“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” the pope wrote.
The pontiff’s teaching is timely here in Georgia. Our local Christian community is so immense that if its collective voices joined together, they could convince Gov. Nathan Deal to set his worldly politics aside and expand Medicaid, providing preventative and critical care to more than 650,000 poor Georgians.
Imagine helping this desperate multitude with just some emails and phone calls.
I recently asked why local Christian leaders remain silent when they and their congregations have this unprecedented opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of Georgians in need.
That particular column garnered more than 1,700 views and 40 Facebook “likes” at the Marietta Daily Journal’s online edition and several letters in the print edition, suggesting it resonated with readers.
“Almost without being aware of it,” Pope Francis continues, “we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor … as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
While Pope Francis speaks out, the continuing silence of local Christian leaders is deeply troubling. Why won’t they add their voices to the pope’s?
A clue comes from the only local minister to respond to my request for a comment. He told me Jesus Christ didn’t mean governments should help the destitute. This sounds exactly like something you’d hear from conservative media types, not a disciple of Christ.
Jesus is apolitical. He places no conditions on how we should to care for the poor and sick. He just wants it done.
Cobb County’s ministers and pastors can take all the followers they want on missions to the Dominican Republic, but until they help the least of these in their own back yard, they aren’t really doing the Lord’s work.
Hard times have lately been made worse if you’re poor. Did our Christian leaders look on in sorrow as Republicans in the House of Representatives applauded their bill cutting $40 billion from the food stamp program?
If Republicans really wanted to reduce spending by $40 billion they could cut the defense budget or big oil subsidies and nobody would feel so much as a pin prick.
Instead, they shamefully went out of their way to injure the poor, the elderly, the disabled, little children, and even unemployed veterans. The outraged voices of Christian leaders could overturn this monstrous travesty tomorrow.
Why aren’t we hearing them?
It begs the question: Why did these men and women enter the ministry if not to stand with Christ on all things? Is it only to preach before adoring congregations or appear in television ads asking others how committed they are to their Christian faith?
Rev. Martin Luther King demanded justice and it cost him his life. This is their chance to step up, and they bear nothing like the risks Dr. King took. Let us pray Cobb County’s Christian leaders won’t miss it because they fear offending or angering a few resentful, misguided folks citing in their pews.
“In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor,” Pope Francis reminds us.
In this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it falls to the leaders of all Christian denominations to follow Pope Francis’ example and instruct their congregations on what Jesus commanded us to do.
Kevin Foley owns a PR company in Kennesaw.