Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Idolatry in the USA?
Think Idolatry is a Thing of the Past?
The story goes that as Moses tarried on the mountain, the people soon grew impatient with a God you cannot see, hear, touch or feel. So they made a Golden Calf for themselves, they made a god like the other nations roundabouts had. It was very tangible indeed. (Exodus 32)
If we were to read the Biblical narrative aright, we would notice a clear and present bias on behalf of the poor. In the one unmistakable moment of social gospel in Matthew, Jesus indicates that the nations would be judged by the way in which the least among the people would be treated. These words hold are a stunning moral imperative for any nation.
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;35for 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, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25)
I am puzzled and perplexed by what appears to be a profound disconnect between all the clamor of what passes for religion in America, when what is really being preached is a belief in the Almighty Dollar. The poor are blamed for being poor. They are lazy and shiftless and deserve their plight. All the while the rich are fleecing their pockets, the super-rich and the multi-nationals pay little or no taxes. Jobs are shipped overseas, and the jobs that are left in the public sector are falling to the scythe of budget cuts. In the meantime any attempt to ask the rich, the super-rich and the multi-nationals to share in the tax burden, is spurned by folks who use the name of God to fleece the pockets of the rich.
This while Mary sings her song;
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:46ff.)
Folks this is not just beautiful poetry. This is the very Dream of God; it is when the poor are lifted up and the rich are sent empty away. I think that's a bit harsh. I'd settle for just plain justice. But as it turns out, the rich have never been well known for their generosity, with some very notable exceptions, like Warren Buffet for instance; who is calling for a more just tax code.
So I submit this proposition to you. Given the biblical bias for the poor who are the atheists in a more contemporary sense? Are they the ones who, in human compassion call out for the needs of the poor, the homeless or the naked, or are they the ones who turn their backs on human need and suffering?
I know an atheist when I see one. I know the Almighty Dollar when I see it. I know that it is not the use of the name of Jesus that makes anyone Christian, it is rather the way we treat the least of these. For when we treat the poor with compassion we treat all of humanity so; and that is the Dream of God. For when you treat humanity with compassion, we also touch the heart of God.
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter claimed he did. If that is so, Jesus insisted, also three times, then "Feed my sheep!" (John 21).
I know an atheist when I see one. It is not the one who denies God's existence. It is rather the one who turns his/her back on the poor. As Jesus himself rather pithily put it at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount; "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven." (Matthew 7.21)
Folks I'll take a secular humanist who cares for the poor any day, over a so-called "christian" who turns his back on suffering and poverty.
I also know idolatry when I see it. It is something you can feel, touch, see; it is the Almighty Dollar and the bottom line. Compassion, love, generosity and forgiveness are a much tougher sell.
I know an atheist when I see one.