I would like to extend a very special thank you to Pope Francis, who recently warned all of us about turning our faith into a rigid ideology and allowing our ideology to blind us from what it means to be a Christian.
Francis said, "Ideology does not beckon. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always."
I was reminded of the Pope's words when reading about a group of atheists who were turned away from volunteering at a so-called Christian soup kitchen in South Carolina. The group may not believe in a god, but they have dedicated themselves to serving others, such as raising funds to support foster children.
"And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology" said Pope Francis, "he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus. He is a disciple of this attitude of thought. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people."
The Pope went on to say, "It is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?" Not new, but rampant in today's world of ultra-conservatism among Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Indeed, the ideology that Pope Francis warns about is not limited to any one religion. But it is interesting how blind some folks are to their own ideology while judging the extremes of other faiths. Meanwhile, they ignore the most basic tenants of their own faith, such as taking care of the poor.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., politicians who profess to be Christian are voting to cut food stamps and school lunch programs for poor children, and they are doing all they can to block people from obtaining affordable health care.
The director of the soup kitchen in South Carolina who refused to allow members of the atheist group to volunteer stated that, "This is a ministry to serve God." Of course, the Bible states that when you take care of the poor you are taking care of God and when you feed the poor you are feeding God.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently lectured his fellow conservatives about their "war on the poor." Kasich has been critical of his party's efforts to cut poverty programs and is one of a few Republican governors to support the expansion of Medicaid in his state under the provision of the Affordable Health Care law. Republicans in his state legislature voted not to expand Medicaid coverage to 275,000 poor Ohioans who would benefit from the expansion, and not to set up a state website to sign up their citizens for the Affordable Care Act. But, writes Trip Gabriel in The New York Times, "Kasich circumvented his Republican legislature and its tea party wing by using a little-known state board to expand Medicaid" anyway.
Kasich isn't the only Republican to call out the GOP for their "war on the poor." Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote, "One of the things, in my view, that we get wrong in the free enterprise movement is this war against the social safety net, which is just insane." Brooks was responding to recent votes in the House of Representatives to decrease funding to the food stamp program, a program that helps a million veterans and more than 2 million children, by $40 million. "The government social safety net for the truly indigent is one of the greatest achievements of our society," said Brooks. "And we somehow want to zero out food stamps or something, it is nuts to want to be doing something like that. We have to declare peace on the safety net."
Back to the words of Pope Francis: "God is in everyone's life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else - God is in this person's life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow."