And the Home of the Scared

Hans Rottberger was born and raised as a Jew in Berlin, Germany. In 1935 he traveled with his wife Olga and the two year old Eva on the passenger ship Godafoss to Reykjavik. They were fleeing what they considered a volatile situation in their home town. Mr. Rottberger and his family got a temporary visa in Iceland, he learned the language, and built a company with a local resident. The family grew, a son was born in 1937. However, in fall of 1938, the Icelandic government concluded that the Rottberger family were not desirable immigrants. The argument went something like this; “They think differently and have a different temperament.” On May 6th 1939 the Rottberger’s were sent back to mainland Europe.*

When we read the Bible, it is necessary to be aware of the context, culture, and time. It is truly easy to find arguments for both sides of a lot of issues in the Holy Scriptures, especially if we ignore the background. However, there are few fundamental themes that override everything else and can be found all around the holy text. Whether you read the Old Testament or you listen to the words of Christ in the New Testament, our duty towards the stranger, alien, and our neighbor is never in doubt.

There are times where it seems in the Bible that due to cowardice and anxiety the Hebrew people were less willing to help the other. It is then we see the prophets rise up, be it Malachi, Zechariah, Micah, or Jeremiah proclaiming the good news, correcting the wrong direction of their people.

Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22.3)

The Bible doesn’t stop there, because it is not only our duty not to wrong the other. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we are specifically called to help fed the alien and the poor. The Bible contains a whole book addressing treatment of aliens, Book of Ruth.

The writers of the New Testament epistles are clear in those matters as well. In Letter to the Hebrews we are told; “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Paul writes in the Romans; “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”

And it is not as Jesus ignored the issue of hospitality. In the story of the Good Samaritan, he turns the role around, it is suddenly the alien that has become the giver of the hospitality and the care. A duty the Israelites neglected. In Matthew 25, Jesus demands that we invite the stranger to our home.

Our duty towards the alien, if we proclaim we are Christians, is not up for argument. It is not to be weighted on a scale against our need to feel safe, whatever that means. Deuteronomy 27, is kind of clear about that:

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

On May 6th 1939 people of Iceland failed in their calling to follow Christ, they gave up a family of aliens, sent them back to face oppression and possible death.

Yesterday, the nation of the United States did the same. On January 27th 2017, the sitting president of this country went against one of the clearest teaching of the Christian faith, one of the clearest teaching of all the Abrahamic faiths, and decided to ignore the oppressed aliens, leave them behind at the site of the road.

It is more important than ever to stand up and proclaim the good news of Christ, more important to speak out, like Jeremiah, Micah, Malachi, and Zechariah. Speak out against the oppression and the heresy of the rich and powerful. Curse, those who deprive others of justice.

All the people shall say, Amen!

*The Rottberger’s account is based on an article in Frettatiminn from January 14th, 2016.

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