Was Jesus Christ a refugee?
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Was Jesus Christ a refugee?

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The argument over whether the United States should accept more refugees got even more heated over the holidays, as many Christians argue Jesus Christ was himself a refugee in need of shelter. But some claim the New Testament shows Christ and his parents were not refugees: Joseph returned to Bethlehem with a pregnant Mary to partake in a census, not flee persecution. But Bible study groups clap back: what about the Holy Family's flight into Egypt to escape Herod's massacre? Was Christ a refugee?

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Those who argue Jesus was not a refugee point to the story of his birth in Bethlehem. Mary, Joseph, and the soon-to-be-born Jesus were inconvenienced by government demands, not fleeing violence.

Archaeologists and biblical scholar Joan E. Taylor argues that if we define "refugee" as someone fleeing persecution or violence in their home country,  the New Testament account of the flight into Egypt clearly indicates that Jesus and his family were refugees.

Jesus of Nazareth is in the Bible presented exactly as one that would be rejected by such European countries: a refugee child.

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Joseph has been warned beforehand in a dream of Herod’s intentions to kill little Jesus, and the family flees to Egypt. It is not until Herod is dead that Joseph and Mary dare return, and then they avoid Judaea: Joseph “was afraid to go there” (Matthew 2.22) because Herod’s son is in charge. Instead they find a new place of refuge, in Nazareth of Galilee, far from Bethlehem.

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Jesus’ earliest years were then, according to the Gospel of Matthew, spent as a refugee in a foreign land, and then as a displaced person in a village a long way from his family’s original home.

Some anti-immigration conservatives and evangelicals say the left is twisting the biblical accounts of Christ's birth to argue for their agenda. 

But other religious leaders say Christ was indeed a refugee, and that quibbling over these definitions allows some Americans to dodge their responsibility to offer shelter to poor and displaced people.

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