By Clyde Ussery
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the times Jesus wept was when he looked out over Jerusalem, the city that had rejected him, and foresaw its suffering and destruction. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way of peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42, New Living Translation)
When Jesus was born two thousand years ago, angels appeared singing “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!” Peace and compassion was Jesus’ message. But two thousand years later, like Jerusalem, we still reject the Christmas gift of peace. Instead we have chosen perpetual war, poverty, injustice and environmental destruction.
Jesus set the standard of love for us when he told us to love each other as he has loved us. He said that the greatest commandment was to love God; the second was to love our neighbor. He didn’t say that it would be a nice gesture if you loved your neighbor as yourself; he said it was the second commandment. Jesus could hardly have made things clearer: don’t spend your life accumulating wealth for your own selfish purposes while ignoring other people’s poverty and suffering.
In this land of unbelievable wealth, in this country some insist is a “Christian nation,” at least a third of the people live in poverty. Are we as a nation going to extend a helping hand to those in need, or will we abandon America’s most vulnerable people? “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying that you want a country based on Christian values, because you don’t.” — Unknown.
Somewhere along the way, the loving, compassionate Jesus heralded by the angels two thousand years ago has been hijacked. The Jesus who was a friend of the sick and poor has been turned into a guardian of the privileged. This is amazing, since this is the same Jesus who warned the wealthy that they were in grave danger of blowing their chance of getting through the pearly gates.
To put it bluntly, there are people telling lies about the Bible who should know better, and probably do. Some of the super-rich and their foot-soldiers are now using their own version of the old-time religion to restore feudalism. There are a number of translations of the Bible in my house, plus copies of the New Testament in the original Greek. The minister I was married to for almost 70 years never found the capitalist Jesus in any of them. Neither have I.
When our lawmakers tell you they have to cut social spending so that our children’s future won’t be burdened with debt, make it clear to them that millions of children won’t even have a future unless we help them right now. If we take care of all our children now, they will take care of the future. And be sure to remind our lawmakers that millions of our children don’t have enough to eat, but that the Pentagon already has enough weapons to kill everyone on earth.