What is the responsibility of the church?
People are dying
Pastor Steven Anderson of Arizona has a prayer that he says to God every day. That prayer is that President Barack Obama will die or be killed. One of his parishioners was the man who carried a loaded rifle outside of an Obama appearance in Arizona a few weeks ago. Anderson believes in the bible, but I am not sure which bible it is since the one that most Christians read is clear that believers should pray for the well being of their leaders and for their wisdom. However, a black president seems to bring out the worst in the faithful. It is obvious that Pastor Anderson does not read the bible because if he did he would not be praying for the death of another man.
Wednesday night I took part in a vigil for healthcare reform. There were about 150 people there. Most of them were pro-healthcare reform. There were six or seven people who were against healthcare reform and they were the most vocal people at this candle light vigil. They carried signs that disparaged President Barack Obama. Most of them called the idea of single-payer health care a socialist idea. Most of them spouted rhetoric—saying the same things over and over. They were aggressively pushing people and yelling in their faces. In another event in Thousand Oaks, CA, the violence escalated and one man had his pinky finger bitten off and had to rushed to the hospital.
The highlight of my night though was talking to a younger man who was basically saying the same things again and again. I asked him if he was Christian and he said yes. My next question to him was what was the solution for those who did not have health insurance? His answer was, “Get a skill and get a job.” With that, I asked him did he know that it was the church’s responsibility to care for the sick, the poor and the needy. His answer, “Says who?” The simple answer, “The Bible.” After a while, he just disappeared.
It became obvious that he doesn’t read the bible after a couple minutes of conversation because if he did, he would know that countless passages in bible from the old testament to the new testament direct those who believe to be the safety-net if you will--for those who cannot care for themselves. It is the theme of the entire Book of Ruth. Jesus said and taught that believers who did not do that were not even welcomed in the Kingdom.
So the question is where does the virulent hate come from? Why is it that those who are charged with caring for the poor are so adamant against legislation that would protect them? What happens to the money that big-time religion gets from its parishioners? It goes to building large sanctuaries and supporting political platforms based in hate because the faithful sit in pews and listen to rhetoric without questioning its veracity.
The fact is that the first church practiced a form of socialism. People sold land and brought there earnings and food and shared it in common with others because of the political climate of the day. I have heard this explained away in several ways. The first way is that the first church was not a government, however, it was a governing body and it used what was given to it as it saw fit. I have heard it said that under socialism there is no ownership of property, well the first Christians gave up their ownership of their property for the common good of their brothers and sisters.
The truth is that most of those who believe never read the book they say leads them or listen to and believe the politics of the right and deny the basic doctrines of their beliefs. They sit in churches and are spoon fed rhetoric which they take to the streets as the truth. They become an army for their leaders’ political agendas. They spread this vitriol without ever thinking about the logic. They do not question their leaders or their leaders’ doctrine.
There are a few for whom this will never change, but my problem is with those who know better and refuse to stand up to the hate. I have been proud to call many of these people my friends for years and now it is time for them to stand up for what is right. Most right-wing doctrine is based in the racism of the 50s and 60s. People are dying. Stop the rhetoric and look at the facts. It is your job to care for the sick, the needy, the widows, the orphans, prisoners and anyone else who cannot take care of themselves. Do your job.