Gandhi once said that Christianity is a wonderful religion, if only someone followed it. Jesus laments the same thing, frustrated with all who proclaim his name and yet do not do what he teaches. I don’t think that dynamic has changed since Jesus’ or Gandhi’s time.
After all, I read about Christians espousing the death penalty, as if Jesus taught us to kill someone who kills another. I observe Catholics who would deny Communion to people who don’t obey every letter of Church law, as if Jesus didn’t freely welcome sinners to the table (often preferring their company to the “righteous” ones and upholding their dignity). I hear Christians shouting hateful things accusing immigrants of taking away jobs or resources from those more entitled, as if Jesus taught us to hoard what we have, exclude the immigrant and the stranger, and assert our own rights over those of others. I see Christians who support any legislation that adds to their business profits or cuts their own taxes regardless of its impact on others, as if Jesus didn’t disdain the love of money and laud those who give even from their own need. Even more disconcerting, many Christians with these practices assert that they are following Jesus’ teachings and even “defending the faith.” What kind of a foundation are we building under our society, our Church, and our own souls?
I am challenged yet again to examine my actions and commitments in light of what Jesus said and how he lived. For instance, because of the circumstances of my upbringing, money became a form of security I crave (and yes, I love it when my taxes go down). A primary challenge for me, then, is to advocate to my representatives in Congress for tax reform that lifts up the needy more than those like myself who have enough. I commit to increasing my rate of giving and donations to the extent that it requires sacrifice in my own life. I pray to find my security in God rather than in something so fleeting as money.
Yet that is not enough. I will also write to my bishop and talk to my pastor, expressing my support for welcoming all to the table. When I am at Mass, I will look for ways to include, talk to, and sit next to those of another age, status, culture, or race. I will encourage and support those who work to overturn the death penalty and facilitate rehabilitation of people who commit crimes.
The list could go on. What is yours? If we can each honestly examine ourselves and change the ways we fall short of the Gospel, we can build that strong foundation and be an authentic witness to what Jesus taught. Perhaps our witness could even be strong and authentically Christian enough to attract others to come and follow rather than to turn away in frustration.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.