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Christian Compassion

Posted by Rick · December 14th, 2005 · 5 Comments

I am not the most politically-astute guy sometimes. That’s probably just one of a few reasons it’s good I’ll never run for any political office. And probably posting what I’m about to post is further evidence — if I had one political neuron in me, I’d probably never do it.

On the other hand, for those who can get past being offended, it’s something that I think we all — but particularly right-wing religious zealots — should sit down and seriously think about.

I received an email recently — I won’t say from where, since I think I’ve possibly already damaged that relationship enough with my response. That email contained a forwarded message explaining that there had been a snowstorm which knocked out power to some very large number of people in the northwestern United States.

According to the email, nobody from FEMA showed up. The federal government did not send food and water, or any other kind of support. And yet, somehow, the people survived. They got off their butts and took care of their own problems. They managed to fend for themselves, as they always had.

What a sharp contrast, the letter noted, between that situation and what happened in New Orleans. There — in New Orleans — the stupid black people sat on their asses complaining that they weren’t being taken care of by the feds. They didn’t do anything to help themselves. Instead — as they’ve done for generations — they expected to remain on the government dole and be taken care of. The lazy no-good bums have only themselves to blame for what happened to them in New Orleans.

I sent a reply that asked only something like,

How many of the homes in the Northeast were washed away by the snowstorm? How many of the people had nowhere to live because of the snow? How many dead bodies lay in the streets? Were the living able to find drinking water? Was it putrid? Did it contain decaying animals and people and sewage? Was all their food gone, too?

The last paragraph of the response back to me after my reply said:

Many “poor” people make careers out of being poor. It becomes the family “business”. They don’t try to educate themselves. They are surrounded by opportunities, but, decline them. They blame others for their own choices. In Louisiana, many people had the opportunity to leave and would not leave.

Ah…those stupid, evil, poor people. If only they would choose a different career. Of course, they just have so much fun being poor!

Anyway, after that is where I probably really screwed up. Given that this person is related to me (by marriage) and so far as I know claims to be a christian, I probably should not have sent back the reply that I sent back. But here’s what I sent back:

Apparently my semi-rhetorical questions were too obtuse. People trapped in an area where they cannot get out because of flooding, where people are dying in the streets and there is disease and decay all around for as far as their eyes can see and where simply trying to get out is dangerous aren’t in the same boat as the fictional people you mention who choose generation after generation to live off the government dole. Furthermore, the note you sent out to which I responded attempted to compare people living in actual intact houses on dry land with people whose houses had been washed away or flooded out who were surrounded by dead bodies and putrid water. Frankly – I love you dearly, [named deleted to prevent further irritation] – but there’s just no comparison there. If you now want to change that and compare your family or my family to less intelligent poor black people, that’s really a different argument.

Nevertheless, I continue to be amazed — and this is one reason I’ve come to believe the best thing that could happen in America would be a revival of the persecution of christians, so we could rid ourselves of them and build a better world — that so-called christian people constantly complain about the poor.

Proof that Jesus was not God and that christianity is a farce can be found simply by comparing the views of our so-called christian nation with the words of the christian bible.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” (Matthew 15:32 (New International Version).)

If only there had been some christians there to back up the disciples. You may recall that they said, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” (Matthew 15:33 (New International Version).) The christians could have chimed in and said, “Yeah! They should learn to fend for themselves! They haven’t even tried to help themselves! They just keep following you around! Tell them to go find their own food!”

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40 (King James Version).)

Fortunately, the United States government isn’t as stupid as Jesus. We probably spend more money on war and killing in one month than we spend in one year on food for the stupid poor people who won’t learn to take care of themselves.

As for the admirable couple who had [reference deleted to prevent further irritation] and never asked the government for anything, I think they should thank their lucky stars they did not live in New Orleans when the flood hit (and they should also be thankful they didn’t live anywhere else in the United States during the 1930s when many like [references to various real people deleted to prevent further irritation] would have died without some kind of assistance on occasion). Just because we weren’t born into families with less intelligence and/or black skin doesn’t mean we would survive in those kinds of circumstances. And it also doesn’t mean that those who have been born into families with less intelligence or black skin have no right to live.

If I’ve offended you — and, believe it or not, that wasn’t the goal; I just don’t know any other way to get my point across any clearer — I’m sorry that you’re offended. I may be an ass sometimes the way I put things, but I figured I can’t really be Jeremiah, so I have to emulate Balaam’s Ass instead. (See Numbers 22:28-30.)

I could have added any number of other instances from the christian bible on this topic, but I didn’t. For example, I could have mentioned the time Jesus told a rich man,

Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. — Mark 10:21 (New International Version).

He didn’t say, “Go tell all the poor people how wretched they are, expecting to live off your kindheartedness and your gifts. Tell them to get off their asses and go to school or something.”

Compare that with the message of Luke, chapter 12 (with an extra close look at verse 33). Consider it in light of the reward the centurion of the Italian Regiment received because his “gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” (Acts 10:4 (New International Version).) Hell, even we heathen Jews (you’d be surprised how often I hear that I’m going to burn in hell for being a Jew who doesn’t “accept Jesus” as my “personal saviour”) know that God commands that we take care of the poor! See Exodus 23:10 and Leviticus 19:10 for example.

And what could be plainer than this?

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land — Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (New International Version), emphasis added.

Still, on the one hand, I feel like one of these days I’m going to have to learn to stop trying to point out the obvious bigotry and hypocrisy of christianity — at least when I’m talking to my own family. On the other hand, there is, as I said, a serious disconnect here between what right-wing christians (neo-Pharisees) think and what Jesus is said to have said, done and taught.

But I suppose I should remember what happened to him, nu?

Categories: Balaam's Ass


5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob // Dec 15, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    Nevertheless, I continue to be amazed — and this is one reason I’ve come to believe the best thing that could happen in America would be a revival of the persecution of christians, so we could rid ourselves of them and build a better world — that so-called christian people constantly complain about the poor.

    You were right about you not having a drop of political savvy. Even mentioning persecutions will alienate a lot of people, even if they agree with your basic premise.

    As bad as that email alleges to be, painting the whole group of Christians with such a broad and damning brush will not win you readers or votes.

    As a rule, I usually agree with your writings, even when discussing Christianity. I believe we are in agreement about most social / religious topics but I cannot condone that statement just as I would not condone a similiar statement about Muslims, Jews, Republicans, Homosexuals etc.

    Your relative is a racist first and foremost. The fact that he claims to be Christian is a secondary and distracting piece of trivia.

    Your proposal to persecute Christians (or any group) is nothing but reverse discrimination, which is just another flavor of discrimination. I don’t believe discrimination is a valid solution to anything. I’m pretty sure you agree with that on days your anger is not obscuring your thoughts.

    Still, on the one hand, I feel like one of these days I’m going to have to learn to stop trying to point out the obvious bigotry and hypocrisy of christianity — at least when I’m talking to my own family. On the other hand, there is, as I said, a serious disconnect here between what right-wing christians (neo-Pharisees) think and what Jesus is said to have said, done and taught.

    So if a Jew has a bigotry against Christians, it’s allowed? Are you saying that not one Jew has bigotry against some group? If I found one, would that damn all of them?

    Bigotry is bigotry in any faith. Same for hypocrisy. Same for discrimination. In fact, even people who don’t believe in any religion can fall into all those categories.

    Perhaps it’s not the Christianity, perhaps it’s the human condition called selfishness. Call it pride. Call it vanity but separate the faith from the fundamental issue.

    Your anger may be justified but your target is not.

  • 2 Rick // Dec 15, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Well, to a certain extent, Bob, the comment about persecution was said tongue-in-cheek. Actually, however, I’ve heard numerous Christians before say that what’s needed these days is a healthy persecution of Christianity to purge it of christians. (Recall that in one of your own emails, you suggested I pay attention to the big-C/little-C distinction.) And, in reality, as I’m sure you really know if you sit and think about it — if I came across someone persecuting someone merely because of their professed religious beliefs, I’d step in to do something about it.

    As for the rest of my post, though, I wholeheartedly stand by it. The fact remains that Jesus really said the things I wrote — I always provide the verses so people can go look them up themselves — and what Jesus said really is in conflict with what the majority of christians say and do. For that matter, it’s actually in conflict even with what a lot of Christians say and do. It’s a very difficult doctrine to embody.

    Non-christians don’t necessarily always do any better job — and that includes Jews — embracing the humanistic ideals preached by Jesus, either. But the difference is that non-christians don’t claim to be followers of Jesus; we have no reason to emulate him. And, ultimately, I do think that christians do the worst job of all.

    At any rate, I would think that — even though they’re destined to fail — people who claim to be his followers should at least try to emulate him.

    And that — the disconnect between what he said and what christians do, as well as the lack of even trying to emulate him — is really what I was targeting.

  • 3 Bob // Dec 15, 2005 at 7:12 pm

    I would respectfully suggest that you need to make clearer distinction between when your tongue is firmly in your cheek and when it is in intentional motion. I have the benefit (and privilege) of knowing you personally, however, in this tripwire society of ours that lives on sound bites and the all too brief catchphrases between the “scary quotes”, your words are inflammatory.

    I would also suggest that your retort to your relative’s blatant racism was just about as useless as the original email. Lost is an opportunity to demonstrate compassion and understanding to a person who might not know it when he sees it. Lost is the chance to lead him from blatant stupidity to at least an inkling of comprehension at how damaging and impotent his words were.

    As tempting as it must have been for you to bitch slap your in-law, had Christ been in your situation he would have taught, not taunted. He would have led a dim mind to make better decisions. He would have sought improvement in the human condition over the momentary glory of winning an argument.

    At any rate, I would think that — even though they’re destined to fail — people who claim to be his followers should at least try to emulate him.

    As regards to my definition of Christianity, keep these thoughts in mind.

    There are some who claim to be Christian only because of their birth and family tradition. Most of them will die never understanding.

    There are some who claim to be Christian only to gain political power. Theirs is the world of buzz words and ratings. Their world will end before they will. The general public is too fickle to resist change.

    There are some who claim to be Christian who are led astray by pastors in mega churches with messages that put no responsibility on the Christian for their ultimate salvation. They live in Clovis. Hopefully, someday they will move.

    But there are also those Christians who feed the inner city homeless not on Christmas and Thanksgiving, but on those other 363 days a year.

    There are those Christians who minister to the dying, regardless of their religion, so they aren’t alone.

    There are those who work in hospice so that the dying may be escorted with dignity to the mystery we all someday will face.

    There are those who minister to those in prison because redemption is real in the Christian faith, especially after hurting others.

    These Christians will never see a headline with their name, nor will they crave it. These people are as real as your in-law, only far from your sight.

    Please take my word for this, they are out there. They’re real.

    It’s a very difficult doctrine to embody.


  • 4 Terry Reed // Dec 17, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    I appreciate your attempt to explain hypocracy to your family. I have friends and family that do not seem to understand the disconnect between the words and actions of the current administration. Please keep up the good work. I thought you might find the link below a fun topic to investigate.


  • 5 Rick // Dec 19, 2005 at 11:30 am

    It’s interesting how words impact different people. And how they often have a different impact than the one intended.

    Case in point: I read your comments, Bob, as much more harsh about my relative than what I had said. For one thing, while my relative’s comments probably indicate a latent racism, I don’t think of that person as blatantly racist. The comments are made more from having imbibed too long from the draught of Southern Milieu. Although I dare say that the more latent deformation that leads even good people to say and think things like the comments we’re discussing almost certainly infects us all to some degree.

    For me, that fact — that we all likely share this weakness — is not so much the problem. It’s when we fail to recognize and resist it that it becomes a problem.

    As for the implied WWJD question — what would Jesus do? — the only response I can give to that is a) I’m not Jesus (nor do I deliberately make any attempt to emulate him) and b) I’m not even sure I agree with you that he would react differently than I did.

    After all, the rich young man to whom he was speaking in Mark, chapter 10, no doubt felt — to use your undoubtedly non-sexist-in-intent terminology — “bitch-slapped.” And Jesus himself appeared to recognize that this would be the effect. It didn’t stop him from saying what he said, though.

    And my own comments were fairly much limited to a recitation of the facts and quotations lifted from the christian bible, some of which involved situations much like the one with which I was dealing.

    Without spending a great deal of time on this — because I know you’re nearly as well-read when it comes to the bible as I am — I’ll just remind you that the fate of innumerable prophets mentioned in the Tanakh (what christians “lovingly” refer to as “the Old Testament) was to be disliked, vilified, hated and sometimes even suffer physical pain or death for their comments.

    As Abe Lincoln might say, “That reminds me of a story….”

    You can read about it in Matthew, chapter 13, along about verses 54 et seq.

    By the way — just in case there are readers who are getting a different impression — I don’t think I’m immune from saying and doing stupid things. If I said and did something that warranted it, and I were rebuked for it and shown “the error of my ways,” I would not shrink from agreeing. Some pills are hard to swallow and I’m not saying it wouldn’t hurt. But as the Prince said to Cinderella, “If the shoe fits….”

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