Lord, save me from your followers

Dear Bill,

I read with great passing interest your article about charity and religious obligation. Though there may be a legitimate debate about the role of the state in providing relief, I do have one small quibble with something you wrote and the theology which supports it. You write “But being a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive.” Since you and I both believe that Jesus, to whose example you appeal, is “God from God, Light from Light, very God of very God”,  I wanted to suggest something for you to ponder before such a time as either of us meet him face to face, whom we now only perceive through a glass darkly.

May I suggest that the next time you are at Mass, let your eyes gaze up, over the altar. There you will see a crucifix, a visual representation of a shameful and cruel death meted out by Roman authorities hundreds of thousands of times across their wide empire, and in particular, to a poor, outspoken Galilean carpenter, the same Jesus you cite and we both worship.

I bring to mind the crucifix because if Jesus’ death does not constitute self-destructive charity – caritas, love – I don’t know what would. Furthermore, this love of God in Jesus was unmerited. God helped us when we could not help ourselves. Yes, Jesus promoted charity at the highest level – the level of self-destruction, of denying yourself and taking up your cross, of dying to truly find life.

This teaching of Jesus is surely difficult. I sympathize with you, Bill. I find myself thinking the same – some people deserve my help and others do not.  But I once heard a homiliest say that “God has no taste.” God loves the tacky, the rude, the poor, the selfish, the freeloaders.  This must mean that God loves arrogant blowhards, pinheads and patriots, and self-righteous bloggers too.

I hope, Bill, you will reconsider what you wrote. In less than two weeks, we will be reminded of a poor young girl who became pregnant outside of the sanctity of holy matrimony.  And just when this girl most needed shelter and rest (some might say charity) – the birth of her child – she found none and instead gave birth and spent the night in a stable.  Sometime that night, shepherds came by the stable to pay their respects to her baby; the rich and powerful, the politicians and political pundits however, stayed nestled, snug in their beds. A little later (or a lot later, depending on who you ask) a group of Iranian astrologers, captivated by a supernova, brought perfume and gold to the child.

But who am I to recount to you, Bill O’Reilly, vigilant warrior for Christmas that you are, the story of the Nativity of our Lord? How is it, Bill, that faced with all this – from his birth to his death and everything in between – how is it that you say Jesus’ charity was not self-destructive or that it is limited to only those who helped themselves?

Lord, have mercy.

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