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It's Christian charity, not Christian symbols that matter

July 23, 2005|by Russell Williams

Is Christianity more than a manger display in City Hall? Are Christians expected to do more than picket a court that has banned organized prayer in schools?

Recently various groups have loudly proclaimed their objections to the court-imposed limitations placed on Christian religious practices and artifacts in governmental settings. Some people say that this is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.

They object to any court banning Christian religious symbols and ceremonies in and on public property. In Maryland, as these complaints were being made, legislation requiring large employers to provide better health care for their employees was not signed into law. Now it has been proposed that funding for medical care for legal immigrant pregnant women and their children be eliminated.

Into this acrimonious discussion about the extent to which prayer and Christian religious symbolism should be allowed in public facilities, I would like to remind people of the following quote from Matthew 25:45. Jesus is quoted as having said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these you did not do for me."

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Those insisting that Christian symbolism and practices be part of the governmental life of the country need to be reminded of Christ's clear statement that any time Christians ignore the sufferings of others they are ignoring the sufferings of Christ.

I have read outrage about court interpretations of separation of church and state. I have not heard the same levels of outrage about the lack of improved medical coverage for the employees of very large companies or the denial of medical services to children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants. Is Christianity more than prayer in schools and crosses in courts?

It is my understanding that there are those who believe that after death they will stand at the gates of heaven and be questioned about some of their actions and choices during their lives. I envision the following scenario:

St. Peter: what have you done to promote the kingdom of God?

Supplicant: I contacted my elected representatives and asked them to see that more prayer was allowed in public schools and that Christian religious symbols, such as manger displays and crosses, be more frequently placed in and on public property.

St. Peter: What actions did you take when you learned that health care would be denied to the children of legal immigrants?

Supplicant: I did nothing. Providing health care to children of legal immigrants would have taken money out of my pocket to alleviate the suffering of others. I am happy to ask for a wider display of Christian symbols because that does not cost any of my money but I certainly do not want any of my hard earned money being used to carry out Christ's commands about reducing human suffering.

St. Peter: Given that attitude, you can ...

But then again, perhaps I simply do not understand what Christianity is all about.

Russell Williams is chairperson of the Social Concerns Committee

of a local Methodist church.

While he is active in many local

organizations, he is not speaking

as a representative of any of them.

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