Something that has been rumbling around in my head the last few weeks, and more probably, years, is what happens when what the bible teaches does not seem to match up with your political views. Which takes precedent? Your faith and the bible, or your politics.
The problem can be real evident in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. If you read the books carefully, you see clear teachings on how we, as children of God, are supposed to act and live out our lives. This is especially true when we are talking about poor people, immigrants, and outsiders. Many passages talk of us being unconditionally compassionate, generous, and loving. This is perhaps most evident, at least for me, in Isaiah 58.
Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter...
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Now to the political part. Living the life that Isaiah is calling for flies in the face of everything most of us have learned since our childhood. Whether we attended Sunday school or not, the Protestant work ethic, a political construction, is pervasive in America. Our rugged individualism present in the settling of the American frontier and our nation's creation narrative makes it difficult for us to set aside certain beliefs and just serve, as I see God calling us to do.
I confess, I feel the struggle. Just today I ignored a guy asking for money just because he looked perfectly healthy to me and seemed able to work. Was God happy? I think not. Was I true to His calling on my life, as expressed in Isaiah? Not at all. Was I true to some of my personal politics? Of course I was.
I know, or at least I think I know, that if I was to give to every homeless person I encountered, I'd go broke. Or would I? Maybe that is where God wants me, and if lived in that place, he would always make sure my needs were met, just as he promises.
When faith and politics collide. It is an interesting place to be, if you think about it.