Oped: What would Jesus do?
Events of the last four months dispel any illusions that the US is essentially a Christian country. If the foundational principles of Christianity center on love, compassion, forgiveness, brotherhood and peace, one might ask (famously) What Would Jesus Do in the current circumstances? Would he build a wall to keep out people who are so desperate as to leave their families for months on end in the hope of getting a paying job, no matter how basic or hard that job might be? Would he prevent families from entering the country, people who are fleeing war, persecution, religious intolerance and injustice on the argument that there might be one bad dude among them?
It seems incongruous that anyone who has pictures on their walls or in their bibles of a Jesus figure surrounded by children of all nationalities can accept the administration’s policies with nonchalance. So much for "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
It is not difficult in today’s world to understand why people chose their respective candidates and voted accordingly, and to accept that they were sincere, but one cannot have it both ways. Having voted for, say, Donald Trump, with all of the evidence that he provided beforehand of his values, character and intentions, one cannot then also claim to be a practicing Christian. The two are incompatible. A nominal Christian certainly, or one who pays lip service to it’s ideals, but not one whose life and decisions are permeated by the genius and compassion of the teachings of the New Testament.
To cite Thich Naht Hanh, “I don’t care what you say; I do care how you behave.” All the talk in the world cannot hide the sheer inhumanity of the actions of the current administration, which seem to be based on fear, division, intolerance and indifference (which is the real opposite of love.) As Yeats expressed so powerfully in the last couplet of the first verse of Second Coming, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”
Pleading the separation of church and state is a cop-out, as is hiding behind one issue like abortion. Anti-abortion proponents plead for the sanctity and virtue of life, but apparently only if one is an embryo or American; the same values are denied to the poor, the hungry, the desperate, the needy, because an accident of birth separated them from us by man-made boundaries. Rather than say “Fellow Americans” we need to think in terms of “Fellow Human Beings.”
To inhabit the Judeo-Christian tradition is to live one’s life in intimate relation to a repertoire of stories that shape our hopes, our self-understanding, our moral concerns and our values. I would like to think that our religious leaders will lead the charge from the pulpit, even if only to read again the parable of the Good Samaritan, but I’m not holding my breath.