From the New Evangelical Redacted Version. Matthew 25:31-46.
Today Pope Francis reminded the world that building walls isn’t Christian. Donald Trump took this personally. But Pope Francis got it right. The Judeo- Christian texts are filled with instances of God breaking down walls, removing barriers, and lifting veils. Nothing- not even the powers-that-be, as the Apostle Paul reminds us- can separate us from the love of God. This is not metaphorical for Paul. The Christian faith is about community. We can’t have authentic community when barriers stand between us, especially those built by fear mongering politicians. Putting up a wall between nations, especially in the 21st century, runs counter to all our ancient texts proclaim.
For centuries, political hopefuls have co-opted the Good News, corrupted it, disembodied it, and gutted it of its economic and social implications in order to posture themselves for more power. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are merely the latest in a long line of offenders. But they didn’t get where they are on their own. They had help. They have been aided and abetted by “Christian” leaders and their followers for a very long time.
The Gospel of Jesus is, both, spiritual and social. They cannot be separated. God’s justice is for all. It is distributive. It is not limited one faith over another. And it certainly isn’t about this business of building walls.
If the question is whether or not Pope Francis as any business calling out potential world leaders for misrepresenting the Christian faith, the answer is: absolutely he does. In fact, a leader in his position had better call them out or further risk the integrity of the church universal.
There are seismic shifts occurring in religious communities everywhere. People of all faiths are tired of their religion being used as a justification for terrorism, or a shield for some to stand behind, while they deny the civil rights of other, or as an excuse to carry out xenophobic and oppressive policies.
So, a word of gratitude for Pope Francis and those like him who muster the courage to spoke for the voiceless in our world and calling out those who misrepresent the Good News.
**I recognize the Pope lives behind walls as do many people. The point is that bridges send an entirely different signal than barriers. Our world needs a different kind of leadership. I think the Pope is expressing, in part, what that kind of leadership looks like.
After Jesus emerges from his fasting he spends a great portion of his ministry afflicting the “haves” and comforting the “have nots”. He seems to have no use for an economic system that allows greedy “tax” collectors, for example, to prey upon the most fragile. This focal point of Jesus’s ministry cannot be ignored during one’s Lenten journey . . .or after.
For the Christian, and non-Christian, poverty is a moral issue. It’s sinful no matter how we look at as it is created and perpetuated by humans.
Decades ago the United States declared a “war on poverty”. Here is what Stringfellow had to say at the time on the matter:
. . .a war on poverty has been declared, but as of now, it seems more an appeasement of the conscience of the prosperous than empathy for the sufferings of the poor. Poverty cannot be undone in America by appropriating a nickel where five dollars is required.” William Stringfellow, Dissenter in a Great Society.
Stringfellow’s could have easily been written in 2015. Everyone, Christians included, as Stringfellow later explains, are part of the political process whether we want to be or not, Poverty is not only a moral crisis, but it is also a political one: it is sinful and it is a matter of life and death for those who live it day in and day out.
For us Christians in the United States, as part of the church and part of the political process, there really isn’t any question as to how we are called to act upon the matter.
“Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry
1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.
2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.
3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.
4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, towns, and farms you could most readily do without.
5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.