... for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
Someone tossed out this New Testament scripture (Matthew 25:35-36) in a discussion about health care reform. They added their own addendum, 'I needed healthcare and you gave me affordable insurance' expecting, of course, for everyone to come to the conclusion that Jesus supports Obama.
In July religious leaders from "a wide spectrum of faith traditions" issued a statement of support for health care reform, proclaiming it an urgent need. In August, President Obama participated in a national call-in and audio webcast to rally support from the religious community for his (or someone's) plan. He took that opportunity to declare providing health care for all an ethical and moral obligation, and even threw in a few King James Version phrases, "bearing false witness" and "brother's keeper". Which do you think is more authentic, Obama quoting scripture, or Karl Rove rapping?
Our pastor wrote in this month's newsletter that "Jesus was a liberal." In this week's Sunday School lesson the author writes "Giving priority to the welfare of persons over profits rouses fear and resentment in many hearts" and makes the argument that many are fearful of Christianity because it is a threat to our Western culture and, presumably, capitalism.
I am wary, and weary, of people who use religion as a weapon in social policy and political debates.
Dad didn't go to church. Somewhere around 1970 an elder from the church Mom took us to told me that I needed to 'work on' getting my father to church, but I wasn't about to talk church with Dad. He once told me that as a kid he was baptized every time a Baptist or Methodist tent preacher came to town, which was at least twice a year, and he was pretty sure he was covered. Anyway, this elder informed me that if Dad didn't come to church, he'd end up in hell. I never mentioned the conversation to Dad; his reply wouldn't be hard to imagine. I've never fully trusted "organized religion" since.
This story is just a little background to illustrate my life-long distaste and distrust of anyone who uses 'faith' or 'religion' or 'GEE-zuss' to justify their actions or promote their agenda. If the elder was truly interested in my father's soul, he should have been talking directly to him, not through a child. Simplifications like 'Jesus was a liberal' and 'capitalism is evil' tell us much more about the author's political opinions than they do about Christ. And does any rational human being, religious or not, believe that bombers, whether the suicide or abortion clinic type, are doing God's work? If God does not work at the political extremes, why would He work in the middle? In my opinion, God is not a politician, and the Bible is not a position paper (or a science book).
Now Cain talked with Abel his brother and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
This Old Testament scripture (Genesis 4:8-9) is the original source of "my brother's keeper." Cain is essentially asking God, sarcastically, if he is 'responsible' for his brother. Most people assume that God's answer is "Yes, of course you are!" Of course you should help your brother ... it's the moral and ethical thing to do, it's what Jesus would do, it's what compassionate Christians should do ... you should always take care of your brothers and sisters.
You can, however, interpret this story in other ways. Animals in zoos have keepers, not the people made in God's image. Would Abel want to be 'kept' by his brother Cain? These are grown men with careers; Abel was described as a 'keeper of sheep.' If Cain had said, 'My brother is not a sheep and I am not his keeper', which seems a fair rephrasing, would President Obama be using this scripture as the moral foundation for his (or someone's) health care plan?
In this Biblical story God did not answer "Yes, you are your brother's keeper." Instead, the first thing God says is, "What have you done?" This is not a lesson about failure and omission, of simply forgetting to 'keep' your brother. This is a lesson about being responsible for your actions. Cain killed his brother. He took his life. Cain didn't forget to be compassionate toward his brother, he used his strength against his brother in a fit of anger and jealousy. The question from this scripture that should be used in the health care debate is not "Am I my brother's keeper?" but rather "What have you done?"
Assume for a moment that the current iteration of Obama's (or someone's) plan passes. How would we answer 'What have you done?' Have we provided affordable health care for all? No, we have not - not practically and not personally. Have we become our brother's keeper? No, we have not. We have instead handed our brother over to be kept, by the government. We have imprisoned him. Have we become more moral and ethical? No, we have not. We will have abdicated those obligations to the government, and to the "rich" and unrepresented future generations, who must pay for it.
I am not my brother's keeper, nor do I want to be. I also don't wish to be 'kept.' I have no need of Presidents defining morality, or of 'religionists' controlling public policy. It is not moral or ethical to give up personal responsibility or to empower bureaucratic keepers. The Democrats like to frame this debate in terms of "doing something" versus "doing nothing," yet it is the Democrat plan (or someone's) that requires us to do nothing. Health care becomes a government problem. Paying for it becomes someone else's debt, and we won't even have to take care of our brother, someone else will be keeping him.