If you are a regular reader here, you know that I do not often post about politics. I find it makes me feel like I need to wash my hands. That does not mean that I am deaf to politics, part of me kind of enjoys watching the games that are played. However, when the Giants beat the Patriots, very few people’s lives were ruined (except maybe the betting kind, and they brought that on themselves). Politics can, and usually does, destroy lives.
That is why it was so offensive for me to see Christ used as a political ploy. At the National Prayer Breakfast, the President said the following:
But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs — from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.
And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.
But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.
I do not want to blame government for how messed up it is. Josef Heller said, “In democracy you get the government you deserve. Alternately you deserve the government you got.” Government that is, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is an expression of the society in which it exists.
Society is broken. The Church is broken. The separation of church and state was a great idea of the founding fathers. However, the Church in the United States never took up its obligation for its responsibilities. The countries in Europe where most of the American settlers came from had a state church. That meant that the state, through the role of the church, had the responsibility to care for its body. With the separation in the United States, no one took up this role. Then, seeing the vacuum that had been created, certain men, maybe even with good intentions, lead the government into that void.
The President was quoting from the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. I would like you to read another quote about that Parable.
Dean Brown of Yale University has said that three classes of men that represent three philosophies of life are brought before us in this parable. First is the Thief: His philosophy of life says, “What you have is mine.” This is socialism or communism. The second is the Priest and Levite: His philosophy of life says, “What I have is mine.” This is rugged individualism that has gone to seed. His cry is, “Let the world be damned, I will get mine.” This is godless capitalism. Third is the Good Samaritan: His philosophy says, “What I have belongs to you.” This is a Christian philosophy of life. “What I have is yours if I can help you.”
It is a matter of the heart. You can force people to do something, but that does nothing to change someone’s heart. God is concerned about your heart, not what you do, but why you do it.
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Not go and make your neighbor do likewise.
The Church has failed in caring for its own body. That failure begins and ends with me. What am I doing? Why am I doing it?