Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz addresses attendees at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tami Chappell *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CRUZ-PP, originally transmitted on August 25, 2015.

Does the Bible support Ted Cruz's views on immigration? (COMMENTARY)

Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz addresses attendees at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tami Chappell *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CRUZ-PP, originally transmitted on August 25, 2015.

Republican presidential candidateTed Cruz addresses the RedState Gathering in Atlanta on Aug. 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tami Chappell
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CRUZ-PP, originally transmitted on Aug. 25, 2015.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

DES MOINES -- When Bob Vander Plaats, perhaps the most influential leader of the religious right in Iowa, announced his endorsement for Iowa's Republican caucuses, he heralded Ted Cruz's strict exclusion policy on immigration -- even though his chosen candidate was born in Canada to a mother who was a U.S. citizen.

Vander Plaats and his organization, the Iowa Family Leader, like to point out that they “address social issues from a biblical perspective,” and the website itself quotes 2 Corinthians 4:2: “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.”

Let’s start with the Hebrew Bible: “Do not oppress a foreigner. You yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

The Hebrew Bible often instructs the Israelites to treat strangers with kindness and compassion precisely because they were once aliens themselves. The corollary here is that the U.S. often has been described as a nation of immigrants, which suggests that all of us -- Native Americans excepted -- once were foreigners.

Leviticus, one of the religious right’s favorite books of the Bible because of its apparent condemnation of homosexuality, contains plenty of advice for dealing with aliens:

Leviticus 19:33:

“And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.”

Leviticus 19:34:

“The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Further along, we find guidance for feeding strangers in our midst.

Leviticus 23:22:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.”

Still later, the Bible suggests that aliens should be treated equally.

Leviticus 24:22:

“You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born.”

In the New Testament, Jesus beckoned his followers to care for “the least of these,” a description that I suspect would apply to refugees from Syria and those huddled at detention centers on our southern border. Jesus later described those who would be admitted into the kingdom of heaven as those who demonstrated acts of kindness toward people in need.

I acknowledge that a longer conversation is required to determine exactly how these biblical principles should apply to immigration policy, but it’s a conversation utterly missing from the current political debate, despite the faith claims of many of the candidates.

Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas and Vander Plaats’ choice for president who wants citizens to join his “National Prayer Team,” talks about building walls, tripling the number of border agents and stepping up deportations.

How is that consistent with the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger? How does that square with Vander Plaats’ own claim, “nor do we distort the word of God?”

Those who boast that the word of God informs their policies might want to take a moment to consider exactly what the Bible has to say.

(Randall Balmer is chairman of the religion department and director of the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.  This editorial first appeared in The Des Moines Register.)


  1. Funny you did not list the scriptures related to protecting you land. What does the bible say about law breakers or did you forget that as well?

  2. Does the Bible support Democratic views on marriage, abortion? How come the Bible is used with Trump, Carson, now Cruz?!? How come it is not used with Democrats? What about Obama’s prejudice against Christians (Syrian Christian refugees, beheaded Christian “migrant workers” [what WH called killed Egyptian Christians in Egypt]) Double standard!

  3. What kind of web site is this? You post something, and it vanishes in cyberspace.

    I disagree with Cruz in that I favor comprehensive immigration reform, but for practical reasons alone. Morally speaking, there is nothing wrong with Cruz’s position that people must come here legally. The Biblical injunction to take care of the stranger doesn’t mean we have to make people who sneak across our borders all permanent residents, let alone citizens. There is nothing wrong with demanding that if people want to stay in our home, they come in through the front door, like guests, not sneak in through the back door like burglars.

    Again, Cruz is wrong, but not for moral reasons. He is for legal immigration, which more than covers the moral duty to honor the stranger. Rather, he is wrong in that deporting 11 million people, even if doable, is a bad idea economically. But he’s a smart guy & could come up with a third way if elected.

  4. There’s nothing Cruz is saying that contradicts the Bible. It says to honor the stranger, not honor the burglar. A person who breaks into your home is a burglar.

  5. Based on Randall Balmer’s logic, such that it is, I should be able to walk into Balmer’s home at will, and demand my biblical rights to be welcomed with open arms.

    So listen, Randall, I hope you don’t mind if I drop in one of these days. Just make sure your wife cooks me salmon, my favorite food — and grills it.

    And make sure my bed in the guest room is made when I get there. I like my mattress firm, and prefer Stearns and Foster.

    Got it?


  6. Ah, how to distort the Bible. “Aliens” and foreigners and are honored in the Bible and protected. Ted Cruz is more interested in his pagan conservative views than in biblical views.

  7. Thous shalt not bear false witness. Obama shows no prejudice against Christians.

  8. Dirk, to repeat, hospitality means welcoming people at your front door, not letting anyone who so desires to sneak in through your back door. It allows for wisdom and prudence on the part of the owner of the house. It allows for at least some selectivity on the home owner’s part as to who is invited in and who is not.


    “You shall purchase male and female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you, also the children..You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this…”
    (Leviticus 25:44-46)

    If you don’t know how to be decent the Bible will not help you.
    If you know how to be decent the Bible will impede you.

    Religion poisons everything.

  10. Max, why ignore the many scriptures cited in the article about the command to deal kindly with strangers in one’s midst?

    Moreover, if you’re right, why has Jewish tradition so stressed the welcoming of the stranger, it says that one of Sodom and Gomorrah’s key sins was to treat strangers with unmitigated brutality, while commending Abraham for doing precisely the opposite?

    Are Jews misinterpreting their own Hebrew Bible? I don’t think so.

  11. @Jack,

    “why ignore the many scriptures cited in the article about the command to deal kindly with strangers…?”

    Just as it is a depravity to defend Hitler for loving his dog and his mistress, it is depravity to defend God for claiming to be nice when it makes him feel good.

    If one KNOWS how to be a decent person
    God’s commands will be only immoral and depraved.
    If one DOESN’T KNOW how to be decent person
    God’s commands give license only for misery & slaughter.

    “..You are like a branch…of such will be burned” – JESUS (John 15:6)

    Outrageous and insufferable.

  12. “Does the Bible support Ted Cruz’s views…?”

    Go ahead. But why stop with Ted Cruz? Let’s test the Bible for everything.
    Compare its recommendations with today’s best practices or known remedies.

    The Bible fails on almost every measure: its’ absolutist, fossilized philosophies, commands, claims and injunctions are abject nonsense.

  13. Max, it’s you who are being absolutist — the Bible is the anchor of western civilization and its institutions, the common thread that runs through it, and a key explanation for the explosion in progress in every area, including science, over the past four centuries, since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press which broke the ecclesiastical monopoly on Scripture, allowing its content to be spread far more widely across populations.

    But you wouldn’t know that, because you are an extremely ignorant and bigoted man.

  14. Jack,

    “Answer the question”


    “Burn your daughter alive” – Yahweh (Lev. 21:9)
    “Any who curse parents must be killed.” (Lev. 20:9)
    “kill homosexuals” – (Lev. 20:13)
    “Kill those with a different religion.” (Deut. 17:2–7)
    “Anyone who dreams anything against God must be killed.” (Deut. 13:5)
    “He who has no penis shall be damned” (Deut. 23:1)
    “Hate them” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)
    “Save the virgins for rape” (Num 31:18)
    “Kill without mercy” (Jer 15:1-7)
    “enslave he who surrenders” (Deut. 20:10)
    “whip slaves severely” – JESUS (Luke 12:47-48)
    “Make slaves of those around you” (Lev 25:44-46)
    “I shall NEVER forgive you” – JESUS (Matt. 25:46)
    “Kill your loved ones for me” – God” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
    “Women, be raped to save your husbands” (Judges 19:25-28)
    “Kill your son for me” – GOD (Gen. 22:2)

  15. @JACK,

    “the Bible is the anchor of western civilization and its institutions…”


    1) The Bible is a conglomeration of hundreds of Greek, Egyptian, Asian and Mesopotamian myths and gods: Gilgamesh, Homeric Epics, Persian gods Zoroaster and Satan, Greek gods such as Elohim, Elijah and Yahweh who branched off from Zeus and Diana.

    2) European civilization was built on thousands of myths. American laws were created IN SPITE OF Biblical nonsense.

    3) The US Constitution stands alone as the jewel in the crown of Western Civilization in rebellion to Biblical claims – an Atheist nation:
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..”
    “Laws shall be ….of the people, By the people, for the people”

    The Bible is an insult to freedom and democracy. Believers waste their American freedom when they surrender to religions.

  16. Ted Cruz is trying to appeal to the same ignorant bigoted cretins Trump is courting. Cruz is expecting to pick them up along with his own crowd of dominionists when Trump expectedly flames out.

    The sad truth for moderate, sane, freedom loving Christians is that one can just as easily proof text the Bible to support hateful autocratic acts as one can justify mercy and beneficence.

    There is no such thing as being bound by religion to prevent one from acting badly. For example those who claim Christianity by its nature keeps its believers from acting like ISIS are not even remotely credible. All faiths have are religious excuses to behave badly. Especially to outsiders. Cases of people being inspired to do well by others by their faith are so uncommon that they are celebrated as unusual. Those who use religion to justify bad acts are more common than dirt.

  17. Jack, your ignorance of the ancient law of hospitality is duly noted. What you scoff at was one of the most paramount rules of civilized society in the west prior to the Roman Empire. One treated all travelers and guests with respect, even if one did not originally invite them. Homer’s Odyssey is practically a treatise as to how it worked and how its violation invites grave punishment.

    The problem with the author’s argument is the sincere and genuine belief that religion is a beneficent thing which precludes bad behavior if one is following it “correctly”. It is overly optimistic. Those not blinded by belief know with clear certainty that is never true. People will always use religion to justify whatever acts they seek social sanction for, no matter how reprehensible.

  18. you don’t understand. Republicans are allowed to pick and choose which parts of the bible do, and do not, apply to them. Says so in the bible.

  19. Larry,

    “Cases of people being inspired to do well by others by their faith are so uncommon that they are celebrated as unusual.”

    Well said.
    The “saints” are few and far between for a reason. When we look closely at the saints most of them are very over-rated in any case because religion has so many other negative effects. Even when trying to do good religion is more of a hindrance than a help.

    “Kill them” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

  20. Refugees are hardly “sneaking in” by any sense of the term.

    They are invited out of a sense of humanity because they are left without a country. Asylum seekers are invited because it is humane to permit people to stay in your nation who fear persecution at home. Lets be even more brutally honest, we invite illegal aliens to our country as well through our demand for cheap exploitable labor. The comparison to a burglar is inappropriate. They are entering your house as the domestic servants, both figuratively and literally.

    Generally nativist nonsense depends entirely on analogy to cover up the complete lack of knowledge a speaker as to the immigration system they are criticizing.

    Cruz os a hypocrite who wants to deny people the very opportunities his own family benefitted from. Typical conservative thinking. “I’ve got mine, eff everyone after me who tries the same”

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