“If we see one of our brothers or sisters who is in need of clothes or food and do not have enough to live on, and we say, I wish you well……without giving them the necessities to live, what good is that? It is the same with faith, if good deeds do not go with it, it is quite dead.”
This quote from St. James is from a Christian text, but there are similar statements in Jewish and Islamic texts regarding caring for our brothers and sisters – in other words caring for our neighbors, wherever they might be. And these statements regarding empathy are found in so many spiritual and religious guidance documents that it is fair to say that caring for others is a universal religious theme.
This is an important point because in the United States we have seen religious leaders speak out on issues ranging from women’s suffrage to civil rights to the environment, all as part of their spiritual mandate to care for others. In the current era we have seen many of these leaders speak out on issues ranging from abortion to day care to AirBnb to menthol cigarettes.
The evangelical movement, also known as the Religious Right, has been particularly vocal in the modern era when it comes to a so-called conservative agenda. We are told that morality has taken a coach seat on the evangelical bus that is being driven by Donald Trump, as long as that bus is moving in a strictly conservative direction.
As a result, reserved and proper leaders of the Religious Right have accepted the obscenities and the misogyny and the careless, disgusting, egregious and decidedly unchristian behavior of Trump as long as he appoints judges that will reform America that will be coincident with their conservative vision.
But even though these religious leaders have made their deal with the devil, they watch television and read the newspapers.
They see the very real suffering of their brothers and sisters – their neighbors – on the southern border of this nation. They see men and women who are caged and being told to drink out of toilets. They know that hundreds of very young children have been taken from their parents, some instances never to be reunited.
These religious leaders are the first to vocalize their opposition to gay marriages and a woman’s right to choose, but in the instance of the U.S. government-imposed misery on the border these lambs are silent. Indeed, as Trump tries to trash the female members of Congress – who are conveniently non-white – with the worst kind of racist rhetoric, these religious leaders are silent as lambs.
There may be a day when these clerics will look back at their silence with shame. In the present, however, they are content to allow this shameful excuse for a president to demean the office, degrade this country and continue to serve up a witch’s brew of hate, racism, sexism, white supremacy and nationalism to America and to the world.
Clearly these evangelicals, these leaders of the Religious Right, believe in caring for their neighbors. Just as clearly, they don’t believe that everyone is their neighbor.