September 24, 2012

If you really want to impress me, feed the poor

It never ceases to amaze me how often we forget the simplest, most basic lessons we learned as children. Most of the problems we have in modern America occur because those of us who claim to be the servants of Christ don't serve anyone but ourselves. It does not matter which political party you vote for, which church you attend, what day of the week you celebrate the Sabbath on, or how many feasts and holy days you celebrate throughout the year. Generosity and compassion are NOT defined by how you vote or what you believe, they are defined by how you live!

Luke 10:25-37
New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The American atheists are right about one thing: too many Christians are judgmental, condescending, and selfish. We build huge megachurches, boast about attendance at our exclusive private schools, treat the homeless with disdain, and rely on our elected representatives to either clean them off the streets or provide shelters for them to live in. The American political system was designed around the assumption that most social ills would be the responsibility of the churches and the people who filled them. Christian charity was supposed to feed the poor, house the homeless, and help the unfortunate get back on their feet. About the only organizations that are still fulfilling this sacred duty are Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross. In contrast, Joel Osteen and people like him preach victory and prosperity but they don't build hospitals, fund free clinics, and support soup kitchens. Instead, the "tithe" people send them builds bigger studios, funds better production quality, and buys airtime in major cities to help them raise even more money to fund the luxurious lifestyle of the evangelist and his closest staff.

St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Shriners Children's Hospital, the Wounded Warrior Project, Ronald McDonald House are all making a huge difference in countless lives and they are doing it without federal grants or any other government money. Yet operations like "Code Pink", "Media Matters", "Planned Parenthood" and "Open Society Institute", all of which claim to be building a better world, would not last six months without billions of dollars in monies from all levels of government!

It really makes me angry when people online start demanding I abide by the dictates of their particular brand of Christianity, fail to gaze in devotion on their favorite televangelist, or refuse to acknowledge any intelligence and logic in their arguments in favor of big government and massive official poverty assistance. None of this garbage (for indeed it is pure garbage!) changes reality in any favorable way.

Who impresses me with their Christian service?
Catholic Charities, that's who!

Who impresses me with their global inclusiveness?
Red Cross/Red Crescent, that's who!

Who impresses me with their walking in the light of scripture?
The Freemasons and their Shriner hospitals, that's who!

I'll buy a new Toby Keith album (even if I don't like it!) long before I will invest a single penny in any "gospel" performer or "Christian" rock band. Do you know why? Because a pretty fair portion of the money earned by Red Solo Cup (a truly awful song!) goes straight into the Wounded Warrior project.

So if you really want to convince me that you know the truth of the universe and are working for the forces of good, then show me by how you live, where you spend your money, and which charities you support. Being an Assistant-Assistant-Pastor-to-the-Evangelism-Committee-of-Gigantic-Megachurch-of-Health-Wealth-and-Happiness will make me laugh in your face the moment you start quoting Bible passages at me in order to convince me how righteous your view of reality is. If you want me to believe your version of the Gospel, start by spending every Friday night working at the local homeless shelter. Now, that would impress me.