The Penultimate Column

This will be my next-to-last entry in these blogs and podcasts. I thank you for your watching and reading. I thank you for your questions and comments. I have tried to keep these writings politically neutral. The challenge is that the ethics taught by Jesus can be the opposite of some political ideas. Changing the words of Jesus, or deliberately misinterpreting Jesus, or ignoring his teachings in order to stay away from certain hot-button topics would abrogate my ordination as a priest.

Jesus was controversial in his own time. So much so that he was brutally executed. If we do not find the teachings of Jesus controversial in our own time, then we are probably not paying full attention. For example, what did Jesus teach about:

    • How are we to live?  – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
    • Who are we to love?  – Love your neighbor as yourself
    • Judging others – Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone; Judge not, lest you be judged
    • Paying taxes – Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s
    • Forgiving  – Forgive those who harm you 70 times 7
    • Enemies – Love them
    • Government burdens – When someone (a Roman soldier) commands you to carry their pack (the law allowed soldiers to have a civilian carry their pack one mile), carry it an extra mile and do it cheerfully
    • When someone strikes you – Turn the other cheek
    • The poor – Blessed are the poor  …for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me; When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed

A lot of modern political thought got started with the Magna Carta in 1215. It was the first time in history when ordinary people (barons in this case but not peasants) were deemed to have rights protecting them against unlawful imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limits on feudal payments to the crown.

Since then, we have had the Bill of Rights enshrined in our constitution, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. All these political developments are good if they are held in check by some opposing ideas. In the case of Christian belief and practice, Christians have no “rights” to anything. We believe everything belongs to God. Hence, the direction of our actions, our moral decisions and our hearts should be directed outward towards others.

Christian belief and practice is one set of opposing ideas to a society inebriated with toxic individualism. Even if you don’t believe all the miracles and stories about Jesus, loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself will counteract the modern world where everyone is king now.

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