Matthew 25:31-46: WWJD?

What Would Jesus Do? Jesus Would Send All These Right-Wing Pseudo-Christians Straight to Hell (And Liberals May Not Be Far Behind)

 

by Jack Clark

  

 

Introduction

 

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus proclaims that how you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and other "least of these," is how you treat Jesus himself.  And if you fail to help the "least of these," Jesus promises, he will send you to Hell.

 

The premise of this essay is that you can't be a true Christian if the focus of your life is thwarting others and the society itself from fully implementing such a fundamental teaching of Christianity as Matthew 25:31-46.

 

It's fine to oppose government programs to help the Matthew 25 "least of these," but then you must propose Equivalent Alternative Solutions.  Equivalent Alternative Solutions are ones which:

 

  • help at least the same number of those people who legitimately need help
  • provide at least the same amount of effective assistance to those people
  • get the help to them at least as quickly
  • are at least as certain to accomplish these goals

 

Equivalent Alternative Solutions can certainly be completely non-governmental, as long as they meet the four criteria directly above.

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians are defined by both their opposition to the plans of others to help the "least of these," and their failure to offer any Equivalent Alternative Solutions.

 

Their behavior puts right-wing pseudo-Christians into the category of the cursed goats whom Jesus describes in Matthew 25 and condemns to Hell.

 

Overview

 What on earth are you talking about?

Again, what are you talking about?  Jesus never says anything about any conservatives or, as you call them, "right-wingers."

How do you know how much conservative Christians give to charity?  Many I know are quite generous.

Oh c'mon, this passage from Matthew only applies to acts of individual charity.

Even if Matthew 25 requires going beyond individual charity, conservative Christians have plans to help the poor, and that certainly satisfies the injunction in Matthew 25.

Not so fast.  Jesus didn't say have a government program to feed the hungry.

If you don't work you don't eat.  That's what it says.

Even if what you've said so far is correct, the only way to get to Heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior.  Works alone don't cut it.

You seem to single out Sean Hannity quite a bit.

OK, so according to you, all the right-wing Christians go to Hell, and all the wonderful liberals go to Heaven?.

Why are you saying that liberals and other progressives violate Matthew 25?  They are the ones considered to be on the side of the poor and disenfranchised.

Even if your interpretation of Matthew 25 is correct, who are you to condemn people to Hell?  Who appointed you God?.

Full Index of Questions

 

 

 

 

What on earth are you talking about?

 

Please read this passage from the Bible. [1]

 

Matthew 25:31-46

31. "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33. and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38. And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39. And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40. And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41. Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42. for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44. Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." [other translations] [2]

 

Again, what are you talking about?  Jesus never says anything about any conservatives or, as you call them, "right-wingers."

 

You're right.  But Jesus sends to Hell the very people whose actions precisely fit those of people who today call themselves conservative Christians.

 

How do you know how much conservative Christians give to charity?  Many I know are quite generous.

 

I'm not talking about their private charitable giving.  I'm speaking of their political choices and activism.

 

Oh c'mon, this passage from Matthew only applies to acts of individual charity. [3]

 

Right-wingers always make this claim, and many people, without really thinking, respond, "Oh yeah, that’s right."  Why?  Where does Matthew 25 say or even imply that it only applies to individual actions of a charitable nature?

 

The proper view is, you are individually held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one acts of charity or lack thereof, but you are also individually held to account under Matthew 25 for how the actions you take influence your society in its treatment of the "least of these."

 

In the analysis directly following, as will often be the case in this essay, my assertions will be backed up by (1) plain meaning and logic -- analysis of the text itself; (2) Biblical antecedents -- reference to other Biblical passages; and (3) Papal teachings -- citing of relevant elements of the Catholic Church's official written social doctrine.

 

So let's first look at the Biblical text itself.

 

Jesus separates the goats and sheep by nations, not by individuals. 

 

Moreover, when the "righteous" -- the sheep -- address Jesus, they ask "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?"  When the "cursed" -- the goats --address Jesus, they also speak collectively: "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?"  The righteous and the cursed do not individually ask "When did I"  or even "When did each of us…"

 

It is true that "nations" as used in Matthew 25 may not mean nation-states as we know them today, but it's still a collective noun.  That, together with the "we" language, certainly doesn't militate against responsibility to influence collective action, or excuse its failure.

 

This textual analysis, while not dispositive, is backed up by another factor: should a passage such as Matthew 25 really be interpreted narrowly so as to avoid responsibility?  To do so would be a perversion of the Golden Rule itself.

 

Having a narrow, stingy reading of Matthew 25 is, to put it more bluntly, absurd.  Would anyone seriously maintain that Jesus would say it’s okay for society as a whole to let people suffer and die, as long as some members give some money to charity? 

 

Please…  Jesus would charge the entire society with the responsibility.  There's every reason to think that each of us is judged by how the actions we each take influence our government and our society.  

 

What if an individual tries but fails to get the government or society to treat the "least of these" in a Matthew 25 fashion?  Is that individual punished because of the collective failure to act properly?  I would hope not, but in any case, such speculation is irrelevant for purposes of this essay, since as will be shown below, right-wing pseudo-Christians as individuals are on the opposing side of such proper action. 

 

(And to jump ahead on another point: this essay does not call for a government solution to any given problem.  It just calls for some solution).

 

That we are individually responsible for influencing the actions of our government and society is borne out quite clearly by the second element of our analysis: other parts of the Bible.

 

The Bible makes clear that God will hold a nation responsible for its wrongful acts toward the poor -- that is to say, for its political acts of omission or commission.   

 

The most famous example would probably be God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sins of their inhabitants.  The Bible makes clear that at least as far as Sodom is concerned, mistreatment of the poor was one element leading to its destruction:

 

Ezekiel 16:49-50

49. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister
Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it. [other translations]

 

Here's another example where the inappropriate actions of a city or nation's inhabitants towards the poor caused its destruction:

 

Zechariah 7:8-14

8. And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, 10. do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart." 11. But they refused to hearken, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12. They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. 13. "As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear," says the Lord of hosts, 14. "and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate." [other translations] [4]

 

In other instances, it was the government itself that was the instrumentality of the sin, and the cause of the nation being condemned and/or destroyed.  Sometimes the individual rulers themselves were singled out for criticism, and assigned blame for the punishment of the nation.

 

Since we in the United States live in a democracy and thus select our rulers and by extension the policies they will implement, either type of such criticism– whether broadly of the government or specifically of the actual officials -- can well be considered applicable to us today as a society:

 

Isaiah 10:1-5

1. Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, 2. to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! 3. What will you do on the day of punishment, in the storm which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? 4. Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away and his hand is stretched out still. 5. Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger, the staff of my fury! [other translations]

 

Micah 3:1-4

1. And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice? -- 2. you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people, and their flesh from off their bones; 3. who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron. 4. Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil. [other translations] [5]

 

Biblical antecedents, therefore, support the conclusion that Matthew 25 does not just apply to individual acts of charity, but its standards are applicable to those actions we take or fail to take as a nation. [6]  And in a democracy, each of us is responsible under Matthew 25 for how our individual political and other decisions influence the national course of action.

 

The third element of my analysis -- the social doctrine of the Church – affirms my textual analysis and examination of Biblical antecedents, and similarly makes clear that individual acts of charity are not sufficient to satisfy Matthew 25. 

 

Let's go through the reasoning process behind the Church's position:

 

·       Even the anti-communist, anti-socialist [7], even anti-welfare-state [8] Pope John Paul II has strongly and repeatedly reaffirmed the Church's Matthew 25-based "preferential option for the poor":

 

As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action... Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice... Centesimus Annus [9]

 

·       In this effort, individual acts of charity are not enough:

 

This constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church's social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America [10]

 

·       The reason individual charity is not enough, and that collective political action is required, are the "political and economic structures" referred to by the Pope: [11]

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed." Solicitudo Rei Socialis [12], [13]

 

·       So harmful are these structures that they can even be called "structures of sin":

 

If the present situation can be attributed to difficulties of various kinds, it is not out of place to speak of "structures of sin"... "Sin" and "structures of sin" are categories which are seldom applied to the situation of the contemporary world. However, one cannot easily gain a profound understanding of the reality that confronts us unless we give a name to the root of the evils which afflict us. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [14]

 

·       The Vatican itself will go beyond charitable work and seek to influence governmental and international bodies:

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

In sum: yes, you are individually held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one acts of charity or the lack thereof, but you are also individually held to account under Matthew 25 for how the actions you take influence your society in its treatment of the "least of these" – the "social, political and economic" choices to which the Pope refers.   (And no, I'm not saying government programs are the only answer.  Quite the contrary.  Read the section directly below.)

 

Even if Matthew 25 requires going beyond individual charity, conservative Christians have plans to help the poor, and that certainly satisfies the injunction in Matthew 25.

 

Their "plans" are inadequate to fulfill the Matthew 25 mandate.

 

Proposing that private charity should do whatever needs to be done, and hoping that there will be enough private charity, isn’t a plan -- it’s a hope.  Vague hopes that private charities will take up the slack from decimated or never-enacted government programs are worthless, and have never come to fruition.

 

Jesus didn’t say “I was hungry and you hoped I’d be fed.”  Or “I was hungry and you called upon people to feed me.”

 

Similarly inadequate for Matthew 25 are the vague hopes that "the market" [15] will solve the problem; or that "competition" will; or even that the seemingly-more-specific, yet just as bogus, long-discredited Reagan-era theory, "trickle-down" economics, [16] will provide the solution.

 

Vague hopes are not enough: plans to help the poor must be concrete.

 

Indeed, Church social doctrine makes explicitly clear that concrete action is required:

 

As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action... Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25 :40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. Centesimus Annus

 

The hungry must be fed, the thirsty must be given water, the naked must be clothed, the sick must be given medical care.  No excuses are acceptable:

 

The motivating concern for the poor--who are, in the very meaningful term, "the Lord's poor"…--must be translated at all levels into concrete actions, until it decisively attains a series of necessary reforms. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [17]

 

You don't have to advocate any particular ideology: Democratic, Republican, liberal, conservative, socialist, libertarian, or any other "ism."  But you have to have a planIt can be a totally non-governmental plan.  But you have to be able to say "Here's what we will do, if allowed, to solve this problem as soon as humanly possible."

 

The hallmark here is effective action, not a state of mind or expressions of verbal concern.

 

If someone proposes a plan to help "x" number of people, and you oppose that plan because, for example, it utilizes the evil government, then you better have a real alternative plan of your own that will help just as many people to the same degree – not a vague hope.  If not, that’s un-Christ-like, and will get you sent to Hell.

 

If you don’t like someone’s proposal, come up with another way with the same goal and scope.  If not, you’re not Matthew 25 compliant.  You’ve done exactly what the cursed are condemned for in Matthew 25 – giving the hungry no food, the thirsty no water, the naked no clothes, the sick no medical care.

 

So I would challenge the right-wing pseudo-Christians in every situation where they oppose a plan to reduce human suffering: give us your concrete plan for how the private sector will accomplish this goal.  Should churches tell their followers that their faith requires an additional "x" percentage of charitable tithing for these purposes?  Or how?

 

For example, let's say I have a plan for the government to provide health insurance for all uninsured children in this country.  You oppose that plan because you believe the government will be inefficient and ineffective, and because you prefer small government.  That's fine.  You have valid concerns.  So tell me your plan to ensure that all uninsured children in the country have health insurance.  Not to ensure that 10% or 30% or even 50% of the children have health insurance, but all the children.  And with as much assistance and as quickly as my plan.

 

I'm not saying right-wing pseudo-Christians are going to Hell because their plan to, for example, feed the hungry has a different ideological basis than the plan I would prefer, or because they oppose big government programs.  Other people can and should have a different ideologies and philosophies than mine, their own way of solving problems. I'm not a believer in communism, socialism, capitalism, or any other economic "-ism."  Whatever works and provides a fair opportunity for all of society's members to participate, and leads to a fair distribution of the society's resources among all its members, is fine with me. I'm not saying that right-wing pseudo-Christians are going to Hell because their plan to feed the hungry won't, in my opinion, work.  No, I'm saying they're going to Hell because they have no plan.

 

The key here is that you must have what I call an Equivalent Alternative Solution (EAS), which will:

 

·       help at least the same number of people who legitimately need help

·       provide at least the same amount of effective assistance to those people

·       get the help to them at least as quickly

·       be at least as certain to accomplish these goals

 

The Equivalent Alternative Solution can certainly be non-governmental, as long as it meets the four criteria directly above.

 

In complete violation of the need for an EAS, right-wing pseudo-Christians consistently advocate courses of action which they know are sure to fail to help all those legitimately in need, or will help them inadequately [18], or will help them for too short a time, or are much less certain to take effect.

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians often advocate an initially inadequate first step, with no mandated follow up, just the vague hope that the rest of the necessary process for the solution will work itself out through the sheer force of those magical cure-alls, competition and the market. [19]

 

Instead of coming up with Equivalent Alternative Solutions, right-wing pseudo-Christians make excuses: fraud ,government waste, it’s their own fault.

 

But Jesus didn’t approvingly say “I was hungry and you ensured I wasn’t fed by an inefficient government program.”

 

My favorite right-wing pseudo-Christian line is, the individual's suffering is the result of decisions he or she has made.  Well, so is getting cancer, the result of what you eat, smoke, breathe.

 

In the Bible, God didn’t tell the enslaved Israelites it's their own fault.  God didn’t express to the Israelites the hope that Pharaoh would change his mind.  God didn’t tell the Israelites to be self-sufficient and free themselves.  God took the Israelites out of Egypt.  The lesson is, there are some situations where the suffering simply do not have the means to help themselves without outside assistance.  (That certainly applies to children.)

 

An endless string of excuses not to help those in need is not to follow Matthew 25!  Would you give those excuses to Jesus?

 

If Jesus Christ came back today and was sitting across from you instead of your computer monitor, and he said that you must help feed all the hungry in the world NOW, would you tell Jesus what you've just told me?  Would you give Jesus Christ those excuses?  Well then don't give them to me, because Jesus Christ is now right across from you, in the words of the Bible I've pointed out to you.

 

The true un-Matthew-25-like heartlessness of right-wing pseudo-Christians is shown in the fact that they virtually never take the lead in offering solutions to ease human suffering. 

 

If their backs are up against the wall and they feel it will hurt them politically not to do so, they'll come up with a plan, which will invariably help fewer people a lesser amount and less certainly than even the already inadequate plan offered by the Democrats. [20]

 

If right-wing pseudo-Christians ever do come up with an idea, it's never to solve the problem on a society-wide, systemic level – they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to help others.

 

For example, President Bush has established a goal to end "chronic" homelessness within 10 years.  The chronic homeless are 10% of the total homeless population.  So Bush's goal is nowhere near a complete solution.  And of course, it remains to be seen whether President Bush will even request, let alone receive from the Republican-controlled Congress, adequate funding to accomplish his already insufficient goal.

 

Here's a minimal challenge to the right-wing pseudo-Christians: what is your specific, concrete plan to end homelessness in your own city or town?  Your Equivalent Alternative Solution to fully implement Matthew 25 right in the very locality where you live?

 

Aren't you doing just what Sean Hannity says, claiming conservatives want to hurt kids and old people?

 

Sean Hannity [21] certainly does complain that the Democrats accuse him and other conservative Christians of wanting to kill the sick, hurt children and the elderly, and so on.  Hannity whines that he and his kind are being “demonized.”

 

Well, YES!!  They are being perfectly and accurately labeled [22].  Killing the sick and hurting children and the elderly are the very effects of the policies of Hannity and his ilk.  Such atrocities are the inevitable, reasonably-to-be-expected results of the courses of action they advocate. 

 

If a program is designed to save lives – food, medicine, drug rehab, etc. – and it will help fewer people or not as much or will take longer to take effect, then the results of right-wing pseudo-Christian non-EAS measures are more death and suffering: for example, the sick die because they wait to go to the emergency room for treatment until they’re horribly ill, when it's too late to help them; or people don't get preventive screening tests for cancer, and tumors are not discovered in time for effective treatment.  (A recent study estimated that 18,000 people die in the United States every year because they don't have health insurance.)

 

A real Christian – someone imbued with the spirit of Christ – advocates more help for the suffering, NOT LESS.  And less is what the right-wing pseudo-Christians advocate. 

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians can rant and rave that money will be wasted, blah blah blah.  Yes, I know that.  But lives will be saved.  Following the right-wing pseudo-Christian path causes more death.

 

Indeed, right-wing pseudo-Christians play the role of a collective rich man ignoring Lazarus [23] at their gate.

 

Or that of a collective priest or Levite in the Good Samaritan parable [24] crossing to the other side of the street.

 

This is why it's not "tax-and-spend" liberals who are evil, but rather, the evil ones are those whom we can counterpart-like label as deny-and-destroy, cut-and-kill conservatives.

 

Advocating anything less than an Equivalent Alternative Solution violates Matthew 25 because however many fewer people are helped, or less assistance offered, or delay incurred in getting the help to them, means to that extent some of the "least of these" are being rejected.

 

In other words, it can be said of these people who are not helped at all, or helped less than necessary, or helped too late:

 

'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' Matthew 25:44-45 [other translations]

 

Come to think of it, what about the fact that conservatives don't just have less comprehensive plans or even no plans at all, but they actually oppose and block the efforts of others who do have workable, full solutions?

 

That's right, now you're beginning to think like a true Christian, or a true follower of any real spiritual path or discipline.  The sin of right-wing pseudo-Christians actually goes far beyond merely Lazarus-story-like ignoring the suffering.

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians act like the most important goal is to prevent a government program from being the vehicle to help the "least of these."

 

Funny, but I don't recall Jesus approvingly saying to those on their way to Heaven, "I was hungry, and you gave me no food, but what was more important is that you made sure that I was not fed by a government program that could have been wasteful."

 

Without Equivalent Alternative Solutions of their own, and by vigorously opposing the plans offered by others to help the suffering, right-wing pseudo-Christians not only don’t feed the hungry, they prevent them from being fed, they take food out of the mouths of the hungry.

 

Sean Hannity et al are worse than the cursed "goats" Jesus places by his left hand and condemns to Hell.  In Matthew 25, Jesus recounts that the cursed didn’t help Jesus.  Sean Hannity et al prevent other people – indeed the society itself -- from helping Jesus.

 

Again: it isn't that conservatives advocate a plan to feed the hungry that I ideologically disapprove of.  It's not like they say, let's accomplish the goal this way, with private industry.  It's that they advocate not having a full solution, and therefore NOT feeding the hungry.  One must conclude that right-wing pseudo-Christians are not just against "big government," they are against the goals of these "big government" programs – helping "the least of these." 

 

Imagine if the Pharisee had not just crossed the road to avoid helping the person in need, but had then body-slammed the Good Samaritan and pinned him down, thus preventing the Good Samaritan from lending a hand.  How much worse would that be! [25]

 

This is the essence of the "pseudo" designation: you can't be a true Christian if the focus of your life is thwarting others and the society itself from fully implementing such a fundamental teaching of Christianity as Matthew 25.  You can oppose government programs, but then you must propose Equivalent Alternative Solutions.

 

It bears repeating: this is precisely why it's not "tax-and-spend" liberals who are evil, but rather, the deny-and-destroy, cut-and-kill right-wing pseudo-Christians.

 

Verily, a third category needs to be added to Matthew 25's sheep and goats, to separate out the merely negligent or personally stingy, from sinners like right-wing pseudo-Christians who actively seek to thwart those trying to help the "least of these."

 

Not so fast.  Jesus didn't say have a government program to feed the hungry.

 

True.  And so what?  Jesus never said to use a government program, and he never said not to use a government program.  Similarly, Jesus never said to use private charity, and he never said not to use private charity.  Matthew 25 doesn't say how or how not to help Jesus in the guise of the suffering, it just says you must help them. 

 

Jesus didn't say how, he just said do it.

 

Jesus said "I was hungry and you gave me food."  He didn’t say how to feed the hungry or how not to feed the hungry.  In whatever system you live under, however you want to do it, just do it!

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians confuse mandatory, forbidden and permissible.  Just because something isn't specified as mandatory – e.g., using a government program – doesn't mean it's forbidden.  It's a permissible way.  If you don't like that way, fine.  But to avoid a Matthew 25  violation, you must offer an Equivalent Alternative Solution, which helps at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.

 

A critical point to understand is that while misfortune can be cured by charity, structural/systemic injustice – the type called "structures of sin" by Pope John Paul II -- can be cured only by structural/systemic solutions.  Charity can provide a sometimes critically necessary Band-Aid for the results of structural/systemic injustice, but charity alone cannot provide the cure.

 

Government is one legitimate structural/systemic means to use for solving problems that are society-wide and systemic, or are otherwise beyond the ability of private charity to handle. 

 

How can these right-wing pseudo-Christians with a straight face read 21st century rabid anti-governmentalism into a 1st century text?

 

Do they think Jesus would say, "OK, just give what you want to as individuals, and if the problem is too big for individuals to handle, don't pressure your government to help, because after all, even more important than feeding the hungry and helping all the least of these, is making sure the government is small."

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians worship the Golden Calf of anti-governmentalism, instead of the God of justice and righteousness and love your neighbor as yourself.

 

It must truly be asked, how many of the sick and naked and thirsty and hungry of "the least of these" will right-wing pseudo-Christians crucify upon the altar of their hard-line anti-governmentalism?

 

And right-wing pseudo-Christians apply their anti-governmentalism selectively to boot!  They obviously believe in political action and government intervention to foster their own conservative religious beliefs – anti-abortion activism, anyone?

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians don't just do work as private individuals or groups, one-on-one with those seeking abortions.  They seek to have the government outlaw abortion, and towards that end, elect representatives who will support such a position.  This is because right-wing pseudo-Christians know that no matter how many one-on-one encounters they are able to undertake, they can never reach, let alone convert,  everyone seeking an abortion, and that a systemic, structural change is necessary to achieve their goal: ending all abortions. 

 

So how can right-wing pseudo-Christians then turn around and argue that the explicit injunctions of Matthew 25, by contrast, are to be carried out solely by private individual or group efforts, without a government role, when the problems of hunger or lack of medical care are similarly beyond the capacity of a charitable, one-on-one effort to solve, and when again, systemic, structural change is needed?

 

Why don't right-wing pseudo-Christians seek to have the government outlaw hunger or lack of medical treatment?  Why don't they fervently campaign to elect representatives who support such positions?  Oh no, here it's only private efforts that Jesus wants, even if that dooms countless innocents to death by hunger and lack of medical care.  On these issues, right-wing pseudo-Christians are more concerned with avoiding any governmental role than in saving lives! 

 

What light does the Bible shed on this issue?  Right-wing pseudo-Christians, in saying there is no role for the government in aiding the poor and establishing justice, either deliberately misread the Bible, or have literally not read major portions of it:

 

As detailed above, the Bible is full of condemnations of entire societies and governments for not helping the poor and others who are the "least of these."

 

Indeed, it bears repeating that the prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah, in metaphors involving a shepherd, assume an affirmative duty on behalf of the government to take care of the weak, sick and disabled:

 

Ezekiel 34:1-4

1. The word of the Lord came to me: 2. "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3. You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. [other translations]

 

Zechariah 11:15-17

15. Then the Lord said to me, "Take once more the implements of a worthless shepherd. 16. For lo, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the sound, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. 17. Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword smite his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!" [other translations]

 

In addition to logic and Biblical precedents, Catholic social doctrine also holds that a government role is appropriate in helping to effectuate Matthew 25.  Pope John Paul II over and over again speaks of the necessity of politicians and governments acting in accordance with the Church's teachings on what Matthew 25 means. In other words, the government must sometimes be an actor in order to effectuate Matthew 25 goals.  This applies both domestically:

 

This constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church's social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America [26]

 

as well as internationally:

 

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [27]

 

Logic, Biblical antecedents and the teachings of the Church, therefore, all agree that both private and government roles are appropriate to implement Matthew 25.

 

The government is inefficient, and always screws things up.

 

You are setting up a straw man choice: either continue our present course, which is essentially doing nothing about a given problem, or, institute a bloated, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful government program that will make the problem worse.  I think there are other choices.  Intelligent men and women can fashion workable solutions.  Obstacles are challenges to be overcome by committed Matthew 25 followers; obstacles should not be used, as right-wing pseudo-Christians do, as easy excuses for throwing up their hands and sighing, "Oh me, oh my, it's beyond our ability to do anything about this."

 

In other words, Matthew 25 is all about the goals of our actions, not the specific means to implement them.  Don't have the government involved if you think Matthew 25 can be fulfilled without governmental involvement.  Just have a specific, concrete plan for how that will be achieved, an Equivalent Alternative Solution that helps at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  If you don't have such a plan, you violate Matthew 25.

 

If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion then every professed Christian must endeavor to have a centralized government  meet the needs of everybody.  Centralized governments undertaking the role of your father are proven failures.  Ever growing government frankly is not sustainable.  [28]

 

Again – and no matter how many times I repeat this, it doesn't seem to get through -- I do not say it must be a government solution, let alone a centralized government approach.  But there must exist some specific, concrete, doable plan, an Equivalent Alternative Solution that helps at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  If you don't have such a plan, you violate Matthew 25.

 

The best situation for the Christian to meet the needs of the poor is the free market. [29]

 

First, as discussed above, logic and official Church social teaching agree that a legitimate Matthew 25 effort can't consist merely of vague words and hopes; rather, it must be a concrete and specific plan.  Merely spouting an ideological platitude as a catchall solution is transparently a means to avoid actually trying to solve the problem.

 

Second, people working full-time for less-than-starvation-level wages are not served by a "free market."  The legitimate, critical needs of multitudes around the globe are not met by the "free market."

 

Third, I put the term "free market" in quotes because, if you're for a free market solution, then you have to make sure the "market" is truly "free." It cannot have structural injustices built into it.  But the domestic and international financial systems certainly do.

 

Official Church social doctrine agrees with these points.  Both the right-wing pseudo-Christians and the Pope are anti-Communist, anti-socialist and anti-welfare state.  The difference, however, is that the Pope is not blinded by his ideology, and acknowledges the evidence that the market on its own will produce certain undesirable results, and therefore needs some regulation.  The Pope teaches that:

 

·       The market alone can not address all human needs, and its shortcomings need to be addressed:

 

[T]here are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish… Even prior to the logic of a fair exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to the person because he is a person, by reason of his lofty dignity. Inseparable from that required "something" is the possibility to survive and, at the same time, to make an active contribution to the common good of humanity. Centesimus Annus

 

[I]f globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority… While acknowledging the positive values which come with globalization, the Church considers with concern the negative aspects which follow in its wake. Ecclesia in America

 

There is certainly a legitimate sphere of autonomy in economic life which the State should not enter. The State, however, has the task of determining the juridical framework within which economic affairs are to be conducted, and thus of safeguarding the prerequisites of a free economy, which presumes a certain equality between the parties, such that one party would not be so powerful as practically to reduce the other to subservience. Centesimus Annus [30]

 

·       Matthew 25 unmet needs are getting worse, not better; so much for trusting in the "market" (alone) to fix things:

 

More and more, in many countries of America, a system known as "neoliberalism" prevails... [a]t times leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society.  Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

[T]he leaders of nations and the heads of International Bodies... should not forget to give precedence to the phenomenon of growing poverty. Unfortunately, instead of becoming fewer the poor are becoming more numerous, not only in less developed countries but--and this seems no less scandalous--in the more developed ones too. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [31]

 

·       Unjust "political and economic structures" are one of the reasons the market produces undesirable results:

 

 [O]ne must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [32]

 

·       So harmful are these unjust structures that they can even be called "structures of sin":

 

If the present situation can be attributed to difficulties of various kinds, it is not out of place to speak of "structures of sin"... "Sin" and "structures of sin" are categories which are seldom applied to the situation of the contemporary world. However, one cannot easily gain a profound understanding of the reality that confronts us unless we give a name to the root of the evils which afflict us. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [33]

 

·       Working to remove these structural injustices, or "structures of sin," is thus also required by Matthew 25, so much so that even the Vatican itself will become involved:

 

It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America [34]

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

Your leftist ways [35] do not require the poor to make an effort, your leftist ways breed dependence on government. [36]

 

No one is advocating dependency-fostering, or that the poor shouldn't "make an effort."  If you think solutions offered by others will create these problems, then you have to come up with a better solution in order to fulfill Matthew 25.  Certainly require the poor "to make an effort," certainly avoid breeding dependence on government.  But you must also present a specific solution, an Equivalent Alternative Solution that will help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  Just vaguely calling for "the free market" or "competition" to solve things, for example, is merely broad-brush sloganeering that fails the Matthew 25 standard. 

 

Beyond that, you seem to be implying that the "poor" don't want to help themselves, that they're all freeloaders.  The fact is, no one works harder than the working poor, the people picking our fruits and vegetables here and abroad, for example.  Catholic social teaching recognizes the inappropriateness of a condescending, negative attitude towards the poor.  See the further discussion below on the issue of fostering negative attitudes towards the poor.

 

Matthew 25:31-46 was not meant to call upon the government to force people to give. [37]

 

In a democracy, you are "forced to give" to countless numbers of government programs – such as defense, highways, and medical research – all the time.  Assisting "the least of these" is a perfectly legitimate function of government.  (And it's one required by the Church's teachings, for example, if necessary "to make social, political and economic structures more just.")

 

So in a democracy, if the people decide collectively to help "the least of these," that's not "forcing people to give," it's allocating the resources of the society in a democratic way.

 

Remember, the current distribution of income and wealth was not produced by a divinely ordained system of commerce and exchange.  The current distribution of income and wealth is a result of a myriad of statutes and regulations that massively impact who earns how much and who keeps how much.  As even that conservative icon, George Will, admits:

"[A] mature capitalist economy is a government project.  A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously from society's soil as dandelions spring from suburban lawns.

"Rather, it is a complex creation of laws and mores..." [38]

This "complex creation" is certainly subject to adjustment when the society deems it necessary to ensure fairness and to reduce the amount of unnecessary suffering amongst its citizens.

 

And as I seem to have to repeat over and over again, I'm not saying you must use the government to accomplish Matthew 25!  Do it without the government, but the operative words are "DO IT," not just vaguely express hopes for it.

 

All you have to do is implement an Equivalent Alternative Solution which will help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  But anything less, and you're violating Matthew 25!

 

If a law forces people to give something they truly in their hearts don't want to give in the first place, that type of giving is simply a dead work which God hates. [38a]

 

I don't disagree.

 

This question is really asking, What about those who oppose a government effort to help the "least of these," and the plan is implemented anyway?  Do these objectors then get the benefit under Matthew 25 for being part of a society that helps the "least of these?"

 

I agree with the question's premise: those objectors would not get any Matthew 25 benefit -- unless they had offered an Equivalent Alternative Solution which would have helped at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.

 

The very point of this essay is, indeed, that those who object to efforts to help the "least of these" without offering an Equivalent Alternative Solution of their own are precisely those people who will be considered to have dead faith, and will go to Hell.

 

We're not responsible for the whole world, just those who we encounter in our daily activities.

 

Really?  I somehow have trouble finding that concept in the language  of Matthew 25.

 

Jesus doesn’t speak of  "60%" of the hungry, or all those "within one mile" of your house.

 

Jesus doesn’t say “I was hungry and you fed me half the time.”

 

Jesus doesn't excuse any of the cursed by saying "I was hungry and you did not feed me, but that's okay because it was too inconvenient or expensive for you to do so."

 

Please, tell me, exactly which of the "least of these" did Jesus not really mean?  Tell me.

 

Tell me, what would the Jesus of Matthew 25 say to those who have so much while others within reach starve to death?  What would Jesus say to you?  What excuse would you dare give him?

 

Matthew 25 means what it says: ALL the hungry.  ALL the thirsty.  ALL the naked.  ALL the sick.

 

Jesus tells the cursed that they didn’t feed him when he was hungry, period!  There are no excuses acceptable for not doing so.  Certainly none of the excuses that right-wing pseudo-Christians offer! [39]

 

Certainly, it's better for the hungry to have jobs available to them that pay them enough to eat.  But right now they're starving to death, and before they die and can never work, they need food. [40]

 

Certainly some Third World governments are corrupt and some of the aid gets stolen before it reaches the people in need…  In fact, instead of going through the rest of the litany of right-wing pseudo-Christian excuses, let's assume that every one of their excuses is true in every single instance: that just makes the situation that much more challenging, that much more effort and ingenuity will be required to solve the problem.  But solve it we must. Throwing up our hands in surrender – as right-wing pseudo-Christians so eagerly do -- violates Matthew 25. [41]

 

Technology's Impact on the Meaning of  Matthew 25

 

It is true that in Jesus' time people didn’t instantly know what was happening all over the world, so an “only in your sight” interpretation of Matthew 25 might have made some sense then.

 

Kings in those times could have been informed of famines in different countries and sent aid, but it was still nothing like now, where instantaneous color communications let not only rulers, but everyone on earth, know about Matthew 25-like suffering in even the most remote corners of the globe.

 

The advance of technology means that today you must be a global-reach Good Samaritan -- not a global-reach Pharisee crossing to the other side of the street – let alone a global-reach Pharisee preventing the Good Samaritan from helping the needy.

 

All those whose suffering we become aware of through our modern technology must be helped in order to fulfill the Matthew 25 mandate.

 

In addition to expanding our awareness of who needs Matthew 25 help, the blessings of technology have exponentially and mercifully increased our ability to provide all the help that is needed.

 

Maybe in Jesus' time there was not enough food and other resources in the world to feed and otherwise help all the hungry, thirsty, naked and sick. [42]  Now there certainly is. 

 

For example, every day in the year 2000 there was enough food in the world to provide 2805 [43] calories for every man, woman and child on earth, far more than the world's population needs. [44]

 

Despite population increases, the number of calories available per capita has been increasing for decades, and such will be the case into the future.

 

Beyond an abundant global food supply, the amount of money necessary to effectuate all other Matthew 25 needs is laughably small compared to the resources available and not being used.

For example, the United Nations has estimated that for the entire world, "[p]roviding universal access to basic social services and transfers to alleviate income poverty would cost $80 billion."  [45]

 

According to Forbes, in 2003 the world's 476 billionaires owned $1.4 trillion in assets.  A 5% wealth tax would raise $70 billion, just about enough to wipe out poverty on earth – and would these billionaires even miss that money?  Of course not. [46]

 

Let's look at the United States all by its lonesome.  The total adjusted gross income of all individuals in the U.S. in 2000 was $6.4 trillion.  A 1% surtax would yield $64 billion, which would be a major hunk of the $80 billion. [47]  What a minimal effort it would take to live up to our ideals.

 

Beyond income, consider wealth: the total net worth in the U.S. in 1998 was $27.6 trillion. [48]  Even a ½ of 1% surtax would yield $138 billion!

 

And this does not even include, of course, the considerable personal income and wealth of the other Western industrialized democracies.

 

How do we measure up?  How much money do we currently utilize for these purposes?  In long-term development assistance, the Western industrialized countries fall woefully short of the U.N. goal of .7% of Gross National Income (GNI).  And the U.S. is perhaps most delinquent, spending just a little over 1/10 of 1% (.12%) of its GNI on foreign aid, for a contribution of about $13 billion. [49]  If the U.S. met the U.N. goal, that would produce another $78 billion.  And the other industrialized nations would contribute tens of billions of dollars more if they met the U.N. goal.  Again, the resources are certainly there, but it's questionable that – to use a favorite phrase of President Bush -- the "moral clarity" is.

 

So with our increased awareness and technological prowess comes increased Matthew 25 responsibility, but we fall woefully short. [50]  And the right-wing pseudo-Christians fall the shortest, not only by presenting clever excuse after clever excuse for non-action, but also by blocking the efforts of those who would like to implement a systemic, society/government-wide effort to effectuate the Matthew 25 mandate.

 

Church Social Doctrine

 

The Church's teachings on Matthew 25 confirm the global scope of the Matthew 25 imperative:

 

Sacred Scripture continually speaks to us of an active commitment to our neighbor and demands of us a shared responsibility for all of humanity. This duty is not limited to one's own family, nation or state, but extends progressively to all humankind, since no one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another member of the human family. No one can say that he is not responsible for the well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Gen 4:9; Lk 10:29-37; Mt 25:31-46). Attentive and pressing concern for one's neighbor in a moment of need [is] made easier today because of the new means of communication which have brought people closer together… Centesimus Annus

 

Today more than in the past, the Church's social doctrine must be open to an international outlook... [G]iven the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed… this love of the preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the "rich man" who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus [51] lying at his gate (cf. Lk 16:19-31) Solicitudo Rei Socialis [52]

 

One of the reasons we are responsible for all, the Church repeatedly and emphatically teaches us, is that the world's resources were meant for all to share equitably, so that each individual and people have a sufficient share.

 

It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all… The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a "social mortgage"… which means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods.  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone.  Centesimus Annus

 

One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [53]

 

Pope John Paul II is absolutely correct about the "injustice of the poor distribution" of the world's wealth.  Both domestically and internationally, income and wealth are so inequitably distributed as to cry out to Heaven for recourse.

 

The IRS tells us that the top 10% of individuals in the United States receive 46% of the income.  From Federal Reserve Board figures it has been calculated that the richest 10% of individuals in the United States control 71% of the wealth in this country. [54]

 

Globally, 25% of the people receive 75% of the income, and the richest 20% of the world's population monopolizes 86 per cent of global wealth. [55]

 

In other words: 80% of humanity must try to survive on a mere 14% of the world's wealth.  To look at it in perhaps more comprehensible terms: dividing up $100 among ten people in the same proportions would produce two people with $4.30 each, and 8 people with 18 cents each. [56]

 

As if matters weren't bad enough, the situation is getting worse and worse both domestically and globally: in the U.S., between 1979 and 1997, the richest 1% increased their income by 157% [57], ten times the rate of increase of those in the middle income percentiles. Globally, the income gap between the richest 10% of people in the world and the poorest 10% increased by nearly 39% from 1970 to 1997. [58]

 

The long and short of it is, if you want to obey Matthew 25, thereby following Jesus (and avoiding going to Hell), you must support enough of a reallocation of the world's wealth to save all the "least of these." [59]

 

A minimal challenge to right-wing pseudo-Christians: what is your specific, concrete plan, your Equivalent Alternative Solution, to feed the world's hungry? [60]

 

If you don't work you don't eat.  That's what it says.

 

You are probably referring to this passage:

 

2 Thessalonians 3:5-15

5. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. 6. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8. we did not eat any one's bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. 9. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. 10. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. 11. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. 13. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing. 14. If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. [emphasis added] [other translations]

 

Your bringing this up shows a certain mean-spiritedness, as if everyone hungry on earth is hungry because they simply don't want to work.  How many people do you really think that applies to?  Is there anyone who would starve to death rather than work?  What about the children who are starving, how does this passage apply to them?  What about the people slaving away in agricultural fields who do not earn enough to feed their families… but are picking the food for you to feed yours?

 

Remember, we're not talking about lazy, able-bodied adults who don't want to work.  Why do right-wing pseudo-Christians and other conservatives always assume I want to give food to healthy adults who refuse to work?  Ranting on and on about welfare bums is a total straw man argument. [61]  That's not whom either I, or Matthew 25, are talking about.

 

I am talking about people who are starving, or who are gravely ill without access to medical care, or who work full-time at backbreaking labor but are still hungry because their wages are so low.

 

What about the children?  Are they lazy bums who refuse to work?  Did they make bad choices in life whose consequences they must now live with?  How could anyone read Matthew 25 and not realize that helpless children anywhere are 100% blameless for their plight and must be helped now with all the resources at our disposal?

 

Your question also evinces an air of superiority, when in reality, no one works harder than those who pick our crops from sunrise to sunset in sweltering, pesticide-contaminated fields.  Or those people who work two full-time jobs in what is often still a futile attempt to make ends meet. [62]  No one. 

 

In reality, the truly lazy are many of the rich, who live off their investments and do very little if any work, let alone hard labor, during their days of leisure.

 

Such an attitude toward the poor is part of a creeping demonization of the poor which right-wing pseudo-Christians seem particularly to excel at.

 

Do they not remember that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were a homeless family?!

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians should beware: the Bible notes with disapproval how the poor are often the object of negative feelings:

 

Proverbs 14:20-21

20. The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. 21. He who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but happy is he who is kind to the poor. [other translations] [63]

 

And official Church teachings -- in words seemingly directly addressed to right-wing pseudo-Christians -- explicitly warn against a demonization of the poor:

 

It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor - as individuals and as people - are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced. The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make use of their capacity to work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity. Centesimus Annus [64]

 

A true Christian should, Pope John Paul II emphasizes, understand that extreme, life-threatening poverty is caused by injustice, not laziness:

 

[T]he poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

[O]ne must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [65]

 

Shame on you for so cavalierly stating that "If you don't work you don't eat," as if such a hard-hearted assertion absolves you of Matthew 25 responsibilities.

 

So you're saying that Jesus would be a socialist if he came back today? [66]

 

I was wondering how long it would be before you brought out the old "Commie" and "pinko" epithets.

 

Your doing so brings to mind the old line that if Marx were alive today he wouldn't be a Communist – because of how the social justice principles and goals of theoretical Communism were distorted into brutal left-wing dictatorships.  Similarly, many Christians today ask, if Jesus were alive in our present time, would he be a Christian?  That's in part because if someone espouses some of the most elementary principles of justice enshrined in both the Old and New Testaments, right-wing pseudo-Christians immediately start their red-baiting.

 

I would more usefully frame your question: if there were only two choices, do you think Jesus would be a socialist or a conservative?

 

We are given some hints in the Church's teachings:

 

·       As discussed above, there is Christian social doctrine that the resources of the earth, and the output of man's work, are meant to be shared equitably by all.

 

·       As discussed above, there is the Church's "preferential option for the poor."

 

·       As will be discussed below, there is the overwhelming concern for the poor and for economic justice that permeates the Old Testament.

 

·       There is the redistribution of wealth injunction of the Old Testament Jubilee Year, when slaves were released and land returned to its original owners. [67]

 

·       And last but not least, do I even have to bring up the clarion words of Jesus repeated in virtual identical fashion in three of the Gospels:

 

Mark 10:25

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. [other translations] [68]

 

Such a teaching directly out of the mouth of Christ does not indicate a favorable attitude towards the type of unbridled accumulation of wealth celebrated by right-wing pseudo-Christians. [69]

 

To hear the right-wing pseudo-Christians, the Messiah's real name must have been Jesus “Adam Smith” Christ.  Could someone please tell me where Jesus extols the effectiveness – let alone the morality -- of trickle-down economics?  Or the genius of the "free market"?  Or where Jesus indicates even in the slightest way that the suffering should not be helped?

 

Socialism, at least in its concern that the world's goods be distributed equitably and that the suffering be helped, seems a lot closer to Church social doctrine than does the blind, idol-level market-worship of right-wing pseudo-Christians. [70]

 

In short, is not "Do unto others…" the essence of the goal of socialism, and the opposite of the operating principle of unregulated capitalism?

 

On the entire question of redistribution of wealth and income, having rich people is fine, as long as no one is dying because the rich hoard too much of the wealth.  Once everyone is at least minimally taken care of, then the super-greedy can be allowed to have more than their fair share. [71]

 

The case now, however, is that because the rich monopolize such a grotesquely huge share of the income and wealth, there's not enough left for everyone else. [72]

 

As noted above, and bearing repeating: the top 10% of individuals in the United States receive 46% of the income and control 71% of the wealth in this country.  Globally, 25% of the people receive 75% of the income, and the richest 20% of the world's population monopolizes 86 per cent of global wealth. [73]

 

In other words: 80% of humanity must try to survive on a mere 14% of the world's wealth.  To look at it in perhaps more comprehensible terms: Dividing up $100 among ten people in the same proportions would produce two people with $4.30 each, and 8 people with 18 cents each.  How can anyone doubt that such an inequitable division of the world's resources means that those at the bottom will suffer and die as the very least of "the least of these"? [74]

 

Bottom line: it really isn't about socialism, capitalism, or any other
-ism.  It's only about ensuring the well-being of "the least of these."

 

The purpose here is not to argue that Jesus would be a socialist if he were alive today. It is to point out how ludicrous it is for people who profess to be Christians to redbait solely because serious measures to ameliorate economic injustice are proposed.

 

At the very minimum, Jesus would be for enough regulation of capitalism to accomplish the Matthew 25 goals, not for the law-of-the-jungle, let-them-suffer-it's-their-own-fault Hobbesianism of the right-wing pseudo-Christians.

 

Even if what you've said so far is correct, the only way to get to Heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior.  Works alone don't cut it. [75]

 

This oft-repeated refrain which I receive from right-wing pseudo-Christians is based, they claim, on passages like:

 

John 14:6

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  [other translations]

 

Well, "by me" can mean not verbal acceptance, but through doing God's will, as Matthew 25 details.

 

Another passage offered by right-wing pseudo-Christians is: 

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

8. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- 9. not because of works, lest any man should boast. [other translations]

 

What the right-wing pseudo-Christians omit is that however much faith and grace are indispensable, they are clearly not by themselves sufficient:

 

James 2:14-17

14. What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16. and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17. So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  [other translations] [76]

 

A bit further on:

 

James 2:20-24

20. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22. You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23. and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. 24. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. [other translations] [77]

 

In other words, both faith and works are required:

 

[F]aith which is not reflected in one's actions is not real faith. Our actions, our works, are the evidence that our faith is genuine... [A]t  the end of our life the best evidence of what we have believed is to be found in what we have done. [78]

 

Pope John Paul II says the same thing:

 

Conversion, therefore, fosters a new life, in which there is no separation between faith and works in our daily response to the universal call to holiness. In order to speak of conversion, the gap between faith and life must be bridged. Where this gap exists, Christians are such only in name. To be true disciples of the Lord, believers must bear witness to their faith, and "witnesses testify not only with words, but also with their lives"… We must keep in mind the words of Jesus: "Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord!' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21)....

The social dimension of conversion...

[C]onversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of the Christian life and if we do not strive to meet them....  Hence, for the Christian people of America
conversion to the Gospel means to revise "all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good"... Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful.  Ecclesia in America

 

So it is clear both profession of faith, and works to evidence that faith, are required.  Certainly there's no way to interpret John 14:6 to mean faith without works gets you into Heaven, since the plain language of James 2:14-17 says it won't.

 

And the type of works you need to do, what you need to accomplish, is set out clearly in Matthew 25. [79]

 

So right-wing pseudo-Christians, be aware that you need to do more than verbally affirm your belief in Jesus.  Each of you must do far more than exhale while utilizing your lips and tongue to form words.  You have to change your ways, and start acting in accordance with the Gospel.

 

Let me add that even if a non-Catholic Christian wants to maintain a belief that their adherence or not to Matthew 25 has no effect on whether they will go to Hell, certainly they would still want to follow the explicit Matthew 25 injunctions of Christ anyway, wouldn't they?

 

Finally: if I believed the Bible was the literal word of God, I'd make darn sure I was fully covered by both faith and works, given the eternally negative consequences of being wrong on this issue!

 

Your arguments about what Matthew 25 means and what it requires of us may be logical, but they just don't accord with the teachings of the Church.

 

Yes they do!   You need to read more carefully -- the Church's official teachings on Matthew 25 and related subjects have been sprinkled throughout this essay.  

 

In order to present them in a single coherent whole [80], here is a link to a document containing all of the Church teachings utilized in this essay. [81]

 

You quote the Pope a lot.  Who cares what religious leaders think?

 

It's true that religious leaders are often ignored.  They were not heeded in the 1980's on their call for a nuclear freeze.  On the other hand, people did pay some attention in the 1990's to calls from religious figures in favor of international debt forgiveness.  Recently, many mainstream religious denominations came out against a U.S. "preemptive" attack on Iraq.  While their advocacy did not prevent the war, it remains to be seen how influential their views will ultimately turn out to be. [82]

 

That being said, this essay is not about the opinions of religious leaders on particular issues.  This essay is about the crux of a religion and what is teaches about the proper way to live on earth.

 

I submit that Matthew 25 is the central defining passage -- it encapsulates and is the logical and eschatological fulfillment -- of the Old and New Testaments, indeed of all the world's great religions.  All is subsumed in it.

In Matthew 25, God exercises divine judgment on humanity.  Those being judged are not asked if they prayed every day or whether they observed the rituals faithfully.  They are not queried about how high their salary was, how big their house, how expensive their car.  Their workaday accomplishments of selling goods, building objects, shuffling papers from here to there are not at issue.  No, the only thing they are judged upon is whether they helped the needy person whom they saw, that needy person actually having been, in all cases, Jesus himself.

 

This essay is addressed most particularly not to non-believers – who may not care what the Bible or the Pope have to say -- but to right-wing Christians who claim to hold the Bible inerrant.  Matthew 25 lays out how a true Christian must act in this flesh-and-blood world.  Not what a true Christian must say, or claim they believe.  But do.  Right-wing pseudo-Christians fail this test.

 

To them I simply say, either you believe Matthew 25 is the literal word of God, or you don't.  If you do, act that way.  And if your actions show you really don't, then never again quote to me the Bible about any other issue.

 

Alright, let's assume for the sake of argument that your analysis of Matthew 25 is correct.  What kind of things are we talking about doing?

 

This is not a policy paper, so I can only make some general suggestions based on the language of Matthew 25 itself, and related Church teachings. [83]

 

Five concrete, doable things that would greatly help effectuate the Matthew 25 mandate to help the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and the stranger are:

 

·       emergency relief, followed by development assistance, for the immediately-at-risk;

·       a living wage for the working poor;

·       universal health care;

·       immigration reform; and

·       revamping of the global economic system, for the establishment of worldwide, long-term justice.

 

Emergency relief and development assistance for the immediately-at-risk

 

Every day, 365 days a year, 30,000 children around the world under the age of five die needlessly from preventable/treatable diseases, over half involving malnutrition as a cause of death. [84]  That is 11,000,000 [85] children a year. [86]

 

No wonder, since "[l]ife-saving medicines are not available to two billion people — one third of the world's population."

 

As discussed above, the world already has the food and resources available to stop this tragedy. [87]   And innovative new ideas that could be implemented either by governments, the private sector, or a combination of both, are being constantly developed and tested.  But unfortunately, as Pope John Paul II has written in discussing the failure to address the continued global suffering of masses of humanity, it's the political will that has been lacking: [88]

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately, after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

The Western industrialized countries fall woefully short of the U.N. goal of .7% of GDP for development assistance.  And among these Western nations, the U.S. is perhaps most delinquent, spending just .1% of its GDP on foreign aid.  So obviously these numbers must come way up.  Again, the resources are certainly there, but it's questionable that – to use a favorite phrase of President Bush -- the "moral clarity" is.

 

A living wage for the working poor

 

Many millions of low income, minimum wage workers in the United States are not paid enough to survive on. [89]  A "living wage" requirement is essentially a hike in the minimum wage.  It is not a government program that spends money. 

 

The Pope is an ardent anti-communist and anti-socialist, and is against overly paternalistic governments, but even he knows that a living wage is neither communistic nor overly paternalistic, but baseline structural justice of the type required by Matthew 25 to eliminate structural injustice

 

 [I]n every case a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly. It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particularly important one and in a sense the key means… Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future. Laborem Exercens

 

Other Popes have written of their support for a living wage also:

 

"[T]he worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family. …[I]f this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman."  Quadragesimo Anno [90]

 

In addition to being part of Church social doctrine, the concept of a living wage is also inherent in certain Biblical passages:

 

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

14. "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; 15. you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be sin in you. [other translations]

 

Leviticus 19:13

"You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. [other translations]
[91]

 

The reason why wages have to be paid before the sun goes down, and not kept overnight, is because the worker needs those wages immediately for food and shelter to survive the night. [92]

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians, as part of their ever-present attempts to defeat measures which would truly help the poor, rant and rave about how a living wage will cause prices to go up to an unacceptable degree. [93]  Yet as I've written elsewhere, studies show that raising the price of a head of lettuce picked in California by two cents, or a T shirt manufactured in Bangladesh by five cents, would pay for a living wage and lift the workers involved out of poverty.  How dare anyone professing to be a moral person not support such measures! [94]

 

If any of the right-wing pseudo-Christians reading this can stop their frantic internal mental jabbering about how a living wage is communism, socialism, whateverism, they might want to ponder the fact that Pope John Paul II -- and earlier Pontiffs going back over 100 years -- have all supported the living wage concept. So while even Popes are pro-living wage, these hard-hearted current-day pseudo-Christians advocate even against the heads of their own supposed religion.

 

And of course, if the right-wing pseudo-Christians don't want to follow the Pope's prescription and support a living wage, they must come up with their own Equivalent Alternative Solution which will which help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  Merely expressing vague hopes that some of their pet economic theories will produce such a result is not sufficient.

 

Universal Health Care

 

Even in the United States, the richest country on earth, we have 41.2 million Americans who are the "least of these" without health insurance, including an unbelievable 8.5 million children.  That's more than 1 out of every seven Americans.

 

There is beginning to be a call even from insurance companies [95] for universal health care coverage, at least partly in the form of the government subsidizing medical insurance premiums for those who can't afford them.  This is quite ironic, since at the very same time – as in all times of budgetary shortfalls -- health care aid is one of the first things being cut by the states in order to balance their budgets. [96]

 

It does seem, however, that some sort of guarantee of universal health care to all is an idea whose time has come – about 2000 years too late for those professing to follow Christ. [97]  If those who claim to follow Christ but whom I have labeled right-wing pseudo-Christians don't like the plans being offered, they need to step up to the plate and present their own Equivalent Alternative Solution which will help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  Or else they will show themselves to be the cursed "goats" they truly are.

 

Immigration Reform

 

Logically following from Matthew 25's "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" would be humane, caring treatment of economic and political refugees, many of whom right-wing pseudo-Christians incessantly belittle and dehumanize as "illegals."

 

The Matthew 25 "welcoming the stranger concept" undoubtedly is based on similar Old Testament admonitions, repeated over and over again, all variations of "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."  It is worth noting these Old Testament teachings:

 

·       We must love the stranger, even as much as we love ourselves.

 

Leviticus 19:34

The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. [other translations] [98]

 

·       Accordingly, we must not  wrong or oppress the stranger.

 

Exodus 22:24

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land
of Egypt. [other translations] [99]

 

·       The same laws should apply to the stranger as to the native.

 

Leviticus 24:22

You shall have one law for the sojourner and for the native; for I am the Lord your God." [other translations]

 

·       This applies, for example, to justice,

 

Deuteronomy 24:17-18

17. "You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge; 18. but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. [other translations] [100]

 

·       to wages,

 

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

14. "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; 15. you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be sin in you. [other translations]

 

·       and to charity.

 

Deuteronomy 24:19-22

19. "When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22. You shall remember that you were a slave in the
land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. [other translations] [101]

 

It is important to note that the Bible does not exclude "strangers" from protection and care because they entered the country from economic as opposed to political pressures, or because they entered without the permission [102] of the governing authorities.

 

So Sean Hannity and his cohorts, who never tire of complaining that "illegal" immigrants are receiving health care and education in this country, should take especial note of these passages.

 

Firmly grounded in the just-described Biblical injunctions, the Pope specifically endorses a Matthew 25 responsibility to help immigrants:

 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters… leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being… It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need.

…Taking the Gospel as its starting-point, a culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast, especially refugees forced to leave their villages and lands in order to flee violence. [103]  
Ecclesia in America

 

And the Pope explicitly rejects the Hannitian "they're illegal so send them back no matter what their suffering" approach to immigration:

 

In its history, America has experienced many immigrations, as waves of men and women came to its various regions in the hope of a better future. The phenomenon continues even today, especially with many people and families from Latin American countries who have moved to the northern parts of the continent, to the point where in some cases they constitute a substantial part of the population... With this in mind, the Synod Fathers recalled that "the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration." Ecclesia in America

 

Matthew 25 -- and the Church social doctrine regarding immigration based upon it -- should have special resonance for Americans, since we or our ancestors were all (except, of course, for Native Americans) strangers in the land of America at some point.  Unfortunately, Sean Hannity insists we use a Biblically irrelevant, immoral distinction that his forebears were "legal," and thus all human decencies and Biblical/moral injunctions towards the present day "illegals" can be discarded.  Sounds like an excuse that the Matthew 25 Jesus would not be very accepting of!  [104]

 

Revamping of the global economic system

 

Understanding Church social doctrine on globalization is the key to determining what needs to be done:

 

·       The interdependence produced by globalization includes but extends beyond economics, into the moral realm:

 

[I]t is already possible to point to the positive and moral value of the growing awareness of interdependence among individuals and nations. The fact that men and women in various parts of the world feel personally affected by the injustices and violations of human rights committed in distant countries, countries which perhaps they will never visit, is a further sign of a reality transformed into awareness, thus acquiring a moral connotation....It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       This broad-scale interdependence gives rise to a duty towards the suffering that the Pope calls "solidarity" [105]:

 

When interdependence becomes recognized... the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue", is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. This determination is based on the solid conviction that what is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and "structures of sin" are only conquered--presupposing the help of divine grace--by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to "lose oneself" for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to "serve him" instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage (cf. Mt 10:40-42; 20: 25; Mk 10: 42-45; Lk 22: 25-27). Solicitudo Rei Socialis [106]

 

·       The requirements of solidarity must inform all analyses of the costs and benefits of globalization:

 

The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good... The Church in America is called... to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization. Ecclesia in America

 

A feature of the contemporary world is the tendency towards globalization... [I]f globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority... While acknowledging the positive values which come with globalization, the Church considers with concern the negative aspects which follow in its wake. Ecclesia in America [107]

 

·       Such analyses make clear a Christian duty to create a world economic system that is fair to all (not just to the richer nations):

 

By virtue of her own evangelical duty the Church feels called to take her stand beside the poor, to discern the justice of their requests, and to help satisfy them... The same criterion is applied by analogy in international relationships. Interdependence must be transformed into solidarity, based upon the principle that the goods of creation are meant for all. That which human industry produces through the processing of raw materials, with the contribution of work, must serve equally for the good of all... Surmounting every type of imperialism and determination to preserve their own hegemony, the stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [108]

 

Flowing from this, the Pope has pointed out specific areas that need to be addressed:

 

·       the international trade system

 

The international trade system today frequently discriminates against the products of the young industries of the developing countries and discourages the producers of raw materials. There exists, too, a kind of international division of labor, whereby the low-cost products of certain countries which lack effective labor laws or which are too weak to apply them are sold in other parts of the world at considerable profit for the companies engaged in this form of production, which knows no frontiers. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

This is not an abstract issue, but rather a question of life-and-death for the "least of these" of the world.  For example, when global coffee prices plunge, coffee farm workers and their families starve. [109]

 

·       the international monetary system

 

The world monetary and financial system is marked by an excessive fluctuation of exchange rates and interest rates, to the detriment of the balance of payments and the debt situation of the poorer countries. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       technological exchanges

 

Forms of technology and their transfer constitute today one of the major problems of international exchange and of the grave damage deriving therefrom. There are quite frequent cases of developing countries being denied needed forms of technology or sent useless ones. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       international debt

 

The principle that debts must be paid is certainly just. However, it is not right to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples. It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices. In such cases it is necessary to find--as in fact is partly happening--ways to lighten, defer or even cancel the debt, compatible with the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress. Centesimus Annus [110]

 

As always, if any right-wing pseudo-Christians disagree with these suggestions, all they need to do in order to stay in faith with the Jesus of Matthew 25, is to offer their own Equivalent Alternative Solutions which will help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  Is that a deafening silence I hear?

 

What do you make of the fact that right-wing Christians go out of their way to call themselves "compassionate conservatives," and claim that they are the ones who are truly interested in, and able to, help the poor?

 

It's not an unfair characterization to liken Sean Hannity and his brethren and sistren to false prophets in the literal Biblical sense. Why?  Let's look at what the Old and New Testaments have to say about false prophets.

 

False prophets are condemned in general over and over again:

 

Jeremiah 29:8-9

8. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream, 9. for it is a lie which they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. [other translations]

 

2 Peter 2:1-3

1. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. 3. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep. [other translations] [111]

 

Beyond such general condemnations, however, many Biblical passages about false prophets seem particularly addressed to the circumstances surrounding today's right-wing pseudo-Christians:

 

People love to hear false prophets,

 

Jeremiah 5:30-31

30. An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: 31. the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? [other translations]

 

so much so that they literally even request false prophecy:

 

Isaiah 30:9-11

9. For they are a rebellious people, lying sons, sons who will not hear the instruction of the Lord; 10. who say to the seers, "See not"; and to the prophets, "Prophesy not to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, 11. leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel." [other translations]

 

This is especially so when the false prophets tell people that the evil they are doing is wonderful:

 

Jeremiah 23:17

17. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, 'It shall be well with you'; and to every one who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.'" [other translations] [112]

 

And Sean Hannity certainly does that, and his audience just eats it up.  Keep telling your listeners, Sean, that our earth-destroying SUV's are wonderful, and that the poor are just a bunch of lazy bums who made bad choices in life and now must live with the consequences. [113] 

 

Keep telling them, because they love to hear such false prophecy, that our nation is so wonderful and perfect that any criticism of it can be summarily dismissed as "blame America first" rubbish.  This type of false prophecy was most famously expressed as crying "Peace, peace" when there is no peace:

 

Jeremiah 6:13-14

13. "For from the least to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, every one deals falsely. 14. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace.  [other translations] [114]

 

False prophets like Hannity literally "strengthen the hands of evildoers," to use an appellation much in vogue of late:

 

Jeremiah 23:14

But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah." [other translations]

 

It's appropriate that these false prophets aid the evildoers, since these false prophets are really speaking the evil in their own heart:

 

Jeremiah 23:26

26. How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart… [other translations]

 

In other words, a false prophet is one who turns people away from God's commandments (like Sean Hannity does from the Matthew 25 injunctions), even if such prophet otherwise produces signs or wonders that come true (e.g., huge Nielsen ratings?):


Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5

32. "Everything that I command you you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to it or take from it. Deuteronomy 13:1. "If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2. and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' 3. you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him. 5. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from the midst of you. [other translations]

Indeed, false prophets often appear to be the exact opposite: Sean Hannity oozes pious declarations of religiosity, but his words are – as the Sermon on the Mount puts it – akin to a ravenous wolf in sheep's clothing; Hannity does not just strengthen the hand of evildoers, he is an "evildoer."

 

Matthew 7:15-23

15. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17. So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. 18. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20. Thus you will know them by their fruits. 21. "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23. And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' [other translations]
  [115]

 

As it is elsewhere put in starkest terms, "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light":

 

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

13. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. [other translations]

 

Indeed, if Satan were going to appear on earth, he would speak sweet, beguiling words which on the surface express the intention of helping people, but whose real effect would be preventing the amelioration of – indeed actually increasing the amount of -- human suffering.  Is not this a description of right-wing pseudo-Christians to a tee?

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians are, in essence, not practicing Christianity.  They are practicing their own wolf-in-barely-disguised-sheep's clothing brand of Satanism. [116]

 

To all those who listen favorably to these false prophets walking  among (or more accurately broadcasting to) us, the Bible warns you:

 

Lamentations 2:14,17

14. Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles false and misleading. 17. The Lord has done what he purposed, has carried out his threat; as he ordained long ago, he has demolished without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you, and exalted the might of your foes. [other translations] [117]

 

Others Who Decieve

 

In addition to false prophets, there are others described in the Bible who mislead, who speak and teach falsely. Indeed, at times the Bible almost seems to be explicitly describing Sean Hannity.

 

There is the fool, who "speaks folly, and his mind plots iniquity… to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink."  Note the "deprive the thirsty of drink" condemnation – it eerily predicts Hannity's opposition to providing emergency water stations in the desert to avoid the continuing tragedy of undocumented aliens dying of thirst in such border desert regions:

 

Isaiah 32:1,5-8

1. Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. 5. The fool will no more be called noble, nor the knave said to be honorable. 6. For the fool speaks folly, and his mind plots iniquity: to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. 7. The knaveries of the knave are evil; he devises wicked devices to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. 8. But he who is noble devises noble things, and by noble things he stands. [other translations]

 

And there is also, as described in the passage directly above, the knave, who "devises wicked devices to ruin the poor with lying words":

 

Isaiah 32:7-8

7. The knaveries of the knave are evil; he devises wicked devices to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. 8. But he who is noble devises noble things, and by noble things he stands. [118] [other translations]

 

Such "lying words" are the endless false excuses of right-wing pseudo-Christians about why we don't need to help the suffering, or better yet, the claims of these cut-and-kill conservatives that their policies which kill the poor actually will help them. [119]

 

Political leaders can also mislead the people:

 

Isaiah 3:12-15

12. My people -- children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you, and confuse the course of your paths. 13. The Lord has taken his place to contend, he stands to judge his people. 14. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: "It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?" says the Lord God of hosts. [other translations].

 

Does not a mental image of that famous right-wing pseudo-Christian George Bush immediately come to mind?  Can you not hear an echo of his fractured syntax as he claims to be a "compassionate conservative" helping the poor, while in deed he continually shreds the safety net and directs tax cuts to the wealthy? [120]

 

Finally, there are yet unnamed others who preach falsely:

 

Romans 16:17-18

17. I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. 18. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. [other translations]

 

Note that these persons "serve" "their own appetites" – could that be a fair description of those who insist on their right to waste all the oil they want to in their beloved SUV's, who insist on their right to aggrandize unto themselves ever-more-obscene proportions of the nation's – and world's – income and wealth?

Could the "fair and flattering words" be the beguiling lies of Limbaugh and Hannity?


And as for "the simple-minded" whose hearts are deceived – are they not the audiences of 8th grade social studies class-level understanding-of-the-world worshippers of these talk show devils?

 

Sean Hannity et al can take comfort in one thing, however: unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament does not seem to require that we kill these false prophets, but merely that we "avoid" them.

 

So Sean Hannity and other right-wing pseudo-Christians should be shunned by true Christians.

You seem to single out Sean Hannity quite a bit.

 

Yes I do, and he well deserves it.  To be quite honest, I've tried to keep invective against Hannity to a minimum in this essay, but now that it's been brought up as a separate subject, I'm going to let 'er rip a little.  Please allow me to bluntly lay out some of the thoughts that have occurred to me as I've witnessed and contemplated Hannity's most un-Matthew-25-like behavior over the years.

 

At the very least, Hannity is a moral illiterate.  He's shrill, shallow, repetitive and, above all, cruel.  Think Sean "Heart of Stone" Hannity.

 

Hannity coarsens the public dialogue, lowers the bar of acceptable cruelty, by widely broadcast example makes it perfectly acceptable to say we shouldn't provide water for people dying of thirst in the desert.

 

Isaiah 41:17

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. [other translations]

 

God will not forsake them, but Sean Hannity will!  Hannitian cruelty –and Biblical violation -- obviously know no bounds.

 

Did you ever see Sean Hannity get excited and happy when suffering people are helped?  No, he lights up only when an aid program is defeated or the government is demonized.  He worships the Golden Calf of anti-governmentalism and marketism.

 

Oh yes, he also lights up when discussing the need to execute criminals or go to war against tiny, impoverished Third World nations.

 

Hannity complains that Democrats accuse him and other right-wing pseudo-Christians of wanting to kill the sick, hurt children and the elderly, and so on.  Well, YES!!  Killing the sick and hurting children and the elderly are the very effects of the policies of Hannity and his ilk. 

 

It all goes back to the Equivalent Alternative Solution standard.  To avoid a Matthew 25  violation, you must offer an Equivalent Alternative Solution, which helps at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  The right-wing pseudo-Christians virtually never do so.  When an effort is being mounted to save lives – food aid, medical care, drug rehab, etc. – and the right-wing pseudo-Christian "solution" will help fewer people or not as much or will take longer to take effect, then the results of such right-wing pseudo-Christian non-EAS measures are more death and suffering.

 

Hannity often states that he is a devout Catholic. As I've suggested elsewhere, someone – perhaps Hannity's priest -- needs to ask him whether his copy of the Bible has Matthew 25 torn out of it.

 

Perhaps Hannity's Bible did not have these pages torn out. Maybe Hannity has a special unabridged version of the Bible which contains heretofore unknown modifications to Matthew 25.

 

What we can call the "Hannity exception clauses" perhaps provide that the sick must be ministered to "but only when such sick person is at a level of distress requiring emergency room care;" that the stranger must be welcomed "except when said stranger lacks proper immigration papers;" and of course, the catch-all Hannity exception clause: "and all such requirements to minister to those in need shall not apply when the neediness of said individuals is the result of their choices in life, including their failure to secure a more advanced level of education."

 

What is Hannity's worst insult? To call someone a "tax-and-spend" liberal.  This truly reveals the essence of the right-wing pseudo-Christians.  I ask you:  who is it liberals want to "tax and spend" on, themselves?  No.  They want to expend their own money and the society's collective financial resources -- allocated via a democratic process -- to, in effect, effectuate Matthew 25 goals.  They want to spend it on "the least of these." You can criticize liberal programs or methods, but the "tax-and-spend" epithet really criticizes the goal itself.  Because what do the right-wing pseudo-Christians offer instead?  At best barely half-measures, but most often, nada. Zilch. Nothing.

 

In fact, the cut-and-kill conservatives want to accomplish the opposite of Matthew 25, they want to have more money for themselves and the richest among us: the Hannity mantra is "Me, Me, Me.  I want the money.  I need a bigger house.  I need a bigger car.  The money is MINE."

 

“Tax-and spend liberals”?  How about deny-and-destroy, cut-and-kill conservatives?  Deny and destroy health, dreams, lives.  Cut funding for life-and-death programs, and surely people will die as a result.  The answer to fraud and waste isn’t to kill the program, abandon the goal and let the people die.  The answer is to FIX IT or DO IT ANOTHER WAY!

 

And please don't tell me that if only the cut-and-kill pseudo-Christians paid less taxes, they'd have more money for charity.  First, as discussed above, charity alone is not sufficient to accomplish the Matthew 25 mandate.  Second, only a small fraction of the tax savings or corporate welfare doled out to cut-and-kill pseudo-Christians and their allies will ever be put to even charitable, let alone systemic-problem-solving purposes.

 

Hannity thus leads the charge in repeatedly violating the most basic premise of Christian social doctrine: the resources of the planet were given to us to all share equitably. [121]

 

Contrary to Hannitian pseudo-Christian philosophy, the Pope reminds us that we are all (still) our brother's (and sister's!) keeper:

 

Sacred Scripture continually speaks to us of an active commitment to our neighbor and demands of us a shared responsibility for all of humanity....  No one can say that he is not responsible for the well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Gen 4:9; Lk 10:29-37; Mt 25:31-46).  Centesimus Annus

 

Unlike the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II, who teach a "preferential option for the poor," Sean Hannity seems to think that there's  a preferential option for the rich!

 

Instead of liberation theology, Hannity's is an oppression theology. [122]

 

Sean Hannity preaches the exact opposite of the Jesus Christ of Matthew 25.  He fosters to millions a form of anti-Christianity:

 

Do not love your neighbor as yourself

 

Do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or heal the sick.

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians like Sean Hannity think Christianity is defined as opposition to abortion, homosexuality and pornography – interestingly enough, three things Jesus never mentioned even once, did he?!

 

Imagine Sean Hannity interviewing Jesus Christ!

 

If Jesus Christ came back today and began walking the earth preaching as he did before, Sean Hannity would call him a bleeding heart liberal who doesn't live in the "real" world, and would then add for good measure that Jesus Christ is a homeless bum who deserves his position because he didn't bother to get a proper education.

 

Hannity and his worshippers are truly Mephistophelean wolves in Christian sheep’s clothing.

 

It's truly incredible how Hannity and his demon-possessed, pseudo-Christian brethren, his devils-in-Christian clothing sistren, all these mean-spirited, let-everyone-die-because-it’s-their-own-fault bastards, try to pass themselves off as Christians!

 

Hannity and his ilk must be a morally and spiritually retarded evolutionary offshoot from the rest of humanity. [123]  Either that, or there really must be a Devil that possesses them, because no 21st century humans could act the way these right-wing pseudo-Christians do.

 

I watch Sean Hannity the way many people are compelled to view an automobile accident scene – it’s repulsive and vile to look at, but you can’t take your eyes off it.  With automobiles, it’s physically mangled bodies.  With Sean Hannity, it’s a spiritually mangled soul – possessed by the real Evil One, Satan himself!  [124]

 

Hannity's Self-Delusion and His Path Ahead

 

Some of the things Hannity says show an incredible blindness:

 

"The Bible teaches whoever is great, the greatest among you shall be your servant," he added. "That was the example of Christ. I mean, He didn't come here to be served; He came here to serve. He came here to heal the sick, He came here to let the blind see, help the crippled, exorcise demons, preach to the world and to ultimately sacrifice His life so that we may live and be reconciled. That's the example, but you have to be an active participant."

Gee, so how does Sean Hannity choose to be an "active participant"?  By working to deny effective solutions if they involve the evil government, and offering no Equivalent Alternative Solutions of his own.  Sean Hannity must be self-delusional.

 

Jesse Helms said recently, when asked about his new-found fervor to fund overseas efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of AIDS:

 

"Some may say that this initiative is not consistent with some of my earlier positions," wrote Mr. Helms. But he continued, "in the end our conscience is answerable to God. Perhaps, in my 81st year, I am too mindful of soon meeting Him, but I know that, like the Samaritan traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, we cannot turn away when we see our fellow man in need."

 

Sean Hannity and company should heed these words, not wait until they’re old and gray before opening their eyes.  Most are far younger than Jesse Helms’ 81, but any of them could still die tomorrow, or (as may you the reader) in the very moment you are reading this.

 

The most pathetic thing is, Hannity really does think he's a good Christian.  Hannity probably thinks that God approves of what he does, just like self-deluded humans have done since Biblical times:

 

Micah 3:9-11

9. Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10. who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong. 11. Its heads give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, "Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us." [other translations] [125]

 

But as shown earlier, Hannity is in reality just another in a long line of false prophets that the Bible speaks of, and fortunately for him, the New Testament does not require killing such false prophets, but merely avoiding them:

 

Romans 16:17-18

17. I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. 18. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. [other translations]

 

So Sean Hannity should be shunned by good Christians as the false prophet, Satanic, even anti-Christ-like figure he is.

 

And when he does eventually face divine judgment, Hannity will not, I suspect, receive such relatively mild punishment as shunning. [126]  The only question –

 

Wait!  I sense a Heavenly presence in the room… a "corrected" version of the Lazarus passage in Luke is coming to me.  Let me quickly write down these words before they vanish again into the ether:

 

Luke 16:19-31

19. "There was a rich man named Hannity, who was clothed in pinstripe gray and fine wool and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20. And at the door to his nation, yea at the very door of his Fox News office building, lay a poor immigrant named Jose, full of sores, 21. who desired to be fed with what fell from Hannity's table. But Hannity said the man had failed to respect the sovereignty of Hannity's nation, the greatest nation ever given mankind by the Lord, and thus Jose must be immediately deported back from whence he came. 22. The poor man Jose was deported, and died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man Hannity also died and was buried; 23. and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Jose in his bosom. 24. And Hannity called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Jose to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25. But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Jose in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27. And Hannity said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my Fox News office building, 28. for I have political colleagues there, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29. But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30. And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31. He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

 

I am now receiving an alternative corrected version:

 

Luke 16:19-31

19. "There was a rich man named Hannity, who was clothed in pinstripe gray and fine wool and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20. And at the door to his office building, lay a poor homeless man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21. who desired to be fed with what fell from Hannity's table. But Hannity said the man had made certain choices in life, and must abide by the results, and that above all, a government program should never be used to help a man such as Lazarus. 22. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man Hannity also died and was buried; 23. and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. 24. And Hannity called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25. But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27. And Hannity said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my Fox News office building, 28. for I have political colleagues there, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29. But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30. And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31. He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

 

Yes, now I'm sure: the only question is, utilizing the schema of Dante's Hell, into what circle will Hannity be cast. [127]

 

There isn't a circle where false prophets as such are put, but one should be created. There really should be a special circle of Dante’s Hell reserved for those like Hannity who mislead by preaching peace while they wage war.

 

If there can't be a separate circle, I have two alternative suggestions:

 

1) In the eighth, next-to-deepest circle of Hell, Dante placed Mohammed.  Dante was strongly anti-Islamist, and felt Mohammed deserved this place in Hell not only for being a false prophet, but for creating a schism in Christianity.  We in the modern era know better, and we would rightly take Mohammed out of Dante's Hell altogether -- and we should rightly put instead in that eighth circle one Mr. Sean Hannity for his incessant and deadly false prophecyAnd while it's true that Hannity has not caused a schism in the Roman Catholic church, perhaps he should be causing one, with all true Christians refusing to be part of any Church establishment which has not excommunicated Hannity and his ilk for their virulently anti-Christ-like behavior.

 

--or--

 

2) In the deepest circle of Hell, eternally tormented in one of the three mouths of Satan himself, is Judas Iscariot, for betraying Jesus.  A fourth mouth should be added into which Hannity would most properly be placed.  Worse than Judas, Hannity betrays and helps kill Jesus not once, but thousands if not millions of times, every time Hannity advocates letting any of "the least of these" suffer and die:  'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'

 

OK, so according to you, all the right-wing Christians go to Hell, and all the wonderful liberals go to Heaven?

 

Not really. Liberals and those further left on the political spectrum, such as myself, are also in a heap of trouble when Matthew 25 is applied to us.

 

Why are you saying that liberals and other progressives violate Matthew 25?  They are the ones considered to be on the side of the poor and disenfranchised.

 

I don’t offer my home to the homeless person I walk by.  Jesus didn't say "I was hungry and you gave me a quarter."  Jesus said the needy one was satisfied.  If we really believed that as we do it to the "least" of us is as we do it to Jesus... think of it!  If we really believed that this homeless person was Jesus, wouldn't we take him out to the best dinner in town, and then ask, even beg him to stay in our home?

 

On a broader level, the goals set even by non-conservatives who are thought of as overly idealistic, fall far short of Matthew 25.  For example, a U.N. goal is to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 50% within 15 years.

 

But Jesus didn't approvingly say, "I was hungry, and you pledged that within 15 years there will be a 50% chance I will be fed."

 

That's a shamefully and murderously insufficient goal.

 

Or take the U.N.'s goal for securing access to potable water for those who do not have it: Jesus didn't say he would send nations to Heaven because "I was thirsty and you said that within 13 years there will be a 50% chance that I will have water to drink."

 

The same disgraceful inadequacy applies to the U.N. goal of cutting global poverty in half by 2013.

 

That’s not good enough.  What’s their plan to end it, and as soon as possible [128]

 

What's worse, we don't seem to be able to meet even these shamefully insufficient goals.  The U.N. laments that "[p]rogress in reducing hunger has virtually halted," to the extent that at the present rate, it will be 148 years before hunger is even cut in half!

 

And the goal of reducing hunger in half by 2015 is so easy to achieve:

 

[P]ublic investment of US$24 billion a year would be enough to jump-start an accelerated campaign against hunger that could reach the WFS goal. Taken in perspective, the price tag is startlingly low, dwarfed by the more than US$300 billion that the OECD nations transferred to support their own agriculture in 2001. As the economist Jeffrey Sachs has pointed out, in comparison to a global economy measured in the trillions, US$24 billion could be considered a “rounding error”, representing barely five cents for every US$100 of income. [129]

 

Indeed, every day in the year 2000 there was enough food in the world to provide 2805 [130] calories for every man, woman and child on earth, far more than the world's population needs. [131]  Despite population increases, the number of calories available per capita has been increasing for decades, and such will be the case into the future.

 

Even a much more ambitious goal of eliminating global poverty is easily within reach: as noted earlier, the United Nations has estimated that for the entire world, "[p]roviding universal access to basic social services and transfers to alleviate income poverty would cost $80 billion." [132]  Yet In long-term development assistance, the Western industrialized countries fall woefully short of the U.N. goal of .7% of GNI.  And among these countries, the U.S. is perhaps most delinquent, spending just a little over 1/10 of 1% (.12%) of its GNI on foreign aid, which comes to about $13 billion. [133]  If the U.S. met the U.N. goal, that would produce another $78 billion.  And the other industrialized nations would contribute tens of billions of dollars more if they met the U.N. goal.

 

Data presented earlier is worth repeating for its stark illustration of how pitifully little effort is really made to effectuate the Matthew 25 goals:

 

According to Forbes, in 2003 the world's 476 billionaires owned $1.4 trillion in assets.  A 5% wealth tax would raise $70 billion, just about enough to wipe out poverty on earth – and would these billionaires even miss that money?  Of course not. [134]

 

Let's look at the United States all by its lonesome.  The total adjusted gross income of all individuals in the U.S. in 2000 was $6.4 trillion. [135]  A 1% surtax would yield $64 billion, which would be a major hunk of the $80 billion.  What a minimal effort it would take to live up to our ideals.

 

And this does not even include, of course, the considerable personal income of the other Western industrialized democracies.

 

Beyond income, consider wealth: the total net worth in the U.S. in 1998 was $27.6 trillion. [136]  Even a ½ of 1% surtax would yield $138 billion!

 

Can anyone really argue that any of our pitifully small efforts satisfy Matthew 25, when we provide so much less help to "the least of these" than we're able to?  As FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf recently said:

 

We do not have the excuse that we cannot grow enough food or that we do not know enough about how to eliminate hunger. What remains to be proven is that we care enough, that our expressions of concern in international fora are more than rhetoric...

 

What's the result of our failure to act?  Every day, 365 days a year, 30,000 children around the world under the age of five die needlessly from preventable/treatable diseases, over half involving malnutrition as a cause of death. [137]  That is 11,000,000 [138] children a year. [139]

 

Put more bluntly, each and every year, this world's children suffer, and we clearly witness, [140] a Double Holocaust By Malign Neglect. [141]  We can stop it, we simply choose not to. [142]

 

For this unequivocal and truly evil violation of Matthew 25, I think it not unlikely that we will all be joining Sean Hannity et al in Hell, perhaps in a less painful circle thereof.  This applies to us all.  We are all going to Hell.  Our nation as a whole.  The other industrialized nations.  The elites in Third World countries.  Every world leader. 

 

We don't even try, or even pretend to try, to solve this problem, or a myriad of others, like homelessness. [143]  It's not as if we had a good-faith plan and it failed, or that we have a 10-year plan that will take too long, but at least the goal is present and will eventually be reached.  It's not as if we did the best we could, gave it our best shot.  No, we just said to "the least of these" among us, we all just said to Jesus Christ himself, "Frankly, Mr. Christ, we don't give a damn."

 

What about non-Catholic Christians?

 

Catholics are the largest Christian denomination, making up almost one-third of the nation's 159 million adult Christians.  The breakdown is as follows for numbers of adults in the top denominations: 50 million Catholics, 33 million Baptists, 14 million Methodists, 9 million Lutherans and 5 million Presbyterians.

 

I suggest that in the context of this essay's discussion of Matthew 25, doctrinal/theological disputes between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations are not relevant and can be put aside. The Pope's analysis of Matthew 25 can and should be used as a benchmark by all Christians to understand what Matthew 25 requires of those who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus.

 

What about other religions? Jews? Muslims? Hindus? Buddhists?  Aren't you just Christian-bashing?

 

To the extent that any religion

 

·       commands its followers to take Matthew 25-type actions

·       proscribes the ultimate punishment for disobedience, and

·       the followers of that religion do not undertake such actions

 

then such followers would be condemned also.  Let's look at Judaism, since it is from that soil that Christianity grew.

 

It is not, in contemporary America, an often-taught aspect of the Old Testament – neither in right-wing pseudo-Christian churches, nor in mainstream Jewish synagogues -- that scores of passages in that scripture command us to not oppress the poor; to treat them fairly; and as individuals and nations to in all situations behave in a manner consistent with social justice.  I will present some of these passages below, both to justify my assertion that Jews as well as Christians would be adhering to their religious tenets by following the Matthew 25 injunctions, and as well, to point out that the Matthew 25 injunctions themselves as explicated in this essay follow naturally from the Old Testament.

 

Indeed, the first passages I will cite are literal forebears of Matthew 25's use of treatment of the poor as an eschatological determinant.  These passages may well have actually provided the schema and language for Matthew 25:

 

·       The great prophet [144] Isaiah, in proclaiming the kind of a holy day fast God desires of us, says that if you follow what are, in effect, the Matthew 25 injunctions, the Lord will answer you and be with you and you shall prosper:

 

Isaiah 58:6-12

6. "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8. Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10. if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. [other translations]

 

·       The prophet Ezekiel proclaims that if a man performs Matthew 25-like actions, he shall live; if he doesn't, he shall die:

 

Ezekiel 18:5-13

5. "If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right -- 6. if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel
, does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity, 7. does not oppress any one, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8. does not lend at interest or take any increase, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between man and man, 9. walks in my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances -- he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord God. 10. "If he begets a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood, 11. who does none of these duties, but eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor's wife, 12. oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13. lends at interest, and takes increase; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. [other translations]

 

·       Job says that if he has violated any of the Matthew 25 injunctions, God should punish him:

 

Job 31:16-22

16. "If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17. or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it 18. (for from his youth I reared him as a father, and from his mother's womb I guided him); 19. if I have seen any one perish for lack of clothing, or a poor man without covering; 20. if his loins have not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; 21. if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw help in the gate; 22. then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.  [other translations]

 

·       Job also says that a person who has violated the Matthew 25 injunctions is doomed:

 

Job 22:5-11

5. Is not your wickedness great? There is no end to your iniquities. 6. For you have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing, and stripped the naked of their clothing. 7. You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry. 8. The man with power possessed the land, and the favored man dwelt in it. 9. You have sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless were crushed. 10. Therefore snares are round about you, and sudden terror overwhelms you; 11. your light is darkened, so that you cannot see, and a flood of water covers you. [other translations]

 

·       Finally, the prophet Ezekiel uses a metaphor involving a shepherd and his sheep to condemn rulers who violate the Matthew 25 injunctions:

 

Ezekiel 34:1-4

1. The word of the Lord came to me: 2. "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3. You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. [other translations] [145]

 

Many, many [146] other Old Testament passages provide general injunctions regarding the proper way to treat the "poor" [147] (in other words, the Matthew 25 hungry, thirsty, naked, sick):

 

Leviticus 25:35-38

35. "And if your brother becomes poor, and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall maintain him; as a stranger and a sojourner he shall live with you. 36. Take no interest from him or increase, but fear your God; that your brother may live beside you. 37. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38. I am the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. [other translations]

 

Proverbs 14:31

He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him. [other translations] [148]

 

Note that since accordingly to Matthew 25 how one treats the poor is how one treats Jesus, you are literally insulting your Maker to his face when you oppress a poor man. 

 

The Old Testament makes it crystal clear that God watches over and will hear the cries of the poor if they are mistreated:

 

Psalms 72:12-14

12. For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. [other translations]

 

Isaiah 41:17

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. [other translations]  [149]

 

Numerous passages specify the consequences if one does or does not obey these injunctions:

 

One will be rewarded for helping the poor:

 

Proverbs 19:17

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. [other translations]

 

Note that since Jesus says how you treat the poor is how you treat him, you are literally "lending to the Lord" when you help a poor person.

 

Psalms 112:5,9

5. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice. 9. He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor. [other translations] [150]

 

Conversely, if one hurts the poor, terrible consequences will follow, as in both the Ezekiel passage cited above that actually tracks the Matthew 25 language, and in the following:

 

Proverbs 28:27

He who gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. [other translations]

 

Proverbs 22:16

He who oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to want. [other translations] [151]

 

This latter verse is quite interesting in light of the advocacy by right-wing pseudo-Christians of policies which cut taxes mostly for the rich.

 

There are passages where the bad fate of those who have abused the poor is recorded:

 

Ezekiel 22:29-31

29. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without redress. 30. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. 31. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their way have I requited upon their heads, says the Lord God." [other translations] [152]

 

Ezekiel 16:49-50

49. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister
Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it. [other translations]

 

How perfectly does Ezekiel 16:49-50 apply to ever-more-obese and stingy nations like the U.S!

 

Even more numerous are passages where those who have hurt the poor are condemned by the Biblical prophets, and told they will suffer God's wrath in the future:

 

Jeremiah 2:34-35

34. Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35. you say, 'I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.' Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, 'I have not sinned.' [other translations] [153]

 

This passage from Jeremiah is quite interesting in light of the ever-present denials by right-wing pseudo-Christians and other conservatives that they are hurting the poor. [154]

 

Other times the Prophets don't use the word "poor" but condemn the mistreatment of those who obviously fall into that category:

 

Jeremiah 5:26-29

26. For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. 27. Like a basket full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, 28. they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of wickedness; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. 29. Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?" [other translations] [155]

 

The utter seriousness with which God views the mistreatment of the poor is indicated by the incredibly caustic language used by the prophets.  Their harrowing words, after all, reflect the thoughts of God.

 

·       The prophets condemn those who have "crushed and abandoned the poor":

 

Job 20:17-20

17. He will not look upon the rivers, the streams flowing with honey and curds. 18. He will give back the fruit of his toil, and will not swallow it down; from the profit of his trading he will get no enjoyment. 19. For he has crushed and abandoned the poor, he has seized a house which he did not build. 20. "Because his greed knew no rest, he will not save anything in which he delights. [other translations] [156]

 

·       who "grind the face of the poor":

 

Isaiah 3:14-15

14. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: "It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?" says the Lord God of hosts. [other translations]

 

·       and who "trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth":

 

Amos 2:6-7

6. Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes -- 7. they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted… [other translations] [157]

 

In the Matthew 25 context, it is important to note that a passion for justice is a pervasive Biblical theme on its own, mentioned in over one hundred verses.  Here is a small sampling:

 

Man is enjoined to act justly:

 

Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [other translations] [158]

 

God loves justice and God executes justice:

 

Deuteronomy 10:17-19

17. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land
of Egypt. [other translations] [159]

 

Acting with justice will be rewarded:

 

Psalms 112:5,9

5. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice. 9. He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor. [other translations] [160]

 

Acting unjustly will be punished, this admonition expressed in breathtakingly harrowing language:

 

Micah 3:1-4

1. And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice? -- 2. you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people, and their flesh from off their bones; 3. who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron. 4. Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil. [other translations]

 

It seems clear that the Matthew 25 injunctions apply to those of the Jewish faith who would want to truly follow the mandates of their religion. 

 

And lest I be accused of Christian-bashing, suffice it to say that the vast majority of Jews, like the vast majority of Christians, can not be said to be even attempting a Matthew 25-level of effort.

 

Beyond Christians and Jews, the scriptures of other religions are beyond the scope of this essay (knowledgeable readers are of course encouraged to send in relevant citations).

 

Preliminary support for the proposition that Matthew 25-type injunctions are universal in true spiritual disciplines is indicated by this excerpt from the writings of Abbot John Daido Loori, Roshi, a prominent American Zen Buddhist:

 

Right from the outset, we should understand clearly that individual liberation is a contradiction in terms… This teaching has always been implicit in Mahayana Buddhism from its inception thousands of years ago… We live in an age of communication, knowing very well what is going on in the furthest corners of the earth. We have the potential to feed the world. We have the potential to heal the earth. We have the potential to take care of the waste that we produce, to house the homeless, to bring world peace. It is said that there are three million Buddhists in the United States. That is a formidable number of people who are vowing every day to save all sentient beings. Why isn’t there more political action arising within Buddhist communities? [161]

 

I don't hear many religious leaders preaching this uncompromising version of Matthew 25.

 

They should be. 

 

The Bible over and over and over again says God watches over the poor, that we are to treat the poor fairly.

 

The Bible uses amazingly harsh words to denounce those who harm the poor, the type of speech rarely if ever heard from mainstream preachers in their Sunday sermons.

 

And the Bible makes it crystal-clear: if we violate these injunctions, God will punish us – for all eternity in fact, as Matthew 25 warns.

 

I would ask all priests and other clergy: why aren’t you telling your flocks this?  As a central teaching!

 

Far too many – it can be argued most -- rabbis, priests, pastors and other "official" Men of God are shameful frauds. They emasculate the Bible: first they strip it of -- or at best ignore -- all that is God-like; then they extract and present from it only those shreds that allow them to tell their flocks: "You are good. All is okay. We and our society are wonderful." [162]

 

Many religious leaders worry themselves to death about how to prevent a human with a vagina instead of a penis from conducting religious rites.  But the people these leaders see starving to death they do virtually nothing about.

 

The recently departed Phillip Berrigan, a former priest and ardent anti-war advocate, prophetically said:

 

The Gospel the church preaches is a precise statement of the life it leads — a degenerate stew of behavioral psychology, affluent ethics and cultural mythology, seasoned by nationalist politics…

 

We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes.

 

One of those crimes is undoubtedly the willful ignoring of all the suffering and dying that could easily be prevented.

 

Religious leaders need to come up with their own $80 billion plan to accomplish in the real world the Matthew 25 injunctions.

 

Or, they need to tell their followers, you must do so, or you'll be excommunicated [163] and will later go to Hell.

 

Yes, honesty requires the Church to excommunicate those who make a travesty of Matthew 25, who treat Jesus Christ himself with contempt and cruelty. [164]

 

While I've approvingly quoted many of the Pope John Paul II's writings throughout this essay, as he himself says [165], words are not enough: Why doesn't the Pope order the Christians of the world to feed the hungry of the world?  Isn't that what Jesus commands us, at least as clearly as all the things that the Pope does spend so much time requiring Christians to tow the official line about?

 

The Pope talks the talk, as all the quotations in this essay show.  But where is he walking the walk full-time, where is his injunctive ferocity to do something about implementing Matthew 25 now?

 

Here's what Pope John Paul II wrote about the Church's own obligations:

 

[P]art of the teaching and most ancient practice of the Church is her conviction that she is obliged by her vocation she herself, her ministers and each of her members to relieve the misery of the suffering, both far and near, not only out of her "abundance" but also out of her "necessities". Faced by cases of need, one cannot ignore them in favor of superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary it could be obligatory to sell these goods in order to provide food, drink, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

I haven't noticed any selling off of the Vatican jewels, have you?

 

Why don't we just do what is required of  us?

 

The problem is, good intentions are legion, but follow-up is rare. Take the recently much-reported "conversion" of then-Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. Chatting with reporters on the last night of his 2002 trip to Africa with rock star Bono, O'Neill suggested that he was returning home a changed man:

 

"If you didn't learn something, you're a piece of wood or something," he said.

 

Having started the trip convinced that a half-century of aid to the developing world had produced little in the way of results, Mr. O'Neill finished it saying there could no longer be any excuse for failure to address the basic needs of the world's poorest people, especially for clean water.

 

"If we approached it in the same way we did the need to beat fascism in the Second World War, in two or three years' period of time, we could bring clean water to all of those people," Mr. O'Neill proclaimed.

 

To which his traveling companion, the rock star and social activist Bono, replied: "I like that kind of talk."

 

Bono also noted a need to ensure that development aid makes a measurable difference in the world's neediest populations.

 

"We're going to lose millions of lives unless there's a significant jump in aid from the United States and Europe ," Bono said, turning to Mr. O'Neill. "The only reason people won't be prepared to make that jump with us is actually the reason why this man is the right man for the job: They need to believe the money will get to the people, and I think he's the best insurance policy I've ever met that the money will be well spent."

 

But what kind of follow-up was there by O'Neill, once he got back to high-tech, comfortable Washington, D.C. ? Didn't seem like much, and unfortunately, Right-Wing-Pseudo-Christian-in-Chief George W. Bush fired him not long thereafter. We'll have to wait and see what O'Neill does as a private citizen to show he's not "a piece of wood or something."

 

Sometimes people talk big after their greatest opportunity to help has passed. For example there is Bill Clinton, who recently pontificated that we have an absolute moral obligation to treat everyone in the world with AIDS with the high tech drugs that can save, or at least significantly prolong, their lives. I somehow don't remember such a line item being in any budget Mr. Clinton submitted to Congress when he was President.

 

As noted earlier, the ancient Jesse Helms has gotten some religion lately about helping those with AIDS; for some, facing one's final destination apparently beneficially focuses the mind.

 

Maybe repeated contact with the true poor of the earth, and/or advancing age, should be mandatory requirements for holding elective office.

 

Or maybe we humans are just not at that stage of spiritual evolution where we can even begin to act in accordance with Matthew 25.

 

Even if your interpretation of Matthew 25 is correct, who are you to condemn people to Hell?  Who appointed you God

 

I am not condemning anyone.  I am saying their own scripture condemns them.

 

They -- right-wing pseudo-Christians -- condemn me to Hell simply because I don’t believe what they believe.  In other words, they say I’m going to Hell because I don’t accept Jesus as my savior.  

 

In contrast, I’m merely pointing out that the explicit terms of what they say they believe condemns them to Hell for their actions.  This is the standard they have set up to judge themselves.  In other words, I’m just pointing out how their own rules apply to themselves, which they don’t seem to want to do.   

 

If right-wing pseudo-Christians claim that the no-Jesus-as-savior path to Hell is valid as to me, then the violate-Matthew-25 path to Hell has to be valid as to them.

 

Ultimately, it’s their God who says these right wing pseudo-Christians will go to Hell, not me. [166]

 

Well, then, who the heck are you to be the one writing this?

 

I believe Jesus was a spiritually enlightened being.  But since I don’t believe in the existence of an ontologically-other “God,” by definition I don’t think of Jesus as being the literal son of God, born of a virgin impregnated through immaculate conception.

 

Likewise, I’m not sure there will be a "Jesus" sorting the nations at some future time.

 

But I do know that Matthew 25 sets forth a spiritual truth about how we will all be ultimately judged, in whatever fashion that judgment takes place.  It sets forth a bedrock moral and spiritual guide for our interactions with our fellow humans.  How can anyone deny that Matthew 25 is an eschatological embodiment of the universal rule of human interaction, the Golden Rule?

 

For all I know, Christian theology is true.  In that case, I’m just interpreting the plain words of a seminal passage and applying it to those who believe these words are directly from God and claim to live by them.

 

-Isms

 

I don't have a particular "-ism" I'm in love with, that I want to push on people, to get everybody to go along with to guide their society's actions.  Capitalism, socialism, communism, liberalism, conservatism – I don't care.  In many cases private enterprise could do a better job than government in Matthew 25-type areas of endeavor.

 

I just look at results on the ground, at the flesh & blood level.  Is there now more suffering or less suffering?  More well-being or less well-being?

 

Concern for the suffering, especially the hungry, first grabbed hold of me when I was in 4th grade.  I asked my teacher, if we had a food surplus, like the butter and other food items they loaded up our school lunch trays with, why are people starving to death elsewhere in the world?  Why don't we just give them the food?  The teacher had no ready answer and said she'd check.

 

The next day I asked what her answer was.  She explained that to give away surplus food would drive the price down, blah blah blah.  Even as a 10 year old I said to myself, "That's a stupid answer.  The starving person wasn't going to buy any food anyway.  But if the starving person lives, they could very well recover to buy food later."  It was an excuse.  You can always find an excuse not to do the right thing.

 

But who was I to challenge the teacher, and since moral concerns were not that pressing to me at the time, I let it drop.

 

Looking back now on this episode, I apparently understood the ultimate truth of Matthew 25 without ever having read it!

 

So I don't think I'm such an inappropriate person to have written this essay.

 

How can someone who admits he's not even a believer in Christian theology lecture others on what the Bible means?

 

Well, besides not believing in Christian theology, I'm also no paragon of virtue.  I'm an admittedly deeply flawed messenger.

 

But let's say you're crossing the street and someone screams "Watch out!"  You know that the person warning you is against SUV's and automobiles in general, and promotes using bicycles and mass transit to commute to work.  Even though you disagree with that person, you'd certainly still immediately look to see if a car is about to hit you, because of the severe consequences if that person's warning is correct.  I'm giving you a similar warning, that you're about to be hit by a veritable theological freight train.  It doesn't and shouldn't matter if I don't believe in the divine origin of the words like you do.  The words I've written are true because they're true, not because it's me who has written them.

 

In short: just consider the truth of the words I write, not their source.

 

Well, I don't have anything else to ask you.  I'm not sure I'm completely convinced you're right, but you've sure given me a lot to think about.

 

Ok, keep an open mind and maybe reread this entire essay in a day or two.  There's a whole lot in here to digest! [167]

 

And let me briefly add just one more thing: I mis-titled this essay.  It shouldn’t be "What Would Jesus Do?" and "Jesus Would Send..."  After reading this essay, perhaps you will agree with me that the title should really be "What Will Jesus Do" and "Jesus Will Send…"  Yes, Jesus Will Send All These Right-Wing Pseudo-Christians Straight to Hell (and likely the rest of us with them).

 

 

INDEX OF QUESTIONS

 

What on earth are you talking about?. 1

Again, what are you talking about?  Jesus never says anything about any conservatives or, as you call them, "right-wingers." 1

How do you know how much conservative Christians give to charity?  Many I know are quite generous. 1

Oh c'mon, this passage from Matthew only applies to acts of individual charity. 1

Even if Matthew 25 requires going beyond individual charity, conservative Christians have plans to help the poor, and that certainly satisfies the injunction in Matthew 25. 5

Aren't you doing just what Sean Hannity says, claiming conservatives want to hurt kids and old people?. 8

Come to think of it, what about the fact that conservatives don't just have less comprehensive plans or even no plans at all, but they actually oppose and block the efforts of others who do have workable, full solutions?. 9

Not so fast.  Jesus didn't say have a government program to feed the hungry. 10

The government is inefficient, and always screws things up. 12

If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion then every professed Christian must endeavor to have a centralized government  meet the needs of everybody.  Centralized governments undertaking the role of your father are proven failures.  Ever growing government frankly is not sustainable. 13

The best situation for the Christian to meet the needs of the poor is the free market. 13

Your leftist ways do not require the poor to make an effort, your leftist ways breed dependence on government. 15

Matthew 25:31-46 was not meant to call upon the government to force people to give. 15

If a law forces people to give something they truly in their hearts don't want to give in the first place, that type of giving is simply a dead work which God hates.

We're not responsible for the whole world, just those who we encounter in our daily activities. 16

If you don't work you don't eat.  That's what it says. 19

So you're saying that Jesus would be a socialist if he came back today?. 21

Even if what you've said so far is correct, the only way to get to Heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior.  Works alone don't cut it. 23

Your arguments about what Matthew 25 means and what it requires of us may be logical, but they just don't accord with the teachings of the Church. 24

You quote the Pope a lot.  Who cares what religious leaders think?. 25

Alright, let's assume for the sake of argument that your analysis of Matthew 25 is correct.  What kind of things are we talking about doing?. 25

What do you make of the fact that right-wing Christians go out of their way to call themselves "compassionate conservatives," and claim that they are the ones who are truly interested in, and able to, help the poor?. 32

You seem to single out Sean Hannity quite a bit. 36

OK, so according to you, all the right-wing Christians go to Hell, and all the wonderful liberals go to Heaven?. 41

Why are you saying that liberals and other progressives violate Matthew 25?  They are the ones considered to be on the side of the poor and disenfranchised. 41

What about non-Catholic Christians?. 43

What about other religions? Jews? Muslims? Hindus? Buddhists?  Aren't you just Christian-bashing?. 44

I don't hear many religious leaders preaching this uncompromising version of Matthew 25. 49

Why don't we just do what is required of  us?. 51

Even if your interpretation of Matthew 25 is correct, who are you to condemn people to Hell?  Who appointed you God?. 52

Well, then, who the heck are you to be the one writing this?. 52

How can someone who admits he's not even a believer in Christian theology lecture others on what the Bible means?. 53

Well, I don't have anything else to ask you.  I'm not sure I'm completely convinced you're right, but you've sure given me a lot to think about. 53

 

 
ENDNOTES



[1]  If you're non-Christian, see this discussion as to why this passage from Matthew is still worth serious consideration.  Those of the Jewish faith will be particularly interested in the Old Testament passages which express quite similar thoughts.

 

For those unfamiliar with the prefix "pseudo":

 

A combining form or prefix signifying false, counterfeit, pretended, spurious; as, pseudo-apostle, a false apostle; pseudo-clergy, false or spurious clergy; pseudo-episcopacy, pseudo-form, pseudo-martyr, pseudo-philosopher. Also used adjectively. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=pseudo

 

[2]  All Biblical translations, unless otherwise noted, are from the Revised Standard Version.  The "[other translations]" link after each cited passage compares the RSV translation with four others: the King James, American Standard Version, Young's Literal Translation and New American Standard.  I chose the RSV to display in the text because of what I consider its greater readability.  Readers of this essay will see that by and large any differences among the translations do not affect the interpretations I give to the RSV version of each passage.  The few instances where translation differences from the RSV lend a somewhat different meaning, are balanced by the times when a non-RSV translation bolstered my point but the RSV did not, and so the passage was not included at all in the essay.

 

[3]  From time to time in this essay I will include actual email, unedited, that this site has received.   

 

One of the most frequent assertions of writers to this site is that Matthew 25 applies only to individual acts of charity.  For example:                  

 

I think that Matthew 25:32-46, in addition to the "Sermon on the Mount", was meant for people (individuals) in an attempt to encourage them to give (out of thier own frell will).  It was not to call upon the governmnet to force people to give.

 

Another:

 

There are really too many things to address in your little diatribe, but I did want to mention that, while Jesus did say a lot about compassion and making sure the hungry get fed, etc., He also never said that the GOVERNMENT should make that choice for people by redistributing their wealth in the form of taxes.  It is an individual decision.  I find it curious that liberals, most of whom have no problem excluding Christianity and God from government (witness the 9th Circuit's decision on the Pledge of Allegiance), have no problem trotting Jesus out to justify their big-government agenda.  Talk about hypocritical! 

 

And another:

 

I could have told you before I read a word exactly what you were going to say.  You have no idea the scripture last time i checked said nothing about government taking care of the poor it is about the individual making a choice.  It is difficult for me to even sit here and write this because knowing you are a liberal i can only assume that you are as closed minded as all other liberals so arguing a point does little or no good.  Now if Mr. Hannity said that he believes that scripture and as an individual never helps someone in need, then you would have an argument. what you want is for the government to take care of everyone, and as nice as that sounds it doesn't work, in the end you can argue this till your blue in the face but if you were to write down what your ideal government would look like i would bet everything i own it looks exactly the same as the communist mannefesto.  It's fine if you want to bel!
ieve the way you want to, but you are wrong and it will not work.  One more thing, why is it you suppose that the only way liberals can get elected is to lie, or at the very least distort the truth.  That is truth any you can be mad about it and you can say both sides do it, but they do not ive never heard a conservative lie about wanting smaller government. 

 

Yet another:

 

I think you confirmed what I always have suspected about liberals.  In your aversion to anything religious, you have a nagging fear that there really may be a God and that what the Bible says might really be true. To cover this base, you remake biblical concepts in your own image as government programs and not as God commanded and hope that you will get partial credit if there turns out to be a judgment day after all. Having compassion for the poor and needy is a good thing.  The Bible says we will be blessed if we willingly part of our substance for the uplifting of the downtrodden. Advocating government programs and the forced collection of taxes for the purpose of doing good is not the same as what is commanded in Matthew 25. There are no blessings that flow to an individual from paying taxes other than staying out of jail.  There are no blessings that flow to an individual that advocates the government should do this or that on behalf of the poor. The Bible is a collection of scripture that forms the basis for individual action and salvation.  Individual behavior gets judged not groups or governments.  Whether or not a government entity relieves suffering is not in the equation.  It is for this reason that taxing for the purpose of relieving poverty is so wrong headed, because it subverts the intent of the commandment.  Not only do you or I get no blessings from the taxes we pay, it limits my ability to contribute for this purpose. Ideally, the government would act to facilitate and encourage private giving.

 

I think it is somewhat hypocritical of you to judge the content of Sean Hannity's heart through the lens of your own distortion of biblical concepts.  And of course we know what the Bible says about unrighteous and hypocritical judgment

 

The issue of the necessity and appropriateness -- or not -- of governmental action in furtherance of Matthew 25 is addressed elsewhere in this essay.  As is made clear again and again, this essay does not say that government solutions are required.

 

The above email messages, as well as others presented later, were sent to this site in response to a few paragraphs in an article about Sean Hannity.  These paragraphs, which discussed Matthew 25:31-46, formed the seed idea for this essay and are incorporated later in the text.

 

[4]  Or for such destruction to be threatened:

 

Jeremiah 7:3-7

3. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.' 5. "For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6. if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7. then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever. [other translations]

 

[5] Also:

 

Isaiah 3:14-15

14. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: "It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?" says the Lord God of hosts. [other translations]

 

Micah 3:9-11

9. Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10. who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong. 11. Its heads give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, "Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us." [other translations]

 

cf. 2 Kings 21:10-13

10. And the Lord said by his servants the prophets, 11. "Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations, and has done things more wicked than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols; 12. therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle. 13. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of
Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. [other translations]

 

In this present time of U.S. "first strike" policy, it is of note that the condemned injustice by the government is often accomplished by war:

 

Hosea 10:13-15

13. You have plowed iniquity, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your chariots and in the multitude of your warriors, 14. therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Betharbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15. Thus it shall be done to you, O house of Israel, because of your great wickedness. In the storm the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off. [other translations]

 

Amos 6:12-14

12. Do horses run upon rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood -- 13. you who rejoice in Lodebar, who say, "Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?" 14. "For behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel," says the Lord, the God of hosts; "and they shall oppress you from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of the Arabah." [other translations]

 

Habakkuk 1-1-17

1. The oracle of God which Habakkuk the prophet saw. 2. O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Or cry to thee "Violence!" and thou wilt not save? 3. Why dost thou make me see wrongs and look upon trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4. So the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted. 5. Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. 6. For lo, I am rousing the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize habitations not their own. 7. Dread and terrible are they; their justice and dignity proceed from themselves. 8. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Yea, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. 9. They all come for violence; terror of them goes before them. They gather captives like sand. 10. At kings they scoff, and of rulers they make sport. They laugh at every fortress, for they heap up earth and take it. 11. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god! 12. Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them as a judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established them for chastisement. 13. Thou who art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on wrong, why dost thou look on faithless men, and art silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? 14. For thou makest men like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. 15. He brings all of them up with a hook, he drags them out with his net, he gathers them in his seine; so he rejoices and exults. 16. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his seine; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. 17. Is he then to keep on emptying his net, and mercilessly slaying nations for ever? [other translations]

 

How eerily close are verses 16-17 to a description of the contemporary U.S.: as the wealthiest nation on earth we are living "in luxury;" fatty, "rich food" has led to obesity becoming the norm; and there seems to be a never-ending stream of Third World nations we have been "mercilessly slaying" "for ever," both through (1) bloody open war or covert intervention – e.g., Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Congo 1960, Vietnam 1963-1975, Chile 1973, Nicaragua 1912-34 and 1980's, and many others, and (2) "non-violent" but-no-less-deadly-in-its-results manipulation of the world financial system (think World Bank, IMF, GATT, WTO) to aggrandize unto ourselves a greater and greater disproportionate share of the world's income and wealth.

 

cf. Habakkuk 2:5-11

5. Moreover, wine is treacherous; the arrogant man shall not abide. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations, and collects as his own all peoples." 6. Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, in scoffing derision of him, and say, "Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own -- for how long? -- and loads himself with pledges!" 7. Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be booty for them. 8. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of men and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell therein. 9. Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! 10. You have devised shame to your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. 11. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond. [other translations]

 

As will be discussed later in other contexts, it should be noted that the Bible makes clear by striking metaphor that the government has an affirmative duty to help the disadvantaged:

 

Zechariah 11:15-17

15. Then the Lord said to me, "Take once more the implements of a worthless shepherd. 16. For lo, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the sound, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. 17. Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword smite his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!" [other translations]

 

Ezekiel 34:1-4

1. The word of the Lord came to me: 2. "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3. You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. [other translations]

 

[6]  It is perhaps worth noting here that even if this conclusion is rejected by the more recalcitrant of the right-wing pseudo-Christians, it does not help them, since they fail even on the individual charity standard, as discussed later in this essay.

 

[7] This passage is from "Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year)," Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II, 1991, which marked the hundredth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (New Things):

 

By defining the nature of the socialism of his day as the suppression of private property, Leo XIII arrived at the crux of the problem.

His words deserve to be reread attentively: "To remedy these wrongs [the unjust distribution of wealth and the poverty of the workers], the socialists encourage the poor man's envy of the rich and strive to do away with private property, contending that individual possessions should become the common property of all...; but their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that, were they carried into effect, the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are moreover emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community."[39] The evils caused by the setting up of this type of socialism as a state system--what would later be called "Real Socialism"--could not be better expressed."

 

Other Papal documents that will be cited in this essay are:

 

Quadragesimo Anno (The Fortieth Year ), Encyclical On Reconstruction of the Social Order,
Pius XI, 1931

 

Populorum Progresio (On the Development of Peoples), Encyclical Letter, Pope Paul VI, 1967

 

Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), Encyclical on Human Work , Pope John Paul II, 1981

 

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), Encyclical Letter, Pope John Paul II, 1987

 

Ecclesia in America (The Church in America), post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation,  Pope John Paul II, 1999

 

All footnotes in the cited passages have been omitted.

 

[8] 

In recent years the range of [government] intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of state, the so-called "Welfare State." This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the "Social Assistance State." Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State....  By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. Centesimus Annus

 

[9]  Additional reaffirmations:

 

The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good... The Church in America is called... to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization. Ecclesia in America

 

It will not be superfluous… to re-examine and further clarify in this light the characteristic themes and guidelines dealt with by the Magisterium in recent years.

Here I would like to indicate one of them: the option or love of preference for the poor. This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods... Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters, for its part the fruit of conversion, leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being. "Solidarity is thus the fruit of the communion which is grounded in the mystery of the triune God, and in the Son of God who took flesh and died for all. It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need"....  [t]his is the source of a commitment to reciprocal solidarity and the sharing of the spiritual gifts and material goods with which God has blessed them...  [a] culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast... Ecclesia in America

 

cf.:

The Gospel text concerning the final judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46), which states that we will be judged on our love towards the needy in whom the Lord Jesus is mysteriously present, indicates that we must not neglect a third place of encounter with Christ: "the persons, especially the poor, with whom Christ identifies himself"...   At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI recalled that "on the face of every human being, especially when marked by tears and sufferings, we can and must see the face of Christ (cf. Mt 25:40), the Son of Man". Ecclesia in America

 

[10] Also:

 

[T]he option or love of preference for the poor…affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods... Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25 :40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice... Justice...is not merely a matter of "giving from one's surplus," but of helping entire peoples which are presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development...[I]t requires... a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies… Centesimus Annus

 

The passage directly following is from a section entitled "The social dimension of conversion":

 

[C]onversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of the Christian life and if we do not strive to meet them… Hence, for the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise "all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good"... Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful. Ecclesia in America

 

In reference to the next two passages, note that the Pope uses the term "development of peoples" in connection with the necessity to help the poor on an international level:

 

The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty, and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual. It is an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately, after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Even the Church must be directly involved in this greater-than-individual-charity effort:

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

[11]  Here and throughout this essay, please note that I do not cite the Pope's writings about any particular socio-economic issue as evidence of the validity of his analysis of that issue – although I do believe that his various analyses I cite are valid – but rather, for the proposition that his analyses determine what Matthew 25 requires of Catholics. 

 

Also, I suggest that in the context of this essay's discussion of Matthew 25, we can put aside the doctrinal/theological disputes between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. The Pope's analysis of Matthew 25 can and should be used as a benchmark by all Christians to understand what Matthew 25 requires of those who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus.  As to the relevancy of Matthew 25 to non-Christians, see this discussion.

 

[12] Also:

 

[T]he poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

[O]ne must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

cf.:

 

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Indeed, as I wrote elsewhere:

 

The wealthy set up the financial structures, and they don't set them up in a manner that will cause themselves to become poorer relative to everyone else.  Quite the contrary.

 

The wealthy became wealthy by devoting their time, intelligence and resources to amassing wealth.  In a game where they make the rules, the rules will favor them, and indeed will serve to enhance their position -- that is, increase their wealth relative to others.

 

This is only common sense, and in accordance with human nature.

 

[13]  Those who have heretofore believed that charity alone is sufficient to remove injustice would do well to ponder the following:

 

A man is walking along a river bank. He sees a baby drowning. He dives in and saves the baby.

 

As soon as he starts walking again, the man sees another baby drowning. He jumps in the water and saves that baby. Then before he can get out of the water, he sees yet a third drowning baby, and saves that baby as well.

 

Suddenly, the man begins to see more and more babies drowning, and promises himself that he'll do his utmost to save them all.

 

Pretty soon the man is so busy saving drowning babies, that he doesn't notice the man upstream who is throwing the babies into the water.

 

This is my wording of a widely told parable among those who work in solidarity with Third World peoples struggling for human rights and economic justice.

 

[14]  Also:

 

Obviously, not only individuals fall victim to this double attitude of sin; nations and blocs can do so too. And this favors even more the introduction of the "structures of sin" of which I have spoken... I have wished to introduce this type of analysis above all in order to point out the true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to "structures of sin." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[W]hat is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and "structures of sin" are only conquered--presupposing the help of divine grace--by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to "lose oneself" for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to "serve him" instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage… Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[15]  The Golden Calf of market worship is discussed in more detail elsewhere in this essay.

 

[16]  In starkest terms, right-wing pseudo-Christian ideology tells us in "trickle-down economics" that we shouldn't help the poor directly.  What we should do instead is, take measures to make right-wing pseudo-Christians and all their friends more wealthy than they already are, and that will help the poor!

 

[17]  Also:

 

When interdependence becomes recognized... the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue", is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. This determination is based on the solid conviction that what is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and "structures of sin" are only conquered--presupposing the help of divine grace--by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to "lose oneself" for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to "serve him" instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage (cf. Mt 10:40-42; 20: 25; Mk 10: 42-45; Lk 22: 25-27). Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

There is no justification then for despair or pessimism or inertia... We are all called, indeed obliged, to face the tremendous challenge of the last decade of the second Millennium... [a] greater responsibility rests on those who have more and can do more. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he Church's social teaching has an... experiential dimension... which is to be found at the crossroads where Christian life and conscience come into contact with the real world. This teaching is seen in the efforts of individuals, families, people involved in cultural and social life, as well as politicians and statesmen to give it a concrete form and application in history. Centesimus Annus

 

The old saying often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind: "Preach the Gospel every day; if necessary, use words."

 

[18]  We can easily dismiss the phony right-wing pseudo-Christian line "throwing money at a problem doesn't solve it."  Apparently that rule only applies to problems that right-wing pseudo-Christians don't want to solve.  Problems they do want to address – e.g., what they claim to be inadequate military strength, or their desire to prevent people from using any recreational drugs other than those right-wing pseudo-Christians approve of, or bailouts for favored corporations – these problems somehow will be solved by "throwing" massive sums of money at them.

 

[19]  A perfect example of a right-wing pseudo-Christian "solution" that violates every aspect of the EAS standard is education vouchers as the answer to failing public schools.

 

There are only enough places in well-run private schools for a tiny percentage -- 3% maybe? -- of public school students.  What about the other 97% of children who would be left behind in the inadequate public schools?

 

The vague hope that "competition" will cause the public schools to perform better is not a concrete plan, but a hope. 

 

And even that hope is dubious, since the money given to the already-well-funded private schools in the form of vouchers, takes that much money away from the public schools, which will have even less resources than they already do to provide a decent education to their students.

 

And if the argument is that private schools will expand their capacity as more and more students from failing public schools clamor for vouchers to attend the private schools, why go through the charade?  Just hire a bunch of private school entrepreneurs to take over the public system. Oh wait, we already tried that.  Remember Edison and its high hopes?

 

[20]  And whatever proposals they do offer must be scrutinized very closely for the hidden catch.  For example, a favorite type of right-wing pseudo-Christian deception is the fatal shell game, utilized by George W. Bush in his plan to increase funding for global AIDS treatment.

 

Mr. Bush has also found part of the money for his AIDS programs by cutting nearly $500 million from child health, including vaccine programs. Child survival is the biggest loser in the foreign aid budget — a scandalous way to finance AIDS initiatives.

 

Bushian help for the suffering equals rob Peter to pay Paul. More accurately in this instance: kill children to save their parents.

 

[21]  I use Sean Hannity as the poster child for right-wing pseudo-Christians because he often brings up his Catholic faith as the basis for his views, and, I'm most familiar with him.  Whatever I say about Sean Hannity can, I would venture to say, also be applied to most other right-wing pseudo-Christians.

 

[22]  See the discussion elsewhere in this essay about how the Bible itself demonizes those like Hannity.

 

[23]

Luke 16:19-31

19. "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21. who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23. and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. 24. And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25. But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27. And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, 28. for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29. But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30. And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31. He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'" [other translations]

 

[24] 

Luke 10:25-37

25. And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26. He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" 27. And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28. And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." 29. But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30. Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34. and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 36. Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37. He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." [other translations]

 

[25]   With the ascendancy of George W. Bush to the presidency, he and the other right-wing pseudo-Christians, never having been content to merely oppose and destroy government programs one at a time without offering anything in their place, now have the goal of an all-at-once, wholesale destruction of government efforts to help the "least of these."  In effect, they don't want to tackle and restrain the good Samaritans one by one, they want to disable them all in one fell swoop.  The method?  Massive tax cuts creating such huge deficits that existing government programs are decimated to the point of collapse, with no possibility of any newly needed programs being enacted.

 

[26]  Also:

 

[T]he Church's social teaching has an... experiential dimension... which is to be found at the crossroads where Christian life and conscience come into contact with the real world. This teaching is seen in the efforts of individuals, families, people involved in cultural and social life, as well as politicians and statesmen to give it a concrete form and application in history. Centesimus Annus

 

[27]  Also:

 

The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty, and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual. It is an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. Ecclesia in America

 

In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations." Ecclesia in America

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately, after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[28]  This is an excerpt from a not atypical email comment sent to this website.  The entire message reads as follows:

 

Your position is that Sean has to support National health care or that he somehow is shirking his faith.  This is so typical of leftist nonsense.  If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion then every professed christian must endeavor to have a centrallized government  meet the need of everybody.  There's only one small problem with this position ---  no government cannot meet this goal.  Centralized governments undertaking the role of your father are proven failures.  Instead, the best situation for the Christian to meet the needs of the poor is the free market where the poor make an equal effort to help themselves.  Your leftist ways do not require the poor to make an effort, your leftist ways breed dependence on government and ever growing government which frankly is not sustainable.

 

Another writer goes even further, arguing that not only should the government not help the poor, but that over half of what our government does is illegal under the Constitution:

 

Your commentary speaks to Sean's hard hearted approach to issues like the living wage and you say that this is not Christian base on Matthew 25.  I think that you, and probably all other liberals, are totally missing the point.  There is a huge difference between what the government should do and what we as private citizens should do.  Certainly as private, Christian citizens we should reach out and help the less fortunate, but should the government?  I think not!  We have a guide by which this country is run and it is called the constitution.  I've read it, have you?  No where does it call for the government to FORCE business to pay a living wage --- it simply isn't there.  I will further argue that more than half of what our government does is illegal based on the the constitution.  When the government forces a business to pay a specific wage that is socialism and wealth redistribution.  If that is what you want then move 90 miles south to Cuba or north to Canada.!
  It is not an American value; never has been and never will be.   And don't ague with your emotions, show me where it is called out in the constitution.

 

This of course raises a totally different, far right-wing issue of what the "general welfare" clause of the Constitution allows.  This issue is beyond the scope of this essay, and not even really germane: since the courts have interpreted that clause to allow for the government to be involved in assisting those unable to care for themselves, that's all that's relevant for purposes of discussing what Matthew 25 calls for.

 

In other words, we need to separate two distinct issues.  One is the constitutionally permissible role of government.  The other is the meaning of Matthew 25.  If someone believes the government can only perform functions like defending our country with a military force, then obviously they would argue that Matthew 25 can not mean that the government has a proper role in helping to correct injustices to help the poor.  But that's not interpreting Matthew 25, it is applying the anti-government philosophy to Matthew 25.  The topic of this essay is the meaning of Matthew 25.

 

And the Biblical antecedents and church teachings discussed in the text make clear that Matthew 25 requires a government role if that role is necessary to effectuate the Matthew 25 mandate.

 

So, if Matthew 25 requires a government intervention to help "the least of these," then the right-wing pseudo-Christians who hide behind a narrow interpretation of the "promote the general welfare" clause must either embrace and advocate for a broad definition of that clause, or work diligently to change the Constitution to establish such a broad mandate for the federal government.

 

Of course, state governments could, if necessary, also be a vehicle for Matthew 25 efforts if government-level intervention is required.

 

It should finally be noted that Matthew 25 was not just written for Americans (however supremely applicable it may be to us right now!), so it's particularly ludicrous to try to limit the scope of Matthew 25 because of a (assuming the narrow "general welfare" clause advocates are correct) particularly American limitation on the national government's role.

 

[29] The entire email from which this statement was taken reads as follows:

 

Your position is that Sean has to support National health care or that he somehow is shirking his faith.  This is so typical of leftist nonsense.  If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion then every professed christian must endeavor to have a centrallized government  meet the need of everybody.  There's only one small problem with this position ---  no government cannot meet this goal.  Centralized governments undertaking the role of your father are proven failures.  Instead, the best situation for the Christian to meet the needs of the poor is the free market where the poor make an equal effort to help themselves.  Your leftist ways do not require the poor to make an effort, your leftist ways breed dependence on government and ever growing government which frankly is not sustainable.

 

The writer's demand that "the poor make an equal effort to help themselves" and his decrying "dependence on government" are discussed elsewhere.

 

[30]  Also:

 

More and more, in many countries of America, a system known as "neoliberalism" prevails; based on a purely economic conception of man, this system considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples. At times this system has become the ideological justification for certain attitudes and behavior in the social and political spheres leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society. Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development. Just as within individual societies it is possible and right to organize a solid economy which will direct the functioning of the market to the common good, so too there is a similar need for adequate interventions on the international level... [t]o accomplish this, the poor--be they individuals or nations--need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies... This may mean making important changes in established lifestyles... Centesimus Annus

 

[32]  Also:

 

It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal." Ecclesia in America

 

cf.:

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Indeed, as I wrote elsewhere:

 

The wealthy set up the financial structures, and they don't set them up in a manner that will cause themselves to become poorer relative to everyone else.  Quite the contrary.

The wealthy became wealthy by devoting their time, intelligence and resources to amassing wealth.  In a game where they make the rules, the rules will favor them, and indeed will serve to enhance their position -- that is, increase their wealth relative to others.

This is only common sense, and in accordance with human nature.

 

[33]  Also:

 

Obviously, not only individuals fall victim to this double attitude of sin; nations and blocs can do so too. And this favors even more the introduction of the "structures of sin" of which I have spoken... I have wished to introduce this type of analysis above all in order to point out the true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to "structures of sin." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[W]hat is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and "structures of sin" are only conquered--presupposing the help of divine grace--by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to "lose oneself" for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to "serve him" instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage… Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[34]  Also:

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[35]  Elsewhere in this essay I address the unfortunate lock-step tendency of right-wing pseudo-Christians to dismissively label all discussion of social/economic justice as "leftist" or "communist."

 

[36]  The question is an excerpt from an email to this site.  See this footnote for the writer's complete email.

 

[37]  This is a somewhat abridged and grammatically cleaned up version of an email comment sent to this site.  The entire message read as follows:

 

I think that Matthew 25:32-46, in addition to the "Sermon on the Mount", was meant for people (individuals) in an attempt to encourage them to give (out of thier own frell will).  It was not to call upon the governmnet to force people to give.

 

[38]  Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, Mark Twain said:

 

Why is it right that there is not a fairer division of the spoil all around? Because laws and constitutions have ordered otherwise. Then it follows that laws and constitutions should change around and say there shall be a more nearly equal division.

 

[38a] This question was taken from an online bulletin board that was discussing this essay.  The message is too long to reproduce in full, but here is the relevant portion:

 

Everything in the New Testament is based upon our acts of "charity". Our state of heart and mind to give freely of ourselves to others is more important to the Lord than anything else. If it's not given freely and from the heart, then it's no good at all. If the liberal agenda succeeds, this will only mean that people won't be giving freely...they will be forced to give something that they didn't want to give in the first place. It works opposite the free capitalist (you work for living and enjoy the fruits of your labor and then give to the poor out of our willingness to give. We are judged on willingness to give. That’s the only *kind of giving and charity that God honors anyway.

"The poor will always be with us" Jesus said. We're instructed as to just how we should give in the spirit of the Lord.

 

What this moron is trying to say is that unless there's a *law made to force people* to give something they truly in their hearts don't want to give in the first place, that God is going to judge the nation for it's uncharitable laws...I guess he just didn't understand that without a willing heart and mind...Charity is not charity and giving is simply a dead work which God hates. Duhhhhhh.

[T]his would mean "enslaving" people to do a work. Just as the Egyptians did to the Israelites in the OT. It's a commie leftist agenda...

 

[39] This right-wing pseudo-Christian attempt to limit the scope of Matthew 25 responsibilities is disingenuous – actually, it rises to the level of being extremely obnoxious -- for another reason: right-wing pseudo-Christians don't even take care of Matthew 25 responsibilities for those they do see every day in person, e.g., the homeless and all the others in need of Matthew 25 assistance right in their own cities and towns.  If right-wing pseudo-Christians were taking care of these local responsibilities, at least they could say with a straight face, we're doing so much already, our resources are not enough, etc.  True, these would be false excuses, but at least right-wing pseudo-Christians wouldn't be obnoxiously complaining about an attempt to expand the scope of their Matthew 25 responsibilities, while at the same time failing to fulfill even those limited responsibilities they admit to.

 

[40]  Every day, 365 days a year, 30,000 children around the world under the age of five die needlessly from preventable/treatable diseases, over half involving malnutrition as a cause of death.  That is 11,000,000 children a year.  The right-wing pseudo-Christians who rant and rave about the lazy poor, who have the nerve to say "if you don't work you don't eat," might be asked if their bile applies to these helpless children.

 

[41]  Pope John Paul II has written:

 

There is no justification then for despair or pessimism or inertia... We are all called, indeed obliged, to face the tremendous challenge of the last decade of the second Millennium... [a] greater responsibility rests on those who have more and can do more. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[42]  It is may not be much of an exaggeration to say that "[a]t least until the last century or two, virtually every philosophy and religion… assumed that poverty, hunger, disease and early death were the inevitable lot of most human beings." Mountain Record, Spring 2001.

 

[43]  Even if half the people on earth were 160 lb men doing moderately heavy work and half were 139 lb women doing moderately heavy work, 2788 calories would be their average requirements.  Since many men and women weigh less than these figures and are not doing heavy work, and since a large portion of the world's population is children who have far lower caloric needs, caloric availability is far greater than required to adequately feed the world.

 

Those particularly interested in this topic of food availability may want to check this link, which contains an interactive calculating chart from which you can derive food availability details not only by country, but by types of food, as well as broken down by protein vs. carbohydrates vs. fats.

 

[44]  Plus if we shifted some of the grain fed to animals to feeding people, the surplus caloric availability would be that much greater.

 

[45]  And of course, as I repeat throughout this essay, the means of delivering help does not have be through government.  Micro-loans to impoverished women to start businesses, made by bank-like organizations started for these purposes, have accomplished much in Bangladesh, Mexico and elsewhere.  The key here is, as always, that if right-wing pseudo-Christians oppose the government being involved, they must – to avoid violating Matthew 25 -- present their own Equivalent Alternative Solution which will help at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.  It's not enough for right-wing pseudo-Christians to simply express vague hopes that some of their pet economic theories will produce the desired result.

 

Regarding the $80 billion dollar figure: this number seems to me to be too small to fully accomplish the purposes intended.  Even if an underestimate, however, such a sum would certainly provide Matthew 25-type relief to a significant portion of the world's "least of these."

 

[46]  I know there is no mechanism to collect such a tax.  I'm presenting these numbers simply to point out the immoral, un-Matthew-25-like concentration of the earth's wealth in a few hands.  This skewed distribution of wealth is discussed a bit later in this essay.

 

[47]  "Adjusted gross income" is taxable income.  The Commerce Department, using what has been called "a more comprehensive measure of income," comes up with a 2000 total U.S. personal income figure of  $8.4 trillion, and in 2002 the figure will be just under $9 trillion.  So a 1% surcharge using these Commerce numbers would yield even more than the $80 billion U.N. target figure.

 

[48]  I derived this $27.6 trillion total net worth figure by multiplying the 102.5 million households in 1998 by the mean $270,000 net worth of all households in 1998.  By another government measure, there was even more wealth, about $37 trillion in 1998 and $40 trillion in 2001. (Since this second measurement lumps together households and non-profits, I subtracted about $1 trillion as the non-profits' share in each year's combined figure, which, based on other charts in the linked document, is probably an overcompensation.)  So a ½ of 1% surtax under this second measurement would yield $200 billion.

 

[49]  Compare that $13 billion figure to the $35 billion a year we Americans spend on weight-loss products and programs.  How about we stop stuffing our faces so much, and instead use that $35 billion (plus the money saved on the food we won't have eaten) to nourish the hundreds of millions of Matthew 25 "least of these" who truly need that food?

 

[50]  Does how woefully short we fall reach the level denounced by this spiritual writer?

 

[51]  For a contemporary rewording of the Lazarus passage, see this text.

 

[52]  Also:

 

[P]art of the teaching and most ancient practice of the Church is her conviction that she is obliged by her vocation she herself, her ministers and each of her members to relieve the misery of the suffering, both far and near, not only out of her "abundance" but also out of her "necessities." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[I]t is already possible to point to the positive and moral value of the growing awareness of interdependence among individuals and nations. The fact that men and women in various parts of the world feel personally affected by the injustices and violations of human rights committed in distant countries, countries which perhaps they will never visit, is a further sign of a reality transformed into awareness, thus acquiring a moral connotation.

It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category. When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue", is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations." Ecclesia in America

 

[53] Also:

 

[T]he goods of creation are meant for all. That which human industry produces through the processing of raw materials, with the contribution of work, must serve equally for the good of all.  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he developing countries are much more numerous than the developed ones; the multitudes of human beings who lack the goods and services offered by development are much more numerous than those who possess them. We are therefore faced with a serious problem of unequal distribution of the means of subsistence originally meant for everybody...  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[A]nother name for peace is development... [T]o accomplish this, the poor--be they individuals or nations--need to be provided with realistic opportunities....  This may mean making important changes in established lifestyles, in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources, thus enabling every individual and all the peoples of the earth to have a sufficient share of those resources. Centesimus Annus

 

The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples.  Ecclesia in America

 

The concept that everyone should share in the earth's resources, with none having too much and none having too little, can be found between the lines of this passage from Exodus:

 

Exodus 16:16-21

16. This is what the Lord has commanded: 'Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat; you shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of the persons whom each of you has in his tent.'" 17. And the people of Israel did so; they gathered, some more, some less. 18. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat. 19. And Moses said to them, "Let no man leave any of it till the morning." 20. But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. 21. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. [other translations]

 

To put my own two cents in here, I was pleasantly surprised when reading the Pope's words to discover that without even knowing it, I had been echoing the Church's teachings when I wrote about the concept of "Lifeboat Earth:"

 

In so many ways, Earth is a lifeboat we've all been placed on.  Imagine on a real lifeboat that there are ten people.  One of them nominally "owns" most of  the provisions aboard.  He insists that he'll eat as much as he wants, and doesn't have to share any of it with anybody else.  How long do you think it will be before the only relationship with food that he has is as a tasty meal for a shark?

 

There's not infinite wealth on earth.  If some passengers on the lifeboat have so much that others are without, the over-provisioned ones just have to give some of theirs up!

 

This whole concept of private property is…  an artificial construct of man's imagination. Unless you have a certificate of title from the Creator, no one really can "own" anything other than by the agreement of everyone else that such ownership is valid.  And most of the time, that's fine…

 

But right now we do exclude certain things from being owned.  Humanity wouldn't tolerate it if someone came along and claimed to own the oxygen in the air.  Certain land, such as Antarctica, has been put off limits.

 

[R]idiculous levels of wealth accumulation by individuals should likewise be considered outside the pale, something that simply cannot be tolerated if the majority of mankind has anything to say about it.

 

[54]  To break it down a bit more:

 

Assume a society is composed of 100 people who all work hard and contribute to the common good.  After some time, $100 of wealth has been accumulated.  No one expects that the economic system would divide up the wealth perfectly evenly at $1 apiece, but most of the people assume there is some basic fairness in the economic system.

 

The $100 winds up being divided as follows:

 

1 person gets $38.10

    4 people get $5.32 each

    5 people get $2.30 each

  10 people get $1.25 each

      20 people get .60 each

      20 people get .23 each

      40 people get 1/2 cent each

 

This is how our economic system has distributed the wealth of our country.   Note that it is 80% of the people who wind up with the chump change, the .60., .23 or 1/2 cent shares.

 

[55]  With respect to all these statistics about the distribution of global income and wealth, I am well aware – as noted in some of the documents themselves -- of the difficulties inherent in cross-national comparisons. That being said, the global numbers I present here do seem about right.  The solid U.S. statistics indicate that the top 25% of Americans receive 67% of the income, and that the top 20% owns 83% of the wealth.  So the global figures of 25% in the world receiving 75% of the income and the top 20% in the world receiving 86% of the wealth seem eminently reasonable, especially since most people would assume that income and wealth distribution globally is far more unequal than within the U.S.  Surprisingly, the statistics bear that out only to a minimal degree for income, and virtually not at all for wealth.  Very interesting.

 

[56]  Sean Hannity et al act as if the earth's resources are the subject of some frivolous global game of Monopoly where the rules allow you amass and keep as much wealth as possible, and when the losers get wiped out, the only consequences are they get up and leave the table.  No,  it's most definitely not a game of Monopoly.  It's a matter of life and death.  The rules of the game of Monopoly are not the rules the use of the earth's resources are subject to.

 

[57]  Here is the full picture of the increasing income gap in the U.S.:

 

 

Bottom 20%

Second 20%

Middle 20%

Fourth 20%

Top 20%

Top 10%

Top 5%

Top 1%

1979 Income

$10,900

$23,300

$33,800

$44,700

$79,100

$101,200

$132,600

$263,700

1997 Income

$10,800

$24,700

$37,200

$52,200

$121,000

$169,900

$245,900

$677,900

Change

-1%

+6%

+10%

+17%

+53%

+68%

+85%

+157%

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Pathbreaking CBO Study Shows Dramatic Increases in Both 1980s and 1990s in Income Gaps Between The Very Wealthy And Other Americans, May 31, 2001: http://www.cbpp.org/5-31-01tax.htm, and Congressional Budget Office, Effective Federal Tax Rates 1979-97, October 2001: http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=3089&sequence=0

These charts were copied from http://www.inequality.org/facts3fr.html

 

[58]  These statistics are from a U.N. report and use the "purchasing power parity" method of comparison.   By another measure used in an earlier U.N. study., the "exchange rate" standard, the income gap between the 20% of the world’s people living in the richest countries and the 20% in the poorest nations doubled from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 60 to 1 in 1990, and then in seven years increased again to 74 to 1 by 1997.  That same earlier U.N. study indicates that this process of the rich grabbing a larger and larger share of the world's income began long ago: "In the nineteenth century, too, inequality grew rapidly during the last three decades, in an era of rapid global integration: the income gap between the top and bottom countries increased from 3 to 1 in 1820 to 7 to 1 in 1870 and 11 to 1 in 1913."  In order words, what was a ratio of 11 to 1 in 1913 has ballooned to 74 to 1 in 1997.

 

Using the measuring standard of the statistic used in text – purchasing power parity -- the income gap for the top 20% vs. bottom 20% slightly decreased, from 14.9 to 13.1, a 12% drop in 37 years.  While some critics of the anti-globalization movement site this figure to disprove claims that globalization is hurting the world's poor, these critics are disingenuous at best: first, such a slight decrease in inequality over 37 years in a world still full of massive starvation and suffering, is hardly a testament to the current global economic system.  Second, of course, the critics do not want to deal with the top 10% to bottom 10% figure, which has, as noted in the text, increased at more than three times the rate that the top 20% to bottom 20% figure has decreased.

 

[59]  Indeed, this entire discussion about national and global economic fairness could well be summarized in the Eight Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

 

An "aphorism"  is defined as:

 

1 : a concise statement of a principle
2 : a terse formulation of a truth or
sentiment

 

Viscerally, just about my favorite aphorism consists of these words I heard spoken about her Christian faith by an impoverished but infinitely wise Third World woman:

 

God gave the earth to everyone equally, and if some have too much and some too little, the ones with too much must have stolen it some way.

 

I agree.  It's long past time for all stolen property to be returned to the rightful owners!

 

[60]  Exactly who these hungry are cannot be repeated enough: every day, 365 days a year, 30,000 children around the world under the age of five die needlessly from preventable/treatable diseases, over half involving malnutrition as a cause of the death.  That is 11,000,000 children a year.  Right-wing pseudo-Christians never tire of telling us how much they care about all children, including the "unborn."  As I indicate elsewhere, this essay does not take a position on the issue of abortion.  But given their concern for "all children," one would think that right-wing pseudo-Christians would long ago have presented their concrete plan for saving all these 11,000,000 children a year.  One can only marvel at the sheer gall of those who claim they care so much about "children" not yet born, but give so much less priority to those children already born who are -- as you read this essay -- suffering horrific deaths by starvation: 1,200 each hour, twenty per minute, one every three seconds, on and on and on.

 

[61]  I suspect that many right-wing pseudo-Christians and other conservatives make this charge not because they really think that's whom I'm talking about, but because it gives them a convenient excuse not to think about, and thus not to feel a need to help, the multitudes of truly needy "least of these."

 

[62]   See this discussion of Barbara Ehrenreich's best-seller "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America".

 

[63]  Also:

 

Proverbs 19:7

All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them. [other translations]

 

Ecclesiastes 9:13-16

13. I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14. There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15. But there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded. [other translations]

 

cf. Job 12:5

In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip. [other translations]

 

[64] Also:

 

We are... faced with a serious problem of unequal distribution of the means of subsistence originally meant for everybody, and thus also an unequal distribution of the benefits deriving from them. And this happens not through the fault of the needy people, and even less through a sort of inevitability dependent on natural conditions or circumstances as a whole. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person, who is asking for help in order to survive, not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment. Only such an awareness can give the courage needed to face the risk and the change involved in every authentic attempt to come to the aid of another. Centesimus Annus

 

The Bible does in a few passages recognize that sometimes poverty comes from laziness:

 

 Proverbs 10:4

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. [other translations]

 

Proverbs 24:30-34

30. I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man without sense; 31. and lo, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34. and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. [other translations]

 

Proverbs 28:19

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. [other translations]

 

But given how over and over again we are enjoined to help the poor, and given the multitude of injunctions to not oppress the poor, obviously the Bible understands most of the poor are poor through no fault of their own, but through the varieties of injustice and oppression the Holy Book repeatedly condemns.

 

[65]  Cf.:

 

It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America

 

[66]  Actual email received:

 

[I]f Mr. Hannity said that he believes that scripture and as an individual never helps someone in need, then you would have an argument. what you want is for the government to take care of everyone, and as nice as that sounds it doesn't work, in the end you can argue this till your blue in the face but if you were to write down what your ideal government would look like i would bet everything i own it looks exactly the same as the communist mannefesto.

 

[67]

Leviticus 25:8-13,23-28

8. "And you shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9. Then you shall send abroad the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall send abroad the trumpet throughout all your land. 10. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family. 11. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you; in it you shall neither sow, nor reap what grows of itself, nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat what it yields out of the field. 13. "In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property… 23. The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24. And in all the country you possess, you shall grant a redemption of the land. 25. "If your brother becomes poor, and sells part of his property, then his next of kin shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26. If a man has no one to redeem it, and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27. let him reckon the years since he sold it and pay back the overpayment to the man to whom he sold it; and he shall return to his property. 28. But if he has not sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property. [other translations]

 

Pope John Paul II has utilized the concept of the Jubilee Year in order to call for the partial or even total cancellation of the foreign debts of the poorest nations.  See discussion in text.

 

Also serving a redistributive function to prevent the undue accumulation of wealth, is the Deuteronomic command that debts should be released every seven years among the Israelites:

 

Deuteronomy 15:1-3

1. "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. 2. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed. 3. Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. [other translations]

 

That foreigners are excluded from the debt release is ironic in light of the present international debt situation.  This passage's narrow scope is, of course, more a reflection of the unfortunate ethnocentrism pervading much of  the Old Testament, rather than a moral barometer to guide our present actions.

 

[68]   The other two passages expressing this thought are:

 

Matthew 19:24

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [other translations]

 

Luke 18:25

For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. [other translations]

 

Reading these words of Jesus in the full context in which they were spoken is perhaps even more instructive:

 

Matthew 19:16-30

16. And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" 17. And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18. He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19. Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20. The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?" 21. Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22. When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. 23. And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25. When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26. But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 27. Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" 28. Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30. But many that are first will be last, and the last first. [other translations]

 

[69]  Right-wing pseudo-Christians apparently don't realize that behaving as a true Christian may not be conducive to accumulating a massive personal fortune.

 

[70]  I've even heard right-wing pseudo-Christians on talk shows proclaim that "Jesus was a supply-sider."  How desperate right-wing pseudo-Christians are to convince themselves that they are not on the express train to Satansville!

 

[71]  Regarding those people for whom no amount of riches ever seems enough, I love the way a columnist recently fulminated:

 

What is it with rich people that 60 percent of a $100 million is not enough? What kind of sickness is that? You make $100 million on stock options, do you honestly think you earned it? Did you work 10,000 times harder than a guy who gets $10,000 a year for digging ditches? Even a thousand times harder? A hundred? Ten?

 

[72]  If Sean Hannity had cheerleaders, one of their chants might go as follows:

 

Hey, hey Sean Hannity
How much more money can you get for me?
I'm already rich
And I don't need more
But I know you'll be happy
To take it from the poor!

 

[73]  With respect to all these statistics about the distribution of global income and wealth, I am well aware – as noted in some of the documents themselves -- of the difficulties inherent in cross-national comparisons. That being said, the global numbers I present here do seem about right.  The solid U.S. statistics indicate that the top 25% of Americans receive 67% of the income, and that the top 20% owns 83% of the wealth.  So the global figures of 25% in the world receiving 75% of the income and the top 20% in the world receiving 86% of the wealth seem eminently reasonable, especially since most people would assume that income and wealth distribution globally is far more unequal than within the U.S.  Surprisingly, the statistics bear that out only to a minimal degree for income, and virtually not at all for wealth.  Very interesting.

 

[74]  Sean Hannity et al act as if the earth's resources are the subject of some frivolous global game of Monopoly where the rules allow you amass and keep as much wealth as possible, and when the losers get wiped out, the only consequences are they get up and leave the table.  No,  it's most definitely not a game of Monopoly.  It's a matter of life and death.  The rules of the game of Monopoly are not the rules the use of the earth's resources are subject to.

 

[75]  Actual email received:

 

Christians believe you go to Hell for not being saved. For no other reason.  That's in that same Bible you quoted from. Several times.

 

Another:

 

Try a little better job next time in stretching the truth. Specifically, salvation will come only through the grace of God, through Christ, never through works or actions as you allude to. Before you argue with me on this, it is written; therefore, take your argument up with God, not me. I will pray for you whether you feel you need it or not; because we all need it, regardless of our pride and egos.

 

[76]  Indeed, don't verses 15-16 remind you of Sean Hannity?  He mouths concern for "the least of these," but opposes help for them if the government is involved.  Even worse, he then tries to block the good Samaritans who do want the government to help these people lying in the road.  Worst of all, Hannity fails to offer any Equivalent Alternative Solutions of his own to help them, but instead, makes vague calls for "charity" to solve the problem -- precisely the sin identified in the James passage.

 

[77]  Consider also:

 

Matthew 7:15-23

15. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17. So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. 18. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20. Thus you will know them by their fruits. 21. "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23. And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' [other translations]

 

1 John 3:17-18

17. But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18. Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. [other translations]

 

[78]  From http://www.eagle-wing.net/Scripture/Salvation-1.html.  I quote this not because the writer of these words is an acknowledged authority, but because his words so clearly express what I am trying to say, better than I could myself.

 

[79]  Elements of these Matthew 25 works discussed above include: the necessity to go beyond individual acts of charity; the appropriateness of involving government in the effort; the need to address problems on a world-wide scope; and last but not least for those of the right-wing pseudo-Christian persuasion, the obligation – when opposing efforts by others to help the "least of these" – to offer an Equivalent Alternative Solution that helps at least the same number of people the same amount, as soon and as certainly.

 

[80]  Ched Myers, a theologian and popular educator based in Los Angeles, CA, offers a succinct summary of some of these teachings, which he calls "Sabbath economics":

 

1. the world as created by God is abundant, with enough for everyone – provided that human communities restrain their appetites and live within limits;

 

2. disparities in wealth and power are not “natural” but the result of human sin, and must be mitigated within the community of faith through the regular practice of redistribution;

 

3. the prophetic message calls people to the practice of such redistribution, and is thus characterized as “good news” to the poor.

 

[81]  I know some right-wing pseudo-Christians have found it hard to believe that Pope John Paul II actually wrote the words I attribute to him throughout this essay.  I guarantee you, my excerpts give a completely accurate picture of the Church's teachings in this area.  I urge the doubting Thomases to check the original documents and read them in their entireties.

 

[82]  Unfortunately, while some national religious leaders have continued to publicly speak out against the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, such a message seems to be mostly absent from Sunday pulpits.

 

[83]  While "the Church does not propose economic and political systems or programs," Solicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II has addressed some specific issues, and his writings about them will, as appropriate, be cited.

 

[84]  The right-wing pseudo-Christians who rant and rave about the lazy poor, who have the nerve to say "if you don't work you don't eat," might be asked if their bile applies to these helpless children.

 

[85]  The entire report from which this figure is taken can be found at http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y7352e/y7352e00.htmEven the far right-wing, like Newsmax.com, accepts this 11,000,000 figure.

 

[86]  As the head of the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization explains:

 

Each year, chronic hunger and malnutrition kills millions of people. This "hidden famine" stunts their development, saps their strength and cripples their immune system. Where hunger is widespread, mortality rates for infants and children under five are high, and life expectancy is low…

 

Most children are dying because they lack adequate food and essential nutrients, which leaves them weak, underweight and vulnerable. These children are highly at risk from infectious diseases. The four biggest killers of children in developing countries are diarrhoea, acute respiratory illness, malaria and measles.

 

I'm generally more concerned with global hunger than hunger within the United States, since no one starves to death or dies from malnutrition in this country, but millions do every year worldwide.

 

[87]  On a broader level, it should be noted that much of the suffering and death from world hunger is due to the immoral fashion in which the global food system operates.  After and beyond charity, therefore, systemic structural changes are needed in this area to effectuate the Matthew 25 mandate.  See discussion below.  Also see this succinct analysis, and this related denunciation of the negative role the U.S. government has recently played in efforts to solve the world hunger tragedy.

 

[88]   There's also not a little bit of greed involved, for example, when the U.S. government and multinational pharmaceutical companies argue that only some life-saving drugs, but not others,  should be made available at low cost to impoverished dying people in Third World countries.  One activist literally calls these companies "evil" for not making freely available to AIDS patients the drugs they need to avoid death.

 

[89]   For more related details and statistics, see these two websites.  Also worth reading is Barbara Ehrenreich's best-seller "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America"

 

[90]  Also: in the following passage, Pope John Paul II quotes approvingly the then-100-year-old encyclical "Rerum Novarum" of Pope Leo XIII:


The Pope immediately adds another right which the worker has as a person. This is the right to a "just wage," which cannot be left to the "free consent of the parties, so that the employer, having paid what was agreed upon, has done his part and seemingly is not called upon to do anything beyond…" It was said at the time that the State does not have the power to intervene in the terms of these contracts, except to ensure the fulfillment of what had been explicitly agreed upon. This concept of relations between employers and employees, purely pragmatic and inspired by a thoroughgoing individualism, is severely censured in the encyclical as contrary to the twofold nature of work as a personal and necessary reality. For if work as something personal belongs to the sphere of the individual's free use of his own abilities and energy, as something necessary it is governed by the grave obligation of every individual to ensure "the preservation of life." "It necessarily follows," the Pope concludes, "that every individual has a natural right to procure what is required to live; and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work…"

A workman's wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children. "If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice…"

Would that these words, written at a time when what has been called "unbridled capitalism" was pressing forward, should not have to be repeated today with the same severity. Unfortunately, even today one finds instances of contracts between employers and employees which lack reference to the most elementary justice regarding the employment of children or women, working hours, the hygienic condition of the workplace and fair pay; and this is the case despite the international declarations and conventions on the subject and the internal laws of states. The Pope attributed to the "public authority" the "strict duty" of providing properly for the welfare of the workers, because a failure to do so violates justice; indeed, he did not hesitate to speak of "distributive justice…" Centesimus Annus

 

[91]  Also:

 

Malachi 3:5

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. [other translations]

 

cf. Jeremiah 22:13

"Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages… [other translations]

 

This latter passage refers to a specific king, Jehoiakim, who used the forced labor of his own citizens to build a luxurious palace – and then didn't even pay them for their work.  By analogy, the U.S./Third World poor are forced to work for less than a living wage to subsidize the "palaces" of the rest of us. As Barbara Ehrenreich put it in her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America:

 

When someone works for less than she can live on - when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently - then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The "working poor," as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.

 

[92]  This is made explicit in a Jewish translation of this verse in what is, of course, originally their own -- and still sole -- Testament:

 

24:15  You must give him his wage on the day it is due, and not let the sun set with him waiting for it. Since he is a poor man, and his life depends on it, do not let him call out to God, causing you to have a sin.

 

Also cf.:

 

Deuteronomy 24:10-13

10. "When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge. 11. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12. And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge; 13. when the sun goes down, you shall restore to him the pledge that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the Lord your God. [other translations]

 

[93]  Right-wing pseudo-Christians also explain that these sub-living wage people had choices in life. They didn't choose to get an education and better themselves, so they have only themselves to blame that they are in low-paying jobs. It's the result of their own free choices in life that they can't now feed their kids.

 

Huh?  If these people had gone to school and gotten higher-paying jobs, then someone else would be in the sub-living wage job. The issue is, should anyone work a full 40 hour week and not be able to feed their children -- let alone work two full-time jobs and still come up short of money for life's necessities?

 

Further, why do right-wing pseudo-Christians assume that everyone could have pursued more schooling and landed higher-paying jobs? Some people don't have the intellectual ability to do so, others may have been frustrated by life circumstances beyond their control.  And even if, for the sake of argument, they simply chose not to, that does not, by any stretch of logic -- let alone application of a minimal level of compassion -- lead to the conclusion that it's appropriate for them to be paid less than a subsistence-level wage.

 

And of course, let's remember that we're talking about this issue in the context of the richest nation the world has ever known.

 

[94]  Even the right-wing pseudo-Christian deity Adam Smith, the father of all market-based doctrine, understood in The Wealth of Nations that you have to pay people enough to live on:

 

It is but equity... that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.

 

[95]  One recent proposal met with a flurry of objections, and that's fine.  The point is, some solution must be found, not the quick throw-up-the-hands surrender of right-wing pseudo-Christians, which is too often their reaction whenever the subject of helping all the "least of these" comes up.

 

[96]  Also see this.  In a related vein, George W. Bush even recently tried to cut back on emergency room aid for the poor, but was forced to retreat by the public outcry against that proposal.  Instead of massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, we should raise their taxes to provide such life-and-death medical aid.  Those at the top of the economic mountain are simply hoarding so much of the nation's resources that there is not enough left over for the rest of society's minimal needs to be met.

 

[97]  Indeed, the concept that health care should be considered a vital human right – as much as the freedoms of religion and speech – has started to garner some public recognition.  I just don't understand the thinking of people who don't think health care is a basic human right.  If a person is dead, then the rights of free speech or exercise of religion are not of much use that person anymore, are they?  A recent study estimated that 18,000 people die in the United States every year because they don't have health insurance.  Much unnecessary pain and suffering also results from not having health insurance.

 

[98]  Cf:

 

Deuteronomy 10:17-19

17. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. [other translations]

 

[99]  Also:

 

Exodus 22:24

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land
of Egypt. [other translations]

 

Exodus 23:9

"You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [other translations]

 

Zechariah 7:8-10

8. And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, 10. do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart." [other translations]

 

Jeremiah 7:3-7

3. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.' 5. "For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6. if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7. then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever. [other translations]

 

Jeremiah 22:3

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. [other translations]

 

Deuteronomy 24:17-18

17. "You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge; 18. but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. [other translations]

 

Ezekiel 22:29-31

29. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without redress. 30. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. 31. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their way have I requited upon their heads, says the Lord God." [other translations]

 

[100]  Also:

 

Numbers 15:29

You shall have one law for him who does anything unwittingly, for him who is native among the people of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them. [other translations]

 

Numbers 35:6-15

6. The cities which you give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, where you shall permit the manslayer to flee, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two cities. 7. All the cities which you give to the Levites shall be forty-eight, with their pasture lands. 8. And as for the cities which you shall give from the possession of the people of Israel, from the larger tribes you shall take many, and from the smaller tribes you shall take few; each, in proportion to the inheritance which it inherits, shall give of its cities to the Levites." 9. And the Lord said to Moses, 10. "Say to the people of Israel, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11. then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. 12. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. 13. And the cities which you give shall be your six cities of refuge. 14. You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. 15. These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that any one who kills any person without intent may flee there. [other translations]

 

[101]  Also:

 

Deuteronomy 16:9-12

9. "You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain. 10. Then you shall keep the feast of weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you; 11. and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place which the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. [other translations]

 

We are also commanded to provide sanctuary for slaves:

 

Deuteronomy 23:15-16

15. "You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you; 16. he shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place which he shall choose within one of your towns, where it pleases him best; you shall not oppress him. [other translations]

 

Economic "slaves" from the Third World who flee here fall under this rubric.

 

We must also assist refugees from war:

 

Isaiah 21:14-15

14. To the thirsty bring water, meet the fugitive with bread, O inhabitants of the land of Tema. 15. For they have fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow, and from the press of battle. [other translations]

 

Note the injunction to bring water to the thirsty refugee, in light of Sean Hannity's opposition to putting water stations in the desert so that no more immigrants taking such a hazardous route die of thirst.  It seems like Hannity actually looks for ways to flout Biblical injunctions when it comes to helping suffering people.

 

cf. Isaiah 16:3-4

3. "Give counsel, grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon
; hide the outcasts, betray not the fugitive; 4. let the outcasts of Moab sojourn among you; be a refuge to them from the destroyer… [other translations]

 

This injunction would apply in spades to the millions of Central Americans who fled here in the 1980's from the depredations of U.S.-sponsored death squads in their countries.

 

[102]  What a joke is this harping on the "illegal" nature of much immigration. Everyone knows that businesses, and hence the government, apply the "wink-and-nod" approach here: the businesses want the cheap labor, and the political parties want votes from these ethnic blocs.  The "illegality" is about as serious as jaywalking.  And please don't write to harangue me about how we have to protect ourselves against terrorists who enter the country illegally.  I agree: crimes of terrorism are of the first magnitude, and the illegal entry of terrorists should be prevented.  But let's keep separate things separate.  Don't falsely invoke terrorism to demonize and make dangerous criminals of the lettuce pickers who cross the Rio Grande so you can eat your dinner salad tonight.

 

[103]  As with the Biblical passages cited in the footnote above, the Pope's words apply to the millions of Central Americans who fled here in the 1980's from the depredations of U.S.-sponsored death squads in their countries.

 

[104]  A Heaven-sent angel just delivered to me this "corrected" New Testament passage:

 

Luke 16:19-31

19. "There was a rich man named Hannity, who was clothed in pinstripe gray and fine wool and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20. And at the door to his nation, yea at the very door of his Fox News office building, lay a poor man named Jose, full of sores, 21. who desired to be fed with what fell from Hannity's table. But Hannity said the man had failed to respect the sovereignty of Hannity's nation, the greatest nation ever given mankind by the Lord, and thus Jose must be immediately deported back from whence he came. 22. The poor man Jose was deported, and died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man Hannity also died and was buried; 23. and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Jose in his bosom. 24. And Hannity called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Jose to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25. But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Jose in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27. And Hannity said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my Fox News office building, 28. for I have political colleagues there, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29. But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30. And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31. He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

 

[105]  "Solidarity" is perhaps not coincidentally the name of the labor union Pope John Paul II strongly supported in his native Poland and which led the ultimately victorious fight against the Communist dictatorship there.

 

[106]  Also:

 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters, for its part the fruit of conversion, leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being. "Solidarity is thus the fruit of the communion which is grounded in the mystery of the triune God, and in the Son of God who took flesh and died for all. It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need"....  [T]his is the source of a commitment to reciprocal solidarity and the sharing of the spiritual gifts and material goods with which God has blessed them...  [A] culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast...  The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. Ecclesia in America

 

[107]  Also:

 

For this reason, another name for peace is development... Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development. Just as within individual societies it is possible and right to organize a solid economy which will direct the functioning of the market to the common good, so too there is a similar need for adequate interventions on the international level... [T]o accomplish this, the poor--be they individuals or nations--need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies... This may mean making important changes in established lifestyles… Centesimus Annus

 

Today we are facing the so-called "globalization" of the economy, a phenomenon which is not to be dismissed, since it can create unusual opportunities for greater prosperity. There is a growing feeling, however, that this increasing internationalization of the economy ought to be accompanied by effective international agencies which will oversee and direct the economy to the common good, something that an individual state, even if it were the most powerful on earth, would not be in a position to do. In order to achieve this result, it is necessary that there be increased coordination among the more powerful countries, and that in international agencies the interests of the whole human family be equally represented. It is also necessary that in evaluating the consequences of their decisions, these agencies always give sufficient consideration to peoples and countries which have little weight in the international market, but which are burdened by the most acute and desperate needs, and are thus more dependent on support for their development. Much remains to be done in this area. Centesimus Annus

 

Today more than in the past, the Church's social doctrine must be open to an international outlook, in line with the Second Vatican Council... the most recent Encyclicals... and particularly in line with the Encyclical which we are commemorating.... [G]iven the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed… love of the preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the "rich man" who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying it his gate (cf. Lk 16:19-31)... Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities. Likewise the leaders of nations and the heads of International Bodies, while they are obliged always to keep in mind the true human dimension as a priority in their development plans, should not forget to give precedence to the phenomenon of growing poverty. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[108]  Also:

 

In this way, the solidarity which we propose is the path to peace and at the same time to development. For world peace is inconceivable unless the world's leaders come to recognize that interdependence in itself demands the abandonment of the politics of blocs, the sacrifice of all forms of economic, military or political imperialism, and the transformation of mutual distrust into collaboration. This is precisely the act proper to solidarity among individuals and nations.

The motto of the pontificate of my esteemed predecessor Pius XII was Opus iustitiae pax, peace as the fruit of justice. Today one could say, with the same exactness and the same power of biblical inspiration (cf. Is 32:17; Jas 3:18): Opus solidaritatis pax, peace as the fruit of solidarity. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[109]  See this related Petition.  On a broader level, it should be noted that much of the suffering and death from world hunger is due to the immoral fashion in which the global food system operates.  Therefore after and beyond charity, systemic structural changes are needed in this area of international trade in order to effectuate the Matthew 25 mandate.  See this succinct analysis, and this recent denunciation of the negative role the U.S. government has recently played in efforts to solve the world hunger tragedy.

 

Another food-related injustice of the world trade system involves the industrialized nations'

 

"multibillion dollar farm subsidies, which institutions as diverse as the International Monetary Fund and Oxfam say are among the most unfair trade barriers, responsible for wrecking the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers in Asia, Africa and South America."

 

One should also note here that just like domestically the right-wing pseudo-Christians' call for a "free market" solution is really no solution at all, internationally they have a false mantra called "free trade."  Even the World Bank has sometimes had to admit that the free trade model of globalization only makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

 

[110]  Also:

 

The existence of a foreign debt which is suffocating quite a few countries of the American continent represents a complex problem... I... have frequently expressed my concern about this situation, which in some cases has become unbearable. In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations. Ecclesia in America

 

Circumstances having changed, both within the debtor nations and in the international financial market, the instrument chosen to make a contribution to development has turned into a counter-productive mechanism. This is because the debtor nations, in order to service their debt, find themselves obliged to export the capital needed for improving or at least maintaining their standard of living. It is also because, for the same reason, they are unable to obtain new and equally essential financing.

Through this mechanism, the means intended for the development of peoples has turned into a brake upon development instead, and indeed in some cases has even aggravated underdevelopment. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Even the Vatican itself will join in the effort to solve the Third World debt problem:

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

[111] Also:

 

Jeremiah 23:9-40

9. Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me, all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words. 10. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. 11. "Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness, says the Lord. 12. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall; for I will bring evil upon them in the year of their punishment, says the Lord. 13. In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah." 15. Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and give them poisoned water to drink; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone forth into all the land." 16. Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, 'It shall be well with you'; and to every one who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.'" 18. For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to perceive and to hear his word, or who has given heed to his word and listened? 19. Behold, the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. 20. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his mind. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. 21. "I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. 23. "Am I a God at hand, says the Lord, and not a God afar off? 24. Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' 26. How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27. who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams which they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces? 30. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from one another. 31. Behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their tongues and say, 'Says the Lord.' 32. Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them; so they do not profit this people at all, says the Lord. 33. "When one of this people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, 'What is the burden of the Lord?' you shall say to them, 'You are the burden, and I will cast you off, says the Lord.' 34. And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, 'The burden of the Lord,' I will punish that man and his household. 35. Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, 'What has the Lord answered?' or 'What has the Lord spoken?' 36. But 'the burden of the Lord' you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man's own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. 37. Thus you shall say to the prophet, 'What has the Lord answered you?' or 'What has the Lord spoken?' 38. But if you say, 'The burden of the Lord,' thus says the Lord, 'Because you have said these words, "The burden of the Lord," when I sent to you, saying, "You shall not say, 'The burden of the Lord,'" 39. therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city which I gave to you and your fathers. 40. And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.'" [other translations]

 

Jeremiah 14:13-16

13. Then I said: "Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, 'You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.'" 14. And the Lord said to me: "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, 'Sword and famine shall not come on this land': By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of
Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them -- them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them. [other translations]

 

[112]  Also:

 

Lamentations 2:14

Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles false and misleading. [other translations]

 

Ezekiel 22:27-28

27. Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. 28. And her prophets have daubed for them with whitewash, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God,' when the Lord has not spoken. [other translations] 

 

Of special note in our Matthew 25 context, is the nature of the people's evil described in the next verse:

 

Ezekiel 22:29

29. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without redress. [other translations]]

 

[113] As noted in the text above, Pope John Paul II has condemned this type of demonization of the poor.  These types of alluring yet false platitudes are a staple of right-wing pseudo-Christian political dogma.

 

[114] Also:

 

Ezekiel 13:10-11

10. Because, yea, because they have misled my people, saying, `Peace,' when there is no peace; and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets daub it with whitewash; 11. say to those who daub it with whitewash that it shall fall!... [other translations]

 

[115]  How delicious this Biblical passage to appropriately turn back on himself George W. Bush's declaration that if you aid an evildoer terrorist, you are an evildoer terrorist!

 

[116]  A less harsh judgment might be that of a prominent theology professor who recently criticized the right-wing founder of a new Catholic college:

 

Some critics say [the college] Ave Maria reflects Mr. Monaghan's conservative political agenda more than any religious or educational need.

 

"Tom Monaghan has the agenda of a right-wing Republican, and he happens to confuse that with the teachings of the Catholic Church," said Richard P. McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theology professor. "I wish he had spent this money the way a really good Catholic would: helping the poor; helping inner-city schools, which are being suffocated through lack of money; helping the aged and the infirm. Those are the teachings of Jesus Christ."

 

Confusion is one explanation, but the fervent, sustained anti-Matthew 25 agenda of right-wing pseudo-Christians who are intelligent enough to know better, seems to me to call for a concept more like Satanism.

 

[117]  Also:

 

Jeremiah 6:11-14

11. Therefore I am full of the wrath of the Lord; I am weary of holding it in. "Pour it out upon the children in the street, and upon the gatherings of young men, also; both husband and wife shall be taken, the old folk and the very aged. 12. Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together; for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land," says the Lord. 13. "For from the least to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, every one deals falsely. 14. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace. [other translations]

 

cf. Jeremiah 27:14-15

14. Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, 'You shall not serve the king of Babylon,' for it is a lie which they are prophesying to you. 15. I have not sent them, says the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you." [other translations]

 

[118] Ironically, given Sean Hannity's Tourette-syndrome-like liberal-bashing, the King James version of this passage uses the word "liberal," not the term "one who is noble," to approvingly describe those who act acting according to God's wishes: "8. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand."

 

[119] In the context of the misleading nature of false prophecy, I would be remiss not to at least briefly note how right-wing pseudo-Christians engage overall in an amazingly selective, and thus distorted view of the Bible.  Let's contrast their disparate treatment of two issues: economic justice, and abortion.

 

Nowhere in either the Old or New Testaments is "abortion" forbidden.  All sorts of horrible acts are explicitly condemned and/or proscribed, but not abortion.  During the times when both the Old and New Testaments were written, the Jewish community did not forbid abortion.  Anti-choice Christians simply make up an entire Biblical justification for their anti-choice position based on the inferences they read into a few Biblical passages. 

 

I don't say here that they're right, and I don't say here they're wrong about abortion.  What I do say is, it is strange indeed that right-wing pseudo-Christians expend extraordinary amounts of time and energy to ensure the forbidding of an act not explicitly forbidden in the Bible, yet they spend comparably little time fostering the actions that again and again they are explicitly commanded to undertake: to save the hungry, naked, thirsty, and sick as Matthew 25 enjoins us, as well as to more generally ensure that the poor are not oppressed, economic justice is established, and immigrants are welcomed and treated well, as the Old Testament repeatedly commands us.  This is so even though the Matthew 25 injunctions are matters of life and death to millions, if not tens of millions of already-born, unquestionably human beings every year.  Right-wing pseudo-Christians don't seem to apply to Matthew 25 the same absolutist black/white analysis that they employ in their broad interpretation of "Thou shalt not kill," even though Matthew 25 is explicitly stated in black-and-white terms: the hungry, naked, sick, thirsty, etc – no exceptions -- must be helped, with the gravest of all possible consequences if you do not do so.

 

Compare the pseudo-Christian right's lackadaisical, let's partly accomplish these economic justice/feed the hungry type goals, not necessarily as our top priority, not necessarily right now, and let's depend for our success on the voluntary efforts of private citizens who almost certainly don't have the resources on their own to really accomplish all of what needs to be done – with their total, immediate, mobilize all resources of both private citizens and the government to 100% stop right now all abortions.

 

What the Bible doesn't explicitly speak about, they devote unlimited amounts of time and effort to.  What the Bible does explicitly command, they relegate to a relative afterthought.

 

In other words, what the Bible, and Jesus in an incredibly powerful oration tells them to do, they do not do – and indeed prevent others from accomplishing; but what Jesus never even asks them to do, that task they spend virtually all their time on!

 

Right-wing pseudo-Christians apparently think Christianity is defined as opposition to abortion, homosexuality and pornography – interestingly enough, three things Jesus never mentioned even once, did he?

 

On an even more absurd note, if possible, I saw this fundamentalist minister on a talk show who was foaming at the mouth about how the Bible mandates we spank our children, and that our not doing so is the cause of all our problems with them.  The thought of spanking children obviously got him very excited.  He obviously had severe psychological problems that should be treated immediately.  After thinking about it for a while, I decided that while there is a difference in the kind of obsession, there's not much of a difference in the degree of psycho-sexual dysfunctionality and attendant misreading of religion between this spanking-obsessed minister and the homosexuality-pornography-obsessed right-wing pseudo-Christians.

 

Back on point, right-wing pseudo-Christians might do well to spend more time reading and trying to implement the words of the Biblical prophets, than on conjuring up and seeking to enforce by writ of law a Christianity that doesn't exist.

 

[120]  Indeed, while right-wing pseudo-Christians constantly accuse liberals of engaging in "class warfare" and wanting to engage in unjust transfers of wealth, it is really the right-wing pseudo-Christians who are guilty of those sins.  The entire right-wing pseudo-Christian agenda is "voodoo economics, the transfer of wealth… from the poor and the working classes to the rich."

 

Isn't it interesting how trademark false labeling is a Bush family tradition?  The father promised a "kinder and gentler nation," while the son fancies himself a "compassionate conservative."  Neither appellation, of course, could be farther from the truth.

 

[121]  In addition to the Papal writings linked to in the text, an additional New Testament passage comes to mind:

 

1 John 3:17-18

17. But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18. Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. [other translations]

 

Is there anyone who has more of the "world's goods" and wants to share less of them with "his brother in need" than that archetypal right-wing pseudo-Christian, Sean Hannity?  (Tax cuts for the rich, anyone?)  And is there anyone who not only doesn't "love" "in deed and in truth," but also does not even love in "word or speech" more than he?  Hannity is the complete package: word, speech and deed in contravention to Matthew  25.

 

[122]  Liberation theology is a social justice-oriented form of Christianity. It is especially popular among impoverished, oppressed people in the Third World. 

 

Luke 4:18-19

18. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19. to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." [other translations]

 

While Jesus said he came to bring "good news to the poor," Sean Hannity comes to bring them horrific news of continued misery, suffering and death.

 

[123]  In psychological terms, they are nothing other than sexually repressed fascists who selectively utilize Holy Scripture to justify enforcement of their anhedonic dogma.

 

[124]  Hannity loves to say that he "Hannitizes" people, by which he means that he converts them to his way of thinking.  To that I can only reply, "If you've gotten Hannitized, you need to get exorcized."

 

[125]  Also:

 

Jeremiah 2:34-35

34. Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35. you say, 'I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.' Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, 'I have not sinned.' [other translations]

 

[126]  As one writer to this site put it using a deft touch of understatement:

 

I must agree with you. Sean Hannity is the most unchristian man i have seen in a long time. I actually feel sorry for him because he probably will be sincerely shocked when he passes over to the other side and isnt fawned over the way he anticipates he will be. He's like a pharisee in his sanctimoniousness.

 

[127]  I've never physically stood near Sean Hannity, but if I did, I wouldn't be surprised to smell the stench of brimstone already emanating from his rotting soul.

 

[128]  Even when non-conservative groups set a goal of solving a problem completely, the time frame may be too long, as in plans to end homelessness in New York City and nationally within 10 years.  After all, could we imagine Jesus approvingly saying "I was homeless, and you told me within 10 years I'd have a roof over my head, even though you had the resources to help me build a house immediately."

 

[129]  And as that document explains, this "rounding error"-level investment would be just that, not a "lost" charitable contribution but a true investment that would return handsome benefits:

 

And the payoff would be impressively high. FAO has estimated that achieving the WFS goal would yield at least US$120 billion per year in benefits as a result of longer, healthier and more productive lives for several hundred million people freed from hunger.

 

[130]  Even if half the people on earth were 160 lb. men doing moderately heavy work and half were 139 lb. women doing moderately heavy work, 2788 calories would be their average requirements.  Since many men and women weigh less than these figures and are not doing heavy work, and since a large portion of the world's population is children who have far lower caloric needs, caloric availability is far greater than required to adequately feed the world.

 

Those particularly interested in this topic of food availability may want to check this link, which contains an interactive calculating chart from which you can derive food availability details not only by country, but by types of food, as well as broken down by protein vs. carbohydrates vs. fats.

 

[131]  Plus if we shifted some of the grain fed to animals to feeding people, the surplus caloric availability would be that much greater.

 

[132]  This $80 billion dollar figure seems perhaps too small to fully accomplish the purposes intended.  Even if an underestimate, however, such a sum would certainly provide Matthew 25-type relief to a significant portion of the world's "least of these."

 

[133]  Compare that $13 billion figure to the $35 billion a year we Americans spend on weight-loss products and programs.  How about we stop stuffing our faces so much, and instead use that $35 billion (plus the money saved on the food we won't have eaten) to nourish the hundreds of millions of Matthew 25 "least of these" who truly need that food?

 

[134]  I know there is no mechanism to collect such a tax.  I'm presenting these numbers simply to point out the immoral, un-Matthew 25-like concentration of the earth's wealth in a few hands.  On the Church social doctrine of equitable distribution of the Earth's resources, see this.

 

[135]  "Adjusted gross income" is taxable income.  The Commerce Department, using what has been called "a more comprehensive measure of income," comes up with a 2000 total U.S. personal income figure of  $8.4 trillion, and in 2002 the figure will be just under $9 trillion.  So a 1% surcharge using these Commerce numbers would yield even more than the $80 billion U.N. target figure.

 

[136]  I derived this $27.6 trillion total net worth figure by multiplying the 102.5 million households in 1998 by the mean $270,000 net worth of all households in 1998.  By another government measure, there was even more wealth, about $37 trillion in 1998 and $40 trillion in 2001. (Since this second measurement lumps together households and non-profits, I subtracted about $1 trillion as the non-profits' share in each year's combined figure, which, based on other charts in the linked document, is probably an overcompensation.)  So a ½ of 1% surtax under this second measurement would yield $200 billion.

 

[137]  The right-wing pseudo-Christians who rant and rave about the lazy poor, who have the nerve to say "if you don't work you don't eat," might be asked if their bile applies to these helpless children.

 

[138]  The entire report from which this figure is taken can be found at http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y7352e/y7352e00.htm.  Even the far right-wing, like Newsmax.com, accepts this 11,000,000 figure.

 

[139]  As the head of the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization explains:

 

Each year, chronic hunger and malnutrition kills millions of people. This "hidden famine" stunts their development, saps their strength and cripples their immune system. Where hunger is widespread, mortality rates for infants and children under five are high, and life expectancy is low…

 

Most children are dying because they lack adequate food and essential nutrients, which leaves them weak, underweight and vulnerable. These children are highly at risk from infectious diseases. The four biggest killers of children in developing countries are diarrhoea, acute respiratory illness, malaria and measles.

 

I'm generally more concerned with global hunger than hunger within the United States, since no one starves to death or dies from malnutrition in this country, but millions do every year worldwide.

 

[140]  My goodness, the U.N. puts out glossy, multicolored reports documenting the statistics of suffering and death. You can conveniently read such reports online, and manipulate interactive charts which allow you to arrange the data of suffering in various ways, e.g., undernourished people as a percentage of population, or the probability at birth of not surviving until age 40, or the under-five mortality rate.  What if the Germans in World War II had been able to put online their yearly statistics from Auschwitz and Buchenwald?  And we had ignored it?  (Actually, we did do something similar, but that's another story… or is it?)

 

[141]  Or to analogize to a more contemporary horror, every day the children of the world suffer ten 9/11-level acts of carnage.

 

[142]  In fact, it is not just a sin of omission we are guilty of.  Much of the suffering and death from world hunger is due to the immoral fashion in which the global food system operates.  Therefore after and beyond charity, systemic structural changes are needed in that area to effectuate the Matthew 25 mandate.  See this succinct analysis, and this denunciation of the negative role the U.S. government has recently played in efforts to solve the world hunger tragedy.

 

[143]   For example, President Bush has established a goal to end "chronic" homelessness within 10 years.  The chronic homeless are 10% of the total homeless population.  So Bush's goal is nowhere near a complete solution.  And of course, it remains to be seen whether President Bush will even request, let alone receive from the Republican-controlled Congress, adequate funding to accomplish his own already insufficient goal.

 

[144]  Old Testament prophets were not so much men who predicted the future, as brave souls who condemned the unjust and immoral actions in the present of their citizenry and government:

 

The foretelling of future events was not a necessary but only an incidental part of the prophetic office. The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was "to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government."

 

Possibly the most consistent and frequent condemnations by the prophets concerned economic injustice and oppression.  They "came forward as the advocates of the poor and oppressed and as the leaders in social reform."

 

Indeed, the parallels are eerie between the socio-political context in which some of the prophets spoke and our own times.  Ancient Israel at the time "was at the peak of its political power but was ridden with social injustices."  There was "great economic prosperity, but the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. Social injustice ran rampant in the land. The economically weak could find no redress in the courts and no one to champion their cause…"  Sound familiar?

 

[145]   Also cf.:

 

Zechariah 11:15-17

15. Then the Lord said to me, "Take once more the implements of a worthless shepherd. 16. For lo, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the sound, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. 17. Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword smite his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!" [other translations]

 

[146]  The number of times something is repeated in the Bible is a good indication of its importance.  The amount of repetition may also reflect how difficult the Biblical writer believed it would be for humans to follow that command.  For example, I believe bestiality is forbidden only one time.  While undoubtedly an important injunction, it’s mentioned only once probably because it's quite easy for most people to accept it.  On the other hand, admonitions relating to concern for the poor and the stranger, preventing their being harmed, and the execution of justice, may not be so easy for humans to achieve, hence their repetition over and over again.

 

Right-wing Christians might do well to consider how many times in the Bible their pet causes are mentioned, versus the scores of times the issues of the poor, the stranger, justice and the like are addressed.  See this footnote above.

 

[147]  In reading the passages cited in the text, note that the "widow" and the "orphan" are in Biblical usage assumed to either literally be poor themselves, or simply to be -- like the poor -- among the most vulnerable and defenseless people in society and thus also in need of protection.

 

[148]  Also:

 

Exodus 23:6

"You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his suit. [other translations]

 

Zechariah 7:8-10

8. And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, 10. do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart." [other translations]

 

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

14. "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; 15. you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be sin in you. [other translations] [also see discussion above about this passage]

 

Exodus 22:24-30

24. "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land
of Egypt. 25. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 26. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry; 27. and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. 28. "If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him. 29. If ever you take your neighbor's garment in pledge, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; 30. for that is his only covering, it is his mantle for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. [other translations]

 

Isaiah 32:1,5-8

1. Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. 5. The fool will no more be called noble, nor the knave said to be honorable. 6. For the fool speaks folly, and his mind plots iniquity: to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. 7. The knaveries of the knave are evil; he devises wicked devices to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. 8. But he who is noble devises noble things, and by noble things he stands. [other translations]

 

Deuteronomy 24:19-22

19. "When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22. You shall remember that you were a slave in the
land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. [other translations]

 

cf. Ecclesiastes 5:7-8

7. For when dreams increase, empty words grow many: but do you fear God. 8. If you see in a province the poor oppressed and justice and right violently taken away, do not be amazed at the matter; for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. [other translations]

 

[149]  Also:

 

Psalms 12:5

"Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise," says the Lord; "I will place him in the safety for which he longs." [other translations]

 

Psalms 69:33

For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds. [other translations]

 

Job 34:24-30

24. He shatters the mighty without investigation, and sets others in their place. 25. Thus, knowing their works, he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed. 26. He strikes them for their wickedness in the sight of men, 27. because they turned aside from following him, and had no regard for any of his ways, 28. so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him, and he heard the cry of the afflicted -- 29. When he is quiet, who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man? -- 30. that a godless man should not reign, that he should not ensnare the people. [other translations]

 

cf. Psalms 140:12

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the afflicted, and executes justice for the needy. [other translations]

 

[150]  Also:

 

Proverbs 22:9

He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. [other translations]

 

Psalms 41:1-3

1. Blessed is he who considers the poor! The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble; 2. the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; thou dost not give him up to the will of his enemies. 3. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness thou healest all his infirmities. [other translations]

 

Job 29:11-17

11. When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved; 12. because I delivered the poor who cried, and the fatherless who had none to help him. 13. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. 14. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. 15. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. 16. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. 17. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made him drop his prey from his teeth. [other translations]

 

[151]  Also:

 

Proverbs 21:13

He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard.  [other translations]

 

[152]  Also:

 

Job 22:5-11

5. Is not your wickedness great? There is no end to your iniquities. 6. For you have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing, and stripped the naked of their clothing. 7. You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry. 8. The man with power possessed the land, and the favored man dwelt in it. 9. You have sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless were crushed. 10. Therefore snares are round about you, and sudden terror overwhelms you; 11. your light is darkened, so that you cannot see, and a flood of water covers you. [other translations]

 

Note the foreshadowing of the Matthew 25 language, as noted above regarding this and four other Old Testament passages.

 

[153]  Also:

 

Isaiah 10:1-5

1. Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, 2. to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! 3. What will you do on the day of punishment, in the storm which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? 4. Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away and his hand is stretched out still. 5. Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger, the staff of my fury! [other translations]

 

Psalms 109:15-16

15. [M]ay his memory be cut off from the earth! 16. For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death. [other translations]

 

Psalms 37:14-15

14. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows, to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those who walk uprightly; 15. their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. [other translations]

 

Psalms 10:2-4

2. In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised. 3. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart, and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. 4. In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, "There is no God." [other translations]

 

cf. Deuteronomy 27:19

"'Cursed be he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.' [other translations]

 

[154]  Another example of self-deluding denial:

 

Jeremiah 2:34-35

34. Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35. you say, 'I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.' Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, 'I have not sinned.' [other translations]

 

[155]  Also:

 

Malachi 3:5

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. [other translations]

 

Isaiah 32:1,5-6

1. Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. 5. The fool will no more be called noble, nor the knave said to be honorable. 6. For the fool speaks folly, and his mind plots iniquity: to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.  [other translations]

 

[156]  Also:

 

Amos 4:1-3

1. "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, 'Bring, that we may drink!' 2. The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. 3. And you shall go out through the breaches, every one straight before her; and you shall be cast forth into Harmon," says the Lord. [other translations]

 

[157]  Also:

 

Amos 5:11

Therefore because you trample upon the poor and take from him exactions of wheat, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. [other translations]

 

See also this passage for harrowing language used against those who perpetrate injustice.

 

[158]  Also:

 

Deuteronomy 16:20

Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you. [other translations]

 

cf. Genesis 18:17-19

17. The Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18. seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? 19. No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him." [other translations]

 

[159]  Also:

 

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23. Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; 24. but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord." [other translations]

 

This passage was actually my Bar Mitzvah Haftorah, a passage from the Prophets that the Bar Mitzvah boy gives a short speech about.  I thought it said some pretty cool things back then, and still do.  It apparently was a foreshadowing of what my life's passion would later become, even if I didn't explicitly realize it at the time.

 

cf. am6.1-3 am6.1-3 Isaiah 30:18

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. [other translations]

 

[160]  Also:

 

Psalms 37:27-28

27. Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever. 28. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. [other translations]

 

[161]  Excerpted from Mountain Record, Fall 2000.  Note how this passage evokes concepts discussed earlier, such as our present ability -- unlike  the past -- to know of suffering all over the globe, and our present ability as well – again unlike the past -- to heal all of the suffering we now can see.

 

[162]  Such misleading teaching is a type of false prophecy.  See discussion above.

 

[163]  Instead, the Church excommunicates people because they insist that having a penis is not required to be a priest.  Please ask yourself: would Jesus be more concerned about -- and exact a greater penalty against -- a believer of the "wrong" sex conducting a service, or a (supposed) believer consistently violating the explicit admonitions of Matthew 25?  Don't we already know how severe Jesus said the punishment would be for violators of Matthew 25?

 

As reported in the  Weekly Standard,

 

This year, on January 16…Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued in Rome a "Doctrinal Note" on Catholics in political life. "A well-formed Christian conscience," the note declared, "does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

 

Unfortunately, right-wing pseudo-Christians think such an admonition should only be applied regarding sexually-related matters like the ordination of woman and – as in the Weekly Standard article's instance -- abortion rights.  They don't seem to want to apply it to instances of taking food out of the mouths of the hungry.  Cf. this discussion above.

 

[164]  See this discussion above for more on how excommunication is the appropriate course of action for the Church to take against Sean Hannity and those who support his brand of anti-Christianity.

 

[165] 

As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action... Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25 :40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. Centesimus Annus

 

The motivating concern for the poor--who are, in the very meaningful term, "the Lord's poor"…--must be translated at all levels into concrete actions, until it decisively attains a series of necessary reforms. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[166]  When right-wing Christians hear someone say that Hitler went to Hell, there are no objections.  If someone predicts that bin Laden will go to Hell, they don't complain.  These types of judgments are apparently ok.  Well, every year the malign neglect and deny-and-destroy, cut-and-kill activism of the right-wing pseudo-Christians kills thousands of times as many people as bin Laden has, more even than Hitler did in the Holocaust.  So pointing out that the people enabling or even sometimes causing these atrocities are also going to Hell should be equally well-accepted.  Right-wing pseudo-Christians have, as it were, eschatologically hoisted themselves on their own Biblical petard.

 

[167] Need I point out that anyone who has read this essay is now charged with Matthew 25 knowledge and responsibility?

 

 

 

Public Comments Working Draft 5/6/03

Latest Revisions: 7/29/03

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