Monday, March 2, 2009

Really - What WOULD Jesus Do? Part 1

I walk every spring to raise money - and human sensitivity - for the world's hungry. It's a small thing: a short walk, usually on a nice day, with some of my best friends. The money I raise is almost completely insignificant, especially in the shadow of the problem:
One person dies of hunger in this world every 3.6 seconds.
Still, it's something. And, I always hope the awareness I raise significantly outdistances the dollars I bring in. This year, the new awareness is mine. It came in response to my request for a donation. Please bear with me as I give you some background on this event: It's a 2,000-community-strong fundraising walk sponsored by CROP - Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. Over the past 20 years, CROP Walks have raised $264-million to help the world's hungry. Twenty-five percent of that money - $66-million - has been spent in the communities where it was raised. The rest has been distributed throughout the world. The money is used to provide food, water, fuel, vocational training, literacy classes, health/sanitation/hygiene kits, etc. The parent organization for CROP is Church World Service - founded in 1946, in a post-war world, to:
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, comfort the aged, shelter the homeless.
It was, and still is, a multi-denominational** effort founded on those stated principles, which - if I check my Bible - I see are the very instructions of Jesus (Matthew 25:35). Mission and principles aside, it is the inclusive work of Church World Service that bothered one of the people I asked for a donation. Here's the response I received:
Their mission (Church World Service) isn’t to extend the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world, but rather, to “eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice.” In part, that sounds good, but there is an alarming absence of a desire or mission to extend the gospel to those who are in need of “the Savior.” In their list of core values they seek to “respect all faiths,” but quite frankly, that is not what Christ has called us to do.
Needless to say, this person declined to pledge money. I responded, respectfully of course, by saying surely the gospel delivered to a hungry world without a loaf of bread was not effective. Here's what I was told:
They need food, clothing, shelter, and to witness the love of Christ in our actions, but, most critically and fundamentally, they need Christ, lest hell be their future. That's why we find it important to not mix the Christian faith with "interfaith" associations. Buddha will not get them to heaven, Islam will not get them to heaven, Mormonism will not get them to heaven, Jehovah Witnesses will not get them to heaven, Hinduism will not get them to heaven, even Catholicism will not get them to heaven. Only faith in Jesus Christ will get the unsaved to heaven. CWS merely seeks to “eradicate hunger and to promote peace and justice.”
Okay...I'm going to ignore most of that paragraph that offends me and focus on this word: merely. "Merely seeks to eradicate hunger and promote peace and justice?" Is there a message of good news, aka gospel, more loving than: "I am here to give you food," or "I am here to protect you," or "I am here to provide sustainable ways for you to survive?" Does my friend really believe Jesus puts proselytizing over feeding? Christian literature over hygiene kits? Sermons over solutions to grinding poverty? What would Jesus do after telling his followers to remember two things: Love God and love your neighbor? Would this Jesus use the word "merely" in a sentence about eradicating hunger and promoting peace and justice? When we're talking about that person who's about to die in 3.6 seconds - does the Jesus of the Christian faith require this response?
"I know you're about to die, but I'm here to save you from hell. Apparently just in the nick of time."
Why have we made loving our neighbors so bloody difficult? And so, I am more keenly aware than ever that the hopeful of this world must ignore the rule makers of the world and stay determined to take the mean face off God. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong...isn't that exactly what Jesus DID do? Peace. **CWS Member Communions: African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA, Armenian Church of America (including Diocese of California), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of the Brethren, The Coptic Orthodox Church in North America, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Friends United Meeting, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Hungarian Reformed Church in America, International Council of Community Churches, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Church, Moravian Church in America, National Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, Orthodox Church in America, Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A., Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious, Society of Friends, Polish National Catholic Church of America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., Reformed Church in America Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A. and Canada, The Swedenborgian Church, Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America, United Church of Christ, The United Methodist Church

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