WASHINGTON — President Obama chose confrontation over conciliation on Thursday as he asserted the powers of the Oval Office to reshape the nation’s immigration system and all but dared members of next year’s Republican-controlled Congress to reverse his actions on behalf of millions of immigrants.
In a 15-minute address from the East Room of the White House that sought to appeal to a nation’s compassion, Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is “not who we are” and cited Scripture, saying, “We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”
The White House Blog highlighted that quote, as did many on social media:
But James A. Smith, chief spokesman for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., asked an obvious question:
Then again, maybe it wasn't such an obvious question to everyone.
The Times didn't bother to specify which of the 31,173 verses in the Bible that Obama referenced.
Astrid remained in the shadows until her grandmother, who used to visit from Mexico every year, died and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without the risk of being deported, he said.
“It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree,” Obama said. “Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”
So, if a journalist wanted to track down the location of such a Scriptural reference, where might he or she start? Personally, I use a tool called Google.
London's Daily Mail is the only news organization that I could find that specified a verse (please share links in the comments section if I missed others):
He also quoted the Old Testament – Exodus chapter 22, verse 21.
'Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger,' the president said, 'for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.'
You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
The Daily Mail also could have mentioned Exodus 23:9 (again from the New American Standard Bible):
You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Of course, not everyone agreed with Obama's selection of Scripture, and Smith's question above may or may not have been an editorial comment (I honestly don't know):
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Undoubtedly, politics — not religion — will determine the outcome of immigration reform in America.
But when major news organizations such as the Times quote politicians citing Scripture, it would be nice if they'd specify which one.