Apr 23, 2017

The Christians Who Defunded Jesus

by John Pavlovitz

The President’s proposed budget and the GOP’s recent maneuvers preceding it, seek to drastically reduce or eliminate funding for programs and services that tend to the urgent needs of our most vulnerable, most on the margins, most threatened citizens—the working poor, the hungry, the homeless, the physically sick, the mentally ill, the disabled, the elderly, those in public housing.

It’s a clear, shameless assault on those Jesus called “the least of these;” the ones he lived in solidarity with while here. He told those who would aspire to his likeness, that their treatment of such marginalized people was a direct act, either of affection or neglect toward him. It was the very measure of their religion. In fact (contrary to what preachers have led you to believe), Jesus says that it is in their response to the marginalized, not any altar call or magic prayer or baptism—that their salvation or condemnation comes.

Many Conservative Christians have long contended that the Church not the Government should care for people, and so they’re currently applauding these tactics by the White House. The problem is that they—the people who voted-in the politicians currently dismantling healthcare, de-funding public schools, and eliminating meal programs—are the same people filling many of the country’s churches (which apparently were already supposed to be doing this least-loving.)

Then exactly where and when is this love going to make an appearance?

Right now, I don’t see these Christians rushing en masse to come to the aid of the poor and the homeless, to immigrants and refugees and to those on the margins. We’re not witnessing an overwhelming outpouring of compassion from Conservative church folk who have declared that they’re going to repair the homes and make the lunches and pay for the surgeries and watch the children for the millions about to be kicked to the curb by this President and his Leadership—and we shouldn’t be holding our breath.

The truth is, if these same people who call the Evangelical Church home had been following Jesus’ example all along we wouldn’t be having these conversations, would we? If these professed men and women of God were truly burdened to love their brothers and sisters as they would Jesus, this would be a non-issue. But we do have this epidemic of poverty and pain and hunger, and the disheartening truth is that these Christians are the very people always loudly telling the least to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,”—neglecting the fact that they have no boots to begin with, and now we’re cutting funding to get them any. These people don’t see the ironic tension of a supposedly “Christian nation” that can’t or won’t care for its most vulnerable, brimming with followers of Jesus in leadership who somehow can reason that not feeding people is compassionate. For some reason a country supposedly filled with followers of a man who spent his ministry years healing the sick—is resistant to universal healthcare.

If I could have 30 seconds with the Conservative Church; with these professed men and women of God who are applauding the President and these policies, I’d say the following:

“If feeding and caring for people is indeed the sole role of the Church and not the Government, why are so many people still starving, still hurting? You’ve been open for business for 2,000 years now—supposedly the business of reflecting the character of Jesus and replicating his life. How much longer is it going to take? Just what in the hell have you been waiting for? When in God’s name are you going to tangibly demonstrate an empathy that resembles Jesus, because from where I’m standing, all I can make out is a whole lot of self-righteous judges who seem determined to pass the buck, unwilling to show empathy, and violently allergic to really loving the least.”

To be honest, I’m not convinced that many of these Republican Christians want their Government or the Church to lift people in need. I think they’d prefer to live with the fictional narrative that poor people are poor because they’re lazy, that those in need, are so because of some moral failing or bad decision. This story allows them to keep the stuff they have, to ignore the call to love their neighbor as themselves, and to feel morally superior in the process.

Jesus says that whatever we do to the poor and the hurting and the hungry—we do to him. That should be a terrifying proposition to supporters of the President who claim the Christian faith or call the American Conservative Church home. This Administration and the many Christians who co-sign its actions toward those who are the most in need of compassion and mercy in these days, are saying with great clarity: “Move along Jesus, we don’t give a damn about you.”

This is what happens when the least are treated as less-than. This is what it looks like when the Church abandons its namesake and tells him to fend for himself.

Forgive them, they know not what they do.

-John Pavlovitz

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