Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some thoughts from Kenneth Leech, so apropos for an election year

"So the test of spirituality is a practical test, and particularly the test of attitude toward the poor.

It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? (Isa. 3.14-15)

Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! (10.1-2)

And this test is repeated throughout the prophets.

Christian spirituality is the spirituality of the Poor Man of Nazareth who took upon himself the form of a Servant. To know God is to do justice and to plead the cause of the oppressed: to know God in Christ is to share in his work for establishing justice in the earth, and to share in his poverty and oppression. For in Christ, God becomes a little poor man, a member of the oppressed race, an exploited class, a colonized nation... To follow the Kingdom is therefore to follow him who fed the hungry, healed the sick, befriended the outcast, and blessed the peacemakers.

... The Gospel demand is a practical demand, It is useless to worship the God who is present everywhere, and ignore his presence somewhere. To fail to recognize Christ in the hungry and thirsty, in the stranger and the naked, in the sick and the prisoner, is to deny the Incarnation. Equally prayer which does not have this direct human and social application is not Christian prayer." (True Prayer, pp. 73-74).

If you read the news, you know that there are riots breaking out throughout the world over the inflation of food prices. Our government has currently pledged to increase its commitment for food aid this year. Hopefully this is not all we can do.

But even here in America, there are millions of poor people. Approximately 12.4 % of Americans are living in poverty, as of the 2000 census. How can we call ourselves Christians, if we constantly blame the poor for their situations? Christ didn't care why people were poor. The prophets didn't care why people were poor. We are commanded to care for them. But instead of addressing this repeated commandment throughout scripture, we argue about whether a woman should be allowed to be ordained or whether medical procedures should be made illegal.

Do people really believe that every poor person is lazy?

Let me put this another way:

Do you believe that every rich person is hard working?

There is a certain amount of luck involved in being rich, in most cases. There is also a certain amount of bad luck involved in being poor, in most cases. You weren't born in the right family, the right gender, or the right country. You married the wrong person. You have been injured or have a disability or have had a catastrophic illness.

We are called to act to alleviate suffering in the world, and not just our own suffering, but the suffering of others. That's a very important point. The Gospel message is a message of love, love for our neighbors as ourselves. Matthew 25: 24-40 makes this very clear to us. Christ comes to us in each creature who is hungry, or thirsty, or afraid, or persecuted. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of only acknowledging Christ in the faces of those we love. We have to acknowledge Christ in the faces of those in need, if we wish to be obedient to the Gospel. When we spit in their faces, we spit in the face of God. Amen.


Anonymous said...

I think this is such an amazing and poignant way to address this issue/ I thank you with all of my heart for addressing this issue, and look forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

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