What if the Christmas story was about a family on a journey through Mexico, fleeing violence from cartels instead of the biblical King Herod?
That’s the story that pastor and author Max Lucado tells in his most recent post, published Monday on his own website and Christianity Today, the evangelical magazine that last week sparked controversy after publishing an editorial calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office. In a short retelling of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ escape to Egypt from the book of Matthew, Lucado renames the parental figures and puts them in jeans.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to try to put faces on the immigration question,” Lucado told the Rivard Report. “The constant battle is that it just becomes a policy discussion. And we forget that these are human beings.”
This is not Lucado’s first commentary about immigration policy in the United States. The Oak Hills Church pastor contributed to a Christianity Today article in July titled “Grieving Our Broken Border.” But he sees immigration reform as a moral issue first and foremost, he said.
“It’s impossible for your political persuasions not to sprinkle [or] start to appear in your sermons,” Lucado said. “It’s just impossible. But my belief is that nobody comes to our church to hear my political viewpoints. And so I stay away from, of course, telling people how to vote or telling people who I vote for. But I don’t shy away from moral issues like this: the value of human beings, the importance of hospitality, the value of reaching out to those in the deepest, deepest need. That’s just Christian.”
Because Lucado is a prominent faith leader, his choice to frame immigration as a moral and spiritual issue instead of political is significant for the evangelical community, explained Bekah McNeel, immigrant communities editor at Christianity Today.
“That’s a subtle shift but an important one, because it takes it away from something that you look to your political leaders for guidance on,” she said. “It puts it in the realms of that you start looking to your spiritual leaders for guidance, which means it’s possible that disagree with your political leaders.”
Lucado’s choice to tell a story instead of writing an essay laying out a logical argument about immigration reform gives readers a way to empathize with immigrants, McNeel said.
“[An essay is] how you talk about policy and whatnot, but the spiritual part of it has to kind of wake up our compassion and our identity with these people as human beings,” she said.
Lucado acknowledged that though his writing stems from compassion, he still has much to learn about the complexities of immigration policy.
“I realize there’s not a simple solution,” he said. “It’s a desire I have to see if I can contribute in a positive way.
“These are human beings with families and futures, trying to get out of situations in which they themselves didn’t cause the violence. They’re just trying to find a safe place, and imagine if I was in that situation – as a father, with my children – how desperately I would need somebody to help.”