This past weekend I read as lector from the prophet Isaiah and was reminded once again of the feast of scriptural passages in the Judaic tradition as well as that of Christianity that all point to confronting injustice and doing justice in our world.
Isaiah Chapter 25 Verse four had me proclaiming to a congregation of believers that God according to this powerful prophet of two faith traditions was telling us that he has been a . . . “refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress,” and more.
The prophet makes the fantastical claim in the seventh verse that this Judeo-Christian all-powerful entity will “swallow up death forever” and later that the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces.”
This God in both faith traditions promises salvation from sin and death and an eternal life with God.
But there is more challenging language in so many places in the scriptures that could even give hope and guidance to an atheist who simply likes to hear about justice and doing what is right and good to other human beings.
Of course, the conservative Christian Right and its churches do work hard and deserve great credit for giving money and assisting the poor. But they turn away from pressuring those who rule to be just or to be accountable to the same moral standard they profess on Sundays for themselves in their churches.
Political leaders and those with power over us are somehow exempted from accountability, and confronting injustice done by government is somehow immoral and antithetical to Christianity.
Isaiah is my favorite prophet. He simply goes right at them fearlessly and tells them plainly that doing justice to the poor, the oppressed, the lowly, and well, probably all those hippy liberals too is actually a good thing.
“Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? This is Chapter 10 verses 1-3. Later on Isaiah reminds political leaders that God’s hand is still upraised at those of them who act this way.
When jobs are denied people who seek them, when aid people need like Social Security and Medicare might be cut. If programs to help feed the poor are done away with in the name of some tax cut is this not just what the prophet is holding up for scrutiny here?
It is important to note that all political parties across the spectrum may fall victim to failing to heed the warning. It is not only a failing of conservative Republicans. Not in the least.
But anyone remotely following how Americans these days are being ruled by the powerful placed over them, would have to say that these very same Republican Christian politicians who wear their faith on their chests so prominently like some group of Pharisees Christ complained of would appear to be sitting right under God’s upraised hand of justice and do not seem aware of the fact at all.
What will you do when the day of judgment arrives whether it be from God or some other kind of reaction by a distracted, bewildered, and increasingly disinherited mass of people who fall into the ranks of the poor and the lowly?
We are doing in many States of this Union of ours a great job of writing and thinking up oppressive statutes. Alabama is trying to figure out how to punish undocumented immigrants all they can. There may be a measure of justice technically as to the strict rule of law. No doubt that is true. But can we say that is justice done in respect to people who are part of God’s creation and who have merely broken a civil law in the United States?
My pastor loves Micah 6:8 when that prophet tells Israel and now today the Christian conservative right, that “He (referring to the deity) has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Clearly you cannot but read this reference to justice as NOT of the retributive kind where we seek out the criminals among us and give them a good whacking and maybe kill the ones we find most offensive to us.
This is the kind of justice that has to be compatible with kindness and humility and the fact that Micah tells us we are mortal is a reminder of ah, well, ah, you know…just who is really in charge here. And who is going to be around after we are mere dust again.
It ain’t us. It’s God. Now of course the two faith traditions: Judaism nd Christianity offers us a number of suggestions and commands as to how to join God and conquer our mortality.
It has always puzzled me as to why within my Christian faith, we either have to be all hellfire and brimstone and responsiblity for sinfulness and judgment and retribution not only from God but form so many who rule over us and who advise spiritually those who rule over us. . . or we are of the kindness and compassionate variety of justice for the humanity of God’s creation kind.
Is it not strange how if conservative Christians, and just about all the people in the Tea Party and Republican Party of any stature today are, deny that part of our faith tradition that is so Christlike and in keeping with the Gospels. This is where Jesus comes to us as a servant and teaches us how to be like him in the years he was with us on this Earth.
And then so many of these people go out and act in ways entirely contrary to that moral example. Jesus did not hang out with the Pharisees. He did not go to New York and seek out the Donald and his hairpiece to have pizza with. He chose prostitutes, tax collectors, and social outcasts to eat and break bread with (something in the Judaic tradition is simply not done with these sorts of people) and to minister to them.
Jesus deliberately avoids the most powerful, wealthy, insiders who have it all kind of folks. When liberal Christians follow Christ’s example we are tarred and feathered by our own fellow Christians on the right end of the political spectrum for acting in some immoral fashion and approving of these sorts of people.
If you are the Donald and rich you must be respected. If you are jobless and poor you are to be condemned and laws made and police activated to oppress and harm you.
Where would Jesus of Nazareth go as he walks into New York City in October of 2011? Would it be the Donald’s place for dinner? Mayor Bloomberg? The Catholic Church Cardinal in the nearest place? Would he cruise on over to Pat Robertson and hang with
Or possibly , would he find himself eating a meal right on the street at dark with some poor man or woman in ragged clothing who is ill and has so little?
How do we walk humbly with our God? How do we practice kindness and how do we do justice that is not the retributive law and order hell fire and brimstone kind?
It not only challenges liberal-left social Justice Christians and millions of non-believers with a very good sense of moral ethics, but it seems as of this date that so many Christians on the right would go see the Donald Trump and eat pizza with him. They might miss that man in the tree on Liberty Square who has worked for the IRS and is hated for prosecuting and auditing and cheating a lot of taxpayers but who is singled out by Jesus and told I’m comin’ to your house for dinner tonight! And the whole crowd in New York City just gasps in horror.
Why is it that those people on the right and who are so conservative have such a hard time realizing that biblical tradition in scripture fully supports confronting our rulers with the moral bankruptcy of their actions?
I’m gonna do an Isaiah and a Micah and a Jesus and really hack off, dare I use a vulgarism and say piss off, Christian right-wingers to the hilt. If I do, I know that in kindness to them and humility to God I am with the right people and doing what is right and good in my life.
I know that my God likes that a lot. (Not the hacking off of fellow Christians and other people) She really is a great advisor. You should try going to one of her houses (churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques) and having a nice chat with her.
Better yet, go out and help someone others see as truly horrible, seemingly least deserving, just a worthless piece of human debris as Rush Limbaugh is so fond of saying about us, poor, disgusting looking street urchins in so many American cities right at this moment, or some other person most of us reject and spit upon. Gotta try it. I’ve done it. It’s fun. But I want to do it again. I just don’t do the justice shuffle Christ taught me nearly enough.
You right-wing Christians who hate or seek to exclude Catholics, Mormons, the poor, atheists, Socialists, Communists, Marxists, Populists, liberals, progressives, Occupy Wall Street protestors, Democrats, President Obama and his entire family, and so on. Are you pissed off yet? If not, I have some serious work to do helping those people you so exclude, despise and even demonize.
With love, and God’s blessings be upon you,
I must close now. And it is NOT to go to The Donald or the Koch brothers, Scott Walker, John Kasich or John Boehner or even Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry God bless ’em literally. No not Rush Limbaugh or whomever is running Wall Street or is running our nation politically.
I’m going to join my brothers and sisters who are hurting so from what these people are doing to them and tell them of the hope I have in following Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ promised so long in both faith traditions.
Perhaps we will break bread together and I might share what I have they share what little they have. We might confront our rulers and ask them to do what is just and right and good for humanity. Can they? We pray they still can.
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke