Last week, I had some fun with a top 10 list about things you can’t do if you claim to follow Jesus. But Christian faith is not just a personal thing. It’s also political. It has to do with how human beings live together, and how we manage relationships within a society. Again, this is not a complete list but it’s a pretty good place to start.
10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others.
Jesus taught and valued free will over compulsion. That’s how love works. Compelling people to follow any religion is contrary to the faith of Jesus. If you use the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying. This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This column is about the first part.
9) Advocate for war.
There’s a reason why he was called the Prince of Peace. Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses, but they don’t hold a candle to the more than fifty–some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking. It’s funny how things keep coming back to love but you can’t love someone and kill them. In the end, love wins.
8) Favour the rich over the poor.
This is actually related to #4. Favouring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus. It is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when laws are created to encourage that behaviour and protect it, we’ve gone over the line.
7) Cut funding that hurts the least of these.
To some degree, this is the inverse of #8. Favouring the rich is despicable, but hurting the poor is just a whole lot worse than despicable. When Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it to me,” he meant it. When you cut funding and it hurts people, according to Jesus you are hurting him.
6) Let people go hungry.
Yes, this hits both of these lists. Hunger is both a spiritual issue and a political issue. Remember Gandhi? “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Politically, hunger causes problems with education, production, and civil behaviour that are all necessary for a successful nation. More importantly for Christians, Jesus said when we feed the hungry, we are feeding him.
5) Withhold health care from people.
Health care is not just a necessity. It is a right. No two–tier medical system which favours the rich. No cutting benefits for those who are poor. We pride ourselves on our universal health care in Canada, but studies show that about 20 per cent of Canadians don’t have adequate medical coverage — supplementary benefits such as prescription drugs, glasses, dental checkups and physiotherapy.
4) Limit the rights of a select group of people.
Jesus loves everybody. He doesn’t love me best. If you spend any time reading the Bible you know that all were made in God’s image. Any law that doesn’t treat people equally is as good as thumbing your nose at God.
3) Turn away immigrants.
Scripture tells us to care for “the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate.” The story of our faith is filled with people who came from somewhere else: Abraham and Sarah were told to pick up what they had and start traveling. Moses, Miriam, and Aaron led a nation out of Egypt into the desert and ultimately to new lands. Even Jesus spent part of his childhood as a foreigner in a foreign land. We know about being strangers in a foreign land. Our aboriginal peoples know about that too. At best, turning away immigrants makes us hypocrites, since we’re all from somewhere else; at worst, we betray our ancestors and our God.
2) Devalue education.
We learn in Proverbs that wisdom is something in which God delights daily. As a matter of fact, according to Proverbs, wisdom is better than gold. When you look at the percentage of our budget that goes to education and at what is happening with student loans, it’s becoming clearer that delighting in wisdom is something our government no longer does.
1) Support capital punishment—execution.
Jesus died by execution. He was an innocent man. We don’t support state–sanctioned killing, but we are moving inexorably closer to more draconian measures to punish criminals. It’s time for another way.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook