‘So, where is our Christian charity?’
May 21, 2010
By Sr. Jean Juliano, DC
Sarah Palin, our former vice-presidential candidate, joined Bill O’Reilly of Fox News to vent her frustration with those individuals who opposed the National Day of Prayer on May 6.
“What in hell scares people about talking about America’s foundation of faith?” she asked. “If you go back to our founders and our founding documents it becomes clear we would create a law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments.”
And Bill O’Reilly agreed. We are a Christian nation.
I suppose we could spend hours discussing the pros and cons of that topic. But in order to expedite matters, let us concur we are a Christian nation, founded on the broad principles expounded by Jesus Christ who preached love to his followers in John 15:9-17 or as the old hymn we sing at worship proclaims, “They will know we are Christians by our love ….”
But there are those who would heartily disagree with the description. They would point out at this point of history we are a society often fractured by anger, hatred and retaliation.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama which monitors hate speech and extremist organizations has reported “Patriot” groups are springing up in abundance “that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose ‘one-world government’ on liberty-loving Americans.”
In fact, the center asserts hard times and the nation’s first African-American president seem to have brought about a revival — from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 in 2009! That’s a reason for concern, perhaps.
And what can one say about the rise of the Tea Parties that have sprung up over the nation this past year? As we know the name is a reference to the Boston Tea Party of Revolutionary fame which protested taxation without representation.
The Tea Parties of 2010 are protesting more than taxes. They seem to be focused on opposing any and all programs of reform President Obama’s administration puts forth.
A New York Times/CBS poll reported Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more educated than the general public. They tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45. Tea Partiers generally favor smaller government and would even favor cutting domestic programs until someone reminds them the Social Security some of them receive and the Medicare benefits they enjoy are part of “big government.”
When the Tea Party held a rally in Washington, D.C., March 3, some of them were accused of using abusive, derogatory and racist language toward the members of Congress. Barney Frank was spat upon and called a “faggot” while Rep. John Lewis from Georgia was identified with the forbidden N-word and was also spat upon.
Some of their signs were derisive as well. One showed a picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache. Impeach Obama (again with Hitler mustache) was emblazoned on a T-shirt. Another sign read Marxism is an Obama Nation.
Some of the Tea Partiers have been accused of being “racist” because of their fixation on Obama. But we Americans should be able to disagree about policies or bills without being depicted as “racist.”
But when one chooses to place Obama’s picture on signs in an unflattering manner, then they are flouting their racist attitude!
One can easily contend all organizations have fringe groups that can’t be easily controlled. But they can be denounced afterwards.
And what a firestorm the Arizona law has caused. The law, SB 1070, calls for immigrants to produce documents to prove they are in the country legally; otherwise they will be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500.
The main author of the bill, state Sen. Russell Pearce, asserts, “When you make life difficult most (illegal immigrants) will leave Arizona on their own.” So much for Christian charity! We have Jesus clearly stating, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me ….”
Perhaps, we Christians are just naïve. For the proponents of this law will remind us they are concerned about “aliens” who have broken our laws and continue to do so day after day. These people should have gotten in line for a visa so they could enter our country legally. They should follow the rules.
The problem with that argument is that THERE IS NO LINE. Our broken immigration system only provides 5,000 visas for unskilled laborers … and this number is for the global community. The rules are made to keep immigrants out, despite the need we may have for workers.
When Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law she mentioned she was concerned about the safety of the people since immigrants have been accused of violent crimes in Arizona. Whether the statement is true is debatable.
Sen. John McCain released a campaign ad on May 13 which claims immigrants are responsible for home invasions and murders. He also calls for completing the “danged fence” on the border.
What happened to the John McCain who co-sponsored with Sen. Ted Kennedy the Immigration Reform Bill of 2006? Political expediency can motivate even the most seasoned politician.
If indeed immigrants are responsible for such violence then they should be held accountable according to law. I know of no advocate who would condone violence by immigrants or anyone for that matter.
So, where is our Christian charity? Surely, we Americans value our freedom of speech which allows us to disagree with others on any issue. Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of the magazine Sojourners, writes, “Hateful rhetoric debases both our opponents and our public discourse. For Christians to treat each other with disrespect is an assault on the unity of the Body of Christ.”
So, the next time we are tempted to shout: Nazi! Liar! Baby killer! Republican No-No! Socialist Democrat! Misogynist! Obama Lover! … let’s close our eyes and picture in our mind a robust, serious Jesus telling us “Whatever we do to the least of his we are doing to him!”
(Sister Jean Juliano, DC, works with the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry as a legislative advocate.)