Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter special: An open letter to members of the US Congress

US Senate in Chambers
To the honorable members of the United States Congress:

Several of your members frequently remind us that we are predominantly a Christian nation, (however, our founding fathers did insist on placed separation of church and state in the constitution); and that you make your decisions based on Christian values.  That is commendable and I thought it might be useful for you to have a simple listing of some of the quotes listed in the Bible made by Jesus, to guide you in your policy making:

I know many of you are sincere seekers of the best ways forward for our land and people.  So these suggestions are directed at those, in both parties, who appear to approach governing in response to 'some other agenda'.... whether that be preparing  for reelection, financial gain, or political pressure...

1.  Matthew 25:34-40:  “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 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 You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 

Loaves and fishes - 
And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.

Mother Teresa giving support to the poor and sick of India
Just a reminder - it’s OK to raise taxes to pay for programs that help the poor and folks who find themselves with economic hardships. It is just what Jesus had in mind. What Jesus told us about feeding, clothing, and helping people is directly serving God’s plan.  It is your job to understand people born with different life potentials, different races and cultures, different orientations, different strengths and deficiencies…

2. Matthew 25:41-43 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;  I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
I pass them everyday - and wonder - it this a scam or is this guy hungry... Sometimes I give money and sometimes I don't - I wish  could know who really needs help... Am I wrong to not just help everyone who asks...? What would Jesus do...
Whether you imagine hell metaphorically or karma, or  something else... Jesus makes it clear that he didn't look favorably on those who refused to help those less fortunate than themselves. I don’t understand why some of you politicians keep ignoring this in your decision making.  How can you turn a blind eye?  I think we know!! – someone has a financial interest and they offer some of you money to support their cause… Shame on you…

3.  Some of you congressional leaders are quick to promote warfare – and this isn’t the solution that Jesus enjoined us to follow “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Who me? Are you talking to me?

Jesus Christ preached peace, love, and kindness to his followers, yet some of you are quick to blast the trumpets of war. Just examine recent policies and you will find those that follow the “myth of redemptive violence’ instead of seeking the way of peace…  It never seems to work out as intended. Who comes out a winner when we increase our budget for armaments?

 4.  Matthew 6:26:  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Some of you politicians have been pretty scornful of people who need help from the U.S. government, with no thought to what serious conditions caused them to be in difficult circumstances.  The way of Jesus saying is that all should all be fed and cared for — regardless of the circumstances of their life, environment, genetic inheritance, orientation, or how hard we work — The massage of Jesus is that we have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters because they exist and God loves us all.  
This scripture isn't about protecting us from all harm - both the seed eaters and the predators will both be fed, and have a limited life time... To me its about accepting the natural order of things - learning to see myself as part of the natural ways of this world...
5. John 8:7:  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.
Republicans and Democrats alike, I read daily about how some of you have moral issues in your lives, indiscretions.  Haven't we all at times made mistakes in our lives?… It makes a huge difference in the legislative decisions you make for others if you look honestly at your own actions in the light of the admonition of Jesus.

 I dont think there is anything holy about being killed by a distorted  belief system like Isis - I think the deaths of these men can inspire us - but hopefully not to return violence for more violence.
6. Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
You have to be kidding!! - in America? in the 21st century? - For church, of all institutions, to have such a message is despicable.  And look they quote the Bible to defend their positions. Jesus would have something to say about this!  (and look I'm judging - oh heck...)

This is a tough one for you leaders of our nation because you are in the business of making decisions and deciding what is best for us all. But there is a difference in making decisions and being judgmental. Jesus told you and me not to be judgmental towards our neighbors.  That includes making hurtful choices  in the ways we respond about LGBTs, single mothers, people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, poor people, etc. Some of you even twist the message of the Bible to support your own judgements… That isn’t what Jesus had in mind…

7.  Matthew 9:35  Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

Jesus says "there is time for you all...")

Jesus provided free health care to everyone in need. I’m sure that you members of Congress, who read the Bible, are aware of the frequent references to the healings performed by Jesus (for which he asked no payment ) – so how can some of you oppose Health Care legislation?  That isn’t what Jesus advocates…

8.  Luke 6:41 “ Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?
Sometimes parables used exaggerations to make their point
Politicians, please look deeply at  your own life advantages, life style, family success rate, financial dealings, before challenging the life styles of others, their choice of marriage partner, (un)employment history, inability to pay… Have you ever tried setting aside your own judgement of what you think is another person’s failings to see them with more clarity? 

9. John 2:14-17 When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.
What do you think ...?
Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!”
About the only record of Jesus getting really angry is when he found the Temple filled with bankers and vendors. He doesn’t just yell at them, He totally wrecks their businesses   and chases them out.   One can only imagine how Jesus would feel about Wall Street, the Koch brothers, the way our election system has become not so much about democracy but about money…  Stand back!

St. Frances of Assisi - An example of the power of meekness
10. Matthew 19:24 As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
Money isn’t everything, but I know that Congress is often called the Millionaires club” – But Jesus was very clear about income inequality, recent Supreme Court’s rulings, CEO’sd making obscene salaries, or legislating  for a long-overdue minimum wage hike.  You and I both know highly responsible rich people – money isn’t inherently bad – its how you get it and how you use it that matters…

...Have you ever felt tired and misused and really in need of rest...?

11. Matthew 11: 28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus lived and worked among those who work day-to-day to scrape by, and he was telling them that they deserved their fair reward.  I just want to remind you congressional leaders that in the light of Jesus message it would be right to consider raising the minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living.

12.  Matthew 5  (ESV) Some of you are very quick to refer to the 10 Commandments from the Old Testament – and its good to also keep in mind the words of Jesus from his sermon given on a mountain side…
Jesus talking to the people on the mountain side - Russian icon

 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blessed are the merciful