As I type this, President Obama is addressing the annual Prayer Breakfast. He is among many member of Congress in this annual event. He is explaining his use of prayer in his life- his daily life. He just used the quote, ‘Love one another.’ He also quoted, least of my brethren and I am my brother’s keeper, quotes attributed to Jesus and others. Some lines from the Koran and the Torah as well. He also dropped a line from CS Lewis about politicians.
The president spoke of the need for kindness, respect, love, and generosity. For the care of the poor. He quoted 1 John: 3- Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. Acts of kindness.
Although I am an avowed agnostic, the words of Mr. Obama are universal . They reach back to tribal times when the entire community cared for each other, watched after one another. Not because a Deity told them so, but because it was an innate instinct to do so- a meme passed along down through time from generation to generation.
After the gaff from Mitt Romney yesterday regarding ‘the poor,’ it was refreshing today to be reminded that all religions call upon their members to address the needs of that sector of humanity. Mother Theresa ministered to the ‘poorest of the poor.’ Of course, not only people of faith follow that dictum; one need not ‘believe’ in some supernatural Deity in the Firmament watching their every action in order to be driven to make the path better for the poor, abused, downtrodden and marginalized in society.
This ever-watchful theistic deity concept, so rigidly held by fundamentalists, assumes that there will be punishment or reward for the actions, deeds and failures of the ‘believers.’ Yet I find it interesting, shocking actually, that so many Bible-thumping Christians who make up a large swath of the current Republican Party, disavow their responsibility to the ‘least of the brethren.’ Many on the right cringed at Romney’s remark on the poor not because it violates the underpinning message of Jesus, but because it was a political blunder.
Of course, I will repeat the quote given by a right-wing, Christian blogger who said, “I’m more of an Old Testament Christian.” The ignorance of that statement is incomprehensible.
Perhaps the problem that looms like a miasmic fog over our nation is that the concepts of capitalism and altruism are immiscible. At an earlier time in our young nation, The People pulled together for a common cause, a common survival as a fledgling nation. That ideal was intense also during both World Wars. And, of course, during the Great Depression. There were other historical aggregating events as well like the assassination of JFK and 9/11.
Yet today, our nation seems nearly as fragmented as it was in 1861 when the first shell exploded above Fort Sumter. Yet the issues of states’ rights and the role of the Federal Government in the lives of The People still plague us 150 years later. The dog whistle of race is heard in the distance as well. You know, those people! Food stamps, welfare queens. Get a job! The hammock. Those people.
Or, am I being too cynical?