7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
Matthew 15:7-9 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
About the language: When I was a kid, “man’s inhumanity to man” had a certain dignity as words. Modern inclusive language makes it “humanity’s inhumanity to humanity” which doesn’t even seem possible, so I chose the older style of complaining. Perhaps that’s the problem — all the crazy-making of our lives has finally gotten to me.
“Crazy-making” is a technical term where people see one thing, and are told they seem the exact opposite of it and, furthermore, they had better say it loudly. I see people all day who are, “officially”, some form of crazy because they have been living in families like this and I have to convince them, for the sake of truth and healing, that they are not crazy, they are not making this stuff up, evil things really did, and/ or continue to happen in their lives. Then I come home and watch the news or read the paper or see people’s experience on Facebook, and I see just how crazy-making our whole society is. I made the mistake of reading a recent copy of The Nation magazine and the truth within its pages was just too much to bear — truth about Flint, Michigan and voting rights. Later I saw another edition of the magazine that talked about the Paris terrorist attacks and asked for “justice, not revenge”, so I knew their heart was in the right place. Experience has taught me that they are truthful, which made reading the pieces even more difficult.
I am writing from a place of rage today, and it’s not all politics, nor personal, nor therapeutic, but some combination of them that has brought me to this place. I thought I might write until the rage changes to just plain anger, then drains down to peace or understanding or light or something.
I can’t believe what we do to ourselves on a daily basis as human beings. This is not America as I know it. This is not the world as I know it. It can’t be. Evil makes no sense, at all, but we’re getting good at it. I never want to hear another person say “America is a Christian nation”. It’s not. By that, I don’t mean that Christianity should or should not be our national religion. I mean that we don’t act like Christians. In fact, we are so far from it, that we have become demonic. The more we scream that WE ARE CHRISTIANS the more I swear we are not. If we were, we wouldn’t have to say it. The world would “know we are Christians by our love”. They don’t. Can we name one thing in the last year that America has done for others? Can we name one thing daily that we have done against the world?
Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. That is the standard for claiming Christianity, as it is the core of Christian teaching. I don’t expect people to actually live up to that standard 24/7, but I do expect them to try to live up to that standard. That seems reasonable to me.
What part of the crisis in Flint, Michigan says we did that?
Was it leaving them high and dry years ago, when GM moved out? Was it then taking over their political system because, supposedly, they couldn’t do it? Was it refusing to spend money on an infrastructure when we know that people need clean water? Was it choosing to use contaminated water because we refuse to spend money on it? Was it trying to cover up the problem with chlorine because we didn’t want to acknowledge the problem existed? Did we love our neighbor when they complained for months and government did nothing? Did we love our neighbor when lead levels began killing brain cells? Have we loved our neighbor yet? Let me know when we do.
What part of our attitude toward the poor says this? When we believe that “if you’re poor, it’s your own fault”, does that sound like loving our neighbor? When we make people scramble for a few extra dollars in their welfare checks or social security — when we make them work harder for less, does that seem like “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”? When we get angry at people for being victims, does that seem like loving our neighbors? When we shoot them in the back, because they are running in fear, what part of “you shall not kill” do we not get?
When we create a fear of “voter fraud” which hasn’t happened or been reported, does that sound like “don’t bear false witness”? When people then vote for voter ID laws that accept gun licenses as ID, but won’t accept student IDs as proof, what part of taking away people’s rights seems like “loving our neighbor as our self”?
When politicians try to be meaner to fellow humans than their rival in order to win approval from the voters, which ones are the Christians there?
When children die and our system doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it, again — what part of “you shall not kill” didn’t we understand? How Christian do we seem? Which part of Christ’s words justify this?
When we get angry at, or dull down the message of, people for saying that their lives matter, which part of Christianity are we invoking?
When an appellate court says, “Certain semiautomatic firearms deserve the highest level of protection the Constitution allows”, how do we square that with the ban on false idols?
When we try to divide people against each other, when we say “this group’s rights are more important than that groups” how are we modeling unity of Christ? When my daughter asks me if I’m “an ally” to a whole group of people, why should there be any question?
When I see client after client whose experience is that they aren’t loveable because they have been abused by more people than have cared for them, how does this happen? How does nobody notice? When I see women who finds a decent partner in middle age and doesn’t know what to do with the possibility, how can we say that God’s love is apparent in our society? How do some people abuse others and expect love to come from it?
How do we justify the existence of the Ku Klux Clan as a Christian nation? How do we create members of ISIS, or Al Qaeda in America? How do we create kids like the boy who shot up Newtown? What in our national psyche explains this hate?
If Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the light”, how do we justify denying climate change? Why do we need laws to protect whistleblowers? Why is “telling on someone” worse that whatever it is they’ve done. If we believe that the truth will set us free, why do we have whole industries whose job is keep it from us? How do we justify “spin doctors”?
By now, I’m feeling better, having gotten it off my chest, but the questions still hang around. I see what we could be as a nation, or as Christians, and we are so, so, so far from that dream/fantasy, I just can’t imagine how we got here.
Let’s start working instead on actual Christianity and finding…