My friend Carson C. played a wonderful little game with his Facebook status yesterday.
C: “Making sure 35M people have health insurance is clearly evil, as is banning the insurance companies from refusing to treat people with pre-existing conditions. They should be able to let people like me die if it’s not financially advantageous. We must preserve our right to make money at the expense of lives. Anything else is an injustice!”
J: “oh, it’s hideous. you know what else, “Christians” should gather together and pray against it!* after all, God HATES the sick and uninsured.”
C: “Jason, Now don’t be too extreme. I don’t know that He hates them. I tend to think He just doesn’t care.”
J: “Carson, He *must* hate them. or they just did something bad to end up in the state they are in. and, judging by his followers in the US trying to take away every little bit that they have to get by (such as food stamps), i would say that the evidence simply lies against them.
God forsaken poor…”
The sad part is that I actually think it’s true, that if I were to view God solely through the actions and statements of his most vocal followers (mostly, sadly, Evangelical Christians), then I’d have to come to the stark realization that this God is an a**hole, that ‘He’ is only concerned for the oligarchy, and that he probably has two horns and is fashioned completely out of Egyptian gold (cf. Exodus).
Fortunately, that’s not the picture that the four writers of the Gospel canon give us. At. All. The gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (and particularly Luke) all record a God who was born to a shamed teenager, in a stranger’s house (yes, house. Not a barn nor a cave) in the farthest reaches of a cruel empire to a people that have not self-ruled for hundreds of years. His birth was announced to the lowest of working class people. In fact, these were the elements that he chose to come into the world in. Surrounded by the weak, by the poor, by women, by the downtrodden. This is the life he chose.
Yet this living revelation isn’t just an indictment against my opponents on the far right, the demagogues and Dick Armies that make money by selling lies to people that will listen. The incarnation of their god is eerily similar to Al Franken’s Supply-Side Jesus.
Yet, closer to home, I have many Christian friends who are compassionate and have made a great impact in my life, and yet feel that the government should have nothing to do with something as tangible as healthcare, nor that healthcare is a right for all. A few have argued that it should be the Church that takes care of the poor and uninsured through health clinics, et al. In theory, I love this idea.
But then I look at how few church-run health clinics I know of compared to how many churches have multi-million dollar budgets for their property. As if their business was buildings, not following the Incarnate God to the destitute and lonely, downtrodden and broken. Churches act as ongoing institutions in America, not non-violent insurrectionists – teaching people to care for all as all are made in the image of God as they did in the first couple centuries of their existence, before Constantine subdued it by bringing it into the power vortex.
Hit still closer to home by a great friend of mine, a redeemed ex-con and homeless advocate that my daughter calls Tio Flaco. He notices that at his church, which boasts of a ministry that helps the homeless, when the clients from that ministry come in on Sunday morning, they are virtually invisible…
“How can they do this to them? If Jesus were there they would ignore him too. Afterall, Jesus was homeless.”
And he’s right.
Which brings me to the closest point. The tyranny of my cold, dark heart.
Christmas day. I mutter rather loudly to one of the local vagabonds that if he is the person responsible for throwing the garbage all over my alley I will personally hurt him.
Why? Why the hell was I such an asshole myself? The guy’s completely harmless, probably looking for something to comfort him (whether it be food, alcohol, maybe cans – though I doubt he’s ever collected) in our trash cans. And most importantly, he’s not the one I’m angry with.
But since I see him as less-than-human because of his condition/living arrangement, I can use him as an imaginary wall to fist, as an object of my overwhelming fury of which he is no part.
I belittle people too much. I turn them into chess pieces, objects of whim and fancy. And yet, the One who has any obligation whatsoever to do that… doesn’t. Refuses to play by those manipulative power games. Refuses to believe that the least-of-these is somehow less.
Jesus, how I love him. Jesus, let me walk in your light and be as you are. Let me and my brothers and sisters in you live as Jesus Incarnate to all of those around us.
By the power of your Holy Spirit.
* Oh, I wish I could say I was just satirizing, but alas, no. US Congresspeople Michelle Bachmann and Sam Brownback got together with prominent members of leading Evangelical groups Focus on the Family (among them the Dobsons and FOF’s president Daly), the Call to Action (which I thought was primarily about prayer in a pietous way and for healing, but apparently…), and the Family Research Council (which is hosting it, thanks to Tony Perkins) to pray not just against government funding of abortion, but also the inevitable “rationing” of health care that happens in Wingnut-thought – and not, say, for the 35 million Americans lucky enough to be given the privilege of being denied the greatest health care in the world…