Quotations from Chairman Yahweh

With two Catholics, a Morman and a Congregationalist at the top of the tickets, surely someone will be listening tro God.

As the presidential campaign begins in earnest, is it a peculiar coincidence or a bit of playful providence? Most of the scriptures slated for reading in churches this Sunday sound unabashedly political.

Selected aphorisms from Proverbs sound like planks in a major party platform:

“Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the LORD pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.” (Proverbs 22:22-23) 

Psalm 146 warns voters to be wary of politicians who promise more than they can deliver, or who ignore God’s political manifesto of justice and equality:

“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” (Psalms 146:3-9)

The Epistle writer James indignantly dismantles the trickle down theory of economics:

“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

And in Mark’s Gospel, a woman of low estate refuses to be ignored by Jesus and stands tall enough to puncture the testosterone ceiling that has reduced her and other women to the status of a slave.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” (Mark 7:27-28)

In these few words, scripture reveals God’s position on class impartiality, economic justice, immigration reform, and equal opportunity for women.

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which of the current candidates for office come closest to embracing God’s platform.

But these verses selected by the Revised Common Lectionary for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost (that’s September 9) make God’s politics hard to ignore.

God loves the poor.

God hates injustice.

God blesses the rich only insofar as they love justice and share their bounty with the poor.

God watches over prisoners, immigrants, orphans and widows, and expects all of us to do the same.

And God has declared that women and men are equal, and their common faith gives women and men the same access to the special blessings of Jesus.

Jesus associated himself with the same platform when he addressed his congregation in Nazareth:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus’ reference to “the acceptable year” puts him – and us – in particularly radical territory because it refers to the Levitical law which requires the faithful to return all purchased property, free all slaves, and forgive all debts that have been accumulating in the past 50 years.

But returning property and forgiving debts is far too sweeping a stimulus package for today’s politicians, most of whom rationalize it away as impractical, economically untenable, or Jesus must have been kidding.

But of course Jesus isn’t kidding. God’s partiality for the poor is a common threat running through scripture that is nearly 3,500 years old.

God loves the poor.

God hates injustice.

God blesses the rich only insofar as they love justice and share their bounty with the poor.

God watches over prisoners, immigrants, orphans and widows, and expects all of us to do the same.

And God has declared that women and men are equal.

As candidates for high executive and legislative office and thousands of their supporters sit in churches all over the country, they will be reminded of these same scriptures.

I wonder how they will react to these quotations from Chairman Yahweh. And I wonder if they will get any fresh insights into God’s political program that will affect their platforms.

Throughout the past several years, most politicians – including President Obama and Governor Romney – have positioned themselves as champions of the great middle class. Mr. Obama says he will improve the lives of the middle class by lowering their taxes, providing better access to education and health care, and paying for it by increasing taxes on the rich. Mr. Romney calls for easing the tax burdens on the rich to encourage them to create more jobs, and for reducing the federal deficit by cutting billions of dollars out of federal programs.

Neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney have offered many details about what they will do to help the very poor, the millions of Americans and other world citizens who live so far below the poverty line that it threatens their very lives.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House and Senate continue to debate how much money should be cut from federal programs in order to reduce the national debt.

Neither political party is talking seriously about slashing waste from the defense budget and representatives of both parties strenuously oppose closing military installations in their districts. This is always puzzling because one would think there would be more flexibility in the defense budget. An order to stop building only one F35 fighter jet would free up $113 million dollars, which would feed a lot of hungry children.

But if Congress moves ahead with the cuts it is proposing, there will be a lot more hungry children in the world.

In an effort to lower the national debt, which some economists say is hurting the economy, many in Congress want to cut or eliminate programs that provide direct support for poor people at home and abroad. These badly needed programs include food Assistance; SNAP (formerly food stamps); free and reduced-price school meals; low-Income Child Care and Early Education; Head Start; Low-Income Health Care; Medicaid; Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Tax Credits and Income Support; Refundable tax credits (EITC: the refundable component of the Child Tax Credit); Low-Income Education and Training; Shelter and Homelessness; Preventing Child Maltreatment; Refugee Assistance.

International programs targeted for reduction include International Food Assistance and Emergency Response; P.L. 480 Title II Food for Peace; McGovern-Dole International Food for Education; Global Health; Global Health and Child Survival—State Department (includes PEPFAR); Child Survival and Maternal Health; Sustainable International Development Programs; Development Assistance; International Refugee Assistance and Post-Conflict Support; Peacekeeping; Sustainable International Development Programs; International Poverty-Focused Financial Services (in ways that serve the poorest of the poor).

It’s astonishing, frankly, to listen to the same politicians advocate reducing taxes on rich people while recommending cuts in programs that are helping to keep poor people alive.

Perhaps you saw Sister Simone Campbell address the Democratic Convention last week Sister Simone is an organizer of the “Nuns on the Bus” program that traveled around the country this summer in the name of social justice.

Sister Simone characterized the federal budget as “a moral document.” But the budget proposed by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Roman Catholic layman, is anything but, she said.

“Paul Ryan claims this budget reflects the principles of our shared faith,” Sister Simone said, “but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”

Sister Simone, who also opposes some of Mr. Obama’s programs such as support for marriage equity and freedom of choice, received a standing ovation when she endorsed ObamaCare “as part of my prolife stance and the right thing to do.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Nuns on the Bus are part of an unprecedented coalition of liberal, mainline, evangelical, and Pentecostal groups that oppose federal budget cuts in programs that help the programs. Sister Simone is one of the founding members of the Circle of Protection that came together last year to protect these programs. 

The Circle of Protection members also include the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, Bread for the World, Sojourners, the Alliance to End Hunger, the Salvation Army, the National African American Clergy Network, the National Baptist Convention of America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and others. (You can join at www.circleofprotection.us)

“As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare,” the organizers said in a statement of purpose. “We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called ‘the least of these.’” (Matthew 25:45).

“They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources,” the organizers said. “The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice.”

Bringing the National Association of Evangelicals into the same cause as the National Council of Churches seems an almost miraculous achievement, but there is a practical reason for it.

The reason is this: both groups believe what scripture says.

And scripture has been proclaiming the same message for thousands of years:

God loves the poor.

God hates injustice.

God blesses the rich only insofar as they love justice and share their bounty with the poor.

God watches over prisoners, immigrants, orphans and widows, and expects all of us to do the same.

And God has declared that women and men are equal.
As the political campaign of 2012 continues, this should be our prayer: that the religious men and women running for office read their scriptures and take them to heart.

And once they have enriched their faith, may they put the admonishment of St. James (2:14-17) into action:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jeff meyer September 11, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Wow, you have a lot to say about the religious beliefs of others. Perhaps you posses some secret revelation? LOL. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
jeff meyer September 11, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I don't know Aidan. The Epistle of James hold much attempt against the rich. Read it. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe,NY
jeff meyer September 13, 2012 at 05:48 PM
CC, first of all who is "we"? Do you speak for a organization? Do you speak for the PATCH? Is your real name actually chris clement or is that your pen name like so many other opinionated individuals? I believe that I am very positive. Why are you so offended? Because I challenged you on your absurd notion that we should follow the example of China and regulate one's choice as to the amount of children? Do you have children? If you do then thank God for the blessing and stop the stupidity of telling others whether they should or should not have children. BTW, is not sequestration suppose to reduce the national debt? Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe,NY
uj September 16, 2012 at 01:16 PM
jeff meyer September 16, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Just what I thought, Clementina. Once you get challenged in regards to your outlandish beliefs you shatter like a cheap piece of glass. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe,NY


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