Tuesday, October 18, 2016
But then we are hospitality people too; throughout the Bible we find warm sentiments toward the stranger, the foreigner, the sojourner, the needy – so immigrants, illegal or not, on Christian principles, should be welcomed and cared for, right? “The alien who lives near you shall be to you as the native born; you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34) – or think of the way Jesus described the way those who will be saved treat aliens: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). After all, Mary and Joseph, with the child Jesus in tow, were refugees themselves.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
before his crucifixion, Jesus said “The poor will always be with you” (Mark
14:7). He wasn’t saying Therefore ignore them, or There’s nothing you can do, or Blame them. He was quoting Deuteronomy 15, where Moses
clarifies that our work to care for the poor is a constant responsibility,
never to be shirked.
Poverty can be politicized, but in God’s mind and heart, poverty is a profoundly theological and moral issue. In Old Testament times, and certainly since Jesus came along, God’s people have an absolute obligation to care about and for the poor. We love Jesus by loving the poor (Matthew 25)! Voting, for followers of Jesus, cannot be reduced to Who will fatten my pocketbook? We hold in our hearts those who have no advocate, who cling to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, children without means – and we strive for a politics that will lift them up and empower them.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
At the same time, we miss the mark now and then, and we forget what church “stands” can and cannot do. Again I’ll turn to former Republican Senator John Danforth, who dreams of a church making a difference in every aspect of life – and yet he keeps us humble, reminding us that even if a whole denomination stakes itself out on a moral issue, that denomination isn’t 100% unified on it, and we are only a tiny fraction of the population. Who cares what the Methodists or Lutherans think? Is anyone listening in Washington, or the state capitol, or in Palestine or the Sudan.
Sometimes we venture into zones where we simply have no expertise. If the church or an individual Christian feels inclined to speak God’s word to housing or education or immigration or finance, we’d best study up on the issue and even better talk to somebody on the inside before we challenge anybody.
And yet, even if nobody much is listening, and even if we don’t know all we need to know, as God’s people we stand up and speak, humbly, compassionately, but surely. Maybe it’s not effective; but Vaclav Havel reminded us that “Hope is the ability to work for something simply because it is good, whether it stands a chance of succeeding or not.” Jesus spoke, and wound up abandoned and on a cross.
A fair test of the holiness of any Christian moral campaign was voiced by Jim Wallis: “When the voice of God is invoked on behalf of those who have no voice, it is time to listen. But when the name of God is used to benefit the interests of those who are speaking, it is time to be very careful.” Should we speak up only for ourselves, or battle for those who already have enough? or for God’s children who have no resources, and no one to stand with them?
Danforth prods us from a different angle. As an Episcopalian, he observes his General Convention advancing positions on public policies. They speak “many words about the responsibility of government,” but then they say “little to nothing about the responsibilities of the people, including its own members.” Ouch. A church that dares to be relevant, to bring God’s Word to life in the thick of the real issues of the world, had better be careful not just to talk about what somebody else ought to do differently. We begin, and continue, with our own labor to change what we can.
Mother Teresa was a staunch foe of abortion – but whenever she spoke of the importance of protecting the unborn life, she always added, “Give us the child.” She and her Sisters of Charity were poised, always, to care for the life they said mattered.
As we move into October, I want to try to say something about Christianity and how God asks us to think about race, life, immigration, marriage, guns, and a few other things – and in each instance reflecting on what God is simultaneously asking us to do.