Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bigger Than Potholes - Voting Faithfully

image credit:
( and i think they stole it from )
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -James 2:1-8, NRSV

As Chicago aldermanic candidates begin to come forward, and as campaigns and elections approach in general, it's good to remember that, in scripture, a (if not THE) central ethic to a life of faith in the world as it is, is care for the poor. In the world as it ought to be, this is not necessary, as none are wanting, and none are hungry.

So, questions:

As elections approach, will we have the courage and the power to elect leaders who understand—or to move elected officials to a place of understanding—that “taking care of the poor” does not mean displacing, “relocating,” incarcerating, or otherwise disposing of our sisters and brothers that some richer, more powerful brothers and sisters consider eyesores? Will we explain to our officials that “taking care of the poor” and the homeless does not imply “taking out the trash?”

Will we proclaim, along with the holy scriptures, that the eyesore is not our sister or our brother on the street? Will we proclaim that the real ugliness is found in the systems and structures that perpetuate poverty, inequality, displacement, and oppression?

Will we name, with Saint James, both those systems, and the power players and corporations who lobby to keep the System exactly the same—or to make it worse, so that they might profit even more?

Will we challenge any ethic that proclaims “that which is right is that which increases the bottom line” even if increasing the bottom line (for those in power who stand to benefit) means replacing mental health clinics, treatment centers, libraries, and schools with private, for-profit prisons, and incarcerating nearly whole generations of black and brown men? That is, will we challenge any ethic based solely on the bottom line, when increasing the bottom line means, literally, human sacrifice?

Will we challenge any ethic that demands one must be sacrificed so that another might rise to the top?

Will we strive to stop blaming each Other—immigrant, townie, black, brown, white, disabled, gay, straight, welfare, working class...—for our woes, and note that as long as we are blaming each other we will never transform or dismantle a system that is unjust and inequitable by design? Will we elect officials, or move elected officials, to do the same?

We would do well to fulfill the Royal Law—in practice and in policy—to love neighbor as self, so that none suffer want, all can eat, and all may live out God's call to be fully human, fully alive.

The middle class and big pot-holes are fine talking points. But if you want the heart of faith, speak of care for the poor and the common good—the good of all creation. And don't just speak, but act, for faith unworked is deadly.

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