Bible and Immigration Research

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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  1. Grudem’s main focus is the health of the nation how increasing diversity and ethnic communities would kill the nation from the inside out (mixed loyalty, inability to understand each other due to different languages being spoken, etc). His starting assumption is that illegal immigration is toxic to the nation, and that while as Christians we have the Biblical obligation to show mercy and kindness to sojourners, we also have a governmental obligation to grow our country discerningly and selectively. Grudem’s main hypothesis is that an uncontrollable influx of immigrants (legal and illegal) has made it impossible for us to choose only those immigrants who will become an active, positive member of society and will benefit America for the better.
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Carroll’s main focus is on the relationship between the host and the sojourner, recognizes that each owe a duty to the other the host to love and care for the sojourner, the sojourner to respect the rules and customs of the sojourner. His starting assumption is that the love of the stranger, being so integral to Old Testament cultures, must still be so ingrained in our culture that it is only natural for us to accept sojourners into our homes. Carroll also strives to highlight the importance of seeing and serving God in everyone though everyone is not a child of God, they are all made in his image, and should be treated and respected as such. He focuses less on the influx of immigrants, and more on the arrival of people.

  1. Grudem quotes Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33, and Deuteronomy 10:19; his view on the sojourner is that they are a legal immigrant who is specifically focused on becoming part of society. He stresses that Old Testament nations were under no obligation to accept immigrants and that there is a difference between a legal sojourner and an illegal alien. Grudem does not dwell as much on the responsibility of the host to the guest as much as the duty of the guest to the host, particularly for immigrants who are intending to become part of society. He focuses on the need for control and for regulation, citing the idea of borders, both in present-day and ancient times, repeatedly. Grudem also points out that in most cases, when the Old Testament refers to a sojourner, it is referring to a legal immigrant who is making strides to assimilate with and integrate into society as a whole everyone else is simply “foreigner”, and don’t necessarily fall under the same protections and services that a sojourner is entitled to under Old Testament law. He pushes the distinction between the two as his main focus, coupled with the good and protection of the host nation. Therefore, Grudem’s motivation for laws stems from a need to protect the nation and the legal sojourner first, and the foreigner second.

Carroll breaks down the definition of a sojourner into the four biblical terms nokri and zar, which usually refer to foreigners in a negative connotation, and tend to describe someone who has not lived in the land an extremely long time and thus hasn’t fully assimilated with the culture; tosab, a parallel to “hired workers” and usually referring to an economically or financially dependent foreigner who lived and worked within the society; and finally ger, the most common term a stranger who has found a home within the land and is learning to assimilate to and become part of the greater society. Carroll begins by walking us through the creation story in Genesis, stating the inherent worth and dignity of a person as an imago Dei (and thus setting up his argument for hospitality as a duty of common sense as well as command), and then taking quotes from Exodus, Joel, and Psalms, that demonstrate God’s great compassion not only to his chosen people, but to the nations and peoples around them as well. Carroll’s main argument then, is that immigration laws should be founded on a basis that, starting at base level, treats all immigrants, legal or illegal, as creation-beings, not just as a number or a demographic or another statistic on the pie chart.

  1. Grudem harps on the importance of New Testament commands and guidelines, specifically drawing from Romans, where Paul tells the Christians to be subject to their governing authorities. His opinion is that since illegal immigrants have entered the country not under the law, the Old Testament and Christian values of hospitality may not apply to them as much as to legal immigrants who have gone through the proper citizenship process. Grudem focuses more on the role of national security in the immigration debate, rather than the human rights side. According to Grudem, the health and growth of a nation should be of first interest and importance, and unchecked immigration (which create small, unassimilated ethnic communities) is an immediate danger to that national good. Grudem pushes strongly for governmental rather than individual influence within this issue, calling for extreme legislative action to not only close the borders but also to alter the current chain migration process that is possible under the Hart-Celler Act of 1965. He appeals strongly to the America-first mentality, pushing for immigrants to assimilate faster, and strengthening the idea of a unified, unicultural society.

Because Carroll uses a wider terminology for immigrants than Grudem, he is able to expound not only on the Christian’s duty to the sojourner, but also the sojourners’ duty to the host. Carroll does not have a strongly defined or immediately obvious stance on immigration laws he merely states that they should be dealt with from a starting point of recognizing each immigrant as a person, not a label. In doing this he may appeal more strongly to the human rights spectrum of this debate, because he focuses not only on laws that benefit our nation, but empower the people who have broken the law to be here. He uses delicate language to gently prod forward the argument that hospitality is not only a dual-relationship between the host and the sojourner, but a moral obligation we should all feel. Carroll makes sure to not put all the responsibility on the host he is clear and quick to state that there are flaws within our immigration system, and there are illegal migrants who have taken advantage of many systems and are thus creating a huge fiscal deficit in national funding but he does not lay all the blame on the sojourners either. He instead plays to the middle ground, addressing common fears about immigration that plague both sides: from the host, welcoming in potential criminal or national threats; from the sojourner, entering a foreign land where they will be left, culturally, high and dry. He makes sure to state the significance of a country being able to “vet” future citizens, making careful judgments in regards to the immigrant’s level of involvement and assimilation into the country as a whole.

  1. Grudem’s argument is incredibly strong on the legislative side of the spectrum. Because he has a very firm knowledge of the current acts, laws, and orders that affect legal immigration, he is able to make a firm, logical, and stirring argument for tighter immigration prevention by stating the current effects and problems that the huge influx of illegal migrants has caused within our nation. However, according to Grudem, someone should not be able to immigrate into a country if he or she does not possess the ability or possibility of bettering the country as a whole and, if they are not at least workably fluent in English, says Grudem, how can they function beneficially in our society? This is an example of uniculturalism and an extreme requirement for assimilation, which is unhealthy for a working nation in general thus, the weakness in his argument. Because Grudem has such an extreme bias towards ethnic communities which operate in their native tongue and culture, his argument turns into an almost inflammatory piece, instead of a persuasive one.

Conversely, the weakest part of Carroll’s argument was that he seems so intent on sticking to the exact middle of the field, occasionally straying towards the human rights side but for the most part sticking stubbornly on his neutral line. Carroll has great strength and research into Old Testament law, which supports his argument that individual hospitality should fuel a national shift towards becoming a more hospitable and receiving nation in general. However, he doesn’t really touch the legislative side of the debate, simply laying a foundation and allowing the readers to make their own conclusions as to the direction immigration law should go.

  1. While I agreed with Gruden’s idea that not all immigrants should be allowed to become citizens, as soon as he began expounding on the necessity for all immigrants to basically erase the majority of their cultural identity in favor of “becoming American”, I was quickly disillusioned. Uniculturalism, as previously stated, is a clear-cut recipe for national stagnation. Diversity and multicultural flavors are what make our country alive, filling it with the vibrancy only the Great American Melting Pot could achieve. I agreed with Carroll more because he also had a wider range of definition for a foreigner in a strange land separating them into those who have little connection with the country they reside in, to those who only live there for financial or employment reasons, and those who are actively trying to make the country their home and because his main point was for immigration reform to begin with the understanding that migrants are, first and foremost, human.

For further reading, I would be interested to look into the immigration response back when America became a big migrant hotspot, drawing people from all around the world to Ellis Island, New York. Was the treatment and hospitality they received upon landing comparable to the treatment we give immigrants today? Also, I would be interested to delve into the vetting process for legal immigrants, and the process they have to go through to become citizens. How stiff is the competition, and is there a limit as to how many people can claim legal status annually?

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Bible and Immigration Research. (2019, Jan 20). Retrieved from