To the editor:
Occasionally, a letter written by a clergyman or clergywoman is published. A Christmas sermon is always published. LCN might consider an “un-reverend” sermon. Subject: “What does ‘Christian’ mean in our public discourse?” While it may seem obvious to many, it isn’t well-defined.
For example, when people talk about an individual, they’ll say, “he’s a Christian,” but if you mention some of the attitudes and/or actions of that person, the definition changes to, “oh, he isn’t a real Christian.” Outside of the faith, this must sound strange, even though Shiites and Sunnis may say neither are “real” Muslims, for example.
“Christian,” to others outside their faith, means one thing: someone who believes Jesus is the redeeming Son of God; that’s what defines the difference. Most Christian believers take for granted that one must include the other.
Martin Luther taught that faith alone earned salvation; good works weren’t needed. He eliminated the Book of James from the Bible, which preached the necessity of good works. This belief in faith alone as sufficient caused religious and social strife with the Reformation, and is still causing trouble.
There are two passages from the New Testament that confuse the two definitions: John 3:18 and Matthew 25:35-46. There are consequences. Thousands of Christians ascribe to the passage from John that this faith alone is the moral imperative for our nation; that without its influence, our country is doomed, and will lose God’s blessings.
They truly believe this, and these fears motivate their decisions, which affect all of us. Their political manipulations are aimed at dominating our government, our educational system, and our laws, for that end. They seem to overtake existing, long-fought-for rights, while justifying such actions. They are waging legal and emotional wars against issues not even mentioned in the Bible, such as sex education in schools and the right to universal health care.
On the other hand, Christians who follow Matthew 25:35-46 emphasize the necessity of “doing for the least” of us as synonymous with doing for Christ. Would it be far-fetched to say one side is a conservative Christian regarding human well-being, and the other is a liberal Christian?
The Matthew followers are involved in “doing the Christian thing,” as it is written: they are supporting social networks, fighting for women’s access to health care, fighting for human rights, feeding the hungry, defending the helpless, etc. In other words, doing for the least of us.
If one is a Christian, then it would seem to be very important to take a good look at the candidates and issues this coming election, to see if they are for promoting faith or for expanding compassion.
To summarize: there is a judgment for doing or not doing, in that Matthew gospel text.