The 2020 election has already begun in full force with more than 20 Democrats vying for the nomination while President Trump holds political rallies before devoted supporters. There seem to be two opposing ideologies in play: one defending greed and self-interest and another promoting compassion and altruism.
As conservatives scramble to cast liberal candidates as evil socialists, they seem to simultaneously reject any ideas that promote equity, stewardship and humanity — policies like affordable healthcare for all, the defense of Social Security and Medicare, the protection of our natural resources, fair taxation and the acceptance of refugees and immigrants.
A caring, compassionate society is not a new idea. For centuries we have been taught basic principles of empathy, selflessness and kindness, such as:
1. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For a long time, society has understood that defending those in need is not a sign of weakness but a sign of compassion.
2. Beware of those who make their fortunes through duplicity and deceit. There are efforts by some to chastise the poor while idolizing the rich, even when wealth is obtained through less than honorable means. We attack the impoverished for seeking decent wages and a social safety net while applauding businessmen who scam the public, tap government subsidies and pay little or nothing in taxes.
3. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. The idea of charity and the distribution of wealth has been embraced over the centuries. Today, materialism and consumption have seemed to reach a pinnacle, at least in advanced nations; but there’s always been those who recognize the importance of sharing one’s prosperity with the less fortunate.
4. Support the needs of others and show hospitality. Do not discriminate against immigrants or refugees. We are a nation of pilgrims. Sadly, there have been instances in history when intolerance has flourished against those seeking a better life, a safer home. Still, the demonstration of humanity that overcomes fear and hate to welcome those who are different is a very real and important part of our story.
5. Care for and heal the sick. Such a simple concept that seems to have been lost in our greedy, modern society. Every industrialized nation, with one exception — the United States — provides quality, accessible healthcare to its people. How do countries, even those poorer than our own, provide top-notch care when our nation leaves so many uninsured and underinsured? It’s simple, really. Those countries prioritize life over profit.
These principles are embedded in modern, liberal platforms, but were established long before; they are, in fact, values codified in the books of the Bible. The liberal policies that conservatives attack and vilify derive from the very Christian and biblical teachings that they claim to uphold.
The Bible, especially the words and philosophies of Jesus himself, defends progressive values that often seem to be castigated by conservative politicians. In addition to caring for the poor, the sick and the elderly, the Bible also underscores good stewardship of the earth. The devout truly adore their God. It would follow that they would care for one of the most precious gifts he could bequeath. Good environmental policy should be supported by Christians who wish to care for the world that their God has entrusted to them.
On the left, we see candidates clearly promoting these values. On the right, we see policies that make the wealthy wealthier; accelerate the degradation and exploitation of our earth; dismantle social safety nets; and abolish healthcare coverage for millions. Their hostility to taking any action to curb the impacts of climate change, which could lead to the extinction of 1 million species and put undue hardship on future generations is mind-boggling.
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do onto me.” These words echo throughout the New Testament, but the fact is, concepts like shared responsibility, compassion and tolerance were not born of any one religion. They are embedded in ancient cultures long before Jesus, who simply reaffirmed them, building his teachings around these principles.
Somehow, Christian conservatism has regressed to a platform that rejects the very ideas that Christ himself embodied. If you take Christ out of Christianity, what is left?