Years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said something like, “We measure our success, not be the abundance we add to those who have too much, but by how adequately we provide for those who have too little.” It seems to me that we as a nation and even the Christian Right have done every thing we can in the past twenty eight years to reverse that measure.
Republicans believe in the Great Commandment of Jesus. They say at the top of their voice, “THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” Then they quickly race through, “and thy neighbor as thyself.”
On the other hand, democrats also believe in the Great Commandment. They rush through, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind.” Then they stand up on a platform and shout, “AND THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.”
Maybe it is just a matter of emphasis and we have our choice. After all, we are both quoting Scripture. Funny thing though, Jesus, whom George W. Bush claims to be his favorite and most influential philosopher, when Jesus spoke of the final judgment, talking about people going to heaven or hell, he does not mention loving God. It’s all about neighbor.
“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?” And the King will answer them. “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”
Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then he will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25: 34-46).
Going back to how he understood his call to mission, his very first sermon was all about neighbor:
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 the sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.
Listen to his parables. Every one focuses on those marginalized. He told the rich young ruler, Go and sell what you have and give to the poor. He said, when you give a banquet, don’t invite your rich neighbors but go out into the highways and hedges and invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. He told of the Good Samaritan who picked up the wounded man in the ditch, took him to the inn and said, whatever it cost to restore him to health and strength, I will pay it. (Sounds like universal health care to me.)
Look at the people whom Jesus chose as his companions: the sick and poor and a crowd he simply called sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes.
Scrape all the “tookie” theology off of the message of Jesus and he is saying:
It’s not about me. It’s about them.
Maybe we have all missed this, but I can’t imagine Jesus voting to cut Medicare, social security, head start, school lunch programs, and college loans to give even bigger tax cuts for the richest people in America, I just can’t imagine it.
Democrats are the party for the least, the last, the lost, the lonely, unlucky and left out. If not the party for them, then we don’t need to be elected.
By Thomas L. Are
September 19, 2008