Three Things Christians Are Doing in America (That the Religious Right Doesn’t Want You to Know)
On Jan. 1 Fox News broadcaster Tom Stames blasted the “so-called minister” who prayed at New York City May Bill DeBlasio’s inauguration, warning that the prayer was yet another attack on Christianity in America.
“I’m just waiting for the knock on the door – demanding my wallet, my Bible and my copy of the U.S. Constitution,” Stames wrote on Facebook after declaring African-American Rev. Fred Lucas, Jr.’s prayer “plantation” talk.
Stames’ remarks against Lucas, who serves the city as the chaplain for the Department of Sanitation, has become common among the religious right, who use bigoted, homophobic language in the name of the Christianity they claim is being persecuted in America.
Yet, beyond the megaphones and radio shows, a different type of Christianity, one that continues to embrace others, love their neighbor and feed the poor, quietly affronts the religious right’s claims.
Here are three ways Americans are living out Christianity in a way that put the religious right’s narrowly defined dogma to shame.
Welcoming a Gay Pastors to their Pulpits
As the fight over Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson heated up, many within the religious right proclaimed the reality star a hero who represented those “Bible-believing Christians” and who doesn’t “cherry pick what the Bible teaches.”
Not all Christians, however, think excluding gays is the best way to understand the gospels. To ring in the New Year, at least two openly gay pastors were ordained to serve in churches in America. In Philadelphia, Presbyterian Broad Street Ministry welcome David Norse to be a spiritual leader at the church while in the Mennonite Church, the Mountain States Conference of the Mennonite Church USA voted to license Rhoda Good.
Rev. Bill Golderer, the head pastor at Norse’s church called the step a progressive move and part of their commitment to the gospels. “Having David ordained to the ministry is a way of performing the gospel that we espouse. It’s acting, not talking.”
Embracing a Dying Muslim Newcomer and Her Family in Tehran
Cathie Adams, current president of the Texas Eagle Forum told talk show host Rick Wiles that Muslim immigrants should be feared. Speculating that these immigrants had a bad image of Christians and sought to do the nation harm, she said that an influx of non-Christians would result in the End Times and the enactment of Sharia law in America.
Yet, when a young Muslim woman and recent arrival to the United States needed help during her tragic last days, it proved that not only was her final gift that of love for her new land, but a lesson in what brings people together, beyond borders and faith.
When 27-year-old Sanaz Nezami fell victim to a brutal attack, she had just arrived in the country. Yet, despite being thousands of miles from Tehran and her family, the young Muslim woman was embraced by hospital staff and an Episcopal priest who vowed to the woman’s father to stay near her side until the end.
“I’ve never seen anyone so quickly adopted by so many,” Rev. Leon Jarvis said. “Considering our season right now, this was an incredible gift by Sanaz, but also a gift from the community as well. It’s realizing the goodness of humanity and what people can do in a real cynical time.”
After her death a Muslim physician helped prepare her body for ritual and Jarvis recited the Muslim prayers.
Her family, wanting to give back, donated her organs, saving the lives of 7 Americans. “The family was very clear,” Wendy Mardak of UW-Organ and Tissue Donation said. “They want Americans to know Sanaz loved America.”
Making the Fight to Protect Food Stamps Part of their Christian Call to the Poor
Bill O’Reilly announced on Fox News that Jesus would never vote for food stamps and called most people on SNAP benefits “drug addicts.”
Yet, according to Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities, Jesus’ example of feeding the multitudes and embracing the poor leads him to a much different understanding of the gospels.
He pointed out cuts to food stamps (SNAP) not only hurt families but it make the work of thousands of food pantries, many of them volunteer-led and run by churches twice as hard. “Seeking to balance budgets on the backs of hungry children and veterans does not represent American values,” Rev. Snyder said, adding, “It clearly doesn’t heed the gospel call to lift up the lowly and feed the hungry.”