Tuesday, July 22, 2014

God's QC 10.2: Immigration / Acts of Compassion

Here I continue my thoughts on the surprising disconnect between what Christians claim to believe and their actual attitudes and behaviors. In this video, I'll show that the astounding lack of compassion among Christians is not at all the ugly hypocrisy it seems to be. A friend of mine pointed me to a recent commentary by Stephen Colbert that demonstrates the typical Christian response to the Central American refugee crisis, which is laughably referred to as an immigration problem. On the surface, this commentary might seem to be an exposé of Christian pretense to compassion:
Bill O'Reilly: I feel bad, as I said: if I were in South or Central America or Mexico, I'd try to get here...it's not the immigrants' fault.
Broken-hearted...we all really feel bad for these kids.
Laura Ingraham: I've been in Central America many times; I have a Guatemalan daughter, now an American citizen. I speak Spanish. I love the Latin American people. First thing you do is start deporting people. Not by the hundreds, not by the dozens, but by the thousands.
Shocking, you might say, for people who claim to follow Jesus, who has a reputation of great sympathy for those who suffer, a reputation common even among my fellow asuperstitionists. But was Jesus a promoter of compassion, an opponent of human misery? Let's look for clues in his behavior.

The Gospel of Matthew reports, in 4:23, that "Jesus went throughout Galilee... healing every disease and sickness among the people." Similar healings of indefinite but presumably large numbers of people are mentioned four more times, in chapters 8, 9, 12, and 15. He healed the lame and the crippled. He healed those suffering from severe pain, demon-possession, seizures, paralysis, blindness, mutism. Further, there are some 14 other stories of Jesus healing one or two people at a time.

According to Matthew 14:20, Jesus fed some 15,000 or more somewhere near the Sea of Galilee, and—if we consider 15:37 to be anything more than a copying error—he fed a further 12,000 or more on a separate occasion.

Given so much healing and feeding, one might be tempted to say that Jesus was a man of great compassion, a man who understood suffering and worked hard to minimize it. But there are a couple of incredible failures of compassion in Jesus' actions, failures that should cause anyone who reveres Jesus to reconsider their opinion.

The most obvious failure of compassion on Jesus' part is that although he had unprecedented skill at healing the sick and feeding the hungry, he didn't make more than a part-time job of either one. Instead, he spent much of his time preaching nonsense, arguing with the Jewish leaders, and eventually getting himself killed, cutting short a promising career as a healer. It seems that great compassion would result in different priorities.

Another failure, perhaps less obvious but certainly more consequential, is that he never bothered to teach anyone else how to heal the sick and feed the hungry. Matthew 10:1 tells us that Jesus gave his 12 disciples "authority" to heal (although apparently not the authority to feed). This "authority" turns out to have been limited: 17:19 tells us that the disciples encountered a demon that could not be cast out. Did Jesus teach them how to solve this problem, so they could go forth and cure more people? No, he simply scolded them for not having enough faith. Further, he didn't instruct his disciples to teach their craft to others, as the skill of healing seems to have disappeared not more than a few decades after Jesus' death.

But just think, instead of a handful of men helping—at the most—a few thousand people, and over a span of maybe two generations, Jesus could have started a school of healing and feeding that would have made a real difference throughout the world and throughout history. Again, it seems that such an effort would have been among the top priorities of someone who actually cares about suffering. And the remainder of the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus never gave his Apostles any guidance in this area. Obviously, he didn't care, and he didn't encourage them to care.

Based on Jesus' minimal and lukewarm efforts at mitigating human suffering, one can see that modern Christians are innocent of the charge of hypocrisy with respect to their shocking lack of compassion. They are simply following Jesus' lead.

That's 10.2. Thanks for watching.

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