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13 October 2010

TURN (in your money) OR (see your house) BURN -- is that really "the Christian thing to do"?

What happened in Obion County, Tennessee late in September is truly "beyond the pale": Firefighters were commanded to stand down and to allow a home that contained three dogs and a cat to burn down, all because the owner had forgotten to pay the required fee of $75. Even if firefighers are positioned just outside your home with hoses at the ready, if you didn't pay, tough luck -- they won't spray.

Even though most people I know feel like me: that this is "just wrong" (to be quiet of unethical), a bumper crop of right-wing comments has sprouted. It would be one thing if these pundits were just spouting their usual invective (that people who don't pay their fines, for whatever reason, are "jerks, freeloaders and ingrates" -- yadayadayada), but it gets insulting when they try to speak for Jesus.

Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association goes so far as to divine what Jesus would say to the man whose house burned down: "Man up, accept full responsibility, don't blame anybody but yourself". Personal choices, so goes the argument, should trump the obligations of a civil society. His blog post is entitled, "The fire department did the right thing in letting the property burn"; inside the blog he states that it was right because it was "the Christian thing" to do, prompting a colleague to title their review, "Who Would Jesus Torch?"

In the Gospel for October 17, the unjust judge is persuaded to act because the widow impertinently batters him until justice is granted her; even though he was wrong and unethical most of his life, he ended up doing the right thing because she wouldn't let go. Those who claim that what happened in Tennessee was good and right are rigid and unyielding like the unjust judge but since they don't listen, they lack his insight. In order to avoid change, they quickly slap a new label on their cobbled-together political creed and -- POOF -- it becomes "the Christian thing to do".

How about you and me? Will we challenge the various judges and pundits when justice is not done, or will we remain quiet just because they use terms like "Jesus" and "Christian"? Jesus says at the end of Sunday's Gospel: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"  Obliterating a firefighter's code of ethics is not faith, but greed. Condoning callous behavior is not faith, but hard-heartedness.  Labeling your own ideological position "Christian" is not faith, but an attempt to put God in a box.

Luke 18:1-8

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