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Should Christians be more like Jesus?

Posted: November 2, 2012 - 12:04am

Roman Catholic Bishop Edward J. Burns hosted an open forum Tuesday night at Centennial Hall. I didn’t dialogue on divisive “wedge” issues used to sway “values” voters toward “God’s Official Party” and away from “the party of death” – terms coined by partisan pundits.

But we share a common interest in the “poorest and most vulnerable.” His Op-Ed in last Sunday’s Juneau Empire voiced future concern about “disproportionate cuts in essential services.”

Grover Norquist’s pledges take GOP tax hikes “off the table.”

As a former state budget analyst familiar with cutting expenses and raising revenues, an exclusive focus on budget cuts seems one-sided.

Part of America’s financial crisis, our annual deficit and national debt, results from earlier tax cuts, some made after bad advice from a former Fed chairman enamored with atheistic philosophy. Fighting discretionary wars on borrowed money worsened our debtor status.

Ironically, the influence of Ayn Rand who “rejected all forms of faith and religion” extends to GOP Roman Catholic Paul Ryan, though he has distanced himself in recent months from his past allegiance.

As my favorite Republican President, “I Like Ike.” The “guns or butter” trade-offs from WWII would have been familiar to former five-star general Dwight David Eisenhower.

The ethical candor of his 1961 military-industrial complex speech presaged a revolving door between the federal government and its main dependent industry – a model others now follow.

Lobbyists largely decide who benefits inside the DC beltway.

Since the beginning of this country, religion has been mixed up by and with politics, so “there’s nothing new under the sun,” including religious lobbyists, most working on principle, not cash or perks.

The Bible repeatedly speaks plainly about taking care of the poor. It’s a main theme, much easier to ignore than misunderstand.

As a Protestant, I applaud use of scripture instead of institutional doctrine. Bishop Burns cited Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus speaks about how eternal life hinges on how we treat “the least of these.”

God seems more interested in loving deeds than orthodox creeds.

Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts” not only has political application, but spiritual ones.

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus spoke about serving two masters: God and money. He declared it mutually exclusive and said it can’t be done.

1 Tim 6:10 says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

James chapter 5 speaks about “rich people” who “hoarded wealth in the last days” and the wages they “failed to pay the workmen.”

Since the Bible is often misused, please check citations and related verses in your personal copy or various online versions. “Text without context is pretext,” according to John R.W. Stott, a polite way of saying some folks abuse scripture – also a Biblical thought, II Peter 3:16.

Reasonable people, including voters of faith, often disagree about the best public policy. Like it or not, elections govern our representative democracy. But for those of faith, allegiance to a higher power than government should trump ceremonial agendas of either party.

On a recent plane trip, a European passenger expressed dismay at how America treats its street people. That Europe, which has arguably moved away from its historic Roman Catholic roots, treats its poor better than a “Christian” nation bears closer examination.

It struck me how self-centered we’ve become as a nation. Narcissism isn’t just an affliction of the selfish, but borders on national policy. Worldwide each year, millions of children starve to death from hunger and related, preventable diseases – more than the number of Jews killed in Nazi Germany’s holocaust; do America’s Christians care?

Compartmentalized Christians forget how to love their neighbors, let alone their enemies. Sadly, our electoral arena nurtures fear and hate – not characteristics of Jesus, but those of Caesar’s minions.

Few churches have auditors to hold leaders accountable, but it hasn’t worked for Wall Street, either. Powerful institutions always have agendas, but rarely a working conscience.

Final judgment for Christians won’t involve sound bites or slogans, but will involve dialogue with the ultimate author, the living word, when we’ll each explain how we honored the God we profess to love with “all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.”

Christians should spend their lives trying to be like Jesus, reflecting on their own attitudes and actions in God’s mirror, James 1:22-26, while “learning to obey” all that Jesus commanded and taught – a life long journey filled with distractions.

Clemens resides in Juneau.

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