Beliefwatch: Verses


Byline: Steven Waldman

Opposition to the Iraq war energized the "religious left." Now immigration is extending the life of the coalition. The most vocal have been Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Rabbis David Saperstein and Arthur Waskow, Christian ministers Bob Edgar and Jim Wallis and--to stretch the definition a bit--Methodist lay leader Hillary Clinton, who said that some anti-immigrant measures would "criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself." There are divides, of course: almost half of Roman Catholics say "immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care," according to a Pew Religion Forum survey last month. But the study also showed that those who attend church more often are warmer to immigrants. As with any issue, dueling Bible verses are never far behind. A cheat sheet:

Favorite passages of immigration supporters: Leviticus 19:33-34 "The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Common interpretation: we should welcome strangers; we were once in their shoes. Alternative view: the passage indicates that the ger toshav, or resident alien, should be welcomed only if the stranger is morally upstanding, argues conservative Jewish writer David Klinghoffer. …

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