way, if they do qualify, then so does pretty much every person in Central America.)

    They have made it clear that their only destination is the U.S. Indeed, they have rejected offers from the Mexican government to take them in. (We’ll set aside a discussion of the timing of this caravan, who may or may not be funding it — they now have access to buses — and the political reasons for doing so, for another day.)

    It seems to me that those, like you and Dr. Fea, who claim that Christians have an obligation to act compassionately and humanely (I agree) should make plain what you are espousing here. Is it un-Christian to require adherence to this country’s laws? Do the ethics of God’s Kingdom mean this nation — as James points out, not a theocratic kingdom — must grant entry to every person who arrives at its borders seeking a better life? If yes, then you advocate open borders and should embrace that reality, and all it entails. If no, then please define the Biblical limiting principle; at what point is it permissible to say: this group of poor people can be turned away?


  28. “68 percent of white evangelicals say that America has no responsibility to house refugees, a full 25 points over the national average.” I think John’s trying to reply to the question most white Evangelicals are asking, which is “Under what possible circumstance should any person be given entry?”.


  29. Lynn,
    Regarding your remark in the final paragraph about Christians letting a political party set a particular ethical path for them…………..I am not sure how much either major party does to set ethical courses for their respective constituencies. The religious left has things in common with the Democrats and the religious right finds common concourse with the G.O.P. All constituencies have symbiotic relationships with the parties which advance their agendas.


  30. James, Do you realize just how close your post (especially the last 3 sentences) are to Matthew 12:9-4 (Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath)?


  31. You addressed your question to Dr. Fea, and I can’t answer for him, of course. For myself, it seems you present the situation as binary: either “open borders” (in practice, “no borders”) or what we might call “hard borders,” and that one or the other is our only option – as a nation, and as biblical Christians?

    If this is your position, then I strongly disagree. These two are not even close to being our only choices. We need not limit ourselves so narrowly. We can – as Christians or as non-Christians – be much more creative, flexible, Godly, and humane in dealing with people who want to come to “our” country (whichever country that may be) than these two options. (The contributor “John” notes one thing that could be done, for example. There are lots more.) We do not honor God’s gifts to us by limiting ourselves to these two choices, we simply make it easy for politicians to (artificially) polarize us.

    It is also important to God and to humanity “how” we deal with the situation – how closely to God’s character and instruction we are in “how” we execute whatever policies we decide on. Americans are extremely creative in our laws and the application of our laws in many areas of life whenever some influential interest group wants there to be flexibility; it seems to me this is one of those areas of life that calls for humane, God-honoring, creativity on the part of Christians, and in their counsel to policy makers. [I realize that, sadly, American policy makers have a terrible track record in dealing responsibly and humanely with “social” matters. But that doesn’t mean American Christians are off the hook for continuing to try for implementation of God-honoring social programs.]

    So, it seems to me the author of the article, and Dr. Fea, are pointing out the following: that a significant slice of American Christians are (lazily? contradictorily? hypocritically? all of the above?) letting a certain political party set their ethical course for them, rather than them weighing the possibilities and working out a response that fits with their (declared) theology (and hermeneutics).

    Liked by 1 person

  32. John,
    I don’t know anything about the religious affiliations of Ms. Burton who wrote the article but she obviously is not a serious student of the Bible. There is nothing consistent about her hermeneutical approach to immigrants.
    She quotes several verses from the Old Testament beginning with Isaiah. Doesn’t she realize that the bulk of the writing in the Old Testament is addressed to Israel as a theocratic kingdom? Why did she stop with the verses she cited? After all, in that earthly kingdom, sodomites and adulterers were to be stoned. Violation of the Sabbath was likewise a capital offense. Regulations governed the construction of houses, one’s diet, and the fabrics in clothing. Ms, Burton surely does not stand for those impositions. All scripture is for us but not all scripture is to us. Additionally, the western concept of the democratic nation state was far in the future when the Bible was written.
    After cherrypicking Old Testament verses out of context, Ms. Burton then goes to the tried and true Matthew 25 without telling her readers that it is eschatological in nature and will ultimately apply to a very definite set of “Christ’s brethren”——not to humanity in general. Finally, the passage she quoted in Galatians is dealing with God’s salvation being offered to all and has nothing to do with immigration. Sadly, a text without a context is a pretext.
    I think, however, that the most offensive part of her article was her playing the race card. Christians have welcomed multiple thousands of darker skinned believers who have suffered religiously in their homelands. The current caravan out of Honduras is not fleeing religious persecution. They are economic refugees, and I am fairly sure we could help them in their own country if we could pass incentives for our companies to set up industries south of the border. We don’t need more lawbreakers in the USA. There are rules to be followed when a person wants to seek asylum in the USA. These Hondurans obviously don’t want to follow our laws.


  33. John: do you believe a Christian must support open borders? Because if your position is that this entire caravan — you describe them as refugees, which is a distinct legal term and not all equivalent to economic migrants — must be let in, under what possible circumstance (short of being a known criminal or terrorist) could any person be refused entry?


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