High Toned Mediocrity or I Take Paul Ryan Personally
“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” James 2:15-16
On Sunday March 12, I attended Eucharist at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA. I went especially to hear guest preacher, Reza Aslan, the Muslim scholar and author of Zealot, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. (Amazon link to book)
Mr. Aslan preached on the Letter of James (James, a First Century Saint for the Twenty-first Century) and he did not disappoint. You can watch his entire homily here.
A few excerpts:
“James’s community referred to itself collectively as “the poor”. That’s right. The very first term to designate the followers of Christ was not “Christian” it was “the poor.”
“So we shouldn’t be surprised by James’s epistle’s overwhelming focus on the poor. What is perhaps a little more surprising is its bitter condemnation of the rich and powerful.
“Now this condemnation of wealth and power may seem extreme but the truth is that James is merely echoing the words of his brother who said “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.” (Luke 6: 24-25)
Let’s be honest; this part of Jesus’s message has never been all that popular. Certainly not with the wealthy and powerful no matter how much they say the love Jesus. Not this part.
How else to explain politicians like Republican congressman Roger Marshall whose rationale for repealing the affordable care act and thus denying health care to millions who could not otherwise afford it, was to shrug and claim, “Like Jesus said, ‘the poor will always be with us.”
“How else to explain religious right leaders like Franklin Graham who justified the president’s Draconian regulations on immigration into the U. S by arguing that, ‘Well, God also does extreme vetting about who he allows to spend eternity with him, so why can’t the U. S. do the same?’ By the way I have a feeling that Franklin Graham is going to be surprised by the nature of God’s extreme vetting.”
On this point I think Pope Francis is correct when he said that “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee, or someone seeking help, or someone who is hungry or thirsty, to toss out someone who is in need of help. . . . It is better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Christian.” (Here’s a link to Pope Francis’s homily.)